This weekend, and again in June, Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 12-01, part of the Fifth District, is offering Delaware Safe Boating Courses, to help boaters prepare for the upcoming season.
“Basically, it’s an introduction to boating course. It’s designed for those who are getting into boating. It also helps those who have been in boating that have never had any kind of training,” explained Bob Adams, a member of the auxiliary.
“In Delaware, anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1978, must have a course like this in order to operate a boat in Delaware waters. Once they pass it successfully, they receive a certificate from the Department of Boating Safety.”
Classes will be offered on Saturdays, May 17, June 7 and June 14, at South Bethany Town Hall. The one-day course costs $10 per person, which covers the cost of the booklets given to those attending. They will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will have breaks throughout the day, including one for lunch.
The class covers six main areas, the first being knowing one’s boat.
“It’s basically an introduction to terminology. There’s a whole different world of words and phrases that you use in the boating world that you don’t use out on the street. Port starboard, bow, stern — those kinds of things you don’t hear on the street.”
The course will then cover how to get from “the house to the ramp.”
“This is even before you get into the water. Trailering is an important part of boating. A lot of people with smaller boats trailer them and need to get from one place to the launch site, get the boat launched and reverse the process once they’re done boating.”
Adams said the course will also cover how to operate a boat safely.
“This is the rules of the road, in terms of navigation. How do you navigate the waters? What do these buoys mean? Buoys are like road signs on the highway. You need to understand what they mean in order to stay safe.”
The course will also cover specific equipment and legal requirements of boating, and how to deal with boating emergencies, should they arise.
“No one expects to have them. No one wants them. But we teach how to mitigate situations that cause injuries. If they do happen, how to respond to them and treat them.”
And, finally, the course will talk about how to enjoy water sports.
“There are different ways to enjoy the waters in Delaware. We are blessed with some wonderful opportunities. It’s not just going out on the water in a boat. People want to fish. Paddle sports are becoming very popular in this area. So we talk about how to safely enjoy some of these aspects of boating.”
Following the class, students must take a 60-question exam, and they must get passing grade of 70 percent or better to receive their certification.
“It’s not a course designed for failure. We want people to learn and to be successful,” said Adams.
Adams said that, although many boaters believe they know all there is to know about boating, taking the course as a refresher every 10 years or so would be beneficial.
“In my own case, my dad got our first boat when I was 12 or 13 years old, and I have been boating ever since then. I joined the auxiliary 10 years ago,” he said. “I learned more in the first year in the auxiliary about boating than in the 50 years prior to that. I thought I knew about boating, and I knew a little, but I really didn’t, compared to the information that’s available out there.”
Adams said he joined the auxiliary after the U.S. Coast Guard offered him assistance while boating.
“I was boating down here, and I had a new 20-foot boat going fishing out in the ocean. A friend and I fished all day, got ready to leave and the engine wouldn’t start. It was foggy and had been all day,” he said. “We were kind of out there in a bit of a haze with no engine, and it was getting toward evening, and I started to think, ‘What in the heck am I going to do?’”
Adams said he got on the Channel 16 emergency channel, asking if anyone nearby could hear him.
“All of a sudden, I heard this voice come on, saying, ‘This is Coast Guard Cutter MAKO — what’s your situation?’” he recalled, adding that the cutter sent a crew to his boat to fix his battery. “After we got it going, then they followed me on the radio from that time until I got into the Indian River Inlet and was safe. I thought that was very, very helpful. I decided I wanted to be able to help, and since I was too old to join the military, the auxiliary was the next best thing.”
Adams said Flotilla 12-01 has more than 20 members and provides tremendous training opportunities to those in the auxiliary.
“We are an arm of the Coast Guard. We have no police or enforcement duties. We are there to help them promote safe boating,” he said, noting that they do much more, including conducting vessel inspections.
Adams said he most proud of his time in the auxiliary, having achieved coxswain, and teaching courses like the three coming up.
“Teaching these boating classes. I enjoy helping people learn about boating. You can see it in their faces, the light bulbs going off. ‘Oh, my gosh! I didn’t know that!’ Those are the two things that I really find appealing.”
For more information or to register, call Adams at (610) 507-7526. South Bethany Town Hall is located at 402 Evergreen Road.