Whether you’ve just purchased your first boat, or want to get a feel for being out on the water before you sign on that dotted line, everyone starts as a boating beginner. It can be intimidating – piloting a boat is just like driving a car, except it’s completely different. If you want to start your captaining journey, here are six boating tips for beginners to get you started.
- Start with Training
You wouldn’t get behind the wheel of a car without some training, so why would you do the same with a boat? The best tip that we can give you is to get some training first. This doesn’t have to be official training – you can just as quickly learn what you need to know to safely pilot a boat from a friend who spends a lot of time on the water. The critical point to take away from this tip is that you shouldn’t head out onto the water alone with no training.
Make sure you check what your state’s boating rules and regulations are. Some states require you to have a boating license while others only need a valid drivers license to be able to pilot a boat.
- Don’t Forget to Check the Weather
There’s nothing worse than heading out on the water on what appears to be a sunny day, only to find yourself trapped in a squall. Check the weather every time before you head out. NOAA is an excellent resource for boaters because they provide weather information on land and the water. Check things like water temperature, weather forecasts, and wind speed to help you determine the best time to head out and explore your local waterways.
- Practice Loading and Unloading Your Boat
Driving with a boat trailer attached to your car or truck can be easy – if you’re driving forward in a straight line. Learning to back up your trailer down a boat ramp is tricky and requires practice. The last thing you want to do is damage your boat or back your vehicle so far down the ramp that you end up stuck in the water and need of rescue.
Practicing loading and unloading your boat can also keep you from making enemies at the boat ramp. Everyone wants to get out on the water as quickly as possible, and if your inexperience is holding up the line, you won’t be making any friends.
- Properly Tow Inflatable Boats
Depending on the size of your boat, you may not be able to get everywhere you want to go – especially if your boat has a deep keel. Inflatable boats can provide you with extra mobility if you find an island or a river mouth that you want to explore while you’re out, but you need to know how to tow them properly to prevent damage to your boat, your inflatable craft or even yourself.
An inflatable should always be attached to at least two points on your main craft. It’s recommended that you have d-rings on the port and starboard sides to keep the inflatable stable and prevent it from drifting in your wake. Three-point connections are better – they add another D-ring in between the other two points for added stability – but not every boat is equipped with all of these tie-down points.
- Don’t Skimp on Safety Equipment
There’s no way to avoid it – purchasing and maintaining a boat is an expensive hobby. You might be tempted to cut corners to save a few dollars here and there by buying used equipment or financing parts that you can’t afford outright. One thing that you should never skimp on is safety equipment.
Even if you can swim, life jackets can save your life. Drowning is the number one cause of death in boating accidents, and 83 percent of those who drowned after an accident weren’t wearing life jackets. Make sure you have life jackets on at all times – and have enough of them for everyone who boards your boat.
- Make Sure You Have Everything You Need
If you leave something on shore, especially if you’re heading way out in the ocean, getting a replacement can be nearly impossible. Write out a checklist before you leave the ramp to ensure that you have everything you need to enjoy your deep-sea exploration. Include things like food, water, clothing, towels (if you’re planning to go swimming), a first aid kit and of course, sunscreen.
We all started as boating beginners once. Don’t let that keep you away from the water. Start by finding someone to teach you the basics and move forward from there.