Women need boating education too

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The current issue of Small Craft Advisory, a publication of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), raises an interesting issue concerning women and boating education. It suggests many women are not prepared to operate the boat without their spouse or partner, primarily because it’s customary that the male does the captaining. But that raises a legitimate safety question and the personal experience of Robin Freeman, Chief of the Dept. of Education, Coast Guard Auxiliary brings it home best.

Freeman says: “For the first few years of our marriage, my husband, Rick, and I fished from our 10-foot inflatable ‘starter boat.’ It soon became evident that I enjoyed the water so we purchased a larger offshore fishing boat.

“It was during one of our first few trips offshore,” she continued, “that Rick asked me to stand by the wheel while he went aft to tie some fishing jigs. Suddenly I heard a gurgling, choking sound. I whipped around to find Rick doubled over, is face bright red! I feared it was a heart attack. Three horrible thoughts struck simultaneously: I don’t know where I am. . . I don’t know how to call for help. . . Please don’t die!”

Freeman went on the share that while she knew how to steer the boat, she’d never really driven it and she didn’t even know how to use the radio. Fortunately, Rick was not having a heart attack. He’d chewed off and inhaled the tag end of some mono line and was trying to cough it up. But during those dramatic seconds that Rick was gasping and coughing, Freeman says she instantly knew the feeling of helplessness. That led her to realize she also needed some boating education and operating experience.

It makes a lot of sense that women boaters should have a chance to acquire the basic skills and knowledge to operate the family boat, if only for an emergency situation. I know of a few dealers who encourage their customers, husband and wife, to take a boating course. Some of those dealers hold the course right in their showroom. I also know one or two dealers that annually hold an on-the-water women-only boating class at their dealership including hands-on boat operating instruction using a new demo boats, of course.

It’s a fact that boating education efforts are an excellent vehicle not only to help your customers become more confident and safer on the water, but to bring them into the store more often. I call that a win-win.

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