BOATING TIPS: Our children and water safety

Published 4:44 pm Friday, January 22, 2016

Eastern North Carolina blesses us with a wealth of opportunity for on water activities. We’re also fortunate to have boaters who enjoy introducing boating and water activities to our younger generation. These boaters understand the responsibility of sharing boating and water safety along with environmental stewardship with younger generations.

In North Carolina, operators of vessels with 10 or greater HP and born after Jan. 1, 1988 must have completed an approved NASBLA boater education course. This 2010 NC Boating Law Change requiring certification can be provided by the local Pamlico Sail & Power Squadron, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Fortunately, there is no minimum age limit for completing an approved boater education course. Why should a 10-year-old take a boating education course or learn how to motor or to sail? Life is the answer. Their life, yours, your family, plus their friends’ lives.

Not knowing Florida’s legal boating age, I’m still reminded of the two Florida teenagers who recently lost their lives while boating. They piloted their small motorboat into the ocean to fish just outside an inlet. No one has found them yet. Neither we nor their parents will ever know what went wrong. Someone did find the boat, empty.

Seasoned boaters for their age, these teenagers made several grave errors from the start. They had no life jackets, no radio and didn’t really tell anyone their destination nor when they would return. Why experienced boaters would abandon commonsense safety process we’ll never know. News reports never mentioned them having completed an approved boating course. Could that have been your child?

As children we knew it all yet survived into adulthood only by the grace of God. I use the word survived because, for example, I did some really stupid stuff. Our children have also done some stupid things and unfortunately will do some of them again. Hopefully they survive a second time. The water is unforgiving of stupidity or the lack of common sense.

An approved boating course does not stop youngsters from being less than smart. Still, your children’s actions to an on-water emergency and knowing what to do, increases everyone’s survival changes.

I’ve recommended boating education plus on-water training for spouses. I more strongly recommend approved boating education and training for children. Let me add that putting safe boating education into practice for youth under close adult supervision is important. Have them use the radio, start and stop the engine, engage the props forward and reverse. Let them turn the vessel underway plus try stopping a boat that has no brakes. Also show them how to use the PFDs and throw cushion, fire extinguisher and locate the first aid kit. There is no substitute for experience.

Repeating, there is no minimum age limit on completing an approved boater education course. While the children are looking for something to do this winter, winter is a good time for them to complete an approved boating course. Consider taking the course with them: it’s rewarding and possibly one of the best things you can do for both of you and them.

The Pamlico Sail & Power Squadron will offer the United States Power Squadron’s America’s Boating Course over three consecutive Saturdays beginning March 12. To register for this course. email or contact Kelly Adams at 252-561-6995. For other educational opportunities visit their web site at

Biff Matthews is a member of the Pamlico Sail & Power Squadron.