Office of Boating Safety posting instructor in Juneau

Debra Ylijoki will provide free courses to students, adults

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Boating Safety is sending one of its part-time instructors down to Juneau early next year to provide service to the capital city and Southeast Alaska.


Boating Law Administrator Jeff Johnson said the move, which reassigns instructor Debra Ylijoki from Anchorage to Juneau from early January until April or beyond, came in response to a perceived gap in the office’s regional coverage.

“We felt that we needed a stronger presence down there in Southeast,” Johnson said Thursday. Of Ylijoki, he added, “We’re pretty excited to get her down there. We’re hoping that we can improve our service in Southeast.”

Ylijoki spent much of her Friday teaching a “Kids Don’t Float” course, with a curriculum based around the danger of cold water immersion and the importance of wearing a life jacket.

“I am an education assistant, so I do a lot of the ‘Kids Don’t Float’ classes,” Ylijoki said. “So my job is pretty much outreaching to schools.”

“Kids Don’t Float,” along with the accompanying Peer Education Program that aims to get high school students involved in teaching the curriculum to younger students, is one of the free course offerings that Ylijoki will be teaching in Juneau and Southeast Alaska.

“Basically what we’re trying to teach kids is how to be proactive if you find yourself in an emergency situation,” said Ylijoki.

Ylijoki will also lead free Alaska Water Wise boating safety courses. While Alaska itself has no mandatory education requirements for boaters, completion of the course “satisfies most states’ boating safety education requirements and may qualify boaters for boat insurance discounts,” according to the program website.

Alaska Water Wise covers cold water immersion and life jacket safety, like “Kids Don’t Float,” but also includes boating-specific topics like navigation, planning and legal requirements, according to Ylijoki. The course is eight hours long.

Johnson praised Ylijoki’s work with students in Anchorage.

“She’s dynamite,” said Johnson. “She’s really great with kids.”

According to Johnson, “Kids Don’t Float” classes are generally offered on demand. Teachers may request that Ylijoki come in to give a presentation.

From there, Johnson added, interest in the topic tends to take off.

“It spreads like wildfire once people see how cool the presentation is,” Johnson said.

Ylijoki will start work in Juneau on Jan. 9. Her first Alaska Water Wise course offering, which is free to the public, will be Jan. 12.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at


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