By John Gullick, CPS-ECP, Manager of Government and Special Programmes
When it comes to operating a boat, especially a power boat or personal water-craft, many have told me they believe operating a boat is much easier than operating a car.  Would you start driving a car before taking a course and/or driving lessons?  The answer is probably no and for good reason.
While essential, the knowledge required to pass the test for your Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) covers only the basic information needed to fully understand and enjoy a safe boating experience for you and your family and guests.
Let’s follow the comparison; when you do the written portion of your driver’s test you have to be able to identify a large number of signs.  Did you know there are over 60 different signs, markers, lights and flags noted in Transport Canada’s Safe Boating Guide? And that you have to know what side of the boat they are supposed to be on?
Let’s go even further. You are required to carry up-to-date charts – the water version of road maps – on board.  To be able to use then you also need a magnetic compass and an understanding of the symbols that are noted on the chart.  There are literally pages of those.  In fact, there is a whole book dedicated to charts, their symbols and how to read them.
Most cars also contain all the required safety equipment already built in.  The same is not true of boats. Different types and sizes of boats require different safety equipment to be on board, in good repair and accessible.  You need to know what that equipment is and how to maintain it.  Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons (CPS-ECP) volunteers offer free Recreational Vessel Courtesy Checks (RVCC) that check off all the required equipment and make sure you’re safe to launch.
Last but not least, let’s consider weather.  Slight changes in the weather can call a halt to what started out as a fun day on the water.  Even too much sunshine can have adverse effects and you need to know when to recognize that and how to do something about it.  CPS-ECP has a course for this too!
Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons (CPS-ECP) offers a wide range of classroom and home study courses that cover everything from basic boat safety to advanced navigation, offshore cruising, weather, marine maintenance, and much more.  Courses and seminars are offered by local squadrons during the “off-season” so you can enjoy year-long boating experiences and make new friends that share your passion for boating.  There is likely a squadron near you!
Any boating course will give you confidence to fully enjoy your boating experience and give others confidence in your abilities as a safe boater.  The best trip is always a safe return trip. Go to  www.boatingcourses.ca to find a course near you!