We will be visiting our son and grandson in Maryland soon and as Freedom Boat Club members, we decided to take advantage of a reciprocal reservation for a Freedom Boat in Baltimore. On the FBC reservation page, it's noted that boaters in Maryland must possess a state-specific boater education card. A "badge" if you will. While Maryland doesn't require this training for anyone born before July 1972, that tidbit isn't mentioned on the FBC reservation page. [If you will be boating in the Washington DC area, there is another course required in order to reserve a boat from Baltimore's FBC franchise]
My first thought was, "Wait a minute! I am a United States Coast Guard licensed master with a 50 ton inland credential, I don't need no stinkin' badges!" Then I considered how disappointed my son and grandson would be if we showed up at the dock and they wouldn't give us the boat we reserved. I googled Maryland-specific boater safety training and several options appeared in the search results, with typical charges slightly less than $50 dollars.
Then I did some more searching and stumbled across the Boat US Foundation eLearning page.
I like Boat U.S. I was a member for over a decade when I had my boat at Hogan's Marina and needing a tow was always a possibility. Now, as a Freedom Boat Club member the tow-coverage is included in my membership. I contract-instruct for Boat U.S. during the "Women Making Waves" events at the Savannah FBC franchise a couple of times each year, and it's a lot of fun. So I thought, what the heck, why not just take the course, consider it a refresher, and get the certificate.
The online training is - mostly - quite good. Animations and videos illustrate the subject matter. As an EMS helicopter pilot for 17 years, I took a whole lot of online training courses: Aviation, OSHA, and Emergency Incident Response to name a few, and I 've seen the good, bad, and ugly of online training. I rate this training as some of the best I've seen.
The Boat U.S. course has a few mistakes. But they include a conduit for feedback and corrective remarks.
There is conflicting information about Type III M.S.D.s - do they have a Y valve or don't they? And there are repeated references to "long" blasts on a ship's horn. As any graduate of Sea School knows, there is no such thing as a "long" blast. There are short blasts - about one second - and "prolonged" blasts lasting from four to six seconds. Having said that, it's good training and a good review for any licensed mariner or a recreational boater. I got a big cheesy certificate to frame or file and a wallet-sized cutout to laminate and hang from one of my old military badge carriers around my neck.
I got my stinkin' badge after all.
In case you are wondering if YOU might benefit from this free training for your state, the answer is probably YES. The problem with memory and knowledge is that the things we learned long ago don't say goodbye as they exit our memory.
One of the jobs of a United States Army Instructor Pilot is to help the unit aviators with an organized system of study and review. Even for someone who might not be required to take them due to age or having taken them years ago, the free Boat U.S. courses are a great way to refresh and review.
Do you remember the criteria for a 24' boat to need a fire-extinguisher - or not? What if the boat is 27'? What are the number and type of extinguishers required? Do you remember what a type-four flotation device is used for? Is there a type of PFD with a number larger than four? If so, can a thirteen-year-old wear it? Do you know how far away from a military vessel you need to stay? How fast you can travel in the vicinity of a large commercial vessel? What is a Type B fire using for fuel? What will a Type B fire often create? These are the bit's of information that go away over time and with lack of use.
You might not be required to take the free Boat U.S. boater-safety course, but you will be a better and safer boater for taking it.
Have fun out there!