Springtime on the Chesapeake offers terrific opportunities for boaters of all experience levels to enhance your boating safety knowledge and ensure your boat’s safety before launch day.

boating safety
Let's make it a safe and awesome spring! Photo by David Sites

Take a boater’s safety course.

This is especially important if you’re a new or returning boater. Two great resources for finding such courses are the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and America’s Boating Club (aka United States Power Squadrons). We often list a few in the PropTalk Calendar. For state boating licenses, check the Maryland Department of Natural Resources web page for online and in-person courses; Virginia boaters should consult the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

At the Bay Bridge Boat Show (April 12-14), the US Coast Guard Auxiliary will offer a two-hour, family-friendly class for all ages which will prepare you to handle boats under all conditions, with emphasis on safety on the water and how important training is before becoming an operator or crew. Topics will include navigation, rules of the road, boat equipment including the VHF radio, emergency equipment, weather, trailering, and more. This class will take place on Saturday, April 13 from 9-11 a.m. Visit the Annapolis Boat Shows website for more information and to purchase tickets. Tickets cost $23 for adults; children 12 and under are free but must still register.

Schedule a Vessel Safety Check.

If you hesitate to initiate a vessel safety check (VSC) because you’re scared of failing and/or being fined, don’t worry: VSCs are free and penalty-free. The Coast Guard Auxiliary and power squadrons offer this service free of charge with the safety of all boaters in mind. If you pass the 15- to 30-minute inspection, you’ll be awarded a US Coast Guard Auxiliary decal that informs the USCG, harbor patrol, police, or other law-enforcement or safety agencies that your boat was in full compliance with all federal and state boating laws during a safety check for that year.

If your boat does not pass, you will be provided with a written report about how to correct any discrepancies so that you can try again. Once you’ve passed the test, check in with your insurance company, as it may extend discounts to boaters who pass the VSC every year. Learn more at cgaux.org.

Hone your skills.

In addition to the class mentioned above, at the Bay Bridge Boat Show boaters will find multiple other opportunities to sharpen their safety skills, such as taking a VHF etiquette seminar. Or, choose from of BoatUS’s offerings: a docking and boat-handling course, a seminar on boat-handling in open water, and a women’s only course, as well as an introductory course for beginning boaters. All BoatUS seminars last for three hours. Learn more at the “education” page on the Annapolis Boat Shows website.

Finally, in the pages of PropTalk in the calendar, or classified and marketplace ads, readers will often find opportunities to increase their boating knowledge by working toward a captain’s license, gaining new navigation skills, or handling emergency situations.

Have a safe and happy spring! 

Don't forget to check out PropTalk's guide to the Bay Bridge Boat Show for help in planning your visit!