USPS education benefits the whole family

Safer on the water

After helping a fraternity brother commission his father’s 44-foot ketch my sophomore year of college, I knew boating would be part of my life someday.

Ten years later, I finally realized my dream and purchased a Sundancer 268 from a marina in Weehawken, N.J. After closing the deal, the salesman handed me the keys and said, “Enjoy.” Horror washed over me as I realized that no training came with my purchase.

After some prodding, the salesman finally agreed to take me out on the water. He showed me how to operate my boat, but he never mentioned the rules of the road, navigational aids or emergency procedures.

The 10-minute test-drive calmed my nerves—handling the boat didn’t seem too difficult. I pulled up to the fuel dock at Port Imperial like a seasoned veteran, brimming with confidence.

My first destination was my uncle’s house in Ortley Beach. The journey would take me through New York Harbor, past Sandy Hook, into Manasquan Inlet and through Point Pleasant Canal.

Things started well enough. It was a beautiful summer morning, and we cruised down the Hudson River past the World Trade Center listening to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Looking at my girlfriend, Fran, I thought life couldn’t get much better.

Just then, the engine became sluggish. A look at the gauges told me it was overheating. Not knowing what to do, I immediately shut down the motor, leaving the boat adrift in the Hudson’s shipping lanes. As a freighter bore down on me, I frantically screamed “Sea Tow!” over the VHF.

It took the towboat operator more than an hour to find me because I had no idea how to explain where I was, much less give GPS coordinates. By that time, I had figured out that I couldn’t start my boat in gear, and that once started, the engine ran fine. The towboat operator kindly explained that I had probably picked up a plastic bag and should be OK now. He didn’t even charge me for the false alarm.

After running aground five or six times in Barnegat Bay, Fran and I found my uncle’s place about three hours later. We arrived exhausted but proud of our accomplishment. You would have thought we’d completed an Antarctic expedition.

That fall, my father saw a notice about an upcoming USPS Boating Course. He hadn’t been thrilled about my buying a boat, but he offered to take the class with me, so I agreed. After my experience on the Hudson, I knew it was the right decision.

Ten years, four kids, two boats and one wife later, I’m proud of my decision and even more proud of my family. My father is now a past commander and only a few sights away from becoming a Senior Navigator. Fran, now my wife, is an Advanced Pilot and has served on the squadron’s executive committee as a member at large. USPS has truly made us a family of safe boaters.

As we enter a new academic year, I hope you will recommit yourselves to furthering your boating education and, even more importantly, the education of your loved ones. The benefits for both you and your family will last a lifetime.