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COLUMN:How far should skipper licensing go?

THE HARBOR

August 04, 2006|By MIKE WHITEHEAD

Ahoy.

King Neptune is looking kindly upon all boaters so good boating weather and sea conditions should continue for cruises and evening sails.

I really enjoy sailing in the harbor on a warm summer night with a slight breeze blowing along the harbor. I'll let you in on a little secret: Many times I will turn off the engines on a motor yacht and drift down the channel on a summer night.

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However, motor yachts usually have all the required navigational lights on a single switch. So when drifting, I cannot turn off the masthead light, since I am not under power by an engine or motor. I know I just lost many of you who have no idea what I am talking about when referring to navigational lights, so I will digress to my column two weeks ago about mandatory boater education.

That column seems to have made many of you hit the reef with your keel, and I have heard from you on both sides of the idea. I find it very interesting to hear opinions as to why or why not boaters should have mandatory education or licensing.

This is a hot topic and I think it is one of the most important for boaters. It is important because boaters can now help set the course before the waypoints are plotted for you. I see four factions of boating groups who want to design the standards and requirements. Where do you see yourself in my rankings?

The first group that I want to mention are the ones that do not want any form for education or licensing at all and have their heads in the sand. These are typically the old-timers or those who just hate any authority changing the rules regardless of the empirical data. These are the boaters who you see breaking the rules or lacking the seamanship skills especially when docking and, when taken to task, their only defense is that they have been boating for "fill-in-the-blank" years.

The next group is in favor of educational testing; however, they are the easygoing boaters who are the majority of weekend boaters. The test would be a multiple-question boating quiz that one takes at the DVM or on the Internet. Though many in this group will ask why you need to know what professional captains have to know to get their license.

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