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Sharpen Your Pencils

Could you pass Connecticut State’s boater’s test?

February 1, 2001
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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?

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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.

SEAMANSHIP ****

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.

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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 ****

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EQUIPMENT ****

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.

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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.

SAFE OPERATION ****

8. Float plans are filed with: a. the U.S. Coast Guard when cruising on international waters. b. a friend or relative. c. any local law enforcement agency. d. no one, if you’re only in local waters. ****

9. The use of alcohol is a factor in recreational boating accidents to the extent of: a. 25 to 35 percent of cases involving fatalities. b. more than 65 percent of cases involving fatalities. c. less than 15 percent of all accidents. d. less than 25 percent of all accidents.

10. When fueling an outboard that uses portable gas tanks, you should: a. fill the tanks to the top so as not to run out of gas. b. put the tanks on the dock for filling. c. put the tanks in the boat for filling. d. use a plastic funnel to prevent any gas from being spilled.

METEOROLOGY ****

11. The most severe and hazardous weather is generated by: a. high pressure systems. b. occluded fronts. c. low pressure systems. d. cold fronts.

12. You are planning a cruise and receive a weather forecast that predicts a low pressure system will be about 200 miles directly south of you. The weather in your cruising area will probably be: a. rain all day. b. clear skies. c. a cold front passing through about noon. d. probably cloudy, moderate wind, no rain.

13. As a front passes and a high pressure system begins to move into your area, you will notice that: a. the wind is warm and from the south. b. the sky is overcast with low clouds. c. the air is humid and the sky has towering white clouds. d. the wind is from the north and feels cooler and dryer.

NAVIGATION ****

14. Under the U.S. Aids to Navigation, when returning from sea you: a. leave the red buoys to your right. b. leave the green buoys to your right. c. stay well clear of red and white buoys. d. leave the red buoys to your left.

15. As you proceed from sea to port: a. the numbers on buoys will increase. b. numbers will not appear on buoys. c. the numbers on buoys will decrease. d. the numbers on buoys will indicate local hazards.

16. Preferred channel buoys are: a. black and white. b. red and green. c. red and white. d. green and white.

17. A short-long or Morse code letter “A” light is used to: a. mark the sides of a channel. b. mark the middle of a channel. c. mark a bend in a channel. d. mark an obstruction in a channel.

18. When two power-driven vessels meet head-on, or nearly so: a. the vessel with the wind on its port side has the right of way. b. the vessel downwind has the right of way. c. the vessel to windward has the right of way. d. neither vessel has the right of way.

19. When two power-driven vessels risk collision while crossing each other’s path, the vessel that has the other on its starboard side: a. is the stand-on vessel. b. should maintain course and speed. c. should increase speed. d. should alter course, slow down, or stop to avoid collision.

TIDES AND CURRENTS

20. A tide rises: a. fastest during the middle third of its duration. b. at a uniform rate throughout itsduration. c. fastest during the first and last third of its duration. d. to the depth of the water shown on the chart.

21. Tidal currents: a. measure the vertical motion of the water. b. are impossible to predict. c. may slow to a stop, but hardly ever reverse. d. vary in velocity during the tidal cycle.

TROUBLESHOOTING ****

22. Your engine has stalled and is very hot. You have no temperature gauge, so you should first: a. check the running lights. b. check the water pump belt. c. check the distributor cap. d. check the oil level.

23. Your stalled engine’s water pump belt, distributor cap, and oil level are okay. What else might cause the engine to overheat? a. Dirt in the filter. b. A blockage in the cooling system. c. A loose ignition wire. d. A low level of charge in the battery.

24. To ensure that your engine’s water pump is working properly, you should: a. remove the thermostat to see if it is open. b. check the oil level before starting the engine. c. check the water outlets immediately after starting the engine. d. rev the engine immediately after starting so the pump turns quickly.

TRAILERING ****

25. The proper class hitch for your rig is based on: a. trailer length. b. tow vehicle weight. c. gross trailer weight. d. boat size.

26. When hitching a trailer, the tongue weight should be: a. as little as possible. b. about one-third of the trailer weight. c. 5 to 10 percent of the gross vehicle weight. d. there’s no maximum limit.

27. The maximum gross vehicle weight when using a Class II hitch is: a. 500 pounds. b. 2,000 pounds. c. 3,500 pounds. d. 10 percent of the gross vehicle weight.

ANSWERS

1. C 10. B 19. D
2. B 11. C 20. A
3. B 12. D 21. D
4. C 13. D 22. B
5. A 14. A 23. B
6. C 15. A 24. C
7. C 16. B 25. C
8. B 17. B 26. C
9. B 18. D 27. C

Question 3: To compute the anchor rode, add the bow height and water depth, then multiply them by the scope. We bet you handled this test pretty well. If not, just contact your local U.S. Power Squadrons for a refresher course. Either way, know this: These were the easy questions.

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