Boater safety test offered

Boaters 25 and younger who've lost the card showing they passed a boating safety course can get another one Friday without having to sit through the usually required eight-hour class.

The Lake Norman Sail and Power Squadron will allow those boaters to receive a photo ID card by taking and passing the test again.

The squadron will offer the test at 5, 7 and 9 p.m. at Morningstar Marina, 18020 Kings Point Drive, off West Catawba Avenue.

"My phone's been ringing off the hook with people saying they lost their card," Bob Yannacci of the Lake Norman Sail and Power Squadron said.

A new state law requires everyone younger than 26 to have passed a certified boater-education course to operate a vessel with 10-horsepower motors or greater on N.C. waterways. The General Assembly passed the legislation last year.

Boaters younger than 26 who don't have a card could face an infraction that carries court costs if they're stopped while behind the wheel.

Several lake patrol officers told the Lake Norman Marine Commission earlier this year that they probably would only warn boat drivers caught without the card this summer - unless other infractions are involved - since the law is new.

Founded in 1977, the squadron has taught boating safety to nearly 300 people so far this year.

Yannacci said it's understandable boaters might have misplaced their cards, so the squadron arranged the three sessions. The test takes about an hour, Yannacci said.

Boaters will have to sign a document that states they have taken and passed the course before, Yannacci said.

The boating public asked the state to look into a law requiring boaters to pass a course, a spokesman for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission in Raleigh has said.

Knowing the rules of the water only makes sense as Lake Norman and other waterways become crowded, marine safety officials said.

Already this summer, area lakes have seen six drownings. One lesson boaters learn in the course is the importance of accessible life jackets.

It's not only the law, said Mooresville resident Jim Loftin of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, it's a lifesaver, as 98percent of all drownings in America involve people without life jackets, he said.