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Boating club taking signups for ABC Course
November 26, 2019

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The America's Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva is taking registrations for its America's Boating Course, which is broken down into two classes, in three separate sessions over the next few months.

An eight-hour course, it covers basic boat operation, safety and a mix of related subjects, with an emphasis on boating the local waters around Sanibel and Captiva. Completion of a test at the end of the course will earn the participants their Boating Safety Education ID Card from the state of Florida.

Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, must have the card to legally operate a boat in Florida.

Held at the Sanibel Public Library, the upcoming sessions to choose from are scheduled for: Dec. 3 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. and Dec. 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Jan. 28 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. and Feb. 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and March 12 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. and March 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"It really is for anybody who's an inexperienced boater who wants to learn the basics of boating," America's Boating Club member and lead course instructor Bob Orr said.

It also serves as a refresher course for those who have experience boating but have not been out on the water in awhile and is highly recommended for experienced boaters unfamiliar with the local waters.

"We have sandbars down here that shift around on a regular basis, a lot of shallow water. We've got oyster bars that are very hard and chew up fiberglass," he said. "We have narrow and twisting channels that you need to know the navigation aides of the local area to safely maneuver your boat through."

For those who sign up, the first day of the course will entail getting the know the basics of charts, learning to read charts, plotting courses on a chart, determining a position on a chart and more.

"We also touch on electronic navigation. We do a little demo of the VHF marine radio," Orr said, adding that an orientation on local waters is given. "Neat places to go and how to get there."

There will be some homework assigned at the end.

On the second day, there will be one-on-one sessions with the assistant instructors.

"We talk about personal floatation devices, distress signals like flares. There's a lot of safety. We do basic boat handling and navigational rules," he said. "We talk about government regulations, state and federal, everything from registering the boat to the lights you have to have. We also talk about what we recommended that you have on the boat, as well as the things that are required."

In addition, the subjects of knot tying, anchoring, trailering and more are covered.

"On the second day, we finish with the test," Orr said.

The cost for the December and January-February sessions are $70 and include an educational cruise planned for Jan. 23; additional tickets for the cruise for non-participants will be available for $25.

"As we do the cruise, we point out all the navigational aides and how they're used," he said, explaining that it covers dusk to nighttime. "It's an orientation to the area, plus using the local navigation aides."

The cost for the March session is $45 and does not include the educational cruise.

New this season, participants who decide to become members of the America's Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva after finishing the course have the opportunity to take advantage of a free, Hands-On Training lesson on their own boat with an instructor. A vessel safety inspection also is necessary.

Each session will be personalized for the new member.

"It's for the boat owner who wants to go out with somebody who's experienced or knowledgable in some aspect of boating," Orr said. "It could be anchoring, it could be docking. It could be boat maintenance."

The club recently held its first H.O.T. lesson, involving instructor George May and member Tom Schmidt. Schmidt was familiar with "northern" boating, but was a new boater to Southwest Florida. After using local rentals and taking part in professional cruises, he became aware of a difference.

"It was from these experiences we knew boating here was entirely different from our previous home," he said.

For his lesson, Schmidt wanted to familiarize himself with his newly-purchased boat and the local waters. The plan was to enter and exit the marina safety and take a short cruise to Fort Myers Beach.

"On the water, it was fairly blustery day, so the instructor quickly helped me understand how to trim the boat for these conditions," he said. "This was important as my new boat is 6 feet longer than anything I've owned before, with twin outboards and both engine trim and trim tabs to work with. Changing heading also required adjusting that setup, so it was a continuous lesson."

Schmidt learned the return to the marina is just as critical and often more difficult. He wanted to learn the techniques for twin engine handling at low speeds and how they can be a benefit at the docks.

"We safely practiced a few maneuvers around buoys in open water first, which I've continued to work on this day," Schmidt said.

The public is encouraged to register for the club's America's Boating Course.

"The whole idea behind the ABC Course is to enhance the safety and enjoyment of people out on the water," Orr said. "Being confident enough to navigate and handle your boat in these local waters."

For more information or to sign up, visit www.sancapboating.club or call 612-987-2125.

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