Great Story: Gaining Confidence Through Powerboating

When I take students on a powerboat to learn how to drive, I have to watch their every move to keep them safe during the experience. At the beginning of the course, the first drive is usually an easy one learning to drive away from the dock and then back to the dock at slow speed. I talk them through every step and show them that they can control the forces that move the boat. I always tell them “Slow is Pro,” and “Never approach a dock any faster than you want to hit it.”

Later in the class, we step into some more challenging situations where they might be managing traffic, avoiding an obstacle or driving in reverse. This is where I start to notice some troubles and nervous behaviors. I have watched people shrink behind the console when they are dealing with a difficult maneuver or turn. I remind them that an upright stance and good posture helps them to see the best. By crouching they are limiting their visual field and making the maneuver even more difficult. It is challenging not to take over for them, but even more challenging to let them make the mistakes that they need to, so they can learn. At this point in the course, I usually give a speech about confidence and how to position themselves to have the best field of vision and be able to react to their environment.

Although it is not always immediate, I see that after they make a few mistakes and get gentle reminders and corrections, there is always noticeable difference between when people start a powerboating class and when they leave. Real confidence on the water comes with many years of time and experience. Giving people their first experiences driving a boat is one of the best parts of my job, seeing them straighten up their stance and manage situations the best that they can, makes me know that I am doing it right. After the course one of my students always says “I can’t believe that they give people their safe boating certificate with out ever having actually driven a boat!”