Jim Morris
Jim Morris

Jim Morris has worked for newspapers, radio, television and various Websites for more than 47 years. He has been a writer, an editor, an editorial writer and a columnist. For 23 years, Morris worked for the Troy Daily News as sports editor, managing editor and executive editor. In 1994 he began working at the Dayton Daily News as an outdoor sports columnist and night sports desk editor. He retired from the DDN in January of 2010 and is now a freelance writer with his own Website for outdoors stories.


 Boating comes with plenty of fun, but also some very real risks. If you plan to own or use a boat, safety should be your top priority. To be as safe as you can, boater education is the answer.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the recent prosperity enjoyed by watercraft manufacturers. And just about everyone connected with boating is ecstatic over the news.

Most, but not all.

With such an expansion in any industry there are red flags. If candy makers were having a record year, dentists and nutritionists would be holding up stop signs. In the case of boating, it’s the safety experts who are concerned.

Every state has boating laws. You need boater education if you were born on or after Jan. 1, 1982 and operate a boat with 10 horsepower or more in Ohio.

Water safety courses are usually one-day and done. Many courses in many states can be completed online. Is that enough?

Kettering resident David Friedman is a long-time safety instructor with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. And to Friedman, online and even one-day education doesn’t cut it.

“There is no substitute for experience,” said Friedman, who teaches a boating course once each week for 13 weeks. “You can’t learn everything you know about the situations you might encounter unless you can interact with someone who has a great deal of boating experience.

“Most courses that are offered by states, including Ohio, dwell more on the individual laws of that state and what you can and cannot do. That’s necessary, but not the whole picture,” he added.

While states are concerned with laws and safety, it is the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Power Squadron who get into more detail. Friedman said the Auxiliary has typically concentrated on power boating and sailing, but in recent years has become more concerned with canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding.

“The problem is that many, if not most of the folks using ‘paddle craft’ don’t fully understand the environment into which they have suddenly thrust themselves and the things they have to deal with on the water.” he said.

For example, how many people who have died from canoe accidents would be alive today if they had taken a safety course that demonstrated to them the necessity of wearing life jackets?

Friedman also showed concern for hunters (for waterfowl) and fishermen who sometimes are so focused on their sport that they forget that they are boaters, too. They wear their camo, but are they wearing a lifejacket?

Dan Beckman of the Dayton Power Squadron echoes the message, saying “There is no substitute for actual classroom instruction. The Power Squadron always has classes that cover four or five days.”If you are new to any aspect of boating or would like a refresher course, the Power Squadron and Coast Guard Auxiliary offer many different classes.

— To find a class, Friedman can be reached at davidboat@woh.rr.com and you can contact Beckman at dbeckman4@woh.rr.com. Ohio DNR courses are available at watercraft.ohiodnr.gov/boatereducation.

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