Useful tips for people new to boating written by commercial Master’s.
- Know the time and heights of high and low tides before you head out. Tides are good indicators of when to go or not to go across coastal bars and may also assist you to avoid groundings during low tide periods.
- Check the weather early and often and don’t be afraid to cancel your plans.
- Make sure your vessel is equipped with the required safety equipment and that it is up-to-date and in good working order.
- If you’re using a boat ramp have a plan to launch and retrieve your vessel as quickly as possible. Practice reversing your trailer before heading to the boat ramp for the first time.
- Leave a float plan with someone ashore.
- Always overdress, you can always take clothing off. Conditions on the water can change rapidly.
- Boating is fun, but can be disorientating. Local knowledge of the area you plan to boat in is critical. Familarise yourself with a chart of the area, note headlands, water depths and hazards marked.
Know your vessels position in relation to the chart at all times. Have a good working knowledge of your on board electronics and know how to navigate within the buoys, beacons and marks. These navigation marks are the road signs on the water.
- Be sure you have plenty of food and water. Everyone is happier, especially children, when they are well fed.
- Protect yourself from the effects of wind, sun and glare from the water. Protect your eyes with sunglasses, wear a wide-brimmed hat and bring sunscreen.
- Make sure another person on your boat knows how to drive your boat or get help in case of an emergency.
- Approach a marina, jetty, wharf or boat ramp slowly.
- Take a fully charged handheld VHF radio on every trip.
- Find a lifejacket which you like and are comfortable wearing. Wear it especially in times of heightened risk or if you are boating alone.
- Maintain a proper lookout at all times. Be aware of what is happening around you. Many accidents on the water occur during lapses of commonsense and panic.
- Know and understand the Collision Regulations. The purpose of these regulations is to provide guidelines for action in any situation where two vessels encounter one another. These rules apply to all vessels from kayaks to yachts and ocean liners.
- Know and obey special state rules.
- Watch your wash and wake. Wake or the effect of the waves caused by your boat as it travels through the water at varying speeds and with varying loads on board can cause problems for others as you pass by. Wake will vary in differing water conditions, where there is a running sea or swell and in shallows. Watch out especially for fisherman, children learning to sail, kayaks and other craft that can be set rocking, be swamped or capsized by the passing of your vessel and slow down appropriately, remember passing distances. When your vessel is approaching the wake of another vessel turn into it to keep the vessel from rocking that can cause alarm or injury on board. It is good seamanship practice in busy areas to ensure that your wake dissipates before reaching moored vessels, vessels alongside a wharf or the shore in environmentally sensitive areas.
Remember, boating skills and seamanship cannot be taught in a day. Like learning to drive a car, these skills are learned over time, with practice and in varying conditions. Whether you’re new to boating or already have some experience, no matter what size your vessel is, undertaking boating education and practical training will extend your horizons and expand your knowledge and confidence.