While intro to boating classes may focus on tying a proper knot, safety issues and docking, MarineMax instructors cover so much more in the various classes they teach.
Class offerings include intro to boating, electronics classes, navigation skills, kids on the water classes, fishing instruction, chef-taught on-board cooking seminars, pet safety classes and everything in between. MarineMax helps you learn everything you need know to enjoy your days on the water to the fullest.
Below are descriptions of the classes most frequently offered by MarineMax stores. Class offerings and formats vary by location.
To find upcoming classes in your area, visit the Events section on MarineMax.com.
You can also follow your local store on Facebook to see class announcements.
Boating Electronics Classes
Today’s boats feature quite a bit of fancy equipment. Weekend boaters may not have the time to fully understand all that their electronic systems do, and a class is a quick way to learn about the systems.
“We try to touch on all the electronics: radar, fish finders, GPS, chartplotters, satellite communications, safety equipment (EPIRB and AIS), autopilot, satellite TV and stereo,” says Guy Pigeon, who handles electronics sales and installation for MarineMax. He teaches MarineMax electronics classes at the Clearwater, Fla., store.
Pigeon uses a combination of hands-on instruction, where students are actually working with equipment, and question-and-answer time.
“The challenge is that there are so many manufacturers, each with their own operating system. So we focus on the fundamentals of what the equipment does,” he says. “At the start of a class, I ask what types of boats and equipment our customers use and I tailor the conversation as much as possible.”
The class is also useful for someone who wants to add equipment to a boat or who is considering an upgrade to equipment. “You can attend the class to learn generally how the equipment works and then research to find exactly which chartplotter or satellite communications system you’d like to purchase,” Pigeon notes.
Chartplotting & Navigation
You know how your chartplotter always displays that disclaimer when it starts? The one that notes this is a navigation aid and that you should still have physical charts on board? Well, in the event your electronic equipment fails, can you plot a course?
“We go old school in this class, teaching with paper nautical charts, parallel rules, and dividers,” says Keith Lake, a delivery captain who teaches classes at MarineMax in Clearwater. “We teach latitude and longitude, how to measure. We figure out distance times speed and what heading you need to avoid sandbars and jetties.”
He adds, “The class really makes you appreciate your electronic chartplotter!”
At the end of the three-hour class in Clearwater, Lake and his students look at the chartplotters. “We reset a chartplotter to factory standards and the students go through to modify their preferences, including local time, head up instead of north up, and changing color contours. This way we ensure they understand how to modify the settings on their own chartplotters in the event of a glitch. This segment of the class is really geared toward making chartplotters most useful based on customers’ preferences,” he says.
Intro to Boating
MarineMax’s Intro to Boating classes are open to everyone: men, women and teens.
“We spend some time in the classroom going over the basics, from how to tie a line to navigation and safety, and then we actually spend some time in the boats so everyone has a turn as captain,” says Lake.
Some instructors combine classroom time with on-the-water instruction. Other classes are primarily hands-on, in-the-boat instruction.
The instructors try to choose boats similar to the boats owned by or being considered by the majority of students. In some cases, classes are scheduled and planned around a certain type of boat.
Women on the Water
“Our Women on Water classes are extremely successful,” says Greg Riley, who teaches two WOW classes per month from April to September at MarineMax’s Lake of the Ozarks store in Missouri.
The classes are the same as the Intro to Boating classes, but they are for women only.
What is the number one thing women want to learn in a class? “Ninety-five percent of women want to learn to dock their boats,” Riley says. “When I teach a four-hour class, we spend three hours docking. We break it down into steps everyone understands and we practice over and over.”
While many women take the WOW classes because they find it stressful to be taught by their husbands, some take the class because they are interested in owning a boat themselves but they are intimidated.
The class is appropriate for women of all ages. In fact, some families make it a social outing for grandma, mom and teen daughters.
Kids in Boating
“The Kids in Boating classes are really just for fun,” Lake says. “But we do go over safety issues, life jackets, how to tie a line on a cleat, how to coil the rope, and things that kids can do to help mom or dad on the boat.”
He adds, “Here in Clearwater, we take them out on the pontoon, let them drive a bit and hope the dolphins put on a show.”
The classes are great for kids ages 6 to 11.
In addition to classes taught by MarineMax delivery captains, some MarineMax stores will arrange to have outside experts come to the stores or showrooms to teach seminars.
“For example, we occasionally have fishfinder reps and GPS reps at the store to speak about their products. We’ve also had boat manufacturers teach maintenance classes,” says Greta Andrews, event coordinator for MarineMax’s Mid-Atlantic stores.
At the Clearwater showroom, MarineMax will sometimes host a day of seminars, including an electronics segment, cleats and knot-tying, cooking on board, and electronics classes.
Delivery Captains Provide One-on-One Owner Orientation
MarineMax classes are packed with information and lots of fun, but individual orientations are the best way to learn everything about your specific boat. MarineMax delivery captains provide owner orientation with every purchase.
“Whether you buy a new or pre-owned boat, the owner orientation is a free service by MarineMax,” Riley says. “When we deliver the boat, we teach you everything you need to know to operate the boat safely. We make sure you can dock safely, that you know how to check engine fluids, that you know what every button on your boat does.”
Pigeon notes, “When we deliver a boat to a customer, we go over every feature. Depending on the size of the boat and the owners’ experience, the orientation can take a few hours or a couple of days. As part of that one-on-one orientation, we explain how to operate each individual system on the boat.”
Riley adds, “We’ll work with you until you are comfortable. Even if that means you need to call us to schedule another session. In fact, I this spring, I met at least twice with more than a quarter of the people who bought boats from our store.”
“We make sure every switch works; we answer every question. We even practice putting small boats on their trailers,” Lake says. “And if you have questions come up as you are learning your boat, you can call us for more help.”