Safe boating classes set

Published 7:10 pm Thursday, January 21, 2016

Boating safety is the topic of an upcoming class offered by the Nansemond River Power Squadron. All boat operators in Virginia must be certified by July 1.

Boating safety is the topic of an upcoming class offered by the Nansemond River Power Squadron. All boat operators in Virginia must be certified by July 1.

Motorboat operators have until July 1 to complete a state-mandated Virginia Boating Safety Education class or risk paying a $100 fine.

Boaters have been phased into the program by age since 2007, when Virginia’s General Assembly adopted legislation making the nine-hour course mandatory by 2016, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website.

Anyone who operates a motorboat with an engine greater than 10 horsepower or a personal watercraft, such as a Jet Ski or WaveRunner, is required to have a safety course completion card.


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The Nansemond River Power Squadron, a Suffolk-based nonprofit organization of motorboat operators from Hampton Roads, is offering classes this spring to help local boater get certified, said NRPS Lt. Commander Frank Brown.

The first three-day course will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 12, 6-9 p.m. March 14 and 6-9 p.m. March 16 at Suffolk Fire Station 5, 3901 Bridge Road.

Boaters will take their test and receive a temporary course-completion certificate during the third session, Brown said. The state issues permanent certification cards.

The classes will also meet a fourth time — which is optional — for on-the-water training, Brown said. That is designed to give boaters hands-on experience, with opportunities to dock a boat, drop anchor and load the boat on a trailer.

The power squadron will add more courses in April and May, if the demand exists, Brown said.

Although only boat operators are legally required to be certified, Brown encourages multiple family members or boat users to get certified. In a worst-case scenario, someone has to be capable of safely taking over the helm if the operator is unable to do it, Brown said.

“You are never too young, and we don’t have any age restrictions,” said Brown. “We believe everyone on a boat needs to know the ground rules for making it safe. You want everyone on the boat exposed to life jackets from a young age.”

Brown expects that most people taking the class will be over age 50, the last group of boaters to be phased in under the 2007 mandate.

“We are going to see quite a few older people having to take the class,” Brown said. “Old-time boaters are seasoned. They don’t like wearing life jackets, and they don’t like the sitting in classes.”

The cost is $30 per person, although discounts are given for families. The fee includes for $25 materials and $5 for the test, which is administered during the last session.

The classes cover boating terms; safety equipment requirements; checking equipment; rules of the waterway; navigational markers, lights and sounds; state and local regulations; charts; how to handle adverse conditions, emergencies and small craft advisories; knots; Virginia laws and regulations; and Homeland Security.

“(Homeland Security) is particularly important in this part of Virginia,” Brown said. “If you get within 500 yards of Oceana, the Navy will come visiting.”

The safe boating course can be taken online, Brown said. But Internet participants lose the opportunity for hands-on experience and the chance to ask questions of seasoned mariners.

“The stories of boaters’ experiences make it real,” he said. “These instructors are experienced, local boaters who know the area and the waterways.

“If anyone has questions, we can get them the answers immediately.”

To register, email or call H.J. South at 284-1432.

By the Numbers: Boating accidents in Virginia


Incidents: 146

Injuries: 187

Fatalities: 13


Incidents: 61

Injuries: 38

Fatalities: 16


Incidents: 79

Injuries: 39

Fatalities: 10

Source: Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries