Fall Boating Tips

Most boaters look upon the end of summer with a sense of sadness, thinking it means the end of the boating season. But a few boaters get excited at the arrival of autumn, because they know fall offers some of the best boating days of the year.

With cool, crisp days, great fishing, no crowds on the water and the chance to view beautiful fall foliage along the coastline, boating in autumn is a special experience. But with cooler temperatures and shorter days, fall boating also has its challenges. Here are a few tips to help make your fall boating experience a great one.

  • Fuel Up. With the busy summer season behind them, some fuel docks will close in the fall. So don’t assume you can fill up at your destination. Fill your tank ahead of time.
  • Wear a PFD. You should always wear a PFD on a boat. It’s even more important to do so when it’s cold. Autumn days might be warm, but the season’s chilly nights mean the water can get very cold. Wearing a PFD will help protect you from the initial shock if you go in the water.
  • Check your VHF. With fewer boats on the water, some areas cut back their on-the-water law enforcement in autumn. If you get in trouble, patrol boats might not be frequently passing by. Make sure your VHF radio is working properly and that your cell phone is fully charged.
  • Dress Appropriately. Autumn days can bring significant fluctuations in temperature and conditions. Dress in layers so you can adapt if it gets warmer or cooler. Also bring rain gear and a change of clothes.
  • Have Lights. It gets dark earlier each day during the fall, and boaters are often surprised by how quickly the sun goes down. Be prepared by having a waterproof headlamp and/or flashlight onboard. You should also check that your navigational lights are working properly.
  • Keep an Eye on the Weather. During autumn, storms can form unexpectedly and bring strong rains, winds, and wild swings in temperature. Watch the weather before and during your trip so you’re not caught by surprise.
  • File a Float Plan. Before you head out on the water, make sure to let someone know where you’ll be and when you expect to be back. At this time of year, if you get in trouble on the water, time is of the essence.
  • Have a Warm Drink. On cold days, a hot drink hits the spot. If you don’t have a galley to prepare one, carry a hot drink in a thermos.