What do five short blasts of a marine horn mean? (Immediate danger!) What are the greatest dangers for kids on the water? What’s an EPIRB? Who has the right of way on the water? What would you do if you heard the words “Pan, Pan, Pan” over your radio?
Unfortunately, the law doesn’t generally require licenses for people running boats. Although most states require safety certification, boaters typically don’t have to take any training in seamanship skills or pass tests on such skills to run boats (even big ones!) The implications for you? You have to learn to be a defensive, knowledgeable boater, if you and the ones you love are going to be safe.
A tip: Before heading out on your boat, file a float plan. The Float Plan Central website contains a downloadable float plan template in PDF format, Boating Emergency Guide™, and other information from the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
You can learn oceans of information about good seamanship and safe boating skills online, starting at the following sites. You can also find local courses taught by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons and other groups.
- America’s Boating Course (ABC)—An online course that covers the basics of recreational boating. It covers boat education, boat safety, boating law and regulation, and provides an introduction to navigation. For the course fee of $39.95 you get access to Internet-based course material, a boating instruction CD, digital charting DVD and print manual plus contact with members of the US Power Squadrons. It includes a 6-month membership in the US Power Squadrons, and a proctored exam given by the local squadron.
- boatsafe.com offers a Basic Boating Safety Course and a Coastal Navigation Course.
- boatus.com, the Boat Owners Association of the U.S., offers a free online boating safety course for each state.
- US Sailing Training & Education—US Sailing, the national governing body of sailing, offers courses in four separate areas: Small Boat, KeelBoat, Powerboat and Windsurfing.
- American Sailing Association—Locate schools offering ASA certification.
Resources for young people
- BoatSafeKids offers Q&A on boating safety and activities and articles that teach boating safety.
- Boating Safety “Sidekicks” is an interactive website with features and games to teach children about boats and boating safety.
Here are links to two membership organizations that promote boating education and safety and that have local chapters that provide courses and programs you can participate in.
- United States Power Squadrons is a non-profit educational organization that offers public boating courses and community activities and public service, including courtesy Vessel Safety Checks. It has over 35,000 members organized in 350 power and sail squadrons.
- United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is a membership organization of civilian volunteers organized in local “Flotillas.” The CG Auxiliary offers boating courses, Vessel Safety Checks, boat exams, and many other public education and public service activities.
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