“There’s nothing … absolutely nothing … half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats.” So said River Rat to Mole in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows.
And there’s also nothing half so dangerous as messing around in boats if you have no experience and don’t know what you’re doing. That’s why recreational boaters in New Mexico are required by law to complete a boating safety course and carry a boater education card.
It’s a must if you own and operate a motor-driven boat or a sailboat. However, regardless of the type of water recreation you engage in — canoeing, kayaking, paddle-boarding, or rafting — you’ll be safer and have much more fun when you’ve completed a boating education and safety course.
How to get your Boater Education Card
Check out the website — Boating In New Mexico — to learn about day-long classroom courses as well as online courses. You’ll find a link box that opens to show you the currently available class schedule. It varies from time to time and from place to place throughout the year.
Approved online courses
New Mexico has also approved a number of online course providers, although the state does not recommend one over another. Some courses are free. Others charge a fee determined solely at the discretion of the provider. New Mexico State Parks does not receive any money from these courses.
You can also study at home, using the online study guide for Boat New Mexico. You do not have to register for the course to access the online study guide, and print versions are available upon request. Simply email the Boating Program, and provide your name, address, and preferred language.
Check the website. Learn more than you thought possible
Boating in New Mexico provides a wealth of information. How to register your boat. How to report an accident. What laws govern boating. Detailed boating regulations and required equipment lists as well as safe navigation in New Mexico waters, among other topics.
Popular paddlesports demand attention to safety
Paddle sports — namely canoeing, kayaking, rafting, and paddle-boarding — are growing in popularity. Participants seek opportunities from adrenaline-pumping whitewater challenges to mellow river floats. Still, it pays to understand you are responsible for preventing accidents and avoiding conflicts with other boaters. Boating in New Mexico has a long section on paddle sports. Learn what you need before you dip your paddle into the water.
Always … Always … wear a life jacket
No matter what type of boat you’re in, no matter if you’re in charge or just along for the ride, a U.S Coast Guard-approved, wearable life jacket is required — by law — for everyone on board. There are no exceptions.
Ever heard of cold-water shock? It’ll shock you
There’s a reasons for this. Among them is cold-water shock. Many New Mexico lakes are fed by melting snow, and accidentally falling overboard may subject you to cold-water shock, a condition more hazardous than hypothermia and a major contributor to death of people who fall in unprepared.
Sudden immersion in cold water can trigger the “gasp” reflex. When a person’s head is underwater, the “gasp” reflex causes the person to inhale water into his or her lungs. An unexpected dunk may cause you to gasp, but your life jacket is designed to keep you head above water, so you’ll gasp air and not water.
Boating in New Mexico should be fun, exciting, pleasurable, or tranquil — whatever you seek. To make sure you achieve the level of satisfaction you desire, you must think about boating education and safety first … last … and always. Once you’re confident in what you’re doing, then messing around in boats will be a lot more than half worth doing.
Story by Bud Russo
Images courtesy New Mexico State Parks