A few months ago while visiting my friend Coconut Pete in Cape Coral, Florida, I decided that I wanted to learn how to operate a motor boat. I also decided that I would tackle this bucket list item on the Florida coast rather than a mountain lake near my apartment in Asheville, North Carolina.
My friend Pete owns a boat. This story is about my adventure learning to captain his twin engine Hurricane.
I researched steps to acquire authorization to operate a boat in Florida. The first step was to take the online Florida Boating Safety Course. Rather than take the course in one block of approximately seven hours, I completed the course materials over several days. I passed the final test with flying colors and after discussing options for the next step (practical experience), I decided to accept Pete’s offer to instruct me.
I knew my boating instruction was going to be full of practical experiences like safety, using markers and tying knots. But several experiences also caused some exciting and unexpected situations!
As we all know, there is very much more one learns from practice. And for those knowing Pete and myself, there isn’t a tremendous amount of patience in either of us. But under Pete’s watchful eyes, I began learning practical boating skills which only come from being behind the wheel.
Of course experience with buoys and markers is essential to keep you, your boat and others around you safe. A few times I messed up but generally kept “red, right, return” in mind… mostly.
Keeping an eye on markers and depth gauges are important. Once Pete had me stop the boat and look down on the starboard side so I learned to pay more attention to water depth as the boat was in just 3 feet of water with the tide in! Yikes! The boat needed 2.5 feet and I could have easily grounded it!
I also got to practice a “man overboard” maneuver to retrieve my hat that blew off!
But real excitement came one day at Pete’s covered dock. As I was easing away from it, I threw the engines into forward when I should have been in reverse! Fortunately, the boat sustained no damage but the splintered edge of the dock is a reminder of the need to be more careful.
At the end of the instruction sessions this week I am increasingly confident in my abilities to captain a motor boat. A few more sessions with Coconut Pete and I will be ready to go on my own in the waters on the Southwest Florida coast (in case other boaters reading this want to stay away!)