Water Ways

By Ray Pendleton

Saturday, October 27, 2001

Coast Guard offers
classes on Internet

At least twice a year, I try to give my friends in the U.S. Power Squadron and Coast Guard Auxiliary a plug for their safe boating courses.

My theory has been that if it encourages even one more person to become a better boater, that's one less the Coast Guard will likely need to rescue.

Of course, as in most classroom situations, anyone wishing to take these classes must attend them at a time and place of the instructors' choosing, and that has proved to a problem for some.

Not everyone can make it to weekend or evening classes, so when a heads-up Water Ways reader pointed out's "Nautical Know-How" class on the Internet, I had to check it out.

This basic boating safety course is located at and it is just one part of a Web site that includes boating tips and articles, contests, a "BoatSafeKids" section and a separate course on coastal navigation.

In the introduction to the basic boating course, it is quickly pointed out that not only is it approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, but it is also recognized as acceptable by the U.S. Coast Guard.

A reasonable caveat is also offered that the course only gives the minimum requirements for safety equipment and general information, and attending more in-depth boating courses is encouraged.

Similar to other basic safe boating courses, this on-line version is divided into separate sections, or classes, and has a quiz at the end of each one.

The first section deals with the boat itself: basic terminology, boat types, boat designs, propulsion, engine systems and safety checks.

The second section explains the legal requirements: registration, required equipment, life preservers, navigation lights, ventilation, sound signals, and pollution regulations.

Vessel preparation is the subject of the third section: creating a check list, trailering, environmental conditions, float plans, preventive maintenance and fueling.

Section six covers vessel operations: operator responsibility, navigation rules, seamanship, sound signals, rules of the road, and aids to navigation.

Details for getting under way are presented in section seven: line handling and knot-tying, docking and un-docking, maneuvering, anchoring and water sports.

Potential boating accidents are taken up in section eight: fatal vs. non-fatal, accident reports, crew overboard, shore assistance, rendering assistance, hypothermia, fires and first aid.

Section nine is a catch-all class that deals with: emergency repairs, locks, dams, security and sailing.

The final section takes up state-specific boating requirements and offers a final exam.

IN ALL, the course's content seems to be everything is claims to be. And, above all, it is extremely easy to use. Each section and subsection can be clicked on, no matter where you are in the program and the pages load to your computer in an instant.

Does it give everything you need to know for a voyage to Molokai? Emphatically no. But it does provide an at-your-leasure way to learn boating basics and successfully completing the course could result in lower insurance rates.

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu.
His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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