Where To Find Advanced Boater Training

By Chris Edmonston

Hands-on, on-the-water, and remote-learning tools offer boaters great ways to hone their skills.

U.S. Powerboar Squadron On Water Training boatU.S. Power Squadrons and U.S. Powerboating have been leading the way in advanced boater training. (Photo: Taylor Photography)

Boaters have a wide variety of educational opportunities to learn about nautical subjects — classes are available for everything from ship handling and navigation skills to electrical wiring and engine maintenance. For 46 states, boater education is required for some subset of boaters — for example, in New York all personal watercraft operators are required to take a course as are powerboat operators under the age of 18. But state education requirements generally only cover basics such as the Rules of the Road and legal topics. If you want to go beyond a basic course, here's a look at other educational opportunities.

Know Your ABCs — Advanced Boating Courses

Advanced courses can either be more in-depth versions of a basic course, such as the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary's Boating Skills and Seamanship, or concentrate on a specific topic, such as navigation. And while basic courses take about nine hours to complete over one to three classes, advanced courses can take far longer — up to 13 classes in some instances. Courses may be found through a wide variety of outlets — community colleges, boating schools, and marinas lead the way. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons are the two largest groups offering advanced classes.

Pricing is higher for advanced courses than for basic courses — typically $150 or more — and varies depending on your location. Boat-systems courses, which cover topics such as electrical systems and marine engines, are also available. These are fairly hands-on and you generally get to work on actual engines or electrical components. The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) offers courses to boaters nationally, but many marine businesses offer similar courses. Systems courses can run from $500 to $1,000 or more.

On-Water Training

Getting on-the-water training is one of the best ways to learn how to operate a boat. To get a driver's license to operate a car, you must take a theory class and show basic proficiency behind the wheel. This isn't the case for motorized vessels. There's a vast difference in how various boats handle, and there are many other impediments to widespread on-water training, such as finding a location to hold a course, vessel availability, as well as numerous legal and insurance requirements. Holding an on-water course for powerboaters can be an expensive proposition and can

There has been, over the past three years, an increasing call for less expensive and more readily available on-water courses. Two groups leading the way are the U.S. Power Squadrons and U.S. Powerboating — both offering powerboat training. The Power Squadrons, in partnership with Brunswick dealers, offer a variety of courses at dealerships across the country, including hands-on training. U.S. Powerboating, through partner schools as well as individual instructors, offers on-water training as well as courses that provide a state boating certificate. Courses are available nationally, and are priced at around $400 and up depending on location. On-water topics for both groups include: starting procedures, docking, close-quarters boat handling, highspeed maneuvers, anchoring, and even man-overboard rescue. Some state boating agencies, such as Ohio, Arizona, Texas, New York, and Florida, have begun to teach recreational boaters closequarters boat handling, using the National Safe Boating Council's (NSBC) "Close Quarters Boat Control Course." This course is strictly designed to show boaters how to maneuver their boats around docks and congested waterways, and doesn't cover topics that the Power Squadron or U.S. Powerboating course would cover. That said, the NSBC will soon be producing an open-water course as well.

Online Tools

Online basic boating courses have been around for 15 years, and offer some unique advantages — they're available any time of day, and can be taken from any computer with an Internet connection. Online courses are approved by most states and range in price from free (the BoatUS Foundation course) to $30. The U.S. Power Squadron offers some of the advanced courses online, through the University of West Florida. ABYC offers some of their training courses as online webinars.

The Foundation has been a clearinghouse for classroom courses for more than 30 years — we currently list many of the courses mentioned in this article on our BoatUS courselocator website. So, for the start of the new season, take the BoatUS free online course to brush up on the laws and regulations in your state; or even better, sign up for an advanced boating course. Any boating course will help you be a more confident boater, and that will make boating safer and more enjoyable for you and your guests. 

The BoatUS Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization devoted to implementing projects that keep boaters safer and our environment protected, is independently funded by donations from BoatUS Members and by grants. BoatUS.org

— Published: February/March 2013


Foundation Online Course:

Foundation Course Locator:

USCG Auxilary:

U.S. Power Squadron:

U.S. Powerboating:

American Boat and Yacht Council:


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