10 Boating Tips The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
Boating for the first time can be overwhelming, just like any other new outdoor experience. If you’re not diligent, it’s easy to make terrible mistakes that could hurt you and other boaters on the lake.
Luckily, we are here to help you, so you don’t have to worry about anything! Here are some essential tips for beginners to keep in mind when boating to ensure a perfect first-time experience:
10 Boating Tips for Beginners
1. Get a Boating License
In most states, you’ll need a boating license to operate a recreational boat or personal watercraft.
It’s technically a certificate, and you can easily obtain it by taking a boating course, even if it’s online.
The main objective, though, is to know the basic navigation rules to ensure that you stay safe and protect other boaters while out there.
These rules include what to do when passing a boat, meeting head-on with another boat, docking, overtaking, safety equipment to bring, boat side signs, and regulatory marks.
Once you learn the rules, it will be easier for you to cruise effectively and remain under complete control of your boat throughout the trip.
The good thing about boating courses is that they are easily accessible. And if you live in states like California, New York, and Virginia, you can sign up for a free online boating course to get a license.
2. Always Keep It Safe
While boating is a low-risk and extremely enjoyable outdoor activity, it’s important to keep it safe. If you want to keep it safe when boating, you should pay attention to the rules and bring all the necessary safety equipment for boating.
Everyone on board should have a life jacket, vest, or personal floatation device, even if they are good swimmers.
A life jacket will protect you from drowning and allow others to spot and help you when you fall into the water.
If you plan to bring your pet on board, you should buy them a life jacket as they may drown in strong waves.
Other safety equipment when boating includes anchors and lines, fire extinguishers, pumps, compasses, paddles, air horns, cellphone or marine radio, and floating water torches.
Another crucial safety aspect is to provide proper care and maintenance to the boat. This includes general cleaning, checking the oil and batteries, winterizing the boat, regular engine inspection, and more.
3. Remember to Watch the Weather
When you buy your first boat, you might be tempted to go boating whenever your schedule allows.
However, when to go boating doesn’t entirely depend on your schedule. Mother Nature has a huge influence on it.
You should always check the weather before deciding to go out to sail. Even when the weather is calm and sunny, check the forecast, as things could change suddenly.
Stay out of the water if the forecast indicates storms and lightning, no matter how calm the weather seems.
Nevertheless, if you must catch the sunny weather and enjoy it while it lasts, then don’t go too far on the open water as you might get stuck.
4. Learn the Waterways and Plan Ahead
Before you even head out to the lake or ocean, it’s important to study the waterways and understand them well to avoid getting lost.
It’s easy to spot sand bars and shallow shoals when boating, but you should be able to tell which way you came from for safe navigation.
You should also learn the local rules of the water body you want to explore and the required permissions, so you don’t end up with legal complications.
5. Decide the Activities to Try While Out There
Sailing for the first time may not be your most relaxing trip, given the learning anxiety, but you can still spice it up and have some fun on the water.
You can find some fun things to do on a boat and make a checklist of the necessary equipment needed for such activities.
If you are cruising with friends, you can meet beforehand and discuss the practical options.
6. Start Small
Unless you plan to sail with an expert, I would not recommend a long-distance cruise or an overnight camping trip for beginners.
The best thing to do is to ensure that you are walking before you start running. I know that long boating trips sound like a lot of fun, but you are better off starting small.
Then you can build up and extend your adventures as you gain confidence operating the boat.
As you build experience sailing, you’ll find out what gear works for your trips and how to best respond to certain situations on the water.
This is particularly important if you plan to sail with your kids, as they have varied needs and may require a lot of work to keep things under control.
7. Don’t Sail Alone
You should never head to the water alone when new to boating. It would help if you had a crew of close friends or family, as they will help with certain things while out there.
Having someone else on board means you won’t have to keep checking for rocks, safety markers, and shallow water, as they can do it for you while you focus on learning.
Plus, you never know what could happen while you are on the lake, so it’s always important to have somebody to help.
Once you decide on who to bring on your first boating trip, get the entire crew involved. Yes, even your kids.
This is actually a cool trick when sailing with teens for the first time since the last thing you want is them getting on your nerves while you are learning to navigate.
Along with easing your work, delegating tasks to your boating crew will help bond and, in turn, make the trip enjoyable for everyone.
It will promote teamwork and prevent members from arguing over who to carry out which roles, allowing you to have a smooth and exciting ride.
8. Slow Down for Big Waves
It may seem fun to hop over waves while on the wheel, but this isn’t always a good idea.
What you need to bear in mind as the captain is that the passengers feel the effect of hitting big waves more than you do.
If you feel a small impact after hopping over a wave without pulling the throttle, the passengers may have felt a huge bang. And this could hurt them or cause the boat to capsize.
So, you should slow down before hitting a big wave to protect your boat and the passengers.
9. Use Your Boat’s Trim to Your Advantage
The boat’s trim is a crucial aspect when navigating. Unfortunately, many boaters, even experienced ones, forget all about it since the boat seems to run well.
While it’s true that the boat could run well, there are ways to make it run better and take the riding experience to the next level.
Once you start your boat, you can play with the trim and use it to your advantage. But since you are new to boating, you may not be familiar with the boat trim terminology, so let’s talk about it.
Trimming up means tilting the engine forward so the propeller moves up and the bow upwards. This will change how the hull meets the waves and positively impact maneuverability and speed.
When trimming down, the engine returns to a position parallel to the transom. This position also refers to as zero trim, as it brings the propeller closer to the boat, moving the bow down.
You can trim down when the water gets choppy to help the boat cut through the waves and prevent capsizing.
A positive trim means the trim is out of the water and fully up, allowing much air under the hull.
On the other hand, a negative trim means the trim is down with the bow dipped toward the water, and the boat in risk of nosediving.
Overall, you shouldn’t over-trim as it could result in porpoising, whereby the bow moves up and down, and it can be dangerous, especially if the boat is on speed.
It’s also important to remember that different boats respond differently to trim, so you should practice with yours and find its sweet spot.
10. Have Fun and Wave to Other Boaters
Finally, when you get on the water with your boat, just enjoy the ride and wave to other boaters. You have now joined a new, enthusiastic boating family.
Always trust your instincts and the basic knowledge you gained from the boating course when faced with a challenging situation on the water.
You should also feel free to ask for help from other boaters when stuck, as most of us are always ready to assist anyone in distress on the water.
Whether you want to explore your local lakes and rivers or the ocean, boating is a rewarding adventure. As long as you know how to navigate and follow the rules, you’ll have a lot of fun on the water.
I hope this guide was useful in helping you get started in boating. Feel free to apply these tips; you will be less stressed out there!