Richard Hunt recalls with great fondness the early years of Clarks Hill Lake, when the newly filled reservoir became an inland mecca for boaters.
Many of those boaters, however, were as new to boating as they were to the mammoth lake - and there were plenty of accidents.
"Back then, there were a lot of cowboys on the lake, even without the jet skis we have today," said Hunt, who joined the Savannah River Sail & Power Squadron in 1958 - just two years after it was formed.
The national organization's primary objective is to improve safety along public waterways and help boaters sharpen their seamanship.
The local chapter has filled that mission well, boasting more than 4,000 graduates of its boating safety classes. Through the years, the original group has divided to create other chapters in the region.
Hunt, a retiree from Savannah River Site, said the group also helped maintain buoys and safe swimming areas at the lake.
"Every year we'd go out and see what buoys were missing or off station and give a report to the Corps, and they'd follow up and replace missing buoys," he said. "We'd do whatever we could to help."
Today, technology has brought many wonderful changes to boats, but boating safety remains much the same, said Ed Leibfarth, who teaches the Squadron's boating classes.
"Anchoring is still an art - not a science," he told students during a recent introductory course. "You become proficient by trying, and learning from your mistakes."
Leibfarth's instruction touches on a host of topics, from nautical terminology to celestial navigation and etiquette at sea. The students range from small boat owners to yachtsmen.
"We try to teach safety - the rules of the road," said Glenn Baldridge, the 100-member chapter's commander.
The squadron's safety course, called Boatsmart, includes three sessions and a final exam. Completion earns a certificate that qualifies the boat owner for a reduction in insurance premiums, Baldridge said.
The next classes are scheduled for 7-9 p.m. Thursday and March 6 at the Boathouse, with a final exam at 7 p.m. March 13. For information about Boatsmart, you can contact the squadron at 796-8532.
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