Boating Adventures Are More Fun for Everyone When You Put Safety First

National Safe Boating Week is May 18-24 this year, and it’s a timely reminder for every boat owner to check all the safety equipment on your boat to make sure it is in good working order. First and foremost, this annual event reinforces the importance of having comfortable, proper-fitting life jackets on board for yourself and everyone you will take out on the water with you.

“The best life jacket is the one you will wear,” said Peg Phillips, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council. “Whether you’re going fishing or just enjoying a ride on the boat, make sure you’re prepared for the adventure by wearing a life jacket and knowing how to use required safety gear.”

Now is also a great time to brush up on your boating safety skills, regardless of your experience level. An easy way to do this is to take a boating safety course. Most states offer online courses that allow you to work through them at your own pace. The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) provides a handy, state-by-state list of the courses that meet its requirements, many of which are free of charge. Visit to learn more.

While only two states – Alabama and Indiana – require boaters to get an actual operator’s license, many other states mandate boating education certification, particularly for younger boaters. NASBLA also provides an interactive map of the U.S. on its website where you can check your state’s requirements. In many cases, all you have to do to earn certification is to pass a free or low-cost online boating safety course.

While an online course will help you to learn or refresh your memory of basic boating safety equipment and practices, rules and regulations, however, nothing truly takes the place of on-the-water training. Some of the larger boat dealerships now offer hands-on classes. The United States Power Squadrons, now renamed America’s Boating Club, and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary are both great resources for finding on-water boating classes, along with boating safety tips and information. Both organizations also will provide you with a free vessel safety check for your boat on request, to make sure you have the proper gear on board.

Another great way to enhance both your boating safety skills is to hire a U.S Coast Guard-licensed captain to train you on your own boat. The captain not only can help you to ensure that you have the right safety gear on board, but he or she also can take you out on the water to review boat-handling and docking maneuvers and teach you invaluable new ones. If your spouse or partner or another family member typically goes boating with you, the captain also can train that person to take over at the helm if needed. A local captain also can point out hazards to avoid in your boating area. Check with your marina to see if its staff can recommend a licensed captain near you.

Boating safety education and on-the-water training can help to make you a more confident skipper and ensure that every boating adventure you take will be safer and more fun!

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