INTERVIEW with Cathy Janosko, Watercraft Officer Specialist, Division of Watercraft
What do you do to support outdoor recreation in Ohio?
As a Watercraft Officer, I promote safe boating on Ohio’s waterways through education and law enforcement. One of my most important educational duties is to teach the Ohio Boating Education Course that fulfills Ohio’s mandatory education requirement for boaters who will operate a boat with more than 10 horse power. Every year, Watercraft Officers teach this course to over 1000 boaters.
As a law enforcement officer, I enforce required equipment laws and boat operating regulations. Watercraft officers, as seen in the photo to the left, patrol all the waterways in the state of Ohio, including those at state parks, state wildlife areas and state forests.
Why is boating education important?
Education prior to pursuing an outdoor activity such as boating reduces the number of accidents and violations. Boating safety instruction allows students to be more confident in their boating skills and makes for a more pleasurable day out on the water.
I provide boating education to people of all ages, from pre-school children to adults. I strive to make my education classes as interesting as possible by supplementing the manuals with a combination of videos, slides and demonstrations and by modifying my presentations based on the age, background and abilities of my students. I also provide boating safety information at boat and sport shows and other special events.
Why are boating laws important?
Boating laws are important for personal safety. Among the most important laws are personal flotation device requirements.
Last year there were twelve boating fatalities and eleven of the twelve victims were not wearing personal flotation devices or were not wearing them correctly. Prohibitions against overloading a boat and boating while drinking alcohol are also important.
Boaters do not always realize how easily boats can be overloaded causing capsizes or falls overboard that can lead to fatalities. Alcohol is a contributing factor in up to 50 percent of all boating accidents, so I am constantly watching for impaired boat operators. The Division of Watercraft uses statistics on fatal accidents to help us focus our law enforcement and education efforts on factors that contribute to fatalities.
What else to you do as part of your job?
I teach courses about paddle sports, sailing, and navigation. Our canoeing classes are popular with schools and youth groups. I enjoy teaching sailing because it is a different type of boating experience to operate a watercraft powered by only the wind.
Navigation courses are important for those boating on larger bodies of water such as Lake Erie. The Division of Watercraft has a list of courses available on their website.
What is most challenging about your job?
The most challenging and rewarding part of my job is the diversity of my job duties. In addition to law enforcement and teaching boating knowledge and operational skills on a variety of different watercraft, I’m also involved in search and rescue. In the photo to the right, I am seated at the front of a boat during search and rescue training.