Whether it’s for fishing or water skiing, recreational boating seems to be one of America’s favorite pastimes.
In fact, 12.7 million American households own a boat for recreational use, while a further three million are considering buying one in the next year.
If you’re one of the three million, you’ll need a couple of boating tips to get you started. Let’s take a look at some of the basics:
Buying your first boat
One of Boating America‘s top boating tips is to buy your own vessel.
If you’re a complete novice, you’ll want to rent a boat from a nearby marina to test the experience before committing. However, soon we know you’ll want to own your own watercraft.
Single watersports enthusiasts may get away with a small Jet Ski. If you’d like to include your family, an open bow 18 to 21-foot boat is a great fit for lakes and inshore areas. Beyond that, the horizon is the limit and depends largely on your personal preferences and needs.
Keep in mind you’ll need a vehicle large enough to tow the boat you choose, a slip at a marina, or if you are fortunate enough to own a waterfront home, consider installing a dock and boat lift for easy access and better maintenance.
New boats in the 16 to 21-foot range usually start at about $16 000. If you’re considering buying a second-hand vessel, be sure to have a mechanic give it a once-over.
Boating tips for safety
By law, you are required to keep certain safety devices on board.
- Personal Flotation Devices (life jackets) for each passenger
- Visual Distress Signal (marine flares)
- Fire extinguisher
- A sounding device (horn, whistle, bell, etc.)
- Navigation Lighting
- Backfire Flame Control (for inboard gasoline engines)
You may want to consider general safety additions like a first aid kit, GPS and a marine radio too.
There are a couple of other boating tips that could make your first outing safer:
1. Check the weather forecast:
Even experts get caught up in rough conditions. You’ll want to practice on calmer waters with little to no wind.
2. Tell people about your plans:
Make sure someone knows who will be on the boat, where you’ll be going and how to contact you, in case something goes wrong.
3. Set up a checklist:
Make sure your boat is in sound condition and that you have all the required safety gear on board before launching.
4. Appoint a 2IC:
It’s a good idea to have someone else on board who understands the boat and can take over as skipper should something happen to you.
5. Take a course:
If you’re a boating novice, you’d benefit from taking a safety course to learn all the tips you’ll need for specific conditions.
Getting your boat in the water
It’s always good to take your time when putting your boat in the water for the first time.
You can either transfer your boat from the trailer onto the water via a slipway, or you could use a lift. Either way, you’ll want to use this opportunity to make sure your plug is in (triple check this to avoid sinking.) Also, check that all your gear is on board.
You’ll also need to remove fuel vapors from the engine compartment by switching the fans on.
Be mindful of others wanting to use the dock and take heed of no-wake zones.