Friday, February 23, 2018

What Every Boater Should Know

May 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

what every boater should know

How many times in your boating life have you said, “I wish someone had told me that…”? If you’re like me — and most everyone else you’ll encounter on the water — you learned something about your boat and the hobby of boating the hard way.

Although nothing beats experience and practice, I’ll share with you the 10 things I wish I had known before I ever set out.  My hard-learned lessons will help you avoid some common problems and get more enjoyment out of boating.

  1. Take boating safety classes. Simply put, you don’t know what you don’t know. Never assume you know all you need to know before you go boating, especially if you are new at it. Learning from family and friends is great, but it’s tough to overestimate the value of classes taught by qualified and proficient instructors.
  2. Buy towing insurance. There are two kinds of boaters — those who have been towed and those who will need a tow. It doesn’t matter how well you take care of your boat and how well you know the waterways; at some point, you will need assistance. Towing insurance offers you great peace of mind and is cheap when compared to the alternative. Without insurance, you may be in for a very expensive surprise.
  3. Use a broker when buying or selling a boat. You may be thinking that I’m using this list as a way to plug my own business. So don’t take my word for it. Ask around. The help and protection afforded both buyer and seller in a brokered transaction, overseen by a qualified, licensed broker, is tough to beat.
  4. Make a trailered boat checklist. Check and review your step-by-step list every time you launch your boat.  It’s easy to forget  things both big and small when you are prepping for a day on the water; a checklist prompts you to confirm that the drain plug is in, the outdrive is up, all lines and fenders are in the boat, and that you’ve brought along the right gear, toys, food, and beverages. Let’s face it, boat ramps can be busy places and a little stress-inducing at times, so take advice from an old helicopter pilot — checklists will save your butt.
  5. Practice docking when nobody is looking. Take a day of vacation in the middle of the week, if necessary, and practice docking your boat again and again in a no-stress environment.
  6. Buy the biggest fenders you can store on board. Whether docking or rafting up to friends’ boats, this little nugget will spare you unplanned (aren’t they always?) gel coat and paint repairs.
  7. Schedule your vessel’s routine and required maintenance. When she’s running like a top, it’s easy to forget to change impellers, belts, and hoses on schedule. If you’re unsure what should be done routinely, consult your boat’s manual or ask a trusted mechanic. For larger vessels, consider subscribing to a vessel management service.
  8. Apply sunscreen. Do it before you get on the boat and reapply regularly.
  9. Take friends boating. Reach out especially to those who haven’t been boating before. You get bonus points if they have kids! The satisfaction both you and your friends will get from a day aboard turns into priceless memories.
  10. Stop and take it all in. As long as conditions permit, stop in the middle of every boating day. Turn off the engine, turn off the radio, and just drift. Look around and listen to the water, experiencing the moment and your surroundings. If you are a sailor, you likely already know what this is like; every power boater should also experience this magic.

By Matt Howard

Matt Howard is a lifelong sailor and power boater, retired US Marine, US Coast Guard licensed Master, and yacht broker with United Yacht Sales. He lives in northern Virginia and boats primarily on the Chesapeake Bay. He can be reached at

Comments are closed.