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.
StraightTalk tip: Before heading out on your boat, file a float plan. The “World’s only Lifesaving Device on Paper”™ consists of the “Millennium Edition” Float Plan™ and Boating Emergency Guide™ from the Coast Guard Auxiliary on the Float Plan Central website.
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’s a joint effort of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons. It covers the fundamentals of boating for skippers and crew of all types of boats. For the course fee of $34.95 (plus S&H) you get access to Internet-based course material, an interactive CD and print manual plus the assistance, if desired, of a local member of US Power Squadrons or Coast Guard Auxiliary.
- boatsafe.com offers a Basic Boating Safety Course and a Coastal Navigation Course.
- boatus.org, the Boat Owners Association of the U.S., offers a free online boating safety course for each state.
- US Sailing Course and Online Sailing School—US Sailing, the national governing body of sailing, offers an online beginning course “Sailing Primer,” 10-part “Online Keelboat Course,” and several other courses plus information on sailing schools for obtaining U.S. Sailing Certification.
- American Sailing Association—Locate schools offering ASA certification.
- Sailing Basics—Excerpted with permission from “SAIL Magazine's Best Little Learn to Sail Book Ever” on discoversailing.com.
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. There’s a page for parents/teachers explaining the site and how to use it.
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 45,000 members organized in 450 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.
Next: Maintaining Your Boat
Prepared for Corning Credit Union by Remar Sutton & Associates, April 2003. Reviewed and updated March 2007. All rights reserved.