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.
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™ and is available 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 at the following sites and 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 shipping and handling) 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 Certification Course and a Coastal Navigation Course.
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 information on sailing schools for obtaining U.S. Sailing Certification.
American Sailing Association Locate schools offering ASA certification; preview the courses online.
Sailing Basics Excerpted with permission from "SAIL's Best Little Learn to Sail Book Ever" on discoverboating.com.
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 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.