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Featured Image: Westwind Sailing and the Dana Point Aquatic Foundation’s annual AquaFest will return to the harbor on Saturday, May 21, to promote boating safety. Photo: Courtesy of Westwind Sailing 

By Breeana Greenberg

Celebrating National Safe Boating Week, Westwind Sailing and the Dana Point Aquatic Foundation’s annual AquaFest will return to the harbor on Saturday, May 21, to promote boating safety.

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. featuring informational booths from various organizations in the harbor, free life jackets, snow cones, and goodie bags, as well as sail and kayak rides.

“AquaFest is our version of an event to celebrate National Safe Boating Week, which is a national event put on by the National Safe Boating Council to help people remember boat safety practices as we get into boating season,” Westwind Sailing Executive Director Diane Wenzel said.

“Of course, we have beautiful boating weather here all year; it still is busier in the summer, and it’s always important to spread the message of safe boating, so that is why we hold this event,” Wenzel added.

AquaFest comes after the Dana Point City Council on Tuesday, May 17, passed a proclamation recognizing the Orange County Fire Authority’s Drowning Prevention Awareness campaign. Mayor Joe Muller highlighted the importance of never swimming alone and always keeping an eye on the water.

According to a report on recreational boating in 2020 that the U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security published last year, 86% of those who drowned in fatal boating accidents, where the cause of death was known, were not wearing a life jacket.

“Usually, these things happen on beautiful, calm-weather days, really close to shore, when people aren’t thinking that there’s a reason that they need to wear a life jacket, because ‘it’s fine, it’s no big deal, I can swim,’ but it’s such a big deal,” Wenzel said.

Various organizations in the harbor will have booths at AquaFest, sharing information on the programs they offer, as well as boating safety information.

Westwind Sailing, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Aventura Sailing, the Mariners 936 youth boating program, Performance Paddling, iHeartYoga and the environmental nonprofit Stand Up to Trash will all have booths at the event.

“This is a neat opportunity for everybody to showcase what they do,” Wenzel said. “So, the general public is welcome, invited to come and see the different booths and see the different offerings, music and entertainment.”

Westwind will offer free sail rides and paddleboard clinics during the event. Paddle clinics will be offered every hour on the hour.

“It’s not just on-land stuff; we’re getting people out on the water to experience boating with our staff and instructors,” Wenzel said.

Attendees can also receive 10% off Westwind’s summer programming if they sign up during AquaFest.

Westwind will offer free life jackets, courtesy of the California Division of Boating and Waterways, informational safety booklets and pamphlets, and goodie bags, while supplies last.

DJ and comedian Tom Rhiel will be making announcements and playing music throughout the event.

“All sorts of things to help people remember not to overload their boat, navigation, not driving at a speed that’s unsafe, being very conscientious of drinking and boating,” Wenzel said. “They’re different rules that are really simple, but you just need to remember that because your vessel’s a vehicle on the water, you’ve got responsibilities.”

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., there will be a safe boating photo booth where attendees can take photos with different nautical-themed props and life jackets.

“Something people can take home with them that just reminds them of their day and reminds them to be safe on the water,” Wenzel said.

At 1 p.m., attendees will have the chance to take pictures as a group for National Safe Boating Week for the “Wear It” campaign. 

“We try to break the record of how many people we get in a photograph all wearing life jackets at the same time,” Wenzel said.

Chick-fil-A food will be available for purchase from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and free snow cones will be available from noon to 3 p.m.

And depending on availability, Westwind noted, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s fireboat could make an appearance at AquaFest to offer tours and demos at 10:30 a.m.

“We have a nice, neat little community here in Dana Point, and we want people to be safe,” Wenzel said. “It gets to be crowded on the water, and people need to watch out for one another and just be aware that there are hazards and they can have fun, but you just need to be safe on the water.”

Breeana Greenberg

Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Before joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance reporter with the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at bgreenberg@picketfencemedia.com

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