A common misconception is that Washington State requires recreational boaters to have a license. This is not accurate, what is required is that boaters have successfully taken an approved Boaters Education Class and gotten a Washington State Boaters Education Card. The Education requirement phases in over several years, in 2011 those 35 years old and younger must have a Boaters Ed. Card if they operate a motor powered vessel of 15 horsepower or more. The age requirement phase’s in until 2014 when everyone born on or after January 1, 1955 must have a Boaters Education Card. Once the state issues you a card it is good for life, there is no retesting or currency requirements (a certain number of days on the water each year).
Why should I take a Boating Safety Class is a common question I am ask as a boating Safety Instructor in Washington State. After all, if you were born before January 1, 1955 a class is not required, also not required if you are just along for the ride. Why should I take a class if I don’t need to? If you know how to be a safe boater you can help on any boat that you are on and many times accidents have been prevented when guests saw something and brought it to the attention of the operator in time to avoid and accident. I have also known people that were invited to go boating because they are known as a safe and helpful boater.
Why does Washington State have the Boaters Ed. requirement? Many boats are operated by inexperienced boaters that have little experience and no concept of the rules of the road or why a lookout is needed at all times you are underway. Our state has a relatively high accident rate and the education requirement is an attempt to make our waters safer for everyone that spends time on the water. The Washington State Boaters Education Card is also recognized by other states, so it you go to another state that requires a card you automatically meet their requirement.
I always recommend that ALL boaters take a Safe Boating Class and also they take the class in the classroom and not on the internet or just an online test. In a classroom there is interaction with the instructor and other students. You have a chance to ask questions to clarify areas that you might have questions about. The student next to you might ask that question that you thought was too basic or dumb to ask. You have the chance also to ask the instructors additional questions at the breaks. I regularly have students that have been boating for 15 or more years tell me they learned a lot in the class.
Many of the instructors in the Coast Guard Auxiliary have been boating for many years and all receive extra training to be an instructor and training in boating safety . Many instructors are also Crew or Coxswain qualified which means they have received additional training in Boating Safety, advanced boating skills, boat handing and on the water safety and skills.
Many families are now taking the class together. The kids need the class and they drag their parents with them. Many parents are now require their kids to take a class before they can drive the boat. This family togetherness has had a downside when the kids do better on the final than dad or when Junior sleeps through the class and bombs the final.
The secret to doing well in the class? get a good nights sleep the night before, stay awake, pay attention to the material and the instructor, ask if there is something you don’t understand. The material in the basic 8 hour Boating Safety Class is fairly basic but it does cover a lot of material so you do need to pay attention. When the class is over, don’t pack your notes and book away, get the text out and go through it and review areas that were a bit difficult for you or to review things you saw on the water the next time you go boating.
Who should you take a class from? I am a bit biased here and always recommend the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary as I think we have some great instructors, many of whom have additional training in boating safety. More specifically I like to have people take classes that I help teach, I tell people that you get a discount if you mention my name (rebate of the instructor pay) but since our instructors are not paid it is the thought that counts, or that is what my mom said when Great Aunt Ethel gave us a handmade whatever for Christmas.
I would like people to take classes from the Auxiliary because I am a member of the Auxiliary. I have friends that have taken classes from other groups and liked them, so the important thing is to TAKE A CLASS!! If there is not a class in your area many Flotillas will come to your area if you have a place the class can be held and enough students. If you are a member of a service group, church, the company you work for or other group many Flotillas will again come to your place and hold a class.
Three easy steps to boating safety:
Take a Safe Boating Class
Have a Designated Sober Driver
Wear Your Lifejacket
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