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Jun. 22, 2018
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Take a trip, a class or two with Atlanta’s Boating Club

By Pamela A. Keene
 
Whether you want to get your feet wet with a boating safety class or take part in a multi-day boating trip, Atlanta’s Boating Club has your number. Formerly known as the Atlanta Sail and Power Squadron, the 250-member organization is looking for a few more boaters and people who love the water. 
 
“We’re a big network of boaters and in many ways we’re like a family,” said Eric Ringwall, newly installed commander of the Atlanta-based group that was founded in 1953. “Our mission is boating education, boating safety, community service and providing a strong social network for people who all share a love of boating. We focus on safe, smart and fun boating and activities.”
 
As part of the national U.S. Power Squadron, now known as America’s Boating Club, the Atlanta squadron was recently recognized as one of the top squadrons in the nation. The organization is made up of volunteers.
 
The national organization was founded in 1914 as a non-profit educational entity to make boating more safe and fun. It offers classes in basic boating safety, seamanship, navigation and related topics. Nationally, it has 40,000 members in more than 400 squadrons across the United States and in some US territories. 
 
New officers
The Atlanta group recently celebrated its “Change of Watch,” installing its officers for 2018. “We’re organized much like a branch of the military and follow many of the procedures and protocols,” Ringwall said. “For instance, at formal events our officers often wear uniforms, we honor the traditions of presenting and retiring the colors at events and saying the Pledge of Allegiance.”
 
Membership in Atlanta’s Boating Club is open to all, and new members come to the group through several different channels. Some are introduced to the club through its many boating and boating safety education classes, through complimentary vessel safety checks or as guests of current members.
 
The year is filled with many activities for people interested in all aspects of boating. The club hosts seven or eight on-the-water raft-ups on Lake Lanier, out-of-town cruises to such places as the San Juan Islands in Washington and the Georgia Coast, and 10 monthly meetings with speakers and/or boating topics.
 
Low cost classes 
The club offers dozens of low-cost classes for non-members and members. Some are available online; others are taught in the classroom or on the water. The flagship offering is “America’s Boating Course,” a basic boater safety program on a full Saturday. It costs $20 per person and is approved by the state of Georgia. Taking a boating safety course became mandatory for any boater born after January 1, 1998, who operates a motorized vessel in Georgia waters.
 
“Members can study topics from piloting, celestial navigation, marine electronics, cruise planning and weather, but taking classes regularly is not a requirement for membership,” Ringwall said. “We are constantly learning from each other and our experiences, and we encourage people of all interest and skill levels to join us.”
 
It will offer its popular one-day practical on-the-water training on Sunday, May 20, and again on Saturday, June 23. The seminar costs $150 for members and $200 for non-members and includes a copy of Powerboat Handling Illustrated, a DVD, a student manual and a certificate acknowledging participation in the training.
 
“These sessions are very engaging because of the hands-on training,” he said. “And it gives newer boaters the opportunity to interact with those who are more experienced. The setting encourages a chance for people to get to know each other and learn at the same time.” A full schedule of classes is posted online.
 
Free safety checks 
Free vessel safety checks are conducted on certain weekends throughout the year. Free to boat owners, the checks help ensure that boats have the required safety equipment on board. “It’s invaluable to boaters to make sure that their fire extinguishers are operable, that they have the correct number of life jackets, that the boat’s registration papers are in order and other items. “It’s really a convenience for boat owners, some of whom may not be aware of these requirements. It’s completely free and works like a conversation between the boat owner and our member doing the check.”
 
While some members own a boat or two – some members have several – boat ownership is not required. Members are willing to take non-owners along in most cases, especially for local activities. Atlanta’s Boating Club supports many organizations in and around Lake Lanier. Members support the lake’s sailing clubs as on-the-water officials and assistants. They interface with groups like the Department of Natural Resources. They are reliable and frequent volunteers at the Lake Lanier Association’s Shore Sweep and that group’s other projects. Atlanta’s Boating Cub members raise money for children’s charities, including the Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Calvary Children’s Home.
 
The three ‘Gs’
When Ringwall was sworn in last month, he spoke of his goals for 2018. He called them the three Gs. “You may be wondering what the three Gs are, if you haven’t heard about them,” he said with a smile. “They’re not written down anywhere; these are strictly my invention, but I hope that they will guide all of us.”
 
The three Gs? Gratitude, Goals and Great Times. “We all have gratitude for each other and what this organization means in the community through our educational and safety tenets, from classes to vessel safety checks and community support,” he said. “We have clear goals going forward, including our bring-a-friend program to increase membership and supporting even more activities to keep our members engaged. As for great times, we truly are a family.
 
“Members socialize both on and off the water and many of us get together in smaller groups outside of official club functions,” he says. “The point is, we all enjoy boating and we enjoy the camaraderie of doing things together.” 
 
Ringwall made a simple but true observation:  “So many people park their boats at marinas, but they never take them away from the dock,” he said. “Come on out and join us for an event or class. You’ll make new friends, you’ll probably learn more about boating and you’ll certainly have a good reason to use your boat more often.”
 
To learn about classes, membership or for more information about Atlanta’s Boating Club, visit www.atlantasboatingclub.com.

Posted online 2/26/18
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