Boating for Beginners: 11 Top Tips When You’re New to Boating

We think it’s safe to say that the majority of people out there enjoy being on a boat. Unless, of course, they’re afraid of the water.

boating is such an incredible experience, whether you’re out on the water for sport or just a little R and R. There’s truly nothing like it. If you’re in the majority that agrees, you’ve probably considered getting yourself a boat at some point in time. We think it’s a worthwhile investment and that you should go for it.

Boating for Beginners

Of course, boating for beginners is no easy feat. That’s why we’ve put together this guide, filled with beginner boating tips to help you get started. Keep reading to learn more.

Boating for Beginners 101

Whatever your reason for wanting a boat may be, it’s still a big decision. If you’re completely new to boating—i.e., never experienced boating except for that one time—you’re going to want to learn all you can before leaping. By learning, we mean reading our boating for beginner’s guide and testing out some boats for yourself.

Keep in mind, owning a boat is a big commitment and responsibility. We’re not saying you can’t handle it, but it’s not a decision you want to rush either. First and foremost, you have to figure out what type of boat you like and what you’ll be using it for. For example, do you want a fishing pontoon, a sailboat, a yacht, a speed boat, a jet ski, etc.?

You’ll also have to take into consideration the storage. Will you be docking it at a marina slip? At home? A boatyard?—and, do you have a vehicle large enough to tow it? Also, do you have the funds to purchase, store, and maintain a boat?

Of course, these are all minor details compared to all the new boater information you’re about to take in. Once you’ve read through the following beginner boating tips, you can circle back to all of that.  

1. Practice Makes Perfect

In other words, you’re going to have to undergo some training. Driving a boat isn’t like driving a car—it takes a lot more practice. 

It helps if you’ve been around boats your whole life, or have a close experienced friend that can teach you. If that’s not the case, you’re going to want to enlist the help of a seasoned boater. You can check with boating clubs, marine organizations or seek out an instructor who offers private boating lessons. 

In some states, boating lessons are required to get your boating license. Either way, you’re going to need someone to teach you the terminology, how to read the wind, how to steer, tie knots, prepare the boat, etc.

2. You Need a License and Registration

Regardless of what kind of boating you plan to do, you’re going to need a boating license and a registration. Hey, it is like driving a car after all! 

Depending on the state you live in, there will be different requirements to meet, different fees, and different ways to complete your boater education course. The type of license and registration you get for your boat will depend on what type of boat you have and how you will be using it. 

You won’t be able to take your boat out on the water legally without the proper documents. 

3. You Need to Have Knowledge of Your Boat

It’s ideal to know your boat inside and out, right down to the Yamaha propellers on the motor. 

This means knowing where everything necessary and mechanically is located. You especially want to take the time to get to know any and all gadgets that come with the boat. This includes the magnetic compass, radar, autopilot system, tracking aids, speed and distance log devices, your GPS, the voyage data recorder, navigational lights, daylight signaling lamps, bells, flags, etc.

You also want to have a good grasp on your safety equipment and how it all works. This means your distress flares, life jackets, fire extinguishers, your radio, waterproof torches, etc.

Know your boat down to the wood. Or whatever type of materials it’s made out of. You get the point.

4. Always Check the Weather First

Always, always, ALWAYS check the weather before you head out onto the water. Check the weather forecast for the day, take a moment to look out and observe the skies, and if you have any radar apps on your phone, check those too.

The weather can be very unpredictable. Storms can sneak up on you out of nowhere. If you’re new to boating, even the smallest of storms can be dangerous. It’s always best to play it safe. So, triple-check the weather.  

5. Prepare Yourself With a Checklist

Even if you’re a seasoned boating veteran, you should always be prepared. Creating a boating checklist, however, is extremely important for those who are new to boating.

Your pre-boating checklist should include:

  • A weather check
  • A food and water supply check
  • A first aid kit check
  • An emergency gear kit check
  • A fuel check (depending on the type of boat)

Ideally, this list should include anything that will prepare you for your day or night on the water. Remember, you want to take every precaution to make sure you’ve got everything you need and that everything works properly.

6. Don’t Forget Your Float Plan

This is one of the most important boating tips, so pay attention.

Be sure to create a float plan. A float plan is a record of where you’re going, where you left from, who’s on the boat, the type of boat it is, your radio signal and number, etc. 

You want to leave your float plan onshore with someone you can trust. This way, in the event that something happens, people know where you are. If necessary, the Coast Guard will be contacted to rescue you and your party. 

7. Two Words: Life Jackets

It doesn’t matter how well of a swimmer you are, life jackets save lives.

Make sure to have a lifejacket for yourself as well as everyone else on board. They may not be the coolest looking accessories, but you’ll be glad you don’t have to tread water if you’re accidentally tossed overboard. 

Treading water is especially difficult in the open ocean where there may be strong currents, a riptide, a deadly undertow, or large swells. Also, not having life jackets on board can result in a hefty fine

Moral of the story: make sure there are enough life jackets for everybody and make sure you wear them while boating.

8. Make Sure There’s a First Aid Kit Aboard

Boating can be hazardous—even if you’re not even moving. 

When you’re on a boat in the water, everything can and will get wet. You could easily slip and cut yourself. The water may be rough, and you could lose your balance—and slip and cut yourself. See where we’re going with this?

Chances are, you won’t have a doctor on board. So, your first aid kit is the next best thing. Make sure it’s fully stocked with bandaids, antiseptic, bandages, aloe, pain relievers, cold compresses, etc. 

Making sure you have a first aid kit that’s fully stocked should always be a part of your pre-boating checklist. 

9. You Need More Than Just a Bathing Suit

It’s always much hotter on land than out on the water. Heat isn’t your only concern though. You also want to protect yourself as much as possible from the sun, especially since it reflects off the water and onto you.

So, along with paying close attention to the weather, make sure to dress appropriately. When the sun goes down and the wind picks up, it can get pretty chilly out there. It’s also advisable to bring a hat and sunglasses to provide extra shade from those UV rays.

Wearing layers is your best bet, especially if you plan to be out on the water past sundown and burn easily. It’s also a good idea to bring a spare change of clothing just in case. You never know if your clothes will get soaked or if someone else will have forgotten a sweatshirt.

10. Always Have a Toolbox on Hand

You need a toolbox on board with the appropriate tools—and you need to know how to use them. You want to be able to take care of minor mechanical issues at the very least. Trust us, being prepared with the right tools may just save you from being stuck out on the water for hours. Help doesn’t always come quick!

If you have enough room, it’s good to have some spare parts available.

11. Bring Enough Food and Water

Another one of our favorite beginner boating tips. Pack enough food and water. Not just for your estimated time on the water, but also enough for emergencies. The last thing you want is to be stranded without at least having enough water. Dehydration kills.

No Bananas On Board

If you forget everything else from our boating for beginner’s guide, remember this: DO NOT bring bananas on board. They are very bad luck. Also, please don’t forget everything else—and wear sunscreen.

If you found this guide helpful, we’ve got plenty more to teach you about all things outdoors. Check out the rest of our blog and see for yourself.

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