Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 5:42 PM on Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Boating skills, seamanship class begins today; space still available

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

What better time than now — with most boats high and dry and plans to catch the big one nothing more than daydreams — for mariners to do a refresher course in boating skills and seamanship? This also is the perfect time of year for new and wannabe boat-owners to prepare for the season ahead.

A Boating Skills and Seamanship class being offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary's Homer Flotilla offers material for seasoned mariners who have spent their lives sailing the salty sea, as well as those who walk the dock in hopes of one day owning their own boat.

The course begins Jan. 25, includes two classes per week taught by members of the auxiliary, subject matter experts who live in the area and by active duty members of the Coast Guard, and ends March 10.

"Statistically, the people who take this class are less likely to get into trouble and less likely to lose their lives if they do get into trouble because of the preparation," said Craig Forrest, the flotilla's public education staff officer.

Meeting on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, from 7-9:30 p.m., students will cover topics that include how to choose a boat, equipment requirements, trailering, boat handling, signage, rules of the road, boating on inland waters, an introduction to navigation, boat engines, lines and knots, weather and communication.

Cost of the course is $45 and includes all materials. The class meets at the USCGC Hickory training and research center, located above Main Street Mercantile. Parking is available behind the store. There is room for approximately 20 students.

"You don't need to have a boat," said Forrest. "We hope that if couples have a boat, they'll both come. And families. There's no minimum age, no maximum age. The main thing is a desire to learn and to be safe."

Those who complete this class receive a certificate that can be used in Canada and all 38 states that require completion of a safe boating class. In fact, this is the only non-Canadian class that is approved by Canada, according to Forrest.

"If you want to, say, go to Whitehorse and rent a canoe, you have to have it. If you want to go paddling on the Yukon in Canada, you have to have it. If you want to go to British Columbia and go lake trout fishing or go sailing on the Great Lake from Canada, you have to have it," Forrest said.

Currently, there is no such requirement in Alaska, "just the wish that people would take some sort of safety class because our death rate is so high," said Forrest.

According to information provided by the Alaska Boating Safety Program:

• Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in Alaska;

• Three of four boating fatalities were caused by capsizing or falling overboard into cold water, where the boater was not wearing a life jacket;

• Most had not taken a single boating safety course.

Everyone completing the course also is invited to a dinner in the students' honor held by the Homer Flotilla at the American Legion Post 16, March 12.

Tary Youngblood, commander for the Homer Flotilla, is a two-time graduate of the Boating Skills and Seamanship class

"It's just a good way to build a good basic knowledge of boating safety," said Youngblood.

Forrest had 26 years of boating experience under his belt when he first took the course.

"It impressed the living daylights out of me because I learned things I didn't even know I didn't know," said Forrest.

To register for the class, call Forrest at 235-7479 or Youngblood at 226-2086.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.