Learn first, boat second

Published 8:59 pm Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Summer is in full force, which means the waters are chock full of boaters enjoying their day in the sun.

And members of the Nansemond River Power Squadron want to make sure that every boater in the water is a safe one.

On July 11, the squadron will be offering safe boating courses for anyone interested in attending.

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“The fact is, people need to be safe in the water and every person that does get some safety education is safer for themselves and safer for other people in the water,” said Lilly Stone, educational officer for the squadron.

Additionally, Stone said, a new law has been passed requiring anyone 20 or younger to have a license in order to operate water vehicles such as jet skis. Stone said the law is going to increase incrementally over time so that by 2016 every one will have to have a license to operate watercraft (with the exception of boats with motors that have less than 10 horsepower).

“In some respects, you can say you wouldn’t drive a car without a license, would you?” Stone said. “It’s the same thing in the water.”

The instructors will be using the American Boating Course, and the course will be eight hours long — four hours on July 11 and four hours on July 18.

“I can assure you the material is a good eight hours,” Stone said. “It’s everything from simple knowledge of the part of the boats to going over the safety equipment (life vests, flares). And then we go over the emergencies and then, of course, there is simply the law as it applies to boaters. There are some things that a lot of boaters don’t seem to understand.”

Stone said that there are many common sense laws, such as not littering or not drinking and driving, that people seem to forget about because they are dealing with a boat and not a car.

“(The law) is the same thing on the boat,” she said.

Stone added that it is also important that more than one person in a family or group of friends know how to operate a boat safely.

“If it’s not your boat, you can benefit from knowing what the rules are and how to behave on the water,” Stone said. “You have to realize as friends or spouses when you go out, if the captain falls and breaks his leg, if he faints, what can anybody do? Do you know how to call for help? Do you know how to work the radio? These are basics people should know.”

While new boaters may come to the class for their licensure, Stone said the class has a lot to offer even the most experienced of boaters.

“Even people that sign in and say they have been on the water for 30 years, they come out and say, ‘There are a few things I didn’t realize,’” Stone said. “There is also a little bit of time during the course where the instructors share some sea tales in there and have different experiences to highlight. That makes it fun and interesting.”

The course costs $30 per person, which includes class materials and the final exam. The classes will begin at 9 a.m. and conclude at 1 p.m. at the Gatling Point Yacht Club in Smithfield.

For more information or to register for the course, call 399-0051.