Top 10 Missed Online Boating Course Questions


We look at the top 10 questions students answer incorrectly on a variety of BoatUS Foundation online course tests. How does your knowledge stack up?

The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water promotes safe, clean, and responsible boating. The nonprofit arm of BoatUS provides educational outreach to boaters and anglers with the purpose of reducing accidents and fatalities, increasing stewardship of America’s waterways, and keeping boating safe for all.

To that end, the Foundation offers a range of online and on-water boating safety training courses — including 36 free state courses — that can be found at More than 171,000 people took the free boating certification courses last year.

Beyond the free courses, the Foundation offers 14 specialized courses for a fee ranging from $8.50 to $40, including Modern Marine Navigation, How to Use GPS, and Planning Your Cruise.

“Our students often start with the basic course and get excited to learn more,” says Amanda Suttles Pérez, the Foundation’s Director of Education. “With all the courses we offer, there is something for everyone, whether your interests are offshore cruising, inland boating, sail, or power — we have courses to help you expand your knowledge and grow in confidence.”

Now Is The Time To Take A Class!

It may not feel like boating season yet, but the BoatUS Foundation for Safety & Clean Water urges boaters to enroll in a boating education course. “We recommend that boaters get educated prior to the kickoff of the boating season to make the most of your time on the water,” says Amanda Suttles Pérez, Director of Education for the BoatUS Foundation.

“Statistics show that taking a boating education course will make you a better — and safer — boater,” she explains. “Even seasoned boaters can spend the off season brushing up on their knowledge of safe boat operation.”

As an incentive, the Foundation is offering 25% off all its specialized courses purchased through March 31, 2020, using the code SPRING25 ( In addition, the Foundation will also offer $25 off any BoatUS Foundation on-water training courses purchased during the same time period (

While the courses are designed to educate, Pérez notes certain questions seem to consistently get the better of test-takers. She hears grumbling from some students, but there’s only one correct answer.

Can you get them right? Test your knowledge with these 10 questions most often answered incorrectly. You’ll find the correct answers at the end of the article.

1. Air moves from ______________ to ______________?
a. East to west
b. High to low pressure areas
c. Low to high-pressure areas
d. Land to water
(From “Weather for Boaters”)

2. True or false: One desirable feature of LPG is that it liquefies at a relatively low pressure, allowing low-cost tanks to contain a large amount of energy because liquid is much denser than gas.
(From “Propane Systems on your Boat”)

3. The Q flag used for foreign port entry means:
a. We need immediate medical attention
b. Vessel is healthy, request approval to enter
c. We have no pets aboard
d. We have nothing to declare
(From “Planning Your Cruise”)

4. True or false: AIS uses VHF radio frequencies to broadcast the AIS information.
(From “AIS Electronics for Boaters”)

5. The difference between compass variation and deviation is:
a. Variation is caused by the effects of the magnetic properties of the vessel, where deviation is caused by the misalignment of the magnetic lines of force with the meridians of longitude.
b. Variation is caused by the misalignment of the magnetic lines of force with the meridians of longitude; Deviation is caused by the effects of the magnetic properties of the vessel.
c. Variation depends upon the vessel’s location; deviation depends upon the vessel’s heading.
d. There is no difference.
(From “Modern Marine Navigation”)

6. True or false: It makes little difference whether statute miles or nautical miles are selected during setup of the GPS, because they are very similar.
(From “How To Use GPS”)

7. What does a Cunningham do?
a. Changes the location of draft in the mainsail
b. Changes the amount of draft in the mainsail
c. Secures the mainsail tack to the mast
d. Affects the amount of twist in the mainsail
(From “Learn to Sail”)

8. Match the VHF channel on the top to the channel descriptions below.
A. _______ Channel 16
B. _______ Channel 9
C. _______ Channels 68, 69, 71, 78, 72
D. _______ Channel 6
E. _______ Channel 13
F. _______ Channel WX2

1. Weather information
2. Ship-to-ship safety
3. Navigation safety; ship-to-ship, locks, bridges
4. Alternate hailing channel
5. Primary hailing channel; emergency, distress
6. Working channels for recreational boaters
(From “All About Marine Radio”)

9. Which of the following will increase the effects of alcohol and drugs when boating?
a. Vibration
b. Food
c. Spray
d. Temperature
(From “Basic Boating Course”)

10. When power-driven vessels are in sight of one another and meeting or crossing at a distance within half a mile of each other, each vessel must use sound signals. What do two short horn blasts from another vessel mean in a meeting situation?
a. They intend to pass starboard side to starboard side
b. They intend to pass port side to port side
c. They intend to maintain course and speed
d. They intend to immediately stop and reverse engines
(From “Basic Boating Course”)

Find out how you did using the answer key below.

Answer Key

1. B. High- to low-pressure areas. The uneven heating of the earth’s surface by the sun creates different pressure areas that cause air to move — the wind to blow.

2. True. Also of value is that the vapor, which forms in the top of the tank, is drawn off as a gas, which is easier to ignite than a liquid like gasoline.

3. B. Vessel is healthy, request approval to enter (also known as “free pratique”)

4. True. AIS uses the VHF frequencies 161.975 MHz and 162.025 MHz to broadcast and receive the AIS information.

5. B. Variation is caused by the misalignment of the magnetic lines of force with the meridians of longitude, whereas deviation is caused by the effects of the magnetic properties of the vessel. Variation depends upon the vessel’s location; Deviation depends upon the vessel’s heading. Among students incorrectly answering, it’s about evenly split between A and C.

6. False. The nautical mile represents a distance that is about 15% greater than the statute mile. This difference is significant, particularly when navigating close to shore in conditions of reduced visibility, such as fog.

7. A. The Cunningham changes the location of draft in the mainsail.

8. A. 5, B. 4, C. 6, D. 2, E. 3, F. 1

9. A. People often choose temperature, thinking it means “heat.” They will argue with us endlessly, though the course specifically mentions boater fatigue in relationship to engine noise and vibration.

10. A. Two short horn blasts from another vessel mean they intend to pass starboard side to starboard side.

Rich Armstrong

Senior Editor, BoatUS Magazine