Perfect Captain: Boating basics for all new boat ownersAngler Tips
Whether you’re learning to boat so you can get out on the water to catch fish or just for the joy of boating, Kenneth Reaves of PerfectCaptain.com brings you the basics you need to learn in this month’s guest column.
Boating is a joy like no other. Being out on the water, the wind in your hair and the wheel in your hands is something you have to do for yourself to experience the feeling of it.
But if you’re going to be learning to boat, for whatever reason, you can’t just jump aboard and go for it.
It’s essential to learn the basics, and learn them well, before you get out on the water. Being prepared is half the battle!
Here are the basics of boating every first-timer must learn.
Getting your boating licence is different from getting your automobile licence, as you usually don’t have to get out on the water for boat driver’s education. To make sure that you’ve got the most comprehensive training to captain your boat, you should take an additional safety course.
This will help you to take the right course of action when you’re faced with a crossing or overtaking situation, or when you need to decide what to do when meeting head-on. Depending on the boat that you’re planning to get, it could come packed with all types of gadgets, like Automatic Radar Plotting Aid, gyro stabilizers, automatic tracking aids or Electronic Chart Display Information System.
Knowing how to use all these gadgets will help you to navigate better when you’re in the open water, where there aren’t many sign posts to tell you where you are. You’ll also be able to put together a comprehensive checklist of all the safety gear that’s on your boat.
Regulations will vary by state, but you’ll find that most states require children under the age of 16 to wear a life jacket on the water. Although it’s not law, adults should wear one too. Before you head out, you’d need to make sure that each person on the boat is wearing their life jacket.
You’ll need to run through your safety check, which would include checking your anchor and line, indicating compasses, sound signals, marine radio, fire extinguishers and smoking orange and red distress flares, to name a few things.
It’s always best to be prepared in advance, and having a pre-departure checklist can help keep you prepared for anything that could happen on the water. This list isn’t just to make sure that no safety rules have been overlooked.
It can remind you to make sure that you’ve packed your first aid kit on-board, that the flashlights batteries are fresh and that your toolbox is in an easy-to-reach spot. It could also remind you to stock up with food and water before you depart.
We love that technology has advanced, but anything could happen on the water and it’s always wise to leave a float plan on-shore. This will let people know where you’re going and when they may need to look for you in case of an accident.
You don’t have to walk around with a clipboard – you can create a checklist on your smartphone a few days before you go out on the water.
Launching And Docking Your Boat
When launching your boat, you need to follow the boat ramp etiquette. There are some unwritten rules when it comes to launching the boat, and it can be quite stressful if you’re unaware of them.
You want to make sure that your pre-launch preparation is complete before you even think about approaching the ramp. Some areas will have dedicated make-ready areas so you can prepare your boat. If they don’t, choose a spot that’s out of the way of any traffic.
Make sure to give people space when launching or docking your boat. Most ramps will look like one really wide ramp, as there are no concrete dividers, even on multiple boat ramp lanes. Keep your boat to the farthest side of the ramp as you possibly can, and avoid going down the middle, especially when it’s busy.
Make sure that you have your navigation lights on when your boat touches the water. Before you try to dock your boat, attach boat bumpers and bow cleats, as this will prevent any damage being done to the boat by the dock.
Approach the dock from the downwind side. This will help to reduce and minimize the impact on the boat. Make sure that you approach the dock slowly. When the boat is nearly at a standstill, secure your boat. It’s important to have a good handle on controlling your boat when launching and docking!
Being a good boater is a little bit about enjoyment and learning the ropes, but a whole lot about common sense!
Following the rules is just one part of it. When you’re out on the water, anything can happen. Trusting your instinct is as important as remembering what you’ve learned about boating.
Whether you’re out on the lake with your rod and reel or simply taking a Sunday boating trip with the family, be careful, be safe and enjoy it!
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