Springtime Safety Training for Sailors

Why Smart Sailors Attend Safety at Sea Seminars

On a sailboat it’s not uncommon for a few small issues to compound quickly into a more complex problem. And wouldn’t you just know it, such things seem always to happen at the worst times—sailing at night, in heavy seas, when the crew’s experiencing seasickness, during a downpour, you get the idea. Safety training can play a vital role in helping skippers and crew to make calm, rational decisions when things start going sideways. Smart sailors take safety seriously, and some of the best safety training around, US Sailing’s Safety at Sea, is offered right here on the Chesapeake.

safety sea life raft
In-pool sailing safety training offers practice in a controlled environment. Photo courtesy of MTAM

What sets Safety at Sea apart?

Widely recognized as the gold standard in safety training and seamanship, Safety at Sea courses are offered online and in-person around the country. In each location special attention is given to the conditions and challenges of the host organization’s sailing area. Live demonstrations, hands-on components, and extraordinarily qualified speakers are just a few seminar features that set these programs apart. Topics include man-over-board prevention and recovery, US Coast Guard communications, best practices for managing a boat during heavy weather, safety equipment, weather forecasting, emergency medical interventions, contact avoidance, damage control, search and rescue, and much more. Safety at Sea offers a few course tracks. Certificates may be earned on some tracks and are valid for five years from the date of issue.

On the Chesapeake, Safety at Sea is offered twice in 2024 (the Newport News one has already taken place). The Marine Trades Association of Maryland will offer the seminar on April 6-7 at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. The new Superintendent of the Academy, Rear Admiral Yvette Davids, will give the opening remarks. Davids was on the Naval Academy dinghy team when she was a midshipman and served as the Director of Naval Academy Sailing as a Commander. In addition to lectures and training, the program will be highlighted by demonstrations on Saturday, including a helicopter rescue by the United States Coast Guard (weather permitting), pyrotechnic flare displays, life raft deployment, and a man-over-board recovery performed by midshipman from Navy Sailing training vessels. The public is invited Saturday to observe the on-water live demonstrations on the Severn River. Viewing spots will be available from the Naval Academy grounds. Check the Academy website for details on identification needed for entry at the gate.

Safety at Sea is also offered in Newport News, VA. It is called The Captain Henry Marx Memorial US Sailing International Safety at Sea Course and is held at the Mariners’ Museum. This year, it unfolded March 2. 

safety sea lecture usna
Highly qualified speakers and live sailing safety demonstrations are two features that make Safety at Sea valuable. Photo courtesy of MTAM

Who should attend?

With the word ‘safety’ in its title, you might guess that Safety at Sea Seminars are only for bluewater sailors. Good news, you’d be incorrect. Safety at Sea is geared to inform and educate all kinds of boaters, and organizers encourage a wide range of experience levels to enroll. Courses are appropriate for: sailors of small and big boats, whether monohulls or multihulls; sailors who operate vessels nearshore or offshore; racers; cruisers; skippers and crewmembers. They even welcome powerboaters.

If you’re crew looking for a spot on an offshore race or passage, or even a distance race on the Bay, a Safety at Sea certification contributes to your bone fides, demonstrating to skippers that you are serious. 

If you’re a skipper entering an offshore race, check the Notice of Race to verify which certificate (if any) is required for participation. Check also to see the minimum number of crew required to be certified. And remember, there are less rigorous course tracks than the ones that lead to certification. This might be a good option for some of your crew.

Learn More

The Marine Trades Association of Maryland (MTAM) will host Safety at Sea April 6-7 at the US Naval Academy. The Safety for Cruising course is for individuals seeking offshore training but who do not need certification, as it does not include a US Sailing Certificate. Three US Sailing-sanctioned certificate courses will be offered: Offshore Sailing, International Offshore Safety with Hands-on Training, and International Offshore Hands-on Only Training.

Date: April 6-7

Time: Saturday, beginning at 7 a.m.; events wrap up Sunday at 3 p.m.

Register: mtam.org/safety-at-sea.

Tickets: Prices range from $185 to $435 depending on the courses/certifications selected; prices include lunch.

Location: Mahan Hall and other sites at the US Naval Academy

Questions: Call (410) 269-0741; email [email protected].

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