A few years ago, after suspiciously little debate or notice, the State of Connecticut enacted a policy stipulating that its residents must pass a written exam to operate a vessel on state waters. After successfully completing the test, you are awarded a "Safe Boating Certificate." It's a wallet-size plastic card that you must carry whenever you are at the helm of not only a powerboat but also a waterbike or a dopey sailbote. In other words, it's a boating license. Although this program is under the control of Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection, training and testing for the certificate is actually performed by the local U.S. Power Squadrons.
Before we go any further, let's get one thing straight: A license does not make a better boater. Accident rates that involve boats throughout the United States are much too low to justify licensing. Nevertheless, as our fellow boaters from the Nutmeg State have learned, logic and legislation mix like crankcase oil and water.
Such a de facto license is not exclusive to our borders. Canada has also enacted new legislation that requires its citizens to carry an "operator card" when running a boat. All of which brings us to this question: If your state legislators forced you to take a written exam to get an operator card or a safe boating certificate (or whatever bunk-and-hooey handle they come up with), could you pass?
BOATING Magazine recently uncovered several test questions from Connecticut's program. Go through our samples and pick the best answers to find out if you have anything to fret about.
1. You come upon a boat that has had an engine failure and agree to tow it back to the dock. After you determine that your line is the correct size, you should make it fast to the disabled boat's: a. bow cleat and your port side stern cleat. b. bow eye and your starboard side stern cleat. c. bow eye and the towing eyebolts in your transom, using a bridle. d. bow eye and one of your towing eyebolts.
2. In the case of a man overboard, you should: a. approach the person slowly from windward. b. approach the person slowly from downwind. c. as you come alongside, keep your engine in gear. d. stop the boat and wait for the person to swim to it.
3. You have a boat 30' long, with a beam of 8'. Its draft is 3'. The height of the bow is 4'. You decide to anchor in an area that your chart shows has a soft bottom in 10 feet of water. How much anchor rode should be put out to have a 5:1 scope? a. 85' b. 70' c. 50' d. 20'
4. The scope of an anchor rode for most conditions is: a. 3:1 b. 5:1 c. 7:1 d. 10:1
5. Federal regulations require that a 15' boat must have: a. one life preserver for each person aboard. b. an anchor and sufficient line to securely anchor in waters where the craft normally operates. c. a compass, charts, mooring lines, and fenders. d. a VHF radio.
6. A fire extinguisher with the type classification "A" is for use on: a. a chemical fire. b. an electrical fire. c. a wood fire. d. a gasoline fire.
7. When using a dry chemical fire extinguisher, you should know that it: a. need not be refilled if the pressure gauge indicates that sufficient pressure remains in the bottle. b. is not very effective for fires in a cabin, paint locker, or other above-deck space. c. must be directed at the base of the fire, thereby cutting off the oxygen necessary for the flame. d. generates toxic gases when used around an engine.