Tom Rau, the 27-year Coast Guard veteran whose boating safety columns, books and radio broadcasts taught hundreds of thousands of boaters how to “Boat Smart,” succumbed to cancer at Manistee Medical Care Facility after a lengthy illness. He was 68.

Senior Chief Rau’s “Boat Smart” column brought search and rescue and boating safety to life in the Ludington Daily News and many other publications for the past 24 years.

Rau’s “Boat Smart Chronicles” book, published in 2006, continues to educate boaters throughout the Great Lakes and across the nation. The book is a compilation of Rau’s true stories of boating emergencies and lessons to be learned from them.

A Coast Guard Reservist as well as a Coast Guard Auxiliarist, Rau served fulltime in the Coast Guard at Lake Michigan rescue stations including Manistee and Ludington during the boating season for more than 20 years.

Retired Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Tony Fiore, remembered Senior Chief Rau as a “deck plate sailor who never sugar-coated the facts.

“Tom dedicated his life to saving lives by educating boaters through his “Boat Smart” articles and book,” said Fiore.

The subtitle of Rau’s book, “Lake Michigan Devours its Wounded,” exemplifies his blunt approach to the need for required boating safety education.

“The challenge facing the current generation of boaters is to move beyond a recreational narrow mindedness and view boating as a serious endeavor while enjoying it in a recreational venue,” Rau concludes in the book. “Hopefully, a hundred years from now recreational boaters will have moved beyond a Pollyanna-ish mindset, a blind optimism that underscores most boating fatalities.”

Coast Guard recognition for Rau’s contributions to boating safety and search and rescue included two Coast Guard Commendation Medals. Rau was also chosen as the 2001 recipient of the Coast Guard’s highest honor for journalism —The Alex Haley Award. The award was presented by the Commandant of the Coast Guard at the time, Admiral James Loy, at the Coast Guard Festival.

“In spite of the enormous marine safety net rescue agencies provide boaters, still there is no greater or more effective rescue resource than an intelligent boater,” Rau writes in his book. “It’s not that I scorn recreational boaters, it’s that I scorn the reasons so many needlessly die or compromise their safety with foolish behavior.”

“He always told you the way it was — good or bad, the Chief to the core,” said Fiore.

QMCS Tom Rau Memorial Scholarship

QMCS Tom Rau, USCGR Memorial Scholarship

To assist USCG members E-6 and below, Regular and SELRES, along with their dependents serving at SFO Grand Haven, Station Grand Haven, Station Manistee, ANT Muskegon, Station St. Joseph, Station Michigan City and dependents of GHCPOA members in good standing, in defraying expenses incurred at a university, college or vocational school of acceptance.

2019 Essay Topic’s

“Are sea going traditions such as line crossing ceremonies still appropriate today, or are they considered a form of bullying or hazing?”


“Has social media had a positive or negative affect on our perception of public figures?”

You may choose to write about either topic or both

500 words or less per topic.  Entry deadline: 5:00 PM 1 April 2019.

Two grants of $500.00 each will be awarded to the individuals submitting the top two entries.

Submission: Your essay must be emailed to the Grand Haven CPOA at

 All submissions will become the property of the Grand Haven CPOA and the winner(s) agree to have their essay(s) posted on the chapter’s web site.

 Selection:  Two grants will be awarded.  It’s possible for one individual to win both grants. A committee of chapter members will review the submitted essays and select the winner.  The winning individual(s) along with their family will be invited to attend the Visiting Chief’s cookout held during Coast Guard Festival week.

The winner(s) will be presented a $500 check at that time.