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What to give a boater for the holidays?

Ah the holidays.

I love this time of year because of the focus on community, charity and family wrapped around an important religious experience. People seem a little nicer, there is a nip in the air and the vast majority of us take time to think about helping others less fortunate.

This year, in particular, is going to be made even more special for our family as our oldest child Joe IV returns from the Coast Guard Academy, in New London CT, where he is a Fourth Class (Freshman) Cadet for a few weeks. He has already put in his request for &uot;favorite foods&uot;.

I also enjoy this time of year because of some of the wonderful e-mails I receive from our readers. As our readers look for the &uot;perfect&uot; gift I occasionally will get an e-mail that asks simply &uot;What should I get an avid boater?&uot; Good question!

Unfortunately, some of the advise on gift giving is not very practical to a boater. For example, the song the &uot;Twelve Days of Christmas&uot; suggests Lords-a-Leaping or Ladies Dancing? Not sure what you are suppose to do with that suggestion but it would sure make for a lively Christmas morning! Then there is always one of my personal favorites – the &uot;Leg Lamp&uot; from the movie &uot;A Christmas Story&uot;. (Amazingly a recent newspaper story reported that a former Naval Officer are selling these – right on!)

Ok, enough with unique ideas…how about a practical and timely gift for boating enthusiast on your list. How about the gift of boating safety?

For example, did you also know the state of Virginia offers a wide array of boating safety courses?

Well they do. (As does the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron which are the subject of next week’s column).

So what course options are available?

The state of Virginia has two that are flexible for individuals or families on the go…especially today’s very &uot;scheduled&uot; middle school and high school students.

The two offerings are done via video tape, and the other &uot;online&uot;. If you are good at self-study both are an excellent option that can be found at http://www.boat-ed.com/va/. The state also provides the link to five other different private companies that on-line safety courses. The state program however offers one huge benefit, especially if teenagers are involved. Upon successful completion the student will earn a Virginia Boater Certification Card that is required for teenage boaters. (Specifics on the law may be found at: http://www.boat-ed.com/va/course/p4-3_whomayoperate.htm). The price is right also for this program – $15!

Some boaters may scoff at the idea of taking a boating safety course, especially the &uot;Salty Sam’s&uot; out there. I can see it now…

&uot;I’ve been driving that boat for 20 years without a problem.&uot;

Granted the state does not have a law (and they should!) that requires adult boaters to pass a boating safety course like other states. This is a decision for the legislature in Richmond, and perhaps the topic of a future column.

No, participating in a boating education course, especially as an adult, has much more practical effects. Depending on which insurance company you are with passing a course may result in reduced rates for your annual insurance premium. Not bad!

Learning about boating safety, and possibly saving money on insurance…trust me it makes a great stocking stuffer…and may some day prevent an accident or worse. Think about it. Next week, we will look at another holiday boating item – the Coast Guard and Power Squadron safety course opportunities.

Until next week…Boat Safe…Boat Smart and STAY WARM!!!

Joe DiRenzo III is a retired Coast Guard officer and former Cutter Commanding Officer. He has written the boating course for the Suffolk News-Herald for over six years.