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Coast Guard offering safe boating course

By Hunter Hine, Staff Writer

(April 6, 2023) As warm weather approaches and brings with it the boating season, many operators of vessels might be wondering where to go to learn the basics.

The Ocean City Coast Guard Auxiliary is offering a Maryland Safe Boating Course at the Ocean Pines Library, April 11-13. Each night’s class runs from 6-9 p.m., and the course finishes with a 65-question exam.

To earn a Maryland Basic Boating Safety Certificate, students must attend all three nights and pass the final assessment with a minimum 80 percent grade.

People must always have the original certificate on board with them while they’re operating a recreational watercraft, said Flotilla Staff Officer for Public Education, Barry Cohen, who is in charge of setting up the course.

“Our objective is to tell them (students) what they need to know, make them good operators, meaning courtesy, meaning pay attention, follow the regulations on when you can do something and can’t,” Cohen said.

There are 30 spots open for the course, which costs $20 to attend. Anyone interested in registering should call Cohen at 410-935-4807, or email Registration will be available at the door, but only if spots are open.

“If I have 25 people I set up 25 seats, three people walk in, in the middle of all this we got to bring out another table and find some chairs. So as a practical matter, we prefer that they sign up in advance so we know how many people are going to be there,” Cohen said.

Anyone born after July 1, 1972 must achieve certification in order to operate a boat in Maryland in accordance with the Maryland Boating Safety Education Act. The certification is valid in all states.

Course material is divided into six areas, which include information about the terminology used to describe boats, boat engines, navigation, Maryland’s legal requirements, safety equipment, how to handle boating emergencies and paddle crafts like kayaks, Cohen said.

“Go out there, you will see over 50 percent of the people violating, what I’m going to call, ‘the rules of the road,’ which, there are rules about where you can operate your boat and how to do it,” Cohen said. “And they’re just going wherever they want, and that’s not how it works.”

While there is no minimum age requirement for the course, Cohen said it’s important that any youth who plan on attending have the reading comprehension and attention span to sit through all three hours of all three nights and pass. Children as young as 8 have passed, Cohen said.

“I’ve had 16-year-olds who sat there and drew on the booklet instead of listening and, of course, they didn’t pass,” Cohen said.

The OCCGA presents the class to the public once a month from February to October. Sometimes the auxiliary offers class on weekends or online as well. The upcoming class is in-person only, Cohen said.

“We want the waterway to be safe. That helps us and that helps the boaters,” Cohen said.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed volunteer service that augments the Coast Guard as requested, Cohen said.

The Ocean City Power Squadron also offers the Maryland Safe Boating Course, usually with one in the spring and another in the fall.