Boats are fun and useful to travel in and are used by huge portions of the population for both work and pleasure. Boats also require some knowledge of equipment, the environment, boat operations, and safety. With some preparation, anyone can enjoy boating!
The Boat and Equipment
There are many types of boats, from large ocean-going cruise ships to small rowboats. Many people own pontoon or deck boats, which are boats made to hold larger groups of people with lots of seating, or fishing boats which are smaller boats with less seating. No matter the type of boat, there are some basic components like an engine on all power boats, that are present across the board.
Understanding the equipment present on your boat is crucial to its operation. Although not everyone can be or should be an expert on engines or plastics or rudders, a general knowledge of your equipment is a good idea. Also, understanding the equipment can make it easier to use a boat and maintain it during use.
Finally, you should understand boating terminology. Aft, bow, stern, starboard, bulkhead, cast off, and many other terms are crucial not only to learn about boating but also for communication with other boaters and any boating authorities.
- Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency: Boating equipment
- Michigan Department of Natural Resources: Boating
- US Navy: Glossary of terms
Trip Planning and Preparation
One of the best parts about boating is planning all the fun trips that you want to take! If you’re on a cruise or a boat tour, it is likely that you’ll have very little preparation to do beyond buying tickets and perhaps watching a safety video. But if you’re operating a boat on your trip, there is some planning to be done!
You should always let someone know when you are leaving and where you plan to go, and when you expect to be back. You should also check the weather, double check your equipment, and make sure that you have enough food and water, as well as sunscreen, medicines, and anything else you may need.
- Boating US Foundation: Planning your cruise
- United States Power Squadrons: What is a float plan
- Missouri Department of Conservation: Trip planning and distances
The Environment and Weather
It’s always a good idea to check the weather before you travel. When boating, it’s even more crucial to know what weather conditions are going to be like. In addition, it’s important to know what the environment you’re going to be boating in is like. Unlike driving, where there are roads covering the terrain, open water can have hidden dangers that are easily avoidable if you know what to look for.
Checking the weather is an easy step in preparing for a trip. Many popular boating spots have wind or other advisories posted, and checking any popular weather app will provide wind speeds. Also, knowing if storms, excessive rain, or even a lot of sun (don’t forget your hat!) are on the way can impact your trip.
Navigation and Maneuvering
Knowing how to navigate a boat and maneuver your craft are some of the most important skills a boater can have. Learning to drive a boat isn’t necessarily difficult, but it pays to take the time to learn the skill well.
You should learn how to use a compass and learn how to figure out your current position. Studying the maps of the area in which you are boating is a great way to work on this skill. It is also important to understand boating terms, as mentioned above, and to understand currents and map reading. Also, make sure you get a boating license, which will give you a course in boat-handling basics!
To learn more, visit the American Boating Association: ABA Boater Education Program
Boating is fun, but it presents its own dangers. Luckily, it is easy to prepare for an emergency on the water. Having adequate supplies such as life preservers, bottled water, flares, and first aid supplies can be the difference between a minor inconvenience and a major emergency.
Making a checklist of emergency items is one way to make sure that you have everything. Check your supplies before you leave is essential. Also, checking the weather and conditions before your trip can help you make your emergency preparation even more comprehensive.
- Air-Sea Safety and Survival: Rescue/survival accessories
- United States Coast Guard: Boating
- Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources: Boating in Hawaii
There are lots of activities that involve boating. Many large public parks have sailboats or paddle boats, and these boats can be used for dates, family fun, and outdoor exercise. Fishing is a popular boating activity and can be done in many lakes, rivers, and larger bodies of water. Water-skiing or rafting is also popular. All of these activities require some knowledge of boats and boating, but they are also all easy to learn!
Specialized Boating Safety
There are many situations in which extra safety precautions may need to be taken. For example, when taking pets on the water, you’ll need to make sure that they are prepared in case of emergency. They should also be micro-chipped and have current health records. It is also important to know your pets and their noise and anxiety tolerance.
If you or anyone in your boating party are disabled, you should make sure that boating is safe for you, that you have any medical equipment needed, and that you are prepared for travel. In addition, if you have any children, special precautions may need to be taken, especially if they are new to boating.
Boat Safety for Kids
Kids can learn about boating from a very young age, but there are some safety precautions that should be taken. Children and adults should always wear life jackets while on the water, even if they are good swimmers. It’s also important to remember that children get cold, hungry, and thirsty more quickly than adults, so having plenty of blankets, food, and water is important.
- Centers for Disease Control: Safe summer for kids
- Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency: Boating safety education
- HealthyChildren.org: Water safety
Boating is a great family, solo, or group activity and it’s accessible in many areas. Kids, adults, and even pets can enjoy boating. Here are some great resources to help make your next boating trip a safe and enjoyable success!
- The National Safe Boating Council has some great printable information: Downloadable resources.
- State of Wisconsin offers plenty of boating tips and advice: Boat safety tips.