LONG BEACH—It’s been reported in several publications now, including The Log: boat sales appear to be trending upwards during the Covid-19 pandemic. An increase in boat sales could mean there are new boaters out there. Navigating your boat out of your slip (or from a boat launch ramp) and onto the high seas is a difficult skill to acquire.
The Log’s Parimal M. Rohit and Kevin Davis spend a few moments bantering about the value of boater education.
Parimal M. Rohit: It’s been said the pandemic has resulted in more people buying boats and, accordingly, being on the water. Have you noticed this?
Kevin Davis: Yes. We’ve seen a rise in new boaters in the area. It’s great to see! As a rule of thumb, we give new boaters a wide berth.
PMR: How do you recognize if someone is a new boater on the water?
KD: It’s most obvious when you see a new boater that doesn’t know the rules of the road, coming and going into the marina, leaving their slip or coming back into their slip. Lots of new boaters don’t know their new boats that well. BoatUS has been busy. You also see lots of safety infractions – the number of lifejackets on a board, overloading a boat, drinking while driving.
PMR: So, there are boaters who struggle to get in and out of their slip or damage boats (theirs or others). Is the simple fix to get in some boater education?
KD: Simple fix – yes and no. There are plenty of ways to gain knowledge and training, places like Training Resources Limited Maritime Institute, local yacht clubs, independent educators, online courses, friends on and around your dock. However, it’s up to you to take the time and go get the training.
PMR: What should be the first things a new boater learns before taking his or her boat out to sea?
KD: There are so many things to learn before you head out your first time. Know your boat – what’s this do? What’s that do? How do I put fuel in it? Where do I get fuel? What do I turn on? What do I turn off? Safety rules – how many people can I have on my boat? How many lifejackets do I need? Who and how do I call in case of an emergency? How do I get my boat in and out of its slip without damage or damage to someone else’s boat? And so on….
PMR: Can you give an example of something you’ve witnessed? As in, “ahh, that’s a new boater who could have benefited from some basic education?”
KD: When you live on your boat you see a lot of accidents that new boaters make. Again, just getting in and out of their slip without doing damage. We’ve seen new boaters hit other boats and do some major damage. We’ve been hit a couple of times without major damage. It’s frustrating. It makes you mad, especially when you see the same boater do the same thing the following week. Hey, I get it … we’re all newbies at some time. However, when you see a new boater on a regular basis making the same mistake week after week, it gets to be old.
PMR: Obviously there are things you can only learn by experience – but how can you best describe the value of gaining the proper instruction/education before leaving a slip or boat launch?
KD: Gaining knowledge about your boat only grows your confidence. Having an instructor is a huge advantage. They will help you get the feel of your boat and how it operates in water. Prop wash – look it up. I highly recommend getting some basic boating education/training with an instructor.
PMR: What are the immediately tangible benefits of boater education?
KD: You’ve invested in a boat, learn how to operate it. Not only for your boat and other boats around you, but also for your safety, your crew/guest’s safety, and your neighbor’s safety. Paying for damage to your boat and/or someone else’s boat can be costly. I believe it’s well known in the boating world – BOATS AREN’T CHEAP. Additionally, you don’t want to carry the title of bad boat driver. You’ll be publicly shamed.
PMR: Just the same, would you agree continuing boater education is just as important?
KD: Yes. Continue to grow your knowledge, gain your confidence.
PMR: California has been phasing in the “Boater Card,” for boaters to have on them when operating a vessel. Would it make sense for proof of completed boater education to be shown to a boat broker or dealer, before a boat is sold to a first-time boater?
KD: We have to have a driver’s license to operate an automobile legally. Boating should be much the same.
PMR: Can something like this help prevent or reduce accidents or collisions?