As a new boater, you’ve probably been on a boat before. Maybe you were on vacation, on a friend’s boat, or maybe you own a boat, but someone else was driving. At some point you decide you want to go out on your own, you want to fish new areas, enjoy being in the sun, or you want to be with your friends and/or your own family out enjoying the water. But, where do you start? Like anything new, learning how to drive a boat can be a little bit daunting. So, here are some tips when going into this new venture.
1) Relax and don’t be in a hurry. Boating is fun and relaxing. It’s a great stress reliever and is a perfect way to enjoy FL.
2) Every throttle movement you make should be slow and deliberate. A boat motor has a delay (unlike a car), so even if you make a mistake, you can easily adjust.
3) Be aware of your surroundings. When you’re at the helm, you need to be aware of what’s going on around you. As a passenger, you aren’t responsible for the boat or your passengers on board. But, as a driver, your responsibilities change. Pay attention to the paths of other boats, what areas are avoided, have an idea of where boats are located around you.
4) Know that boating has waterways (like roads on the water). When a boat is coming your direction, don’t panic. The red and green markers serve as lane guides and you keep to the right, just as you would on a 2 lane highway. Always stay in between these markers when not in an open waterway. These keep our boats out of shallow water.
5) If you see a red light on a boat at night, you must stop and give way (kind of like a stop sign). This helps you know who has the right of way. If you see a green light, you can go (like a green stop light) since you have the right of way.
6) Reverse on a boat is counter-intuitive. If you need to go in reverse, know that your back end will turn in the same direction as your steering wheel. This is important when docking since your wheel will be turned in the same direction as the dock. Go slow and make minor corrections.
7) The slower you go, the mushier your controls. Be patient and make small corrections. The boat has same lag since it has to combat the water’s resistance. Practice by making a small correction, then watching what the boat does. Just like in a car, minor corrections are needed to keep the boat straight. When you speed up, even smaller corrections are required when turning. But, the boat is much more responsive.
8) Neutral! Whenever you hand off the controls to someone else, always put the throttle in neutral. This is the safest way to transfer controls.
9) When a big boat goes by and you are approaching their wake, gently slow down and approach the wake at a 45 degree angle. The size of the waves will determine your angle and speed.
10) In summary, relax, go slow, know what’s going on around you, and have fun!