By John Kelly

For an eager and experienced 14-year-old, passing the boater competency exam is just the first step in a lifetime of learning on the water.

One of the toughest tests I have ever written wasn’t even at school. It was the pleasure craft competency exam.

In contrast to the 30 minutes of studying I usually do for one of my grade eight exams, I spent weeks preparing for my boating exam. Every night during the weeks leading up to the exam, I would review a chapter in the study guide. I even took the guide to school with me to read when I had the chance.

I have been boating my entire life, thanks to my parents who have always had a sailboat. They owned a Spencer 35 sailboat for many years before I was born, and I made my first crossing of the Strait of Georgia when I was only three months old. Now, 14 years later, I often get to helm our boat when we are out sailing, of course with my father (a CYA-certified instructor) nearby. My favourite part is steering the boat out of an anchorage, if the weather permits.

But despite my experience, I had avoided the boating exam, even though there is no age restriction for writing the test. I finally took on the challenge of getting a Pleasure Craft Operator Card this year. I began studying for it at the Vancouver Boat Show in February, where my dad bought the study guide, knowing that if he got me started, I would see it through.


Tough Questions

The first thing I did was take the practice exam at the back of the book. I figured the test would not be difficult, just questions about right of way and buoys, and the first question confirmed my assumption: what is the front of the boat called? But the next few questions quickly demoralized me: What is the minimum number of seats required on a vessel towing a water skier? What is the maximum lifespan of a flare? (Answers: three seats and four years).

Skimming through more of the book, I found the material more confusing and frustrating. There was an entire graph dedicated to the various cardinal buoys, their lights, and what they mean. It seemed impossible to memorize everything.

One of my father’s boating friends, Gordon, also took the test recently and although he has been boating for more than 50 years, he found the material tough. He warned me to read the questions carefully: one word could change the entire meaning of a question.

After a month of diligent studying and review, I decided to finally write the online exam. To my surprise, I still couldn’t take it. To write the exam I still needed to spend three hours reviewing the online study guide and pass a quiz for each chapter to show that I understood the material in the chapter. If I failed a quiz, I spent another 20 minutes reviewing the chapter again. Fortunately, I failed only one quiz, and the question that stumped me was: What type of fire extinguisher are you required to have on a motor boat? The options were Type A, B, C or D. (Answer: B)

When I took the exam, the fire extinguisher question reappeared, and Gordon was right – a few questions did slip a “not” into them, some of which I nearly missed.

My final score was 88 percent, coincidently the same as Gordon’s, who joked that that must be the highest score possible. I eagerly printed off my temporary licence, as the permanent PCOC would arrive in four to six weeks. It was the first card I’ve ever had that was a legal certification of competency. It felt like I had my driver’s license, only better: after all boating is a lot more fun for getting around. But I've just passed the first test. Boating is a lifelong learning experience – nobody truly knows everything that could happen on the water.

I had dreams that night of zipping across the water in a dinghy, and frantically unfurling a sail as it plumed into its full majesty.

John Kelly cruises the West Coast with his family on their Tayana 48 Perfect Bound.

Notes:
•    Proof of operator competency is required for anyone operating a recreational (non-commercial) boat with a motor in Canadian waters (other than the waters of Nunavut and Northwest Territories), regardless of the operator’s age. For details, visit www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-obs-paperwork-paperwork_operator-360.htm.
•    When you are preparing to write the boating competency exam, I would recommend taking the chapter quizzes because they test you with samples of the questions on the full exam.
•    Another key point – which I neglected – is not to ignore the graphs and illustrations about lights, buoys and equipment. You can expect to be questioned on them. I had to guess at a few of the graph questions, since I had assumed they wouldn’t expect you to memorize them.
•    Remember that there is no trick or easy way to pass the exam, apart from studying and reading the questions carefully.
Good luck and good boating!

PHOTO: Legal! John Kelly displays his new Pleasure Craft Operator Card at the helm of the family sailboat. Photo Credit: William Kelly

DIY & How to

  • Prev
On the Friday before a weekend with a gorgeous forecast, I heard on the news that a boat had ...
A reader suggested we take a look at anchors. Anchoring seems simple enough. A weighted hook with a ...
If you’ve spent any time in a boat yard during spring commissioning season, you won’t find it out ...
As a busy marine mechanic, I tend to have the same or similar conversations often, and they’re ...
This time of year, great deals abound. That boat with the ‘for sale’ sign looks quite attractive. ...
For less than US$2,500, Jim Leshaw, a lawyer who lives and works in Key Biscayne, Florida, ...
Each spring, I tend to notice canvas. I wish it was because it’s been immaculately maintained and ...
I’ve had two emails over the past few weeks with a count-down to launch (47 days per the last ...
Last time we looked at making proper electrical connections – the tools, supplies and methods ...
Winter is a great time to look at some of the hidden spaces on your boat – to take stock of what is ...

Cables SecuredOn the Friday before a weekend with a gorgeous forecast, I heard on the news that a boat had exploded at a local marina; the boat’s operator was seriously injured. At the time, I heard that authorities were investigating and were attempting to determine the cause of the explosion and fire.

What would I do if an explosion occurs on a boat that I was working on? What was the cause? How could this happen?


 

 

Read more about Safe Starts............

 

  

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
The Canadian Yachting test crew last week had the opportunity to run the Bavaria S36 HT at St ...
ILCA is seeking new builders to complement its existing network of manufacturers, the International ...
Nelson Gilbert (1854-1921) began building canoes in Brockville in the 1890s, a time when the sport ...
I have heard a lot of talk lately about trends in yacht clubs where senior membership is getting ...
To get you in the mood for cruising the Boat Show then launching in spring, here’s a boat that ...
Quite simply, the styles of boats have changed. Where in past years a buyer might have been looking ...
At the boat shows, the Ranger Tugs’ classic tugboat lines always grab the crowds, with the wives ...
Sometimes a great idea requires an encore, and French yacht builder Jeanneau got that with the ...
Tactical Custom Boats announces the sale to a North American client of a custom Tactical 77’ – Fast ...
Bruce Elliott is an inventor. And when he sold the technology he developed to build utility poles ...

Beneteau Oceanis 30.1The Oceanis official US debut will be at the upcoming Newport International Boat Show in September and will be featured at the United States Sailboat show in Annapolis in October.

With an overall size under 30 feet and a light displacement of less than 8,805 lbs., the Oceanis is easily trailerable without a wide load permit. If you prefer to access your sailing grounds by canals and rivers, the lifting keel and rotating mast open a world of endless possibilities. Perfect for sailing on lakes or for coastal hopping, this new Oceanis is, nevertheless, a robust category B sailing yacht, fitted for offshore sailing. The smallest of the range offers the biggest choice of programs! 

Read more about the Beneteau Oceanis 30.1............................

 

Grady White Freedom 235 Dual ConsoleBy Jill Snider

Once again, I had the pleasure of joining CY’s test guru Andy Adams on a boat review. This time, out on Georgian Bay, we put the Grady White Freedom 235 Dual Console to the test. There are so many great things to tell you about this classic beauty.

Andy
If I were required to compare Grady White’s Freedom 235 Dual Console to an animal, I would tell you that she has the character of a Labrador Retriever. Here are a few reasons why...

Read More about the Grady White Freedom 235 Dual Console......................

Destinations

  • Prev
Provincial Boat Havens are those special places to drop anchor in British Columbia’s West Coast and ...
NW Explorations, a Bellingham, Washington-based yacht charter, brokerage, and marine services ...
If you haven’t cruised the Rideau Canal before, you have missed a special treat and even if you ...
At the 2019 Vancouver International Boat Show I had the pleasure of meeting up with Allyson and ...
Following the harsh impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, The British Virgin Islands is making an ...
For the adventurous boater Bunsby Marine Provincial Park is a special place, situated due south of ...
There is good anchoring in Cowichan Bay and nearby, and salt water enough to make any boater happy. ...
We’re gliding through green-blue waters, colours so vivid and bright they hurt your eyes. We’re set ...
The Halifax waterfront has been attracting more and more large yachts in recent years. However, a ...
Ah Canadian simplicity at its finest; small town, big marina. Little Hilton Beach (population ...


Coal Harbour MarinaVancouver is ranked one of the most liveable cities in the world. You can explore much of the cityscape by water and moor at several marinas. The city offers the marine visitor a panoply of fine dining, waterside pubs, shopping and cultural amenities.

English Bay and False Creek, one of the choice urban boating destinations in North America, bring you into the heart of the city. Good moorage and anchorages are available and there is lots happening both on the water and all along the shoreline.

 

 

Read more about Vancouver...........

 

Marine Products

  • Prev
The Seabin device part of the Oak Bay Marine Group trial, has had promising results so far while ...
When I took the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV down to Wednesday night racing, the people that came over ...
Protecting your boat from scratches and dents isn’t always easy. That’s why the Big Bumper Company ...
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA - Forespar has just introduced a new smaller size version of their ...
As boaters we all have a very unique connection to the water and all the opportunities it presents. ...
Edited by the Quebec Marine Association under the direction of L'Escale Nautique (producer of the ...
Blue Guard has announced the general availability of the BG-One, a solid-state bilge pump switch, ...
With the introduction of the Ion Power Basic, a safe Lithium Ion battery formulated with Lithium, ...
Finding a car brand that you enjoy while it does what you need can be tough, as they can be ...
Yikes! No boat refrigeration? You’ve Got to be Kidding me!! But then again, true campers don’t use ...