As spring approaches and more people get back on the water, this is a good time to think about how to be safe while at sea. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about safety equipment for boaters including the new legislation that provides a way for people to safely dispose of expired flares. In addition to having the proper equipment, it is important to have proper training to know how to use that equipment and what to do when situations arise on the water.

There are a variety of courses offered for different types of boaters. The Coast Guard administers many of these including programs through their Auxiliary branch offered in person at local places like Merrymeeting Adult Education. Several years ago, I took the Introduction to Basic Boating Safety course, taught by several retired Coast Guard officers, which covered basics like anchoring, docking and chart reading. They also offer courses in navigation as well as more comprehensive programs like the Captains License certification. In addition, there are sailing and kayaking courses specific to other types of recreational boaters.

In Maine, all boaters operating a boat with a motor of more than 10 horsepower who are over the age of 12 must take a basic boating course in order to comply with the requirements of the Inland Fish and Wildlife Department. For those unable to take an in-person class, there are plenty of opportunities to do this online. The Power Squadron offers online courses as does BoatUS and

While this training is mostly designed for recreational boaters there are others that are more specific to those who work on the water, including commercial fishermen. The Coast Guard offers in-person safety training throughout the year in a variety of locations. Another group, Fisheries Partnership (, a non-profit that provides support services for commercial fishermen and their families, based in New Bedford, Massachusetts, also hosts safety training. While their four offices are all located in Massachusetts, they administer courses in other locations including Maine.

This week, Fisheries Partnership presented a course in Tenant’s Harbor and today and tomorrow, they will be Harpswell. The two-day course is offered at the Cundy’s Harbor Community Hall and Holbrook’s Wharf, and includes both a classroom and a practical portion. The Holbrook Community Foundation, a local non-profit that serves to provide for the long-term protection of the coastal heritage of Harpswell, is hosting the event at the wharf and the Coast Guard is providing funding for the training. Alison Hawkes, a member of a local fishing family who runs the Holbrook’s Grille and Store, will be preparing food for the event. They are expecting about 40 fishermen to participate. Day one is focused on “Safety & Survival Training” and includes how to do a man overboard recovery, firefighting skills, and immersion suit training. The second day is a “Drill Conductor Certification” that results in the participant’s ability to teach these skills to others.

Taking a safety course designed for whatever type of boater you might help keep you safe, as well as others on the same boat and everyone else on the water. There are many opportunities to get the training that you need, whether it is in person or online or through many of the written resources out there. It is also a good way to connect with other boaters and to learn about some of the shared concerns that everyone has when out on the sea. We all value being safe and recognize the many challenges that shifting conditions along the coast can present. There is a lot to learn and, while much of that is gained through experience, taking a boating or safety course is a good place to start.

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