Dan Thomas lives in Spokane, Wash. But he hasn’t missed the Buoy 10 fishery for the past seven years.

Thomas, however, doesn’t visit the North Coast with a rod and reel in hand.

Instead, he is one of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary members who volunteer to work to keep the hundreds of boaters safe.

Thomas, a member of Flotilla 81 of Spokane, has orders for two weeks of service. He is one of four Auxiliary members assigned to the region.

“I love coming here,” said Thomas, whose dog Sandy accompanies him. “I came to visit the area eight years ago and saw all the anglers and boats. I contacted the Coast Guard right away and told them I wanted to be a part of the safety efforts here.

“Each year, I plan my vacation during the last two weeks of Buoy 10. This is when the ramps get real busy and hectic.”

Thomas’s son is making a career in the Coast Guard and recently was promoted to chief. Thomas acknowledged he probably influenced his son to join the Coast Guard and encouraged him to become a member of the Auxiliary at age 17.

For Thomas and others in the Auxiliary, Buoy 10 is a busy time. Hundreds of boats are on the water and predictions and early indications suggest that the larger fall chinook catch will match or exceed the returns in 2004.

The Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary on both the Oregon and Washington sides of the river promote safety at boat launches, marinas and on the water. The Auxiliary has had personnel assigned to the Warrenton and Hammond ramps since Aug. 1. They are there from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. daily. Most arrive prior to 5:30 a.m. and remain as late as 11 a.m.

Some return in the afternoon to perform courtesy Vessel Safety Checks after boaters return from the ocean or river.

In addition to Auxiliarists on the ramps, several Auxiliary safety patrols are scheduled on the water. They occur usually on the weekends beginning around 8 a.m. and ending around 4 p.m. These cover an area from Buoy 10 to Tongue Point, on both sides of the Columbia.

The Coast Guard planned early this year to insure coverage of the ramps and adequate patrols for the increased boat launches. They made available temporary orders to Auxiliary personnel living outside of the area to assist with the Buoy 10 safety operation. The orders provide reimbursement for travel, lodging and meals. The orders, however, do not pay them for their time.

As well as Thomas, a married couple, Betsy and Greg Allen, of Flotilla 78 of Vancouver, Wash., is participating for the first time. Glen Wood, vice commander of Flotilla 64, of Astoria, lives in Longview, Wash.. He is participating in his second Buoy 10 operation.

The Allens have been members for about three years and have volunteered for weekend patrols.

Wood, who also has three years of service, helped plan how the Auxiliary would tackle Buoy 10 this year.

“Boating safety is critical to doing anything on these waters – the Columbia,” Wood said.

“Sharing boating safety information about life jackets, emergency equipment and other boating safety information prevents, I believe, accidents and fatalities. Over the years, deaths have been prevented by the presence of Auxiliary members at the ramps and marinas.”