Friday, January 19, 2018

Letter to the Editor

July 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

letter to the editor header 

Dear Editor:

A couple of years ago, we collaborated on a Boating Times Long Island article that discussed the pros and cons of classroom vs. online boating education.  It was written to demonstrate the partnership that exists between the United States Power Squadrons and the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary.  Since that collaboration, the partnership has been and is being expanded upon.  The article was prefaced with the statement that while we both believe that each of these forms of boating education may be needed, there are times when an online course trumps a traditional classroom course, and vice-versa.

Until recently, New York State has mandated that the issuance of a safe boating certificate be achieved through attendance at a New York State approved eight hour Boating Safety Course such as the ABC 3 Course given by the United States Power Squadrons or the About Boating Safety Class given by the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary followed (in each case) by a proctored examination.  The NY State Legislature has now approved an online Boating Safety Class followed by an online examination.  Successful passing of the class will result in the issuance of the Safe Boating Certificate.

Our question is whether the goal of recreational boaters should be to merely obtain the safe boating certificate OR to learn how to become a more competent (and thereby) safer boater.  There are several questions that arise out of the online boating safety class:

  • Is the safe boating certificate being issued to the name of the attendee or the person actually taking the online class (i.e. are they the same person)?
  • Is the person taking the online examination the same person who sat through the online modules?
  • Can online modules actually replace interaction with a classroom instructor who can provide the attendee with examples of situations acquired through experience?
  • Are online classroom attendees missing out on the experience of interaction with fellow boaters?

We’ve both been boating on Long Island waters for many years.  Every time that we take our boats out, we learn something new about the vessel, the waters, our abilities as “captain” of our boats and about how other recreational boaters interact with us on the water.  Similarly, every time we teach or proctor a boating safety class, the discussion that takes place between the students and the instructors and proctors as well as the discussion that takes place among the students helps us expand our knowledge of boating.

Operating a boat is very different from driving a car.  You can read a book on safe driving but ultimately, to be legally entitled to drive a car, you must take a driving test given by a live person.  Not so with boats; you can take it away from the dock without any evidence that you know what you’re doing!

Every Commandant of the United States Coast Guard has always set “professionalism and proficiency” ‎as the twin pillars of aspiration and qualification. Can you assure yourself, as a skipper responsible for your crew, your vessel and its wake, that passing an unproctored test taken without the give-and-take with fellow skippers gives you proficiency and professionalism? Is your goal to get the certificate or would you rather learn to be a safer boater? You make the call.


Stf/C Pete TenBrink

Commodore Vin Pica

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