A sinking sailboat.

How to avoid the typical mistakes of a beginner boater

While boating can be a lot of fun, it’s important to remember that it can also be dangerous. Being out on the water, far from land, means that help can be difficult to come by in the event of an accident. This makes preparation and following safety precautions even more crucial to avoid accidents and potential tragedies such as injuries or death.

New boaters should take the time to get to know their boat well and ensure that it is equipped with all necessary safety equipment. It’s also important to familiarize yourself with navigational skills and procedures to avoid accidents such as hitting rocks or running aground. By taking the necessary steps to ensure safety, you can enjoy your boating and docking experience to the fullest.

Perform regular maintenance

Regular maintenance gives you the piece of mind that everything is in order.
Regular maintenance gives you the piece of mind that everything is in order.

As a boat owner, regular maintenance is crucial to ensure the boat is in good working condition and safe to use. Before heading out on the water, it’s important to conduct a thorough check of the boat’s equipment and systems. 

Even if you’ve kept up with regular maintenance, it’s essential to conduct a rigorous inspection before each and every trip. This includes checking emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers, life jackets, and lifeboats, making sure they are in good condition, not expired, and sufficient for all crew members.

An inspection of the hull should also be done, to check for any holes or leaks, and to ensure it is fit to continue its journey.

 Additionally, radio and fuel equipment, batteries, engine oil, and coolant levels should be checked to ensure they are in good working condition. The Navy recommends that boat maintenance should not be done on the fly, and repairs should only be performed by professionals who are qualified to do so.

 Only professionals protected for this type of service should carry out repairs on your boat.

Always watch the weather 

Heavy clouds on a bay full of boats.
Heavy clouds on a bay full of boats.

Before setting off, it’s important to check the weather and water conditions again to ensure it’s safe to go boating. If bad weather is forecasted, it’s best to postpone your trip. You can check for updates on the news, radio, and the internet.

Even if you’ve already set off, it’s important to keep an eye on the weather and be aware of any changes. A radio can be useful for receiving updates, but also keep an eye on the sky and look out for signs of poor weather such as fog, dark clouds, temperature drops, and falling barometer.

If you sense that poor weather is approaching, head back to shore as soon as possible. Even if you’re an experienced boater, it can be difficult to operate the vessel in adverse weather conditions, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Be smart and pay attention

A boater at the helm.
A boater at the helm.

It’s important to understand the currents and wind patterns of the area where you’ll be boating. This knowledge can help you to plan your route and avoid potential problems.

Before setting off, share your sailing plan with a trusted contact, friend, or even the local coast guard. This way, if an accident occurs, others will know where to look for your boat.

It’s essential that only those with adequate skill and experience should operate the boat. Keep a watchful eye on your surroundings and consider having a helper to reduce distractions.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that operating a boat under the influence of alcohol is never acceptable. Just like with driving, it’s important to stay sober to ensure the safety of yourself and your passengers. Be smart and make the responsible decision to avoid putting yourself and others in danger.

Do not speed and drive the boat safely 

Large yatch going through rough seas.
Large yatch going through rough seas.

Once on the water, it’s important to avoid taking unnecessary risks or reckless behavior. Attempting dangerous maneuvers or driving too fast can quickly turn a peaceful trip into a tragedy.

Excessive speed can lead to accidents such as hitting shore or pier, or navigating in tight spaces in crowded marinas. It’s important to be aware of the traffic rules in the water even though you don’t need a license to drive a boat.

Driving at a slower pace also has the added benefit of saving fuel. Knowing the optimal cruising speed of your boat engine can help to conserve fuel and make the journey more efficient.

Never leave loose items and other items on the side of the boat

It’s important to ensure that all seating and furniture is kept away from the sides of the vessel. Neglecting this guideline can lead to people being thrown overboard, potentially resulting in serious injury or death.

Additionally, be cautious when allowing individuals who are under the influence of alcohol to be near the edges of the boat. Accidents can occur easily, it’s important to be aware of the safety precautions in this situation.

Take extra care when docking and departing

When anchoring, it’s important to slow down the vessel and consider factors such as the tide and distance between other boats. This will help you to determine the correct length of chains to use.

Before leaving the dock, make sure that the thrusters remain inactive until all passengers have boarded the vessel. This is a safety measure to prevent accidents while people are boarding.

Complete safety equipment

A life vest.
A life vest.

It’s important to have essential safety equipment on board, such as a fire extinguisher, flares, horns, whistle, first aid kit, and a ditch bag. 

Additionally, having an alternate propulsion method, such as an extra electric motor or canoe paddle can be useful in case of emergency.

Life jackets are a legal requirement and must be properly fitted to the wearer. They should be worn at all times when boating, not just as an option.

Boating can be dangerous, and even the slightest mistake or carelessness can have serious consequences. To ensure that your trips are enjoyable and safe, it’s important to follow safety precautions and always use your common sense.

Max Francisco