A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

Boater education: a smart investment

My inbox after the holiday weekend was filled with enough incidents, accidents and cautionary tales to keep a boating safety class busy all winter.

“Coast Guard saves 4 from sinking boat off South Padre Island.”

“Fisherman’s head was lodged between boat, pier.”

“6 men from capsized vessel rescued by good Samaritan.”

The Coast Guard, marine police and John Q Boaters hauled waterlogged mariners out of the water from Maine to Alaska.

Stuff happens to even the most experienced powerboaters and sailors. But educated boaters are not only safer and more confident; they also will remain in boating longer than someone who never quite figures it out. Knowing the ropes is one of the keys to longevity in boating. And it’s the folks who develop a real level of competency and comfort on the water who are best suited to pass on their knowledge and enthusiasm and enjoyment of the sport to subsequent generations.

Navigation, boat handling, developing a weather eye, understanding the Rules of the Road, situational awareness, preventive maintenance — and, yes, plenty of laughs and relaxation that come from doing it the right way aboard a reliable, well-maintained boat. That’s a formula for fun.

Part of being a responsible boat operator is running at a speed appropriate for the conditions — waves, wakes, visibility, congestion, time of day, the age and experience of the crew, and so on. You leave enough time and distance to react to the unexpected.

In this video captured by the independent Lake of the Ozarks TV station Lake TV, a Fountain high-performance boat appears to be running on the ragged edge when a wake causes the operator to lose total control. You’ll wince as the passengers are tossed about like rag dolls. Think you have to time to brace yourself or tighten your grip on a handhold? Think again.

Mandatory education? It’s a good investment for the industry. Smart, safe, experienced boaters are in it for a lifetime.


9 comments on “Boater education: a smart investment

  1. CaptA

    I have been advocating mandatory education for years. Alas I always get criticized on this website. for doing so. Here has been the basic argument: Mmandatory education=government intrusion=less boat sales.

  2. Tom Delotto,CMM

    Bill – along these lines and as a new feature of the 2012 Newport International Boat Show which starts next week, we have arranged for Discover Boating to participate in the show with the Welcome to the Water Training Program. Anyone attending the show can experience the thrill of hands on boating training sessions for the first time while experienced old salts can take an advanced course to “Tune” existing skills.
    Your comments are spot on – It’s a good investment for the industry. Smart, safe, experienced boaters are in it for a lifetime. Well said.
    Here’s the link for anyone interested – http://www.newportboatshow.com/newport-international-boat-show-attendees/learning-programs/overview.htm#in-water

  3. Capt. Bob Armstrong

    I know where CaptA is comingfrom. I, too, have been advocating mandatory education since back in the 1970s. When I was writing for magazines regularly, I would get my plea into print as often as possible and it was always rebuffed by the industry as a whole. Even when I’d point out that other liesure industries such as tennis, skiing and golf often entice new particiapnts by offfering “free lessons,” too many people at the builder and dealer level consider education as something “standing in the way” of making a sale. I’ve learned from teaching that boaters who learn to do things correctly enjoy their boats more because they are less worried about doing something wrong. The lower anxiety level equates to a highr enjoyment level and a more satisfied customer. How can anyobne be against that?

  4. Capt Phil Topps, AMS

    Even in states where “mandatory education” is required, such as my state of New Jersey where a NJ Boaters’ Safety Certificate is required,the preponderance of the “students” we teach, who attend our classes show minimal interest, only taking our classes to get the card.
    The levels of truly dangerous actions on the water remain the same,even after “mandatory education” becomes the law of the state.
    Unfortunately, only tighter enforcement will modify bad behavior.

  5. CaptA

    Good point Capt Phil,

    I have always advocated the law should be changed for boaters meaning boaters should be required to get a license. A less comprehensive version of the OUPV (6-pack) license. My idea has been:

    1) No Physical or Drug test requirements;
    2) Rules of the Road test
    3) Plotting/General Navigation Exam; (Use a test designed by either the USCG Aux or American Sailing Association).

    The big deterrent would be enforcement. If you lose your license, you can not operate a boat—that simple. I think it would make the waters safer. Ask the various marine police units in the States.

  6. Havasued

    There are two types of boater “education.” One is the kind of knowledge and information you learn from a book or taking a class (very valuable). The other is on-the-water instruction on how to operate your specific type of boat (even more valuable, especially in high performance situations). It’s obvious from this video that the pilot of this boat could have used both — his throttling technique was inviting disaster. Fortunately there were no fatalities but some very sore bodies.

  7. matt

    Deviating from the topic and moving to the video, what is the captain doing with his left hand? I’ve never been on a go-fast boat but he appears to be shifting gears. Can some one enlighten me?

  8. goboatinginflorida

    The more we become educated the more we recognize the role of excessive (although ‘legal’) speed.
    Go figure.

  9. CaptainA

    Just a reminder, Colregs Rule #6:

    Rule 6 – Safe Speed

    Every vessel shall at all times proceed at a safe speed so that she can take proper and effective action to avoid collision and be stopped within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions.

    In determining a safe speed the following factors shall be among those taken into account:
    (a) By all vessels:

    (i) The state of visibility;
    (ii) The traffic density including concentrations of fishing vessels or any other vessels;
    (iii) The manageability of the vessel with special reference to stopping distance and turning ability in the prevailing conditions;
    (iv) At night, the presence of background light such as from shore lights or from back scatter from her own lights;
    (v) The state of wind, sea and current, and the proximity of navigational hazards;
    (vi) The draft in relation to the available depth of water.

    (b) Additionally, by vessels with operational radar:

    (i) The characteristics, efficiency and limitations of the radar equipment;
    (ii) Any constraints imposed by the radar range scale in use;
    (iii) The effect on radar detection of the sea state, weather and other sources of interference;
    (iv) The possibility that small vessels, ice and other floating objects may not be detected by radar at an adequate range;
    (v) The number, location and movement of vessels detected by radar;
    (vi) The more exact assessment of the visibility that may be possible when radar is used to determine the range of vessels or other objects in the vicinity.

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