Wednesday, 12 June 2024

Flotilla 8-8 holds 'change of watch' ceremony

New Flotilla 8-8 members for 2008 include, from left, Commander Betty Strach, outgoing Commander Rich Thomas and Vice Commander John McEwen; along with CPO Scott Greenlaw from the US Coast Guard's LORAN Station in Middletown and Lt. Scott Parkhurst from the Coast Guard's Group Humboldt Coast Guard Station. Greenlaw and Parkhurst installed the flotilla's new officers, who assume their new duties Jan. 1, 2008. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



KELSEYVILLE – One of Lake County's most important volunteer organizations has selected new leadership for the year ahead, with plans to continue expanding its critical safety services to the public. {sidebar id=43}

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 8-8 held its annual “change of watch” ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 1, at Zino's Restaurant in Kelseyville.

Gary Jolley, the flotilla's aids to navigation officer and the ceremony's master of ceremonies, explained that the term “change of watch” is used in the flotilla for a transfer of authority, responsibility or leadership. “Change of command,” he said, would be used if the flotilla had a rank structure.

The flotilla may not be well known to all of the people who enjoy Clear Lake and other lakes within the county.

However, the group provides a variety of services to the public, from boating safety classes to support on search and rescue missions; just this past year members spent nearly 300 hours on recovery, according to a county of volunteer hours provided by the flotilla.

The group also is working on a program to help prevent the infestation of the county's lakes by the quagga and zebra mussels.

The US Coast Guard Auxiliary's members – 27,000 strong nationwide – are called “America's volunteer lifesavers.” According to the organization's Web site,, Congress formed the auxiliary in 1939, with its motto being Semper Paratus, “Always Ready.” Today the group – which is under the auspices of Homeland Security – reports that it provides more than two million volunteer hours annually.

That preparedness and dedication is apparent in Flotilla 8-8's membership, which includes 53 members – some with previous military experience, some without – who contributed 9,237.65 volunteer hours by Dec. 2 of this year, according to Anita Farnholtz, the flotilla's information services officer.

Their service isn't limited just to Lake County. During the Saturday ceremony, flotilla member Jeremiah Collins gave a presentation on a trip he made to Florida where he and other US Coast Guard Auxiliary members helped patrol the waters between the US and Cuba.

At Saturday's ceremony, Flotilla Commander Rich Thomas of Middletown handed over the group's leadership to Cobb resident Betty Strach, the commander for the coming year. Named vice commander to succeed Strach, who held that position this past year, was John McEwen of Lakeport.

Thomas said he has appreciated the opportunities the flotilla has given him, from meeting an astronaut to serving around District 11, which includes California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona.

Leaving his term as commander, Thomas said the flotilla is strong thanks to the giving of its members. “The flotilla does not serve us. We serve the flotilla,” he said.

Strach said the flotilla's members possess a great wealth of experience; her officers alone have more than 100 years of knowledge and experience among them, she said.

In the year ahead, Strach said she plans to continue working to strengthen the flotilla in order to offer greater service to the community.

Flotilla members give a phenomenal amount of service, said Strach. They'll likely have to offer even more service, in the form of classes, if the state legislature decides to pass a bill requiring boat operators to be licensed.

Education is extremely important, said Strach, because of the number of tragedies that happen on the lake that are based on irresponsibility, lack of knowledge – even arrogance.

Strach said she has made the words “How can I help?” her motto for her year ahead as flotilla commander.

“The sky is the limit for us,” she said.

Awards and certificates were given out to flotilla members. Collins received a special US Coast Guard Auxiliary Commendation Medal for service as rear commodore in Region 11 from January 2005 until December 2006. In that time, Collins oversaw an astounding 470,000 volunteer hours districtwide. He thanked fellow auxiliary members for making the award possible.

Strach was named Auxiliarist of the Year, with Jolley named 2007's Most Inspirational member.

Collins and the flotilla made sure to give Thomas a good roasting to show their appreciation for his service to the flotilla over the years.

Incoming staff officers for 2008 are Gary Jolley, aids to navigation and materials; John McEwen, communications; Deana McAllister, communication services; DA Butts, finance; Anita Farnholtz, information services; Catalina Gumatoatoa, marine safety; Betty Strach, member training, operations and public education; Allan Bride, public affairs; Chris Ruttan, publications; Rich Thomas, personnel services; Charles Rester, program visitation; Karen Wilson, secretary of records; and Dane Hayward, vessel examinations.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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