The coastal boating competence course will be presented by members of the Darien Sail and Power Squadron beginning Feb. 5.

"We are presenting this complete course, which awards the State Safe Boating Certificate, only once this year, starting in just a few weeks, so we want everyone to know about it, here at the holiday break," Dick Woods, the chief instructor, said. "We also think that an early sign-up, by way of a gift certificate, will be a welcome reminder that the boating season is not too far ahead of us -- and that it is time to get ready."

An "easy to give" certificate will serve as a "stocking stuffer" on short notice. All gift certificates will be personally delivered, on time for the holidays.

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Other students who do not want to be part of the gift-certificate program may register at any time at the squadron's website at Registration is free, payment may be made at the first class.

The course will take place at Middlesex Middle School at 7 p.m. Feb. 5 and continue on consecutive Wednesday evenings for six classes, a review and an exam, with no class on Feb. 19 during the public schools' recess.

"We have renamed this course `coastal boating competence,' " Frank Kemp, one of the instructors, said. "We will continue presenting the material that has made this course so successful over the past few years, but we have changed the name to emphasize that it is for people who want to take their boats out of the harbor, across the Sound, and enjoy some time cruising these beautiful waters. We will still award the Connecticut Safe Boating Certificate, the `license' needed to operate a boat in Connecticut."

"We are also very pleased to announce that members of this course will be included in the squadron's spring refresher -- a morning of on-the-water activities, when the weather is better," Peter Kelly, the squadron's education officer, said. "This new program will allow students to actually practice what they learned in the classroom -- the use of charts, radios, lines, anchoring, as much as time will allow."

Kelly also noted that the third year of the program will see a mix of classroom and on-the-water activities.

The state's Safe Boating Certificate regulations apply to all operators of vessels registered in the state, regardless of age.

The cost of the class is $95 and includes the textbook, charts and plotting equipment. The gift certificate is available by e-mailing or by calling 203-656-1129. For more information, visit