As more states establish mandatory boater education laws, BoatU.S. continues to urge all 50 states to establish boater education certification programs for skippers

 2boatsBoatU.S., the voice of recreational boaters on Capitol Hill, is the only national boat-owner organization with a full-time Government Affairs staff. Visit Votervoice.net/BoatUS/Home to stay informed on relevant federal and state ­boating issues, and sign up to receive Action Alerts emails so you can take action when important legislative issues affecting boaters arise. Photo: Vermont Warden Service

Operator inexperience was the second leading cause of recreational boating accidents, and 74% of boating deaths reported in 2022 were in vessels commanded by skippers with no known operator instruction. These grim statistics are from the most recent annual Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics. Conversely, only 14% of the 636 reported deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received a nationally approved boating safety education certificate. That stark percentage gap continues to drive BoatU.S. to advocate for mandatory boating safety education required at the state level before anyone can legally take the helm of a boat powered by more than 10 hp.

“We believe a basic understanding of the rules, regulations, and how to safely operate a powerboat makes the waters safer for everyone,” says David Kennedy, manager of BoatU.S. Government Affairs.


Operators with no boating safety education accounted for nearly
three-­quarters of all deadly boating accidents in 2022.

Become a better boater

There are many options to obtain a boating certification, either in a classroom or online, but the key stamp of approval to look for is “NASBLA-certified,” which means the course adheres to American National Standards and is universally accepted in all U.S. states and territories. The first stop is NASBLA.org/Education to find approved boating courses by state.

The BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water offers a range of online and on-water boating safety training courses — including 36 free state courses — that can be found at BoatUS.org/Courses. More than 171,000 people took the free state boating certification courses last year.

  • Free boating safety course. The Foundation offers the only free online boating safety course developed specifically for your state. They’re recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard and approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and 36 states.
  • Advanced courses. Want to brush up or learn a new skill? The Foundation offers 16 courses on various topics, including marine radios, navigation, weather, hurricane prep, sailing, and more. Prices range from free to $40 each.
  • In-person learning. The Foundation has a database of U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons, and privately offered courses from around the country. Visit BoatUS.org/Courseline and type in your zip code to find courses in your area.
  • On-water training. The burgeoning BoatU.S. Foundation On-Water Training program is offered through partners around the country. The affordable three-hour courses range from $179 to $249 depending on location, are taught by Coast Guard-licensed captains, and have a maximum of four students so everyone gets ample time at the helm. Enter your zip code at BoatUS.org/On-Water to find training near you. — R.A.
Hamlin Lake is the largest man-made lake in Michigan.