Diana and Robert Felbinger have been boat owners for longer than 35 years. But when they traded in their old bass boat for a sleek new fishing pontoon a couple months ago, Robert encouraged his wife to brush up on her nautical knowledge.
On April 30, Diana Felbinger was one of 40 people attending the America’s Boating Course presented by the Lake Norman Sail and Power Squadron at the Lake Norman Volunteer Fire Department in Mooresville.
The course, which is approved by The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, satisfies North Carolina’s requirement that anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, must pass the course to maneuver a vessel of 10 horsepower or greater on the state’s waters. There are plenty of people who are exempt because of their age but who still recognize the class’s value.
“He (her husband) is much more comfortable knowing that I took this course,” said Felbinger. “He’ll feel more comfortable with me on the boat (by myself) or with my family.
And he is a former federal auditor so he knows we can get 10 percent off our insurance by me taking the course.”
Last month’s offering was the second of four basic public courses offered between April and August by the Sail and Power Squadron, the local chapter of the United States Power Squadrons, the national non-profit organization which specializes in boater education. The next class will be held June 11 at Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Cornelius.
America’s Boating Course covers boating basics including safe practices, proper terminology, docking, fueling, and knots (both the kind you tie and the kind that measures your boat’s speed).
“Everyone’s excited about the boating season,” said Russ Klein, education officer for the Lake Norman Squadron. “The Lake tends to be the busiest in the spring and early summer. You have a lot of people that bought new boats.
“You have a lot of kids out there for the first time. With those components, it tends to be a more risky time. Safety is important, knowing the rules is important. (The course) serves to make it a safer place for everyone on the water.”
America’s Boating Course addresses laws on a federal, state, and local (Mecklenburg County) level. The rules pertain to more than just boats, including water skiing, jet skis, and paddle boards.
“We have paddle boards,” said Diana Felbinger, who lives in Davidson and boats on the exclusionary side of Lake Norman known as Lake Davidson. “I didn’t know you have to have your life vest on the paddle board. We’ll be doing the right thing now.”
Forty-six year old Gigi Larson says she’s a lifelong Lake Norman resident and currently boats in an area of the lake known as McCrary Creek. Concerned by a recent incident she witnessed, Larson was disappointed to learn that the only law that influences jet skis’ visibility is the one that limits their water access to a sunrise-to-sunset time range.
“I live behind an island that has many coves behind it,” said Larson. “When the sun starts to go down you can’t see. We were coming in on the fishing boat and we didn’t see this jet ski dart out in front of us. With no lighting in those coves, it’s really hard to see these people. You definitely don’t want to get hurt or anyone to get hurt.”
Klein said that America’s Boating Course enrollment increased with the 2010 law that requires people born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 to complete a boater education class. At the Apr. 30 Lake Norman Sail and Power Squadron class, about one-fourth of the 40 students were teenagers or younger.
Patrick Joyner and Thomas Cashion, 14-year old friends from Charlotte’s Myers Park neighborhood, attended the class to get acclimated to guiding their family’s vessels. Joyner and his family spend time on the North Carolina coast but Cashion’s family docks a pontoon, a power boat, and a couple jet skis at their Lake Norman home off Brawley School Road, not far from the Lake Norman Volunteer Fire Department.
“Since I just turned 14, (Jet-skiing) is what I’m most excited about,” said Cashion. “And taking my friends (water) skiing during the summer.”
Mooresville resident Kat Savage has been a member of the Lake Norman Squadron for a year but taught a boater safety class for the first time on April 30. It’s people like Joyner and Cashion who she hopes to impact the most.
“We boat every weekend and live where there’s a lot of kids,” said Savage, whose husband Alan is the Squadron treasurer. “I wanted to give some of that information to people, help somebody at some point in time. They may learn just one thing and it could save their life.”
Joe Habina is a freelance writer: email@example.com.
Want to go?
The Lake Norman Sail and Power Squadron’s next America’s Boating Course is scheduled for June 11 at the Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Cornelius. Students must pre-register and may pay (PayPal or credit card) at the Squadron’s website: www.usps.org/lakenorman. Pre-registration and payment is required. Early registration is encouraged because spaces are limited.
For more information about class registration, call Administrative Officer Terry Middleton at 704-483-4408, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For general information on the public or member education programs, call education officer Russ Klein at 704-651-9361 or email email@example.com.