Changes Encourage Sailors to Seek Boating Instruction Aligned with New National Standards | Cruising World
National On-Water Standards

National On-Water Standards

National On-Water Standards

Through a nonprofit grant from the U.S. Coast Guard, new instruction standards for skills-based boater education are now available. America’s leading course providers, such as US Sailing and the American Sailing Association (ASA), are reviewing their offerings to ensure alignment with the new national standards.

Applying the new standards to an on-water course helps to ensure boaters are being taught essential safety and boating skills. Sailors are encouraged to look for the National On-Water Standards (NOWS) logo when shopping for a boater education course. This logo signifies course providers are aligned with the new standards.

Over a seven-year period, the standards have been vetted by more than 900 expert recreational boating instructors to hone them for universal adaptation in beginner-level boating educational courses regardless of where or when they are taught. The new standards serve the power, sail and human-propelled market segments.

The NOWS program was established in 2011 to address the emerging need for more widely available standardized boating-skills instruction. At one time, the curriculum for on-water course providers was as diverse as the organizations teaching them. The National Boating Safety Advisory Council recommended development of new skills-based education standards. US Sailing — a well-known course provider — applied for Coast Guard nonprofit grant funds to spearhead the collaboration process for developing the instructional standards, and the NOWS program was formed.

NOWS first established a subject-matter-expert panel that included representatives from every major on-water education course provider. The group met and teleconferenced regularly to discuss essential skills and best practices for teaching them to set a foundation for all safety and boating education across the country. The skills and best practices were field tested and recorded for ease of implementation and effectiveness. In January 2018, the last of four on-water skills-based instruction standards was made official by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), America’s foremost authenticator of national public health standards.

NOWS facilitator Brian Dorval said, “Our group, through a very careful and lengthy consensus process, and with the support of the American Boat and Yacht Council, has done the work to create, evaluate, refine and publish new on-water, skills-based instruction standards. Now it’s time for the marketplace to align with and promote their use. We have shifted into a promotional phase where we are encouraging every on-water course provider to review the new standards and to use the NOWS insignia to show consumers that their courses are aligned with the new standards.”

NOWS will raise the level of quality, value and consistency of on-water boating-skills instruction across the country. Please make your boating season safer and more enjoyable by taking a boating-skills education course. And be sure to look for the NOWS logo signifying the course provider is aligned with the new National On-Water Standards. For more information, please visit


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