Live & Learn

By Amanda Suttles Perez

Welcome to our Online Learning Center. Log on to get started. You'll get an excellent foundation in some vital boating skills.

Photo of a girl driving a powerboatPhoto: Yamaha

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin probably said it best: "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn." The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water agrees. We want to involve you and your crew in our series of user-friendly seamanship, boat handling, and safety courses, which you can take at your own pace, in your own home. Visit us online for more information, or get started at

Partner In Command

Believe it or not, last year in the U.S., more than 80 million people enjoyed going out on boats, most in the company of their boat-owning friends and family. "Partner In Command" is for those boaters who enjoy the sport, but who don't normally operate the boat. Created by the United States Power Squadrons (USPS), the course teaches the basics of how a boat works and what to do in an emergency, how to turn on an engine and how to safely get a boat back to the dock. After taking this empowering course, your partner will become a more confident and knowledgeable first mate. Often taught with an on-the-water component by local Power Squadrons across the nation, this online course is a companion to the USPS classroom version. $40 ($31.60 for members)

Learn To Sail

Sailing newbies often remember that the jargon — names of boat parts, the different sails, points of sail — was a big stumbling block to learning to sail. Enter Steve and Doris Colgate, and their top-rated Offshore Sailing Schools, located across the country and successfully teaching folks to sail for 50 years. In partnership with the BoatUS Foundation, the Colgates have become pioneers in sailing education again, with the "Online Learn-To-Sail" course, which makes absorbing the language of sailing easy and fun! Students learn the basics of sailing lingo and how wind moves a boat, to maneuvering the boat through the wind, and even crew-overboard procedures. Designed as a companion to Offshore Sailing School's acclaimed on-the-water courses, this course provides the best way to get started in sailing. $55

Clean-Boating Courses

Free to everyone who wants to learn more about protecting the water, our Clean-Boating courses give loads of great tips about boat fueling, maintenance, selecting a marina, sewage handling, waste disposal, invasive species, catch-and-release fishing, and understanding your boating ecosystem.

Boating On Rivers, Locks, and Lakes

Did you know it's possible to travel inland from the Gulf of Mexico all the way up to Ottawa, Canada, via the system of locks on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers to the Great Lakes? Along the way you'll meet large barges, a wide variety of bridges, and almost 100 locks. The 25,000 miles of navigable inland waterways in America comprise everything from the mighty Mississippi, to the Columbia River in Washington state, to the Great Lakes, and thousands of smaller lakes and streams in between. Developed by the USPS, the popular "Boating On Rivers, Locks, and Lakes" course is the perfect primer for boaters of all experience levels exploring the vast expanse of inland waterways our country offers. $40 ($31.60 for members) 

Amanda Suttles Perez is director of education for the BoatUS Foundation.

— Published: August/September 2014

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