Tips for New Boaters

July 12, 2019

You’ve bought your first boat, and you’re imagining all the great times that are in store for you – the fun days with the family, fishing trips, entertaining friends, relaxing sunset cruises. That all awaits you. But first comes the task of learning how to operate your boat.

If you’ve never boated before, captaining your boat on the water for the first time can be an intimidating experience. The more you do it, the better you will get. But if you keep a few things in mind from Day One, you’ll have a much easier time beginning your boating experience. Here are a few tips that will help you have a smooth boating journey, no matter your experience level.

Leave a Float Plan

Before you leave the dock, make sure to tell somebody on land what your plans are. Tell them where you are going and when you plan to return. That way, if something does go wrong and you get stuck out on the water, somebody onshore knows when and where to look for you.

Check the Weather

Even if you’ve been checking the weather all week, make sure to check the forecast again just before you head out on your boat. Weather conditions have a way of rapidly changing, especially along the coast. You never want to be caught by a surprise storm, but you especially don’t if you’re an inexperienced boater. If you’re spending the entire day on the water, continue to check the weather while you’re out there.

Be Fast at the Boat Ramp

If you trailer boat, you’ll likely find other boaters needing to use the boat ramp, too. Try to be considerate to those boaters by getting on and off the boat ramp as quickly as possible. You can help that happen by loading your boat ahead of time, not while you’re on the ramp. If you’re new to launching your boat, get comfortable with it by finding an empty parking lot and practicing steering your trailer.

Wear a Lifejacket

A good lifejacket is your most important piece of boating equipment. According to the Coast Guard, more than 80 percent of boaters who drown are not wearing lifejackets. Half of those accidents occurred when the water was calm, and most of those victims could swim. A lot of new lifejackets today are lightweight, comfortable and (believe it or not) even stylish, so there’s no excuse not to wear one.

Go Slow When Docking

Few boating experiences are more stressful than navigating your boat in a crowded dock area and safely docking your boat. This is one situation where it pays to go slow. If you go too fast, you can end up damaging your boat, the dock or even somebody else’s boat. Take it slow and easy, and if you feel like it isn’t going well, don’t be afraid to back away and then start again.

Secure Your Valuables

It’s a terrible feeling when you hear the “splash” of your smartphone falling into the water and then see it fade away as it sinks toward the bottom. Valuables such as phones, keys and wallets have a way of getting wet or falling in the water when you bring them on your boat. Make sure you have them safely secured.

Carry a First-Aid Kit

If you have an accident while you’re out on the water, it’s going to be a little while before you can receive medical attention. Make sure you have a well-stocked first-aid kit onboard your boat so that you can treat yourself until you get back to land or until emergency services can reach you.

Have Tools Onboard

No matter how new or fancy your boat is, mechanical problems do occasionally pop up while you’re boating. That’s why it’s always a good idea to carry a well-stocked tool box and have spare parts on your boat. That will allow you to attempt to fix any mechanical problems yourself and you hopefully aren’t stuck waiting on the water until help arrives.