If you’re a new boat owner, there are some important things you should avoid doing out in the water. Everyone has to start somewhere – we all did – but you’ll be a better boat owner if you’re prepared.
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Keep reading to learn about 10 common mistakes when it comes to boating.
1. Failing to Check the Marine Weather Forecast
Tuning in to marine weather prior to each and every trip is a must, unless you want to be surprised by gusty winds, rough seas, and sudden storms. And remember, this means marine weather, not those regular land-based forecasts which regularly post lower wind speeds and no sea conditions.
2. Running Aground
Running a ground is a lot more common than you might think, and can have varying degrees of severity depending on where you do your boating. On a soft mud or sand bottom it’s usually no big deal, but in a rocky harbor, hitting bottom can do some serious damage. You cannot see what is in dark water. Use the local marker buoys.
The solution? Always be aware of where you are and what the local underwater hazards may be. And when in doubt, slowing down is a good idea.
3. Forgetting to Keep Up with Regular Maintenance
Making this mistake can have very serious consequences, especially when it comes to your boat’s propulsion systems. Be sure to peruse these Boat Maintenance pages, create a schedule, and stick to it.
4. Hitting the Dock
There’s an old saying among boaters, and it has a lot of value when it comes to making this mistake: never approach a dock faster than you’re willing to hit it. Even when you’re doing everything right, a sudden power loss or mechanical problem can strike. The net result? Boat, meet dock. Dock, meet boat. Crunch!
5. Running Out of Gas
As you might guess, this is one of the most common mistakes people make. Remember that fuel consumption and your boat’s range can be changed by factors like sea conditions and load. Making matters worse, fuel gauge readings can change as fuel sloshes in the tank, and the fuel gauges on boats are often not as reliable as those found in automobiles in the first place.
As a result, smart boaters will stick with the following formula: use one third fuel capacity going out, use one third coming back, and save one third in reserve.
6. Forgetting to Put in the Drain Plug
This is another mistake that’s all too familiar to many of us, especially trailer-boaters, who commonly remove the plug between uses. No wonder it earns a mention in our article How to Launch a Boat, which we hope all trailer-boaters read through, in any case.
7. Overloading the Boat
This miscalculation can be downright dangerous, so always keep track of the weight of both people and gear when you’re loading up the boat. Check the boat’s capacity plate to make sure you’re in the safe zone, if you haven’t already memorized your boat’s maximum capacity.
8. Getting Lost
Although this happens less and less on the water these days thanks to modern marine electronics and navigation instruments it does still happen. And any electrical systems can have gremlins, so you need to always be aware of your location and how to get home regardless of what electronics you have aboard.
9. Putting Out Insufficient Anchor Line
Anchoring a boat seems like a simple task: just drop down the anchor, cleat off the line, and the boat will stay put… right? Not necessarily.
Even in calm seas if you don’t let out enough line to match three times the depth, the anchor may well pull free. And in a breeze, a “scope” (length of anchor line) of 5:1 or 7:1 as compared to water depth is considered minimal. When it’s rough out, 10:1 may be necessary.
10. Running the Engine Dry
The vast majority of marine engines (excluding air-cooled and electric engines) require a supply of water for cooling purposes. But not only does the water cool the engine, it also lubricates the water pump impeller commonly found in most marine propulsion systems. Run a boat motor while it’s on dry land without a sufficient water supply, and it will overheat, the impeller will be damaged, or both.