Whether your dream is to get out on the water for the first time or if you’re looking to brush up on some boating basics, you never need an excuse to become a better, safer boater. Read the tips below from Boatingmag.com to learn where to begin and gain more confidence on the water. While our more experienced boaters would likely enjoy one of our larger models, if you’re new on the scene and in the market for a new boat, keep an eye on the production of the 27′ Magnum, the smallest of our current line-up.
This guide to boating has all the details needed to get started. Learn about boating education and safety classes, laws and licenses, on-the-water training options, and more.
Take a Boater Education Course
America’s Boating Course (ABC) is designed and administered by the U.S. Power Squadrons. It’s a six-part course (getting started, navigation rules, government regulations, finding your way, communications and watersports safety, trailering and PWC operation) built around a 287-page manual that covers 236 individual topics. Students must pass the quiz at the end of each module to continue (8 out of 10 is passing), and culminates in a 50-question final exam. As a full-time employee with two children, it took me approximately two months to complete the boaters education course.
The course is in-depth and extremely detailed, leaving me to wonder how many boaters can really speak intelligently about the aforementioned 287 topics. Did most know that all visible mud, plants and animals should be removed from the boat and trailer before leaving the ramp to avoid the spread of nonnative fish, quagga mussels and zebra mussels? Or that five short blasts from the stand-on boat means do not pass or overtake? Could they navigate the tricky quiz question in Module 6 that asked if a spring line is a line used in March, April and May?
They are moot questions, because ultimately you are responsible for your vessel and passengers, so it’s critical that you study and comprehend all the information. It’s better to know it and not need it than the other way around. ABC is available as an online course, or find an ABC course near you. Go to usps.org for more information.
Take an On-the-Water Course
It’s one thing to interpret a navigational marker from a desk chair. It’s another to do so in the glaring light of day, with vessels moving in every direction, at 20 mph.
One option is the Boat U.S. Foundation’s On-The-Water training course. The three-hour tutorial provides students instruction on pre-departure preparation, shifting gears, throttle control, docking and station holding.
The class is often hosted at a boat show. I took mine at the Miami International Boat Show. After going through the pre-departure checklist, my instructor and I took a Cobia 220 CC powered by a Yamaha 250 out onto Biscayne Bay for a morning of pivot turns, backing up, taking wakes, docking, and cruising the Intracoastal Waterway. Go to boatus.org/on-water for classes/events in your area.
U.S. Powerboating offers a 16-hour, hands-on class, with locations around the country. Go to uspowerboating.com to find out more.
Fun fact: Alabama is the only state that requires an actual boating license. And with the exception of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Wyoming, and Maine, every state requires younger boaters to complete a boating safety and/or education course. The age varies from state to state. For some, the cutoff year is 1996. For others, it’s 1988. For more information about laws and licenses by state, go to americasboatingcourse.com.
Completing a boating education or safety course is a good idea no matter where you live. Added bonus: when the time comes to purchase, a boating education certificate gets you a discount on boat insurance.