A Quick Guide to Boating for Beginners
As nursery rhymes have taught us, boating is a lot of fun. The calm waters, the swaying palms, the wind blowing in your face—what’s not to like?
Well, there might be a couple of things. See, boating can be a great activity, but only if you know what to expect. If you simply set sail without any skills or experience, your boating trip could turn awkward in a hurry.
Want to make sure you’re ready for the open sea and unknown waters? Start by checking out this guide on boating for beginners!
Learn the Basics
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Like most activities worth doing, boating requires proper training. The best way to get it is to find a guide, instructor, or boat friend.
Start by researching the boating establishments in your area. You’re looking for boating clubs and groups of boating enthusiasts. The closer you are to a large water body, the easier it will be to find a club for your needs.
Once you have a mentor, hit the water to learn. Start by learning the boating basics, such as the importance of wind awareness. Then, focus on specific skills like steering, rigging, tying knots, tacking, and so on.
You may also want to get an International Certificate of Competence (ICC). Depending on where you live, this may even be mandatory. Look into online or local community courses to learn more about the application process.
Know Your Gadgets
A boat is, among other things, a mechanical device. To operate it properly, you’ll need to do your research on boating gadgets.
First, there are your navigational tools. You likely already know about radars and magnetic compasses, but what about gyro stabilizers? Then there are things like autopilot systems, navigational lights, GPS receivers, etc.
Then, you’ll need to learn about the relevant safety equipment. That includes your mainstays like distress flares, but also things like rowlocks. You’ll also need to check everything’s in order, from the radio to the paddles.
If you’re going fishing, you’ll need to get acquainted with fishing gadgets as well. For instance, do you know how a fish finder works? What about color chart plotters, multi-beam sonars, or all-weather fishing gear?
Obtain a License
As far as essential boating tips go, getting a license is near the top. Consider the type of boating you’ll do, then look into what’s required for it.
The paperwork you’ll need depends on where you’ll use the boat. For instance, you may need a different permit for rivers and canals. You should also consider the boat’s type, its length, and the duration of the license.
Let’s say you want to sail on an inland waterway. In most regions, you’ll need a license and sailing registration. That said, some clubs have sailing rights for some waterways, saving their members from the licensing hassle.
You may also need a license for mooring your boat while it’s not in use. The cost of this license depends on the location and amenities. This is true for any mooring option, from towpath moorings to the best-equipped marinas.
Ensure Your Safety
If you have a boating accident, a life jacket can make all the difference. Out of 81% of boating accident victims in 2021, 83% didn’t have a life jacket.
Even if you know how to swim, a life jacket can give you peace of mind. That’s particularly true if you’re sailing in a fast-moving environment. In some states, life jackets are also mandatory for all ages.
Another way to prepare for the worst is to bring a first aid kit with you. After all, if something happens, there won’t be a doctor available. A first aid kit can help with anything, from handling fall injuries to getting sunburn.
Also, consider bringing a toolbox for handling mechanical issues. On the water, even something minor like a choked spark plug may cause you to get stranded. Bring some basic tools and spare parts to avoid this fate!
Prepare for Launch
Before you go boating, ensure you’re fully prepared. If you don’t know what you’re doing out there, you may end up frustrating fellow boaters.
First, come up with a pre-departure checklist. This will help you confirm that you haven’t overlooked any safety rules or precautions. You can do this on your phone or use a clipboard for some old-fashioned fun.
Next, dress appropriately. Keep in mind that boating is an outdoor activity, so be ready for any changes in weather conditions. Dress in layers, but keep your valuables stowed away in storage or secured to something.
Another thing you’ll need is a float plan. If something goes wrong on your trip, somebody onshore should know when and where to look for you. A comprehensive float plan has saved many boaters in the past.
Finally, check the skies before you set sail. If you’re a beginner boater, a sudden squall could be dangerous. Ideal boating conditions involve wind speeds of 1-14 knots and calm currents.
Use Common Sense
Our last tip may seem a bit obvious, but it bears mentioning. When you’re out on the water, rely on common sense to determine what to do.
For example, if you don’t have much boating experience, choose your destination carefully. A lake that’s easily accessible would be perfect, as it provides calm waters, no currents, and extended shorelines.
When you’re operating a boat, avoid alcohol. The sun and wind will enhance its impairing effects, which may lead to trouble. In an emergency, have the person most familiar with boat operations take over the wheel.
When you’re not using your boat, keep it protected. During winter, consider having it shrink-wrapped by professionals. Learn more about covered boat storage at this link.
More on Boating for Beginners
The truth is, boating is too complicated an activity to comprehend right away. It requires a lot of effort and dedication to be worthwhile. That said, we all have to start somewhere—and that’s what this guide is for!
Want to learn more about boating for beginners? Interested in boating maintenance tips? Keep checking out our Tips and Tricks section!
Last Updated on February 7, 2023