I Have Boated My Whole Life... Is a Boating Safety Course Beneficial?
So you've grown up on the water and know your way around a boat? Should you still take a boating safety course? It is a bit of an investment, and perhaps you just aren't convinced that it is something that might be beneficial to you. That's a perfectly logical line of thinking. But the truth of that matter is that it will pay itself off many times over.
Let me ask you this: What is your life worth? How can you ensure that you aren't doing something wrong? Especially since it's probably something that you are completely unaware of. How can you fix a problem if you don't recognize it in the first place? Boating courses cover a wide range of topic, so let us review some of them here.
Basic Boating Safety Course
Now, I'll be honest with you... I would personally probably never take a basic boating safety course, but that's largely because I spent time in the US Navy and all of this was covered on the advancement tests. Trust me, I've done my homework. I will be honest with both you and myself and say that if I feel this information sliding out of my brain I wouldn't hesitate to take the course as a refresher. At the moment I use this information far too often to ever forget, but who knows what the future holds.
Proper Operation & Safety (Boating Handling-Equipment-Trailering)
Getting down to brass tacks, this is the foundation of all boating safety courses. Learning how to operate a boat and safely load/unload it from a trailer might seem basic, but there's a ton that can be learned here. Many courses will cover warning signs and safety equipment that you might not be aware of. For instance, I never used to check for carbon monoxide on my boat until being made aware that it could be an invisible killer by a Navy advancement test.
Most people aren't aware of every law in their specific state, and the great thing about a safety course is that it will be tailored to the state that you're taking the course in. This can keep you abreast of strange or obscure laws that you wouldn't necessarily think to consider, and trust me when I say that states have plenty of them. Even minimum age requirements can be a great boon to store in your database of boating knowledge.
Emergencies & Survival (cold water)
We covered emergency and safety equipment briefly in the proper operation/safety section so we'll focus on cold-water survival. It's imperative that you have at least a basic knowledge of how long someone might last based on the temperature of the water, and what to do once you've managed to get them back on board. Hypothermia can kill in minutes, and taking passengers out without being aware of this fact is just plain irresponsible. A marine air horn can make other aware that someone is in the water and requires assistance. A mini-telescoping paddle can save a life if the engine goes out or you need to abandon ship.
Self Help First Aid
Speaking of hypothermia, you'll need to maintain a knowledge of many types of first aid and how to apply them. I assumed I knew the basics of CPR simply from seeing it performed, but when actually tasked with performing it myself I managed to bungle miserably. Those few minutes of attempting to figure it out could cost a passenger their life. CPR isn't the end of it either, do you know how to properly treat a burn or a broken bone? On the open ocean help is a long way out, so you need to know exactly how to do self-help first aid.
If you love to be on the water then it's extremely important to maintain the boating environment so that it will be there to enjoy for many years to come. It might not seem like one person or boat can have much of an effect, but you need to think about the other millions of boats that are sharing the same water. If everyone had that mindset then we would destroy the rivers and oceans in no time at all. I like to think that I'm quite environmentally conscious, but pollution isn't the only part of the equation. Wakes near the shore can cause erosion and destroy aquatic plants... We will write another blog piece going much more in-depth within the next week.
Advanced/Refresher Boating Courses
These are courses for people who are confident with their basic knowledge and simply need a bit of a reminder about things that need to be tweaked or that you might not use as often such as:
- Close maneuvering skills, figure eights and 3-5 point turns
- Anchoring options at sea
- Optimal trimming of the vessel
- Maximizing your electronics
- Navigation at sea techniques
- Various launch/retrieval skills including drive on/off
- Techniques for handling following seas
- Vessel towing procedures
Even if you have been boating your whole life a boating safety course is beneficial. Anything that can make you more confident on the water and your passengers more safe while riding along with you is worth the investment without a doubt. Going out without every bit of knowledge that you have available to you is irresponsible to yourself, your passengers, and everyone else that you're sharing the water with. If a safety courses are too costly then you might wanna just sell that vessel. Don't worry, I've got the scoop on the Kelley Blue Book for Boats.