Tips & Information

for New Boaters

Important Tips for New Boat Owners

  1. Take a Course - Plan on taking a Safe Boating Course of some kind. If you have the time, consider taking one before you make your first boat purchase. Why? The class will be informative, it may give you a reduced premium on your insurance, and you'll be inundated with valuable advice from local boat owners. At the very least, you need to know the basic rules of the water or you'll be a hazard to yourself, your passengers, and others.
  2. Start Small - If you've never owned a boat of any kind, consider buying something smaller and more basic than you may be envisioning. There are many reasons for this. Buying smaller will enable you to buy a newer model. A smaller boat will be less likely to give you headaches and your mistakes won't be as expensive. And when you decide you love boating and you're ready to move up to something bigger, a smaller boat will be much easier to sell.
  3. Ramp Up - If you're buying a trailer rig, before you get your boat, drive to the local boat ramp during peak time and watch how other boaters do it. Similarly, when your first trip is scheduled, try to make it at an off-peak hour so the ramp is less likely to be crowded. It's also a good idea to pull into an empty parking lot and practice your trailer handling skills before getting to the ramp.
  4. Tech - Bring a cell phone and an inexpensive, portable GPS with you when you go out. Set up your GPS to lay down "tracks" and keep it on while you are moving - and don't erase them. You will soon have a convenient road map of how to get to your favorite spots in case you ever need it. And if you should ever have a problem, you'll not only be able to call for help but you can also tell them precisely where you are.
  5. Safety in (Small) Numbers - Chances are, everyone you know will want to go out on your new boat. If possible, try to minimize the number of passengers for your first few trips; it will make everything you do easier. Most importantly, a smaller head count will allow you to concentrate on operating your boat. Contrary to what you may be thinking, operating a boat is not "just like driving a car." It will take some effort and practice before it becomes second nature to you.
  6. Keep Everyone Informed - One of the first things you should do when taking out new passengers is to explain the basics to someone else on board. Making sure that someone else knows how to turn the motor "off" and where the anchor is can be important in an emergency. Show someone how to put the motor in neutral, how to use the radio, and where you keep your cell phone. And make sure everyone knows where the Personal Flotation Devices (a.k.a. "PFDs" or "life jackets") are stowed.
  7. Operate Efficiently - Cars operate equally well at many different speeds. Boats are different. Learn to operate your boat 95% of the time at one of two basic speeds: idle speed and "up on a plane." Get used to running your boat at what's called "idle" or "displacement speed" (usually 5-6 mph) or up on a plane (usually about 20-25 mph). Running at speeds between those two points (or much faster) is generally inefficient, it wastes gas, and it usually create a huge wake. Unlike your car, you will not save gas by running your boat at 2000 RPM's instead of 3000 RPM's. (These figures apply to most entry-level recreational powerboats).
  8. Practice Makes Perfect - Make time to practice with your new boat. Throw a PFD overboard while at cruising speed when there's no one behind you. Tell someone on board to keep an eye on it and go try and pick it up. Find some empty slips and try backing into one. Find a remote buoy or some other fixed object and pretend it's the rear roller of your trailer; try to get close to it while lining up with something. Boating is not a contact sport so you need to learn to handle your boat.
  9. West Marine - Get yourself a West Marine catalog. This is not only a great reference book for what's available in terms of parts and accessories, but for a new boater, their "blue pages" and advice sections are a gold mine of sound advice and technical information. Also, by having an idea of what things cost to repair or replace, you'll be a smarter buyer and you'll have a better understanding of what you're getting into.
  10. DiscoverBoating.com - If you're a new boat owner, you'll definitely want to spend some time on DiscoverBoating.com. In their own words, "Discover Boating is a public awareness effort managed by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) on behalf of the North American recreational boating industry." Run your mouse across this informative site's navigation bar and you'll get a quick glimpse of the depth of information that they've tailored just for you, the new boat owner.