25 Helpful Boating Tips For Beginners

With summertime among us once again, there is going to be many new boaters joining the water for the first time. For a beginner, boating can be very intimidating if you are unprepared or not sure what to expect.

Just remember, even an experienced boater first started as a beginner.

Below you will find a list of some of the greatest boating tips that I had learned when I was first starting. I am sure you will find these tips as helpful as I did.

25 Boating Tips For Beginners

  1. Boaters have a unique vocabulary. For example, the four sides of the boat are Bow = the front of the boat, Stern = the rear of the boat, Starboard = right side of a boat, and Port = left side of a boat.

  2. Do not overload your boat with too much gear and or too many passengers. By doing so, you could cause the boat to capsize, particularly in choppy water.

  3. Learn and understand how to follow channel markers. Channel markers use a combination of colors and letters to communicate with boats to direct them within the safe edges of the water.

  4. Maintain a slow speed while in or approaching the marina. That also applies for when you are passing or approaching other vessels out on the water. Not only is it dangerous to go quickly in these areas, but it will also create a large wake that will affect the other boaters nearby.

  5. Before you begin applying a new coat of wax to your boat, you should first give the boat a good wash to make sure that there is no dirt, algae, or any other debris attached to the surface. Use a clean rag that wasn’t on the ground. Otherwise, any dirt on the rag would act like sandpaper and begin to scratch your gel coat as you rubbed it around.

  6. You never want to through your anchor overboard. There are so many things that could go wrong with this, such as; the rope could wrap around your leg or your gear and pull them overboard, or worse, the anchor could swing back towards the boat and damage your hull. Instead, always make sure to lower an anchor into the water slowly.

  7. Pay attention to the weather forecast before heading out, and keep an eye on any bad weather heading your way. Turn back to shore if you think it’s going to storm. You don’t want to be out on the water if there is going to be lightening.

  8. Don’t forget to insert the drain plug before you launch your boat in the water. You wouldn’t believe how many people forget to do this.

  9. Never load and unload gear while sitting on the boat launch. Once your boat is loaded back onto the trailer and you’ve secured it using the winch cable, move your vehicle out of the way and allow the next person to use the ramp.

  10. Make sure you have a properly fitting U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD for each person that is on the boat. The PFD must be in good condition, and easy to get to by the passengers in the case of an emergency.

  11. Always pack plenty of water and non-perishable snacks for the day, especially if you are going to be boating with smaller children. You will thank me later for this tip.

  12. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen and apply it to yourself a few times per day. Don’t forget to do this for smaller children six months and older as well. Experts recommend that you use a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF. The higher the SPF, the better.

  13. Save the alcohol for when you are back on land. There is something about the wind, sun, vibrations, and the motion of being on a boat that will intensify the effects of alcohol, and drugs. Your blood-alcohol content will not rise, but you will feel drunker, which could affect your reaction time and better judgment. So although you might be okay to have one or two beers while on land, those same beers on a boat could feel like four or five.  

  14. Dress in layers of clothing, and take items off if you start to find it getting warm. Out on the water, the weather could feel much colder then it is on land.

  15. Store your cell phone, keys, wallet, and important documents in a ziplock to keep them from getting wet. Also make sure that you store these belongings in a secure location where they are not on display, or in a place where they could bounce overboard if you encounter large waves.

  16. Keep some tools on board that you can use to fix a mechanical problem, so that you are not sitting out in the middle of the water for a couple of hours until help arrives.

  17. Keep an onboard first aid kit stocked with gauze, bandages, antibiotic ointment, aspirin, scissors, etc. You never know when you might get some bumps, scrapes, and cuts. I cut my leg once climbing up the ladder on the back of the boat.

  18. Don’t forget to pack some motion sickness pills if you are boating with children or inexperienced adults. When motion sickness sticks at sea, it can be one of the most uncomfortable feelings, especially for young children.

  19. Have a float plan before you head out on the water. It is important to have a float plan in place so that someone on land knows where you might be just in case something happens.

  20. Make sure to carry a fully charged waterproof VHF marine radio on board. If you have an emergency while out on the water, you can contact the Coast Guard on channel 16.

  21. Before heading out, top up your fuel tank, and keep an eye on your fuel level as the day goes on to make sure that you will have enough to get back to land.

  22. Designate another person on the boat who can fill in for you in the case of an emergency. They should know how to call for help using the VHF radio or drive the boat back to land.

  23. Backing a trailer up to the boat launch can be very intimidating. The key is to remain calm and go slow. Keep your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel (at the 6 o’clock position). Then while backing up, whichever direction you turn the wheel, is the direction that the trailer will start to go.

  24. While moving around on the boat, always keep one hand holding onto something for support to keep yourself from falling over or losing your balance.

  25. Most of all, use common sense. Always stay alert and focused on what is happening around you, and operate your vessel at a safe speed, especially around the marina or other busy areas. Don’t forget that larger ships will take longer to stop or turn, so stay clear of getting in their way.

Recommended:

16 Boating Essentials For Kids – Safety and Fun

Complete Boating Essentials List – Do You Carry These Items?

Proper Boating Etiquette – The Unspoken Rules Of The Water