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Posted on Jan 11, 2012 in Next Cast
Get on the Boat!
by Chris Woodward

I have to admit — for whatever reason — this did not make my radar screen last year when I visited the Miami International Boat Show in February: Discover Boating Resource Center’s free, hands-on learning clinics. But in press materials for the upcoming 2012 Miami event next month (Feb. 16-20), I see that show-goers can again attend these hour-long sessions, which include:

  • Close-Quarters Powerboat Handling
  • Advanced Docking and Precision Boat Control
  • Helmsmanship and Underway Safety
  • Anchoring and Multi-Vessel Rafting Techniques
  • Essential Boating Safety

The resource center will also host Powerboating Made Easy, an even meatier (3 ½-hour) class that costs $79 and includes a textbook. All classes will take place out of Sea Isle Marina and Yachting Center on Bayshore Drive.

Virtually any boating angler with any skill level behind the wheel should get something out of these classes. And any angler hoping to buy his or her first boat ought to consider this mandatory.

I know I’ve picked up valuable tips from the boating courses I’ve taken and written about in my career. I have gleaned tons of info from riding with seasoned captains aboard all sizes of boats — and there’s always more to learn.

Tom Knighten from the Discover Boating Events team, which is working with the Recreational Powerboating Association to host this curriculum, says all classes are taught by a certified instructor with a maximum of four students per boat. The clinics can accept 12 adults per session; four sessions per day are planned over the five-day run of the show. Knighten says the clinic’s boats average about 26 feet in length — most are single- or twin-outboard-powered or sterndrives.

Here’s a sample of what each course offers:

Close-Quarters: Docking skills; close-quarters maneuvering near fixed objects and other boats; backing in a straight line down a narrow channel; turning around in tight spaces.

Advanced Docking: Precision boat-control techniques, including managing wind and current; momentum control; maneuvering in tight spaces.

Helmsmanship: Handling waves and wakes; applying nav rules for meeting, crossing and overtaking; sound signals; passenger safety.

Anchoring: determining correct scope; setting the anchor securely; weighing anchor; freeing fouled anchors; anchoring in changing or adverse conditions; rafting up with other anchored vessels.

Safety (presented dockside): pre-departure checklists; USCG safety equipment; optional safety equipment; passenger-safety briefings. 

The Powerboating Made Easy class covers chart familiarization; boat-control and docking skills; Aids to Navigation; rules of the road; anchoring, handling waves and wakes and more.

Who couldn’t use more of that kind of instruction? Do you really want to rely on excuses — “the wind blew too hard” or “the current was stronger than I thought” — or do you want to motor confidently toward the dock and wave at your friends as you neatly tuck your vessel snug to the pilings? I only hope that next year, perhaps, they’ll include a course on boat-launching skills!

Bottom line: Safe, confident boaters have more fun and can relax and enjoy their fishing time. I hope I’ll see you at the docks.

Knighten highly recommends advance registration for the free clinics. Visit www.regonline.com/dbmiami2012 to sign up and see a schedule of classes.

Registration is required for the Powerboating Made Easy class. Go to www.regonline.com/pmemiami2012.

Information is also available at the Miami Boat Show’s website.