Fun On (and Under) the Water with Boating Safety Expert Rachel Johnson

Rachel Johnson NSBC

National Safe Boating Council leader talks about her passion for life on the water and best practices for boat safety in boating podcast

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Anchors AweighAnchors Aweigh Boating Podcast is a podcast for all boaters, from aspiring to experienced. Featuring in-depth conversations with boating experts and industry leaders, and packed full of tips, tricks, gear, and industry info, boaters of all levels will come away with new skills and knowledge each episode.

One of the things I have come to realize in talking to so many boaters over the last few years is that boating in and of itself is great, but often times it is the means to another end. It is a gateway to a wide variety of activities and experiences that bring happiness into so many lives.

Just think of all the things boating can give you access to: fishing, diving, cruising, skiing, wake boarding and wake surfing, time with family and friends, camping and hiking in remote places, boating up to restaurants…the list goes on and on!

My last two guests in particular were great reminders of the fact that it isn’t just boating, there are many other ways to enjoy the water. Nathan Heber with Boatyard talked about his love of kite-surfing that spawned from his days of sailing, and Rachel Johnson is now an avid stand-up paddle-boarder after growing up on powerboats. The things they all have in common are the love of the outdoors, the appreciation of nature, and of course – the water. Put all these people on or near water and you have a formula for instant happiness. I hope you all find the same.

Rachel Johnson Boat SafetyRachel Johnson is the Executive Director of the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC). She oversees the strategic direction and daily operations in support of the NSBC’s mission of Safer Boating through Education, Outreach, and Training. Rachel has been with the NSBC for nine years, previously as its Communications Director.

Rachel was recently appointed by the Department of Homeland Security to serve as a member of the National Boating Safety Advisory Council, has done extensive committee work with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators as Subcommittee Chair and Committee Member, and, most recently, her article on the importance of developing and implementing grassroots campaigns and their impact on positively changing people’s behaviors was published in the U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings magazine.

Rachel was recently recognized with PR News’ People to Watch in PR Under 30 and the Association Forum and USAE’s “Forty Under 40,” recognizing 40 up-and-coming association or nonprofit professionals under the age of 40. Among other accolades, under her management, the NSBC’s “Ready, Set, Wear It!” Life Jacket World Record Day received ASAE’s 2013 prestigious Summit Award for making “America and the world a better place to live” and, in 2016 alone, the NSBC was recognized with eight national awards.

Rachel and I discussed, of course, safe boating and some of the outreach initiatives they are working on; how she has fun on, and below, the water through her stand up paddle boarding and scuba diving hobbies, and lots more!

Be sure to click on links to listen to the full podcast interview at the end!

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NSBC’s Latest Outreach

Our Get Connected campaign is our newest campaign. The idea behind this is letting boaters know about the engine cut off device and how, if you’re wearing it, you can stop what could potentially be a tragic propeller strike or something similar. It is really a positive campaign and we want to focus on the proactive always wearing it.

Living the Boating Lifestyle

I’m originally from outside of Baltimore and I grew up on the Bush River. My parents had a 23’ powerboat. These days I’ve traded it in for a stand up paddleboard. I like that slow, easy style of the SUP. My parents had two boats that I remember. One was a smaller 19’ Bayliner. Then they upgraded to a Trojan powerboat. They also had a couple of PWCs. For me it was just about being out on the water. My first job was a lifeguard at one of the yacht clubs.

What Attracts People into Boating

Every story is so personal. the water draws you in of course and I think all of us share that. But why it draws you in differs – some people love to go fishing, or crabbing at 5am, whereas some like me just want to relax on a quiet Saturday morning. Some people just want to hang out by the dock. They want to relax and hang out with their friends. It draws out your sense of adventure, but everybody’s story is a little different.

Spreading the Word about Boat Safety

Nowadays, with social media and more access to non-profits and to companies, the safety side of things has changed. It’s so much more readily accessible than it was when I was growing up. Things like the media and social media are helping to bring these important topics to the front so we can have these important conversations.

Bringing in some spokespeople that speak to our audiences helps. Shaw Grigsby was wonderful to work with. And just last month we introrduced a PSA with Hunter Bland. He says to this day ‘I would not be here if it were not for my life jacket and engine cut off device.’ These people’s lives get changed by a couple of seconds and people like Hunter want to do such good in the world sharing their stories so others don’t have to face the same consequences.

The Importance of Partner Organizations

We have an incredible member base. This past year we introduced two new categories for instructors and instructor trainers that want to get more into the training side. We have member organizations and what I really love about them is how varied they are. We have other non-profits, boating and water safety groups, local USCG Auxiliary Groups and Power Squadrons, manufacturers and the commercial industry side. Even though we come from different audiences, we’re all sharing that same message.

The Hazards of Boating Under the Influence

Last year, where the primary cause was known, alcohol was listed as the leading factor in 15% of deaths. We partner with NASBLA on their Operation Dry Water campaign. Nationwide they work wit state agencies to ramp up enforcement. We support them with our outreach efforts. You can have fun enjoying what boating offers without boating under the influence.

Bringing Safe Boating to Children

We’re coming out with an entire new youth program. The sidekicks activity books teach kids about boating safely. They are absolutely amazing but we have been using those characters for 20 year so coming up in the very near future we are printing new books to bring in the next wave of our youth program!

Her Scuba Passion

We’re big scuba divers and have been around the world to go to different dive sites. My husband was a rescue diver in the Navy and has thousands of dives under his belt. I’ve always loved the water and I thought ‘why am I not under the water, why am I not closer to this beautiful nature?’

I started diving around 21 or 22. We got to dive with some reef sharks in the Bahamas. We went to Bermuda and went diving there. Costa Rica was an amazing dive, we saw a barracuda. The one that will never be beat is when we went diving in December in Iceland alongside the Tectonic Plates.

Additional Safety Tips

On a national level, the life jacket wear rate for adults is really low. Last year, 83% of those that drowned weren’t wearing a life jacket. We always want adults wearing their life jackets.

Boating under the influence is a big one for us. And then some other simple things before your trip like filing a float plan. The Coast Guard has a free app where you can file the float plan and send it to a friend. Another one is taking a safe boating course. One other is think about the weather before and throughout your boating trip. Don’t be afraid to postpone it if the weather is bad.

Advice for Soon-to-be Boaters

Get out there and try different types of boats! There are things like boat clubs. Take up your friends offer. Try out different types. Think about what you want to do on the boat. It’s such a gateway to other activities. Sometimes the boat is what gets you to what you want to do. Discover Boating helps you determine which boat might be right for you. Seek out the experts and see what resources they might have for you.

Listen to the full Podcast:

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Listen on iTunes: Rachel Johnson – August 18, 2017 (free)

Listen on Google Play: Rachel Johnson – August 18, 2017 (free)

or Click Play below to listen online here:

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Matt O'Hara

View posts by Matt O'Hara
Matt O’Hara is the owner, along with his wife Rebecca, of Freedom Boat Club Lake George and the Queen Boat Co marina. After a 10-year career in media sales in Boston, MA Matt and Rebecca decided to relocate and open their own Freedom Boat Club, where they could share their love of boating and Lake George by helping others get on the water. The best part of the new career has been the joy they see families having on the water day in and day out, making memories that will last a lifetime. Matt has combined his background in media with his move to the boating industry to launch Anchors Aweigh, a podcast for boaters.
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