As seasonal boaters, we may sometimes think we got the short end of the stick. We get a few months every year to really enjoy our boats and then rest of the year it’s just sitting on the hard. But maybe we’re really the lucky ones. We have several months each year to get ready for the boating season. Instead of missing out on perfectly good boating weather to make upgrades or improvements to the boat or learn some new skills in a class, we can take advantage of the time the foul weather affords us to install new equipment, fix up old equipment, and generally get everything ready for the next season to arrive. And with the holidays behind us, many of us are getting our list of boat projects together right now. And if not, what are you waiting for?
Now is the time to plan! Make a list of what you need to get done and make it happen. If it’s too cold to work on the boat now, what can you do to be ready once it warms up a tad? Make a plan now that will lead to a productive off-season so when spring arrives and the weather turns warmer you’re not stressed out preparing to launch. Don’t wait until the last minute to get it all done.
Have you thought about what you can do to prepare your crew or even yourself for that next boating adventure? There are many resources available to improve our knowledge and ability to operate our boat safely and efficiently. We all strive to be safe boaters, but are we knowledgeable boaters? Boating is fun already, but having advanced skills can make it more fun!
Do you feel comfortable with your ability to dock your boat in adverse wind conditions? How is your comfort level when crossing large bodies of water away from familiar landmarks or out of sight of land? Are you confident in your understanding charts and navigational aids? Do you understand all of the operating procedures of the latest VHF/DSC radios or all the bells and whistles of your new GPS?
Take comfort in knowing there are many ways to improve your skills that will fit into your busy schedule and there is never a better time to do it than the off-season. Set a goal now to advance your skills. Subscribe to boating publications and check out the adventure articles. Read the “How To” and maintenance articles. Take classes offered by the United States Power Squadrons or the Coast Guard Axillary. Join a boating club and take advantage of their advanced courses. Get your friends to join you.
If your busy schedule interferes with attending regular classes don’t despair. The United States Power Squadrons and the BoatU.S. Foundation has teamed up to bring you an interactive educational experience completely online. New seminars and courses can be accessed on your PC, laptop, iPad or other tablet and are designed to expand your horizons by learning new boating skills in the comfort of your own home and at your own pace.
Two of the latest offerings are Partner in Command and Boating on Rivers Locks and Lakes each costing $40. The first could be invaluable in the case of an emergency. The first mate should have the confidence and skills to take control of the vessel. He/she should be able to steer the boat, maintain a course to reach safe harbor and know how contact emergency services if the need arises. These are the things taught in the Partner in Command seminar. It gives your first mate and crew an essential introduction to boating.
Are you comfortable navigating on a river or going through a lock? Become more confident on inland waterways with Boating Rivers Locks and Lakes. Learn how to read the river, transit locks safely, boat near large ships and other skills that will make your next inland boating adventure even more fun.
Take advantage of this off-season to get your boat and yourself ready for a better boating experience. Don’t wait until halfway through the season, brush up on your skills now and be ready to hit the water right away when the season starts. These courses are full of vital insight into some tricky boating conditions. Be sure to check out these and other course options at usps.org/edonline to learn more.
Bob Brandenstein is a National Educational Officer of the United States Power Squadrons. Bob lives in Pittsburgh and sails on Lake Erie.