BRICK – Boating season had its official start on Memorial Day weekend, and anyone 16 years of age or older is required to successfully complete a boater safety course for their boat license to operate a powered vessel in the state of New Jersey.
The minimum fine is $100 if you are caught operating a boat without the license, and can go as high as $500 and/or 60 days in jail, depending on the severity of the offense, said Coast Guard Auxiliary Vice Division Commander Terry Bearce, a Brick resident who teaches six boating safety classes a year.
For example, if the Coast Guard, local or state police were to stop a boat for going through a “No Wake Zone” too fast, that would probably be a minimum fine, but if there was an accident and someone got hurt, the fine would likely increase, he said.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary does not perform law enforcement but the all-volunteer arm of the US Coast Guard exists for boating safety such as teaching public education classes, performing vessel safety checks and maritime observation.
Using their own boats, the Auxiliary members recently provided safety zones around the Grand Prix motor boat race in Point Pleasant Beach.
The boating safety course is a one-day, eight-hour class that fulfills all the guidelines to meet state regulations, Bearce said.
“It’s a multi-lesson class that covers using the boat, equipment on the boat, navigating with the boat and all kinds of safety regulations you need to operate a boat safely,” he said.
At the end of the course, students have to pass a 60-question exam which include 50 questions that are a national requirement and 10 questions that are specific to New Jersey.
Bearce said that one of the New Jersey questions that applicants frequently get wrong relates to No Wake buoys (where vessels must slow down to 5 knots and not create a wake), which are placed in areas where there are boats, marinas, bridge openings, swimming areas and more.
“Most people don’t slow down until they get to the buoy, but you have to slow down when you’re 200 feet around the buoy,” he said.
A popular area for ticketing for in by the Mantoloking Bridge because of the high volume of boat traffic there, Bearce said.
Another question students frequently get wrong is ‘What is the one piece of equipment everyone must have while on a boat?’
The answer is a Coast Guard approved life jacket, Bearce said. They must be worn at all times by anyone under the age of 12.
The class costs $50 to $60 on average and students get their boating license at the end of the day.
In New Jersey, anyone under the age of 13 may not legally operate any motorized vessel. Anyone between the ages of 13 and 16 may operate a vessel 12 feet or longer that is powered by an electric motor of less than 10 horsepower if they have completed the boater safety course.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers the courses year-round. For more information visit 5NR.org for a link to search for boating safety courses within a 30-mile radius.