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The new U.S. Power Squadrons programs award certificates for proficiency in specific skill levels

The new U.S. Power Squadrons programs award certificates for proficiency in specific skill levels

The term “continuing education” has a different meaning for recreational boaters now that the U.S. Power Squadrons has developed USPSUniversity, a series of certificate programs delivered in a college-like format.

USPSUniversity comprises upgraded versions of courses already offered through the organization, as well as a series of two-hour seminars, says Dick Nyle, USPS national education officer. Upon completion of the courses within a specific level of certification, students will receive a certificate. The 10-week courses, open to both USPS members and the public, are scheduled to begin at the end of March.

“Recreational boaters want credentials; they want recognizable certificates that reflect their level of boating education,” says Nyle. “The only other option is to get a Coast Guard license, which a lot of boaters don’t really want or need. A captain’s license also carries with it certain legal responsibilities, which [some] recreational boaters don’t want either.”

USPS says the university will offer four levels of certification: Inshore, Coastal, Advanced Coastal and Offshore. Each level requires the completion of 10 two-hour sessions of courses and seminars, in addition to courses from the organization’s traditional electives. Those topics include cruise planning, engine maintenance, marine electronics and weather. Seminar topics include charting, GPS and trailering. Students also will have to complete a practical demonstration of the skills covered in each program.

“The demonstrations will usually be on the water,” says USPS assistant education officer Bob Sweet. “The boater will demonstrate his or her proficiency in skills such as docking, undocking, anchoring, etc.”

The Inshore certificate program goes over skills involved with operating boats on rivers, canals, small lakes, bays and in waters within two miles of shore under fair weather conditions, the organization says. The Coastal program covers skills associated with operating a boat in fair weather in local and coastal areas within five miles of shore. With the Advanced Coastal certificate, a boater will learn how to operate vessels up to 50 feet in waters within 50 miles of shore and in waves to 10 feet. The Offshore certificate, the university’s highest level, certifies skills in operating vessels to 65 feet in most sea conditions.

“Across Europe, countries are making it a requirement that boaters have International Certificates of Competency,” says Sweet. “If you don’t have the certificates, you can’t operate a boat in certain countries. We think the USPSUniversity is the U.S. equivalent.”

Seminars are to cost about $30, and the price to attend each course will be about $50, Nyle says. Courses and seminars will take place on evenings and weekends, and will be taught by one of 5,000 certified USPS instructors at a number of the 450 squadron locations around the country, he says.

“Boating is fun, and the point of this is to show you how,” Sweet says. “Part of this makes insurance companies happy, since they can see that the people they insure have completed a structured boating program. But it’s also about giving boaters the skills to get them on the water and feeling confident.”

For more information, call (888) 367-8777 or visit www.usps.org .