Oh yeah, getting back to sailing…safety first

We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming of boat search and lust to come back to reality. Sailing. Yes, sailing. The whole point of this crazy journey, and one thing need to re-learn come spring. One criticism I’m already anticipating when we come out of the closet is that a few people will think we are flirting with danger. Fair enough, except that I’m all about safety. I’m the little old lady driving the speed limit. The airplane passenger reading the emergency procedures. The person checking for the exits lights in the theatre before the movie starts. Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of my family. And so, I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on boat safety education.

On licensing and certification
(Pieced together from the sail.net forums and other on-line sources).

The US Coast Guard is the only ones who can issue captain’s or engineer’s licenses in the U.S.  It is not required if you are taking your own boat out for pleasure. “In general” you need a Coast Guard license only if you’re carrying freight or passengers for hire. And if you need a license, only the Coast Guard issues them. There are different levels of licenses, which I am not interested in. Mariner training for licensing is through approved courses.

Certificates from ASA, USSA, IYT, etc. are evidence of training. It may allow you to rent boats or hire yourself out  as a sailing instructor, but only the USCG can issue licenses.

Some free on-line resources
The  MA Guide to Boating Laws and Responsibilities, a handbook for boaters is available on-line. While we are not required to have a Boating Safety Certificate, we plan on taking a course because it’s important.

The BoatUS Foundation’s Massachusetts Boating Free Online Boating Safety course
Anyone may take this course as practice or to receive a discount on boat/PWC marine insurance. The course consists of 6 lessons (with a 10-question quiz at the end) and a Final Exam (75 questions and you must pass with with a score of 80% or better). This certificate of completion is not NASBLA nor state approved and will not entitle boaters under 16 years of age or PWC operators under 18 years of age to operate on the waters of Massachusetts.

Boat US Online VHF/DSC Radio Tutorial
An interactive video tutorial to help you become more comfortable with your VHF Radio.

DSC Radio On-Line Radio Tutorial: Digital Selective Calling is a newer radio technology allowing enhanced distress radio messages to be sent digitally.

Other classes we are exploring
U.S. Power Squadron’s America’s Boating Course – the latest public boating course offered by USPS to the general boating community (replaces The Squadron Boating Course). May be taken as a classroom course or on-line. Currently $49.95 and includes 6 month membership with USPS:

  • Animated, narrated home- study CD
  • Digital charting DVD with software and all United States charts
  • 6 months membership in USPS
  • Proctored Exam is given by a local squadron

The on-line version is not recognized by the state of MA for Boating Safety Certification. The USPS also offers a wide range of USPS University courses, from deck seamanship to advanced navigation; weather; marine equipment selection, use, installation, and maintenance; cruising; and sailing.

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary courses provide instruction to boaters at all levels, from the fundamental to the advanced. USCGA Massachusetts does not have the on-line course available, only physical classes.

  • About Boating Safely (ABS) – Multi-Session: This beginner boating class will give you the knowledge needed to obtain a boat license or safety certification in many states.
  • Sailing Skills and Seamanship Course (SS&S) is a comprehensive course designed for both experienced and novice sailboat operators. Individuals who successfully complete the course and exam are awarded certificates and cards.

Boatwise, LLC, founded in 1990, pioneered the one-day class concept in boating education when the only available classes at the time were traditionally held over 9 to 13 weeks of 2 hour weeknight sessions. According to their website, Boatwise was one of the first in the country to have its curricula & test approved by the USCG National Maritime Center in Washington, to substitute for their own testing processes for these licenses. Class schedule here.

Time to hit the books
Well, we have our work cut out for us. I’ve already started the BoatUS Foundation Boat Safety on-line course. If I have time, I might also take the America’s Boating On-line Course (since I can’t be away from Otter too long) and Tig is interested in the Boatwise one-day Boat Safety course. Tig has also volunteered me to get a Ham license, lucky me.

So…I may be posting less frequently. Please excuse us while we go put our heads down and row.

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