Test Your Boating Knowledge

By Susan Shingledecker

Test your boating knowledge on the most commonly missed questions from our free online boating safety course.

Whether you've been boating for 20 days or 20 years, many boaters around the country are now required to take some form of boating education in their state. In fact, nearly 100,000 boaters registered for the BoatUS Foundation Free Online Boating Safety Course last year alone, in part, no doubt, to meet state requirements. The course is a fun way to ramp up your boating knowledge, and test what you already know. So how does your knowledge stack up to the rest? Are you a boating pro or a rookie? Our staff analyzed hundreds of thousands of answers submitted by your fellow boaters, and we've noticed that a few questions have emerged as the most missed, such as those on the understanding of navigation rules, equipment-carriage requirements, and state-specific regulations. See how your knowledge compares. Select the best answers to these often-missed questions. Find the correct answers at the end of this article.

Screenshot of BoatUS Foundation Online Safety CourseTo take one of the BoatUS Foundation's Safety Courses, click here!

1. Which of the following is required on federally controlled waters for boats less than 39.4 feet (12 meters)?

a) A VHF radio
b) Whistle
c) Paddle or oar
d) First-aid kit

2. According to the Navigation Rules, which of the following is true?

a) A boat under power is always a stand-on boat.
b) A personal watercraft is always a give-way boat.
c) An overtaking boat always gives way to the boat being overtaken.
d) A boat under sail is always a stand-on boat.

3. Which of the following must follow Navigation Rules for a powerboat?

a) Any sailboat equipped with an engine
b) All sailboats under sail alone
c) A sailboat with sails up but no engine
d) A sailboat with its engine engaged

4. A float plan should contain what information?

a) A date and time to contact the authorities
b) A national weather service storm advisory signal listing
c) Coast Guard emergency radio frequencies
d) A pre-departure checklist

5. Which of the following will increase the effects of alcohol and drugs when boating?

a) Food
b) Vibration
c) Spray
d) Temperature

6. What is the USCG-approved meaning of "serviceable condition" for life jackets?

a) The ability to turn a person face up
b) Proper size and fit
c) Straps and zippers work
d) Must be within easy reach

And The Winner is ...

Here are the answers to the questions above. See how you did.

1. It's always smart to carry a VHF, a first-aid kit, and even a secondary means of propulsion, such as an oar. But the regulations require that you carry a sound-making device, which will help you get attention from nearby boats if you need help. The correct answer is b.

2. When overtaking another boat, the rules are clear: The overtaking boat must give way to the boat it's passing, and that means it needs to keep its wake down, and mustn't force the slower boat into any uncompromising navigation position. Lots of folks get confused about right of way between sail and power vessels — even a sailboat under sail alone must give way to a powerboat when the sailboat is passing. The correct answer is c.

3. When a sailboat turns on its motor, and is using it to make way, it then essentially becomes a powerboat under the Navigation Rules. It can sometimes be challenging to tell when a boat with sails up is motor-sailing, so if you see a sailboat with sails up, treat them as if they're under sail alone and restricted in their ability to maneuver. But, if you're the sailboat with your sails up and you're operating under power as well, ACT as if you're a powerboat taking early and substantial action to make your maneuvers clear to other boaters. The correct answer is d.

4. The purpose of a float plan is to let others know the specifics of your trip so they will know when to alert the authorities if you haven't returned and to provide additional information that might be helpful should the unexpected occur. The correct answer is a.

5. Research has shown that the stressors of boating including sun, noise, vibration and the motion of the water all contribute to a type of fatigue called "boater's hypnosis," which, when combined with alcohol, can dramatically increase the effects of intoxication in both the operator and passengers While a designated driver is the safest bet on land, on the water everyone needs to play it safe and sober. The correct answer is b.

6. When we're talking about life jackets, it is important that they be the right size for the intended wearer and that they be easy to reach (if you're not already wearing it). But when the Coast Guard uses the term "serviceable condition," they really want to make sure the life jacket works.

An emergency situation is not the right time to find out that your life jackets won't fasten, or worse, won't float anymore. So check your life jackets frequently to make sure the straps aren't frayed, buckles and clips fasten, and zippers work. Sun and water exposure can also diminish their buoyancy over time, so periodically try them on and jump in the water to make sure they can still keep you afloat. The correct answer is c. 

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: June/July 2013

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