Know the water rules

Published 2:47 pm Friday, January 22, 2016

To the uninformed, knowing the rules of safe boating may not seem as important as knowing the rules of safe driving.

After all, there are fewer boats on the water than cars on the road, and large intersections are few and far between on the water.

But for those who intend to be an operator or a passenger on a motorboat or a personal watercraft like a Jet Ski, safety is just as important. Things can turn tragic quite quickly on the water if the operator or passenger doesn’t know how to react to bad weather, equipment breakdowns or any number of other situations that can and do occur.


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Knowing this, the General Assembly in 2007 adopted legislation making a nine-hour safety course mandatory for anyone operating a motorboat with an engine greater than 10 horsepower or a personal watercraft. Boaters have been phased in by age since then, and this is the first year all boaters are required to complete the course or risk paying a $100 fine.

The course can be completed online, but the Nansemond River Power Squadron, a Suffolk-based nonprofit organization of motorboat operators, is offering a class for those who want in-person instruction from experienced people.

Lt. Commander Frank Brown encourages boat users to get certified, even if they don’t plan on operating the boat. Even passengers need to know the ground rules for keeping a boat safe, such as wearing life jackets and not goofing off, Brown noted. In a worst-case scenario, somebody has to be able to take the helm if the operator becomes incapacitated, he added.

With Suffolk’s beautiful waterways and many others within driving distance, we know there are many boaters in the area. We encourage all boaters to take these classes and know the rules of the waterways.

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. More courses might be added in April and May if the demand exists.

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