By Sara Garcia


According to Bill Gossard, a former federal accident investigator,  80 to 85 percent of people operating a motorized vessel have no basic boating education in Massachusetts.

Boaters ages 12 through 15 have to pass a state approved boating course before they can operate a vessel without adult supervision. If you are the age of 16 or 17 you have to earn a state-issued safety certificate to operate a jet ski, but you can legally drive a boat without an adult present. The only way to get a safety certificate is to pass a state-approved boating safety course.

John Girvalakis, a lieutenant who oversees detectives with the Massachusetts Environmental Police, said,  “Without experience, without safety education, without out life jackets, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.” Girvalakis said, “People don’t know the rules of the road”.

Courses are offered for free and usually take up the weekend. Many people suggest and recommend boating courses for beginners but they are not required. This is a problem for many officers and coast guards because people are not practicing safe boating on the water. Girvalakis also said, “The biggest causes of boating accidents is distraction, buoys are the only things that help.” And to know how to maneuver around buoys and what side to get on if there is a red buoys is all taught in education courses.

Chris Scott, a recreational boater in Massachusetts who has a captain’s license and has been boating since he was 10, for 22 years now, explains some basic things to not do on the water. No bow riding, always wear life jackets and just be safe in general. Scott said the laws for boating in Massachusetts are very strict but that they should be changed to more proper education to stay safer on the water.

The U.S. Coast Guard discovered that more than 70 percent of 7,700 accidents that have been reported have been from operator error. More than 80 percent  of operators in boating accidents have not taken any type of boater education course. Someone without experience or proper education would not know what to do in a life-threatening situation, such as man overboard, sinking, collision, or capsizing.

There are many organizations that offer boater education courses either online, video, and classroom. In 1990 the National Transportation Safety Board wanted safety improvements on the water which had many recommendations to enforce some knowledge on boating and boating safety. Recommendations also included that rental businesses provide safety instruction training to customers who wanted to rent a personal watercraft. There are 12.7 million boats registered in the U.S.

A study in 1997 showed that 84 percent of personal watercraft operators have not received boating education/instructions at all.