OK. So you hit the lottery, you got a bundle of money, you just tookpossession of that Hatteras 50 and you're dying for warm weather so you can get out on the water.

But do you know the difference between a red nun and a green can? Do you know what they mean? Do you knowwhen to give way? Do you know what to do when clouds in the summertime sky start looking like anvils? And can you cleat off a line without losing a couple of fingers?

Flotilla 12 of the Coast Guard Auxiliary can teach all that and more in a 13-week safe-boating course that begins Tuesday at the CoastGuard Station in Curtis Bay. For $18 and a few hours of your time onTuesday or Thursday nights, you can learn about boat construction and nomenclature -- port and starboard, for example -- rigging and handling, tying knots and plotting courses.

The Tuesday night course is designed for power boaters, with one session on basic sailing. The Thursday session is dedicated to sailors, with one session on marine engines.

"We've been offering safe-boating courses for years because we need to educate the boaters to 'know before you go,' " said Robert J. Birrane, the former flotilla commander, referring to one of the auxiliary's slogans.

"One of the biggest problems on the water is somebody with a lot of money who goes out and buys a nice, big vessel and doesn't know what the rules are," added Ruby Perkins, an auxiliary spokeswoman. "They cut across your bow, don't control their wakes. They break all the rules and they don't even know they're doing it."

The auxiliary courses explain those rules to first-time boatersas well as veterans, she said.

"I've done surveys at the beginning of the classes I teach and found that between 10 and 15 people in each class have been boating for 20 years and never took a course," Perkins said.

The classes, given in the spring and fall, generally draw between 30 and 60 boaters from all walks of life, she said.

"We've had everyone from college professors to people who do manual labor," Birrane said. "And we expect to see a substantial increase in the numbers because the Department of Natural Resources is not giving the courses any more."

Department spokesman Rob Gould said DNR's boating courses were canceled in November in a wave of state budget cuts.

The department lost $175,000 used to run the program that taught an estimated 6,500 boaters a year with a core of volunteer instructors, he said.

Meanwhile, the DNR is asking local governments to offer the courses. "We'll supply the books and other things, even the instructors," Gould said. But local governments would be asked to supply meeting places.

In addition, he said, the department is asking the Coast Guard Auxiliary to help.

For your $18, you get a seamanship text and workbook and a length of line to practice knot-tying. Ifyou can't make every class, don't worry, Birrane said. "You can always use the workbook and ask for help at the next class," he explained.

For further information, call 859-1218.

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