US Sailing offers powerboating course

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The eight-hour class is hands-on, and teaches sailors the skills for operating small powerboats

US Sailing, the national governing body of the sport of sailing and sailboat racing, is sponsoring a hands-on, on-the-water course on how to operate small powerboats safely. Connecticut boaters can take this class at the Pettipaug Sailing Academy in Essex on the Connecticut River.

This is the third year the academy has offered the eight-hour course. According to Paul Risseeuw, a US Sailing certified powerboat instructor who teaches at the academy, boaters from as far away as New Jersey have enrolled in the classes.

“This course gives people the hands-on skills they’ll need to operate small powerboats,” Risseeuw says. “We try to accomplish enough in one day, on the water, to make this course work.”

Students learn about a number of powerboating topics such as how to operate wheel and tiller steering, about 2-cycle and 4-cycle outboard engines, docking, confined space maneuvering and navigation. The academy uses six boats for the course — three Boston Whalers and three rigid-hulled inflatables — with 15- to 55-hp outboards.

The courses are conducted in accordance with US Sailing certification standards and have been approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. Those who successfully complete the course and a short exam receive a US Sailing safe powerboating certificate and have the option of obtaining a Connecticut State Safe Boating Certificate.

Risseeuw says the course is worthwhile for powerboaters as well as sailors. “When you’re at a regatta, small powerboats are used as safety boats and patrol the water,” he says. “This is especially good for sailing instructors who use powerboats for those kinds of activities. But, overall, it’s good for anyone wanting to improve their skills or get their state boating certificate.”

“The class is great,” says Maggie Guidotti, 17, of West Hartford, Conn. Guidotti attended one of the classes in May. She’s studying to become a certified sailing instructor and says she’s required to know how to operate a powerboat. “I’m really getting a feel for how to maneuver a boat.”

Ed Aimes, 59, of Milford, Conn., recently purchased a Pearson 26 with an outboard motor and attended the same class as Guidotti.

“I wanted to be more comfortable with operating the motor,” Aimes explains. “These boats are a little different, but I’m still learning a lot.”

According to the US Sailing Web site, the safe powerboat handling course was originally developed to train young sailing instructors. It has since become a course for people of all ages and interests. The Pettipaug Sailing Academy is the only facility in Connecticut that regularly offers the course.

Safe powerboat handling courses at Pettipaug are scheduled for July 9 and Aug. 27. Each course is limited to eight people and open to people 12 years old and older. The cost is $100.

“It’s surprising how many people are scared when they first get here and wind up amazed at themselves after what they accomplish,” Risseeuw says.

For information, go to www.ussailing.org or www.pettipaug.com.