So, I'm a little unclear how requiring that a person who operates a recreational vessel take a safety course..compromises safety.
It doesn't and requiring safety courses or proof of competency isn't the issue I'm talking about. It's establishing those requirements in such stupid ways that safety is actually compromised.
Bob, in the example, is more competent to operate and command the vessel than probably 95% of recreational boaters out there. The only reason he can't legally is because of the land ownership. Louise, maybe on the first boat ride of her life, can steer the boat legally only because she doesn't own any land in CT. Do you think this makes sense? Do you think safety is promoted in this situation by making it illegal for Bob to steer?
Louise steering is not "operating" (at least in the real world) as long as Bob is standing watch and directing her. Bob could be navigating, assessing traffic, talking on the radio, getting weather reports, trimming sails, etc. Meanwhile, he's telling Louise to steer XXX, head for that light, come a bit left, etc. If Bob sets a course across a shoal or under the bows of a tanker, does it make sense for Louise to be legally responsible because she was turning the wheel? Once they get into harbor and heavy traffic, does it make sense for Bob to be unable to legally take the wheel simply because he owns some land in the state?
A well established and foundation principle of safety is use of all available resources. If you can safely steer a vessel with an autopilot by assessing course, speed, hazards, CPA of traffic, why not with a guest? It's never going to happen that all guests have operator cards. Fatigue is a major accident factor. Navigation and decision making doesn't improve with haste. Making it illegal for guests to act as helmsmen, which is in no real way "operating" does not contribute to safety. Forcing me to remain at the helm and try to talk an inexperienced guest through the process of sail handling can easily create greater risk of accident or injury than having them steer while I quickly and efficiently do the task after assessing traffic and knowing that they are not going to have to make any course decisions.
Letting a guest "take the deck" and be the primary watch stander while the Master of the vessel sleeps is a different issue. However, I've done it, even with fairly inexperience people. I tell them, "If you see anything
you call me. I brief them about scanning the horizon, make sure they know how to maintain a compass course, etc. If they hit something, I consider it 100% my fault for improperly assessing their abilities or properly briefing them. Same thing when I have someone take the helm in the harbor so I can get the sails down.
The heart of what I am objecting to is the law taking away my willingness and right to accept the full responsibility for operating (in the real sense) a vessel. In accord with the responsibility of operation that I take seriously, I now feel that I have to disclose to guests, at least in CT and states with similar laws, that they may be held liable for my mistakes if I let them steer. That puts a damper on things. In a world where responsibility is a vanishing concept, this seems a shame.