How To Become An Expert Boater

Scott Spivey, USCG Ret., Sea School Instructor

In fact, Sea School offers programs that will qualify anyone to operate anything on any water for any purpose.


And regarding any water, there are big differences between safely and competently operating a boat off-shore and doing so on inland lakes or rivers. Sea School offers comprehensive courses for each boating environment.


I talked with Ken Wall at Sea School’s St. Petersburg, Florida headquarters. He told me the number one cause of boating accidents is just inattention. The person operating the boat spending too much time trying to be part of the party. Ken Says, “Of course your guests want you to be sociable, but more importantly, they want you to pay attention to where you’re going. You’d think people wouldn’t need to be trained to pay attention, but…”


Undoubtedly, you’ve seen the person who should be steering a boat, at the stern digging another beverage out of the cooler while the boat goes wherever it damn well pleases.


These are probably the same people who text while driving.


Ken says there’s been a big increase in women taking the school’s courses. Primarily for two reasons. First, like men, they want to be able to confidently operate a boat, and, like men, maybe for profit. Also, more women simply want to be able to take over and responsibly guide the boat to safety should that become necessary.


As for medical emergencies on the water, Sea School also offers courses in certification for first aid and CPR.


Okay, so you don’t want certifications and licenses for everything imaginable, but you would like to become a very safe and competent boater. Sea School has the equivalent of driver training.


If you drive a car, you probably took some sort of driver ed. course, had hours of practice on the road and passed a driving test. This to confirm that you were competent to operate a motor vehicle safely and responsibly.


Not so on the water. It’s a lot simpler; you just buy a boat and off you go. And any day on one of the area lakes will provide ample evidence that boating responsibility means more than making the boat payments on time.


I recently learned about Sea School. Think of it as an aquatic version of driver ed. On steroids.


Sea School offers courses in everything from boating basics to training and licensing to be the captain of something big. More than fifty different courses.


In business for forty years, the school operates in eight cities, from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Long Island, New York and Toledo, Ohio, with 150 instructors training an incredible 100,000 people a year.


Many of Sea School’s students are there for Coast Guard testing and licensing that will allow them to use a boat for commercial purposes, such as sightseeing, fishing excursions, charters, shuttles or sunset cruises. Depending on the boat and what you want to do, it can become a source of income.


But it’s more than part-time businesses. Sea School trains for all kinds of serious commercial boating enterprises. And it’s highly respected by people seeking certification for commercial ventures. The school is also highly respected by the Coast Guard, which says 47% of the licenses, certifications and permits it issues are granted to graduates of Sea School. An impressive record.




Not Scott Spivey,

Every year Sea School hits the road, visiting 300 cities, including locations here in the Carolinas, with an intensive 54-hour program over two weekends. You’ll learn everything you’ll ever need to know to make you an expert boater. Even the basics, like launching your boat without also launching your SUV. (Contact the school for more information and schedules.)


Scott Spivey, retired from the Coast Guard, holder of a Master License and now living in Charlotte, teaches these 54-hour weekend courses in several locations, including Lake Norman and Lake Wylie. It’s referred to as a “Six Pack” course, because once you’ve completed it, among other things you’ll be certified and licensed to carry up to six passengers and serve as a fishing or tour guide, or operate a shuttle service.


Scott says there are many reasons people take the Six Pack course. Some students want to acquire a commercial license. Some are first-time boat owners and want to learn the basics in boating safety. Others, who are experienced on the lakes, are planning to do some serious off-shore boating and realize that the ocean is a whole ‘nuther animal with risks and challenges of its own. He says here in the Piedmont area, about half his students take his course for ocean activities and travel. Some of his students have taken the course, then headed to the shore and rented a boat to cruise or sail to the Caribbean for the vacation of a lifetime.


Sea School is truly one of a kind. Whether you’re a boating novice who wants to learn the basics, an experienced boater who wants to become expert, or someone interested in a great career on the water, Sea School can get you from where you are to where you want to be. All the way up to becoming a Master Captain, qualified to pilot a 100-ton boat.


This writer lives on Lake Norman, and on any given weekend day, I see scores of boats that cost more than most houses. And plenty more that cost more than A Mercedes S-Class or Audi A8. Buying one is high on my list when I win the lottery. And when I do win the lottery and buy that boat, I’ll take a Sea School course. Because it’s important to do things right.


Want more info? Visit or call 800-237-8663.


Pilot Media publishes boating guides providing comprehensive information on boating and waterfront living. Each edition includes an index of boat related businesses, reference maps, marina & boatyard guides, a directory of waterfront & water-access restaurants - The Pilot's Galley - and a Fishing Guide that includes a directory to area fishing service providers.  Read more >

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