"If only somebody told me..."

Did you ever think of saying this at some point in your boating life? Did you learn something the hard way about your boat or boating? If so, you aren’t alone. Here are ten things that come to mind to help boaters avoid some common problems and get more out of boating.

  1. Make a checklist for trailering and review it every time you launch your boat. Things like checking that the drain plug is in, that the outdrive is up, that you have all your lines and fenders in the boat, along with water toys, food and beverages, sunscreen, etc. It’s easy to forget things both big and small when you are prepping for a day on the water. And let’s face it, boat ramps can be busy places and a little stress-inducing at times. Take it from this old helicopter pilot - checklists will save your butt.

  2. Take boating safety classes. Simply put, you don’t know what you don’t know. Don’t assume you know all you need to know before you go boating, especially if you are new at it. Learning from friends is great, but it’s tough to overestimate the value of classes taught by someone qualified and proficient.

    Take friends boating, especially those who haven’t been boating before. Bonus points if they have kids. The satisfaction both you and they will get from it is priceless.

  3. 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. At some point, you will need assistance. Towing insurance is cheap and offers great peace of mind. Without insurance, you are in for an expensive surprise.

  4. Use a broker when buying or selling a boat. You may be thinking, oh sure Matt, way to plug your own business. Don’t take my word for it. Ask around. The protection afforded both buyer and seller in a brokered transaction, overseen by a qualified, licensed broker, is tough to beat.

  5. Practice docking when nobody is looking. Take a day of vacation in the middle of the week, if necessary, to get some practice on your boat 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?) gelcoat and paint repairs.

  7. Make a checklist and schedule for your vessel’s required maintenance. When she is running like a top, it’s easy to forget things like changing impellers, belts and hoses on schedule. If you’re unsure what should be on this list, consult your boat’s manual if you have one or consult a good mechanic. For larger vessels, consider subscribing to a vessel management service.

  8. Take friends boating, especially those who haven’t been boating before. Bonus points if they have kids. The satisfaction both you and they will get from it is priceless.

  9. Every time you go boating, as long as conditions permit, at some point in the day just stop in the middle of the body of water you are on and drift. Turn off the engine. Turn off the radio. Sit, look around, and listen to the water. If you are a sailor, you already know what this is like. Every powerboater should also experience this magic.

  10. Apply sunscreen before you get on the boat!