Greenwich Boat Show

Lessons every boater should learn about safety, maintenance and basic boating skills

So you’ve finally got that boat of your dreams, or at least your dreams for now. That yacht can come later.

You’ve heard the de-motivating jokes like “may as well start throwing money in the water” or “Did you know that BOAT stands for ‘Bring On Another Thousand?” Ha-ha.

You’ve also factored in the positives – the freedom, the skill, the fun. Now you’re ready to cast off in search of adventure. Not so fast, cap’n.

Smart boaters should learn other skills besides “point the tiller that way” and exactly what a tiller is. Some are required, some are just good practice. But mastering all of them will help you earn your sea legs, whether you’re tooling around the lake or getting ready for an ocean crossing.

  • Learn the rules. Canada requires pleasure boat owners to learn basic boat basic operation by taking a boating license course, and then passing a test and to earn a license. The course covers navigation topics like right-of-way, signage, collisions, and general safety for yourself, passengers and other boaters. It also outlines proper behavior and illegal behavior that can get someone in trouble or hurt.
  • Get insurance. Along with your Canadian Coast Guard credentials, you should also consider insurance. Longtime skippers will tell you that Mr. Murphy (of Murphy’s Law fame) must have been a boat owner because so much can go wrong, from collisions with other boats to stalled engines. The AllAtSea blog says the right marine insurance is as important as what boat to buy. Calculate size, and whether to cover “all risks” or “named perils,” which specifies certain circumstances where coverage will not be available (such as outside of Canadian waters).
  • Protect your vessel. Having the right maintenance gear on board is essential to make sure your boat is always running in proper condition and you are not prepared for the unexpected repairs. Stow a basic tool kit for engine repairs, a fire extinguisher, and pollution control in case of an oil leak.
  • Winterize. Unless you are one of the lucky snowbirds who can take your boat with you to warmer southern climates, you’ll need to winterize it for storage. Your boat, especially your engine, may not be so keen on the idea. Create a checklist of common winter maintenance needs such scrubbing barnacles and blisters from the hull, draining water from bilges, filling the tank with fuel and cleaning out refrigerators or coolers.
  • Watch that battery. The battery is one of the most vital pieces of your equipment, which you will fully appreciate when leaves you stranded. First, learn the difference between a cranking battery (delivers a burst of energy to the motor), or a deep-cycle battery (delivers power consistently). Most boats have both, one for the motor and one for the electronics. Smart owners should watch out for sulfuric acid deposits, avoid high or low temperatures, and make sure you have enough charge left before heading out.

With some smart boating practices you’ll be able to cruise with peace of mind that you and your boat are safe and well-prepared for nearly any adventure on the water.

Guest Post: This article was contributed by James Headley. James considers himself a thrill seeker with an adventurous spirit who only feels alive when he’s exploring nature – and writing about it.

Disclosure Policy: This site may contain links that are afilliated with companies where we receive compensation. Full disclosure policy.



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Diane Seltzer

Founder & Editor at My Boat Life
Diane is the founder of MyBoatLife.com as well as the boating lifestyle site for kids BoaterKids.com. She is also active in the boating industry, serving as the marketing director for a marine sunshade product, SureShade, and founder of Marine Marketing Tools, a collaborative site for sharing marine marketing best practices. Diane is also the author of the children's book The Amazing Adventures of Boat Girl.

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