March 17 – 23 is Boater Education Week, not really, but the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) encourage all boaters to take part in the national “Spring Aboard: Take A Boating Education Course.”

World-class fishing and endless sunshine are just two reasons to get out and enjoy Florida’s waterways. Taking a boat out for a day on the water should be fun, and the best way to ensure that everyone has a great boating experience is by having a properly educated operator. Often even the most casual boaters think they know all they need to about boating, sometimes with deadly consequences. Too many boaters are confused or unaware of basic rules about navigation, alcohol use and safety equipment. The solution? Boating education.

Education is the key. “If boat operators have taken a boating safety education course, it’s much more likely they and their passengers will have a safe and enjoyable experience on the water,” said Major Rob Rowe, leader of FWC’s Boating and Waterways section. U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that, of the accidents where the level of operator education was known, 81 percent of boating deaths occurred on boats where the boat operator had NEVER received boating education instruction.

In 2019, all boaters 31 years of age or younger are required to have a Boating Safety Education ID Card to legally operate a boat of 10 hp or greater in Florida. Even if you were born before Jan. 1, 1988, or have already had some boating education, taking a boater education course is a great idea.

“Everyone interested in boating should take a course, it’s just the smart thing to do,” said Rowe. Boaters have many ways to get educated, from classroom courses offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and United States Power Squadrons to online offerings available anytime, day or night. Theres no reason to head out on the water without this knowledge.