7 Clues That It's Time to Take a Boater Safety Course

By Debbie Hanson

Oct 18, 2015

When you sign up for a boater safety course, you're taking an important step toward being a responsible boater.

When you sign up for a boater safety course, you're taking an important step toward being a responsible boater. It doesn't matter if you have been a boater for years or if you are new to boating, you can brush up on your existing knowledge and learn the current rules on how to practice safe boating.

Think that you or someone you know might need to sign up for a boater safety course? Perhaps one or two of the below clues sound familiar to you.

  1. If you think that the red and green lateral markers on the waterways are there to mark good fishing spots, then it is time to take a boater safety course. The red and green lateral markers are part of the U.S. Aids to Navigation System (ATON) and help boaters navigate the waterways safely.

  2. If you ever wondered if water wings could be used as a personal flotation device. No, water wings don't meet U.S. Coast Guard safety standards. This is your second clue that it's time to take a boater safety course. You need to know which personal flotation devices are U.S. Coast Guard approved, and be sure that you have the proper number of PFD's (personal flotation devices) on board for each passenger.

  3. If the only time you have ever used the terms "port" or "starboard" was in reference to a scene from one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. To learn these boating terms and more, take a boater safety course.

  4. If your concept of a float plan involves a lounge chair and a pool in your backyard on the weekends, then you definitely need to take a boating safety class. A float plan contains pertinent information about your boat trip, such as where you intend to go and how long you plan to be out on the water. The float plan is then provided to friends, relatives or a marina. The float plan allows them to contact the local marine police or U.S. Coast Guard with necessary details in the event of an emergency.

  5. The last time someone asked for directions to the nearest launch, you gave them directions to the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL. Nope, they meant boat launch. There are boat launches in your area, just check the places to boat and fish map.

  6. You mistakenly think that channel 16 on your marine radio is for asking your fishing buddies where they had the most luck catching fish. Wrong again, better sign up for that boater safety course. Channel 16 on your marine radio is the channel that is used for communicating emergency information to the U.S. Coast Guard.

  7. You check the marine forecast a day or two before your boat trip and assume that the weather will be fine. This is yet another clue that it's time for you to take a boater safety course. Weather conditions can change abruptly when on the water. Check your local weather and marine forecast frequently before you go, and be sure to have a radio on board so that you can receive weather updates while you are out. Always keep an eye on the weather conditions, know what to do in case you get caught in bad weather, and be sure to bring protective gear (including waterproof jackets and pants) along with you.


Now that you know a few of the clues that it might be time for you to take a boater safety course, check to see when the next course starts in your state.

Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit shefishes2.com or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.