Smarter by Spring

U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Division
While winter white may not put you in the mood for watersports, winter is a great time to prepare for boating season by taking a boating safety course or a specialty skills course such as coastal piloting or how to use a GPS device.

The U.S. Coast Guard recommends that all recreational boaters take a National Association of Boating Law Administrators–approved boating safety course. The basic NASBLA course provides rules and regulations, emergency procedures and the navigational skills necessary for a beginner. There are many options available to successfully complete a boating safety course, including the traditional classroom course, web-based instruction and a home study course offered in some states.

There are easily accessible classes available for new and experienced boaters alike — and education designed for boaters of every age. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons and many state boating agencies sponsor classes.

For new boaters, basic courses generally have six to 13 lessons and provide a foundation of operational and safety instruction. That includes the boat and required equipment, trip planning, safe boat operations, emergency procedures, state-specific requirements and other water activities such as waterskiing, towed devices and wakesports.
Benefits of Boating Education
Boaters shouldn’t look at safety courses as something to be dreaded — homework, during the long off-season. Even veteran boaters can gain from a refresher now and then. You can expect to realize the following benefits, and more, from a boating safety course.

Keep yourself and your passengers safe. Knowing how to operate, navigate, and communicate effectively on the water is essential to accident prevention. Knowing and understanding emergency equipment and procedures can be lifesaving.

Protect your investment. Boating education costs a tiny fraction of the initial investment in your boat — and there are great free options. You might also qualify for an insurance discount that more than pays for your training.

Get to your destination quicker and easier by honing your navigational skills.

Increase your boating confidence — and your fun. Every year, people give up on boating because they lack the skills to enjoy it.

Stay on the right side of the law. Many states require boating certification for some or all boaters. Boating education also helps ensure you are up to date on federal and state laws pertaining to boating.

Find a Convenient Boating Class

Here are some resources for finding a boating class:

– U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary ( The site includes a Public Education Zip Code Course Finder to help you locate convenient classes. It also describes Auxiliary boating courses, including Boating Safety, Navigation with GPS, How to Read a Nautical Chart, Boating Skills and Seamanship for Power Boating and more.

– U.S. Power Squadrons ( The site offers online and classroom versions of America’s Boating Course, as well as a wide selection of online boating education seminars, including Boat Handling, Rules of the Road, Anchoring, How to Read a Chart, Onboard Weather Forecasting and more.

– National Association of State Boating Law Administrators ( The Association site provides an online directory of NASBLA-approved state courses.

– BoatU.S. Foundation Online Learning Center ( The site features a free interactive course approved by NASBLA, which meets the Coast Guard requirements for the National Recreational Boating Safety Program.

– Boatsafe ( The site offers an online NASBLA-approved Basic Boating Certification Course and a Coastal Navigation Course.

– The U.S. Coast Guard website also provides more resources for Boating Safety Courses at


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