If you’re interested in getting started boating this summer, then you may be a bit overwhelmed with where to actually start.
When you’re not an experienced boater, it is normal to have a bit of anxiety about going out on the water for the first time.
While it is important to have fun out there, it’s equally as important to make sure that you’re safe on the water.
To help you make the most of your first time boating experience, we consulted with some experts on the topic to get their beginner boating tips.
Learn Local Boating Laws
You wouldn’t try to drive a car without knowing the legalities of doing so, would you?
The same applies to boating, notes life-long boater Evan McCarthy, President at SportingSmiles.
The laws are there to keep you safe.
I see people all the time breaking the law and when they do they are normally putting themselves or others in danger.
I recommend everyone takes boater safety even if you are older and not required to take it.
Get To Know The Basics First
Having a captain will make your boat day far more relaxing, and you can learn from a professional the important skills to keep everyone safe on the water.
I also highly recommend taking a boat safety certification course.
Boat-Ed is a great place to start and they have courses approved for all 50 states.
They do a great job helping new boaters earn their certifications to get out on the water and stay safe while doing so.
Buy A Comfortable Life Jacket
There’s nothing worse than wearing an uncomfortable lifejacket for hours on end, and this goes for kids too.
A lifejacket sized appropriately and of the correct category for the boating you will be doing will make your time aboard a lot more enjoyable.
And yes, no matter how well you think you swim, every one on the boat needs a well fitting life jacket before leaving shore.
Only Go Out In Good Conditions
When you are just starting out with boating, you want to do it during good weather conditions. This sentiment is echoed by David Angotti, CEO of HawaiianIslands.com.
Not only will you have a terrible time when the conditions are bad, but it won’t be a safe experience for an inexperienced boater like yourself.
This doesn’t mean simply looking for a sunny day, notes John Medina, but actually checking the weather forecast for changing conditions.
The smoother the water and less wind and rain, the easier it will be for you to get comfortable with controlling and operating the boat.
Start With Small Boating Excursions
If you’re new to boating, one of the best pieces of advice I can give is to “walk before you run,” notes Ravi Parikh, CEO of RoverPass.
You don’t need to start off with an overnight trip or spend a week cruising the coastline.
Instead, build up to bigger trips by starting with smaller ones to get comfortable behind the boat.
These will help you build confidence, allow you to get a feel for how your boat works, and figure out what provisions you need on hand.
Work Up To Boating In Choppy Waters
You try to start out with your first time in the water when there isn’t a lot of traffic on the water because more boats equals choppier water – so avoid the 4th of July!
Like Michelle Henry of Outdoor Dog Fun mentioned, fewer boats means calmer waters for your boating excursion.
Ideally, you should pick a place for your first boating experience that is not that popular with other boaters, this way you ensure calmer waters.
And yes, you will need to work up to how to drive the boat when the water conditions are not calm, as noted by Mark at Camping Forge.
You’ll want to make sure to slow down for waves, and you can practice boating over waves by turning your boat around and driving over the waves you just created.
Lean On The Experience Of Others
Having a friend with boating experience or hiring a local captain to come aboard is a great way to familiarize yourself with your boat, suggests Brian Kearin, founder of BoatEasy.
A few sessions of a couple hours each where you practice seamanship, particularly handling your boat in tight quarters like around docks, will boost your confidence level and take a lot of the stress out of boating.
Be Smart About Practicing The Basics
If your boat is on a trailer, launching and retrieving it is often the most stressful aspect of boating for beginners.
The worst place to practice launching and retrieving is at a busy boat ramp on a weekend with everyone watching and waiting for you.
Instead, take your boat to the ramp one day during the week if possible when the ramp is empty and practice then.
A few hours of practicing backing your trailer down the ramp and retrieving your boat will have you looking like an expert.
Plan For An Emergency
Put together a ditch bag with your safety gear like flares, whistle, hand held GPS, and your boat’s paperwork.
Having it consolidated in one place makes finding it and accessing it easy in the event of an emergency.
And it also has the benefit of making inspections with marine law enforcement organizations like the Coast Guard a breeze as they can quickly see that you have all your required safety gear and are good to go.
As you can see, the most important thing for first time boaters is to focus on safety.
This includes everything from making sure you know how to operate the boat, to having everyone wearing life jackets, to planning for a worst case scenario on the water.
By focusing on safety, your boating adventures will be a fun adventure for the whole family.