Boating is a popular form of recreation because it is filled with so many possibilities, but operating a vessel is also filled with responsibilities. When you’re just getting started, it’s equally important to make sure you’re prepared for both.
Make It Legal
Depending on what state you’re boating in, rules about what type of training is necessary and whether operators need to be licensed vary greatly. Be sure to understand the unique regulations and obligations that apply to the operator and possibly passengers before you even begin to plan your excursion. Even if your state does not require training, Captain Mitchell Stoller recommends everyone who will be in the watercraft should have basic understanding of water and boating safety.
Check Your Craft
Before leaving dry land, make sure you have all necessary equipment onboard stowed away and secured in its proper place. Check that engine and electrical systems are operational and that steering movement, propeller and hull are all in tip-top shape. It takes some extra time to thoroughly evaluate the boat for seaworthiness, but you don’t want to wait until you’re out on open water to find out there’s something wrong.
Know Your Waterway
Whether you’re planning a trip out on a lake or hitting the high seas, obtain local marine charts to check for known hazards in the area. Make sure you’re aware of any conditions the area is prone to such as severe storms or rough waters. You can also ask local boaters for their advice on avoiding peak times when the area is overcrowded and for recommendations on the best spots for fishing or other recreation.
Check the Weather
Before setting out on your water adventure, check area forecasts for any fog, storms, and severe weather expected in the area. Even if the forecast is predicting clear skies, keep a close eye on changing conditions and adapt accordingly. Open water makes you and your vessel particularly vulnerable to turbulent water conditions and lightning strikes, so stay vigilant.
Tell Someone Your Plans
Although the thought of getting in your craft and going wherever the water takes you is part of the appeal of boating, make sure to tell someone on dry land where you’ll be and approximately when you’ll return. This way, if you run into any unexpected problems and don’t make it to shore as expected, you know there’s a chance help will already be on its way. Even if you’re only expecting a relatively short trip on easy waters, situations like mechanical breakdown or getting lost can happen anytime.
Know Your Limits
You’ll have plenty of time for daring outings as you gain more experience, so save the adventures for when you’re more seasoned and stick to conditions and waterways you know you can competently and safely navigate. If you have to ask yourself whether you can handle it, you probably shouldn’t try it as a beginner.
Boating can be a relaxing, fun and safe part of your life as long as start with the basics and always plan ahead.