When you’re on the open water, drifting from place to place, with not a single boat or piece of land in sight, you won’t have to worry much about the manoeuvrability or control of your boat. Even someone totally inexperienced can manage to control the vessel for a while and not run into anything – or damage anything onboard.
But when it comes to docking the boat, navigating tight waters, or trying to get around other vessels, it’s important to know how to handle yourself. If you’re a beginner in the boating world, there are several tips that can help you do your best.
BOAT HANDLING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
Follow these tips if you want to be better at handling a boat:
- Review local laws. Before heading on the water, make sure you understand all local laws, so you can handle your boat safely and in full legal compliance.
- Remain calm at all times. The most important rule in boat handling is to avoid panicking. When you remain calm, you’ll be able to make more rational, responsible decisions, and you’ll avoid the tendency to overcorrect. Practice mindfulness and deep breathing to remain in control at all times.
- Make safety your top priority. Before handling any boat as a beginner, make sure safety is your top priority. Whatever exercises you practice and wherever you take your boat, keep the safety of your passengers in mind.
- Give everyone lifejackets. In line with this, make sure everyone on your vessel is equipped with a properly fitting lifejacket. This is especially important if you don’t have much experience.
- Start slow (if possible). If you’re new to the world of boating, there’s no reason to try and set a speed record or venture into choppy waters. Instead, start slow. Begin by piloting someone else’s boat on the open water, where you won’t have to worry about obstacles or bad conditions. Once you get more experienced, you can gradually introduce yourself to more challenging circumstances.
- Avoid inclement weather. In line with this, avoid inclement weather. If you’re not paying attention to the weather conditions around you, you could end up stuck in a vicious storm – and there, even the most experienced captains will struggle. Pay attention to the clouds in the sky and listen to weather reports regularly to keep yourself safe.
- Account for the wind. Even in “good” weather conditions, there may be strong winds interfering with your ability to drive the boat straight reliably. It’s important to pay attention to the wind and account for it; for example, if there’s a strong wind toward the dock, you can get the boat close and allow the wind to do the rest of the work.
- Slow down to brace for waves. Even amateur boaters know that strong waves have the power to damage your boat and interfere with your navigation. But you should know that even small waves can be disruptive. Always slow down to brace for waves and understand the risk profile of different types of waves.
- Adjust the trim gradually. Adjusting the trim allows you to raise or lower the bow to change the running angle of the boat in the water. Making small, gradual adjustments will change the way the boat handles the water. Every boat is a little bit different, so you’ll have to experiment to find the “sweet spot” for your vessel. If you can dial in the right trim, you’ll find it much easier to control the boat.
- Work with your team. Chances are, you’ll be boating with a team – even if it’s just your spouse and children. In many ways, driving a boat is a group effort, so train your guests on how to use the onboard equipment and help you navigate.
- Keep your distance. Most boats on the water will drive predictably and avoid you at all costs. But there’s always the chance that someone will make a strange or unexpected manoeuvre, possibly crossing into your path. Try to keep your distance from other vessels to minimize your chances of a collision or other problems.
- Use thrusters with caution. Some new boats come equipped with bow thrusters or stern thrusters. These useful components can make it easier to dock your boat or get out of a tight situation, but they shouldn’t be abused. It’s important to avoid using a thruster for longer than 2 seconds in a given action; otherwise, you’ll run the risk of burnout.
- Build experience with onboard gadgets. Spend some time using your onboard gadgets, such as your navigation system, in a safe and comfortable environment. You’ll be relying on these devices when you need them most – and that’s not the time to figure out you don’t really know how they work. The more familiar you are with their functionality, the better.
- Get lots of practice. Boating is like any other skill; you’ll naturally get better with practice. The more time you spend on the water, the better you’ll get at manoeuvring, navigating, and handling tough situations.
- Become familiar with different boats. Finally, understand that every boat is different and that your handling skills may not necessarily translate from one to the other. If you can, get experience driving different types of boats so you can see how different they feel.