Boating Basics Every Boat Owner Should Know

10 Boating Basics Every Boat Owner Should Know

So, you’re considering becoming a boat owner. Congratulations! This boating basics guide can help you make a decision about becoming a boat owner and give you confidence as you start your journey as a new boater.

According to the United States Coast Guard, you’re joining a group of 11.84 million, which is the number of registered vessels in the United States in 2020. Recreational boating is a very popular activity! We polled seasoned recreational boat owners who shared what they wished they had known before investing in their first boat. Here's the wisdom they had to share.

Top 10 Tips for Boating Newbies

100 Dollar Money Boat Floating on Water100 Dollar Money Boat Floating on Water

1. Prepare for Added Expenses

Simply put, boating is not an inexpensive hobby. You have the initial cost of the boat, the necessary gear such as fenders, anchors, safety items, licensing, insurance and more.

Where are you keeping your boat during boating season? Will you trailer your boat, or do you have a slip in a marina, or are you keeping it at your dock?

These all factor into associated costs with boat ownership. Maintaining your boat has costs involved and varies depending on the type of boat and if you’re buying a new or used vessel. As a new boat owner, you will want to make sure you know the direct and indirect expenses associated with your boat. 

2. Keep up with Boat Maintenance

Like a car, you want to keep your boat in tip-top shape, and that requires maintenance. Many factors dictate the type of maintenance you’ll need, including the type of boat, engine, hull, and electrical lines. Keeping your boat in freshwater or saltwater also makes a difference in the type of maintenance involved. 

Our poll of boaters wished they had known more about what type of maintenance was involved before owning a boat. Boat maintenance involves things you do each time you take your boat out, along with monthly and annual care. An experienced boater shared that once you understand the types of maintenance your specific boat needs, it is cost-effective and extends your boat's life.

3. Learn How to Anchor

Those we polled shared that they wished they knew how to anchor before buying their boat. Anchoring is an essential part of boating basics, and getting the correct type of anchor, and knowing which environments are best to drop an anchor, makes a huge difference.

Setting and raising your anchor takes practice and skill. There are a lot of factors to consider when anchoring your boat, including knowing the best spots to drop an anchor, the weather, wind direction, how long you’ll be anchoring, and more.

4. Buy the Right Boating Essentials

Like with any other new activity or hobby, you may not be familiar with the type of gear and products you will need on your boat. Our poll of seasoned recreational boaters said that a checklist of some sort would have been super helpful so that they had the right equipment and gear needed to make their day on the water great.

We've created a must-have boat accessories list to make equipping your boat easier.

Boating Basics of Throwing Anchor from Pontoon BoatBoating Basics of Throwing Anchor from Pontoon Boat
Yield Sign on the WaterYield Sign on the Water

5. Know the Rules of the Water

Remember when you got your drivers’ license? You had to learn the rules of the road. The same applies to boating. There's a whole new set of regulations, etiquette, and must-know information. 

You want to be safe and knowing the rules before you launch your boat is a must. You’ll find nautical safety rules from the Boat U.S. Foundation.  Some of our boaters found taking a water safety course helpful. You can also check with your state for their safety requirements that you’ll need to obtain a boating license and for insuring your boat.

6. Understand which Type of Hull You Need

Our poll revealed that boaters would have given more attention to the boat’s hull. Like cars, the focus is usually on what’s inside.

The hull, the bottom of the boat, is one of the most important components of the boat’s design. The type of hull determines how the boat rides, smooth or choppy, performance and handling.When looking for a boat, you will want to add types of hulls to your checklist as the hull choice is a key factor for the type of activity you plan to pursue on a boat.

If you are interested in a fishing boat, you would want to know the difference between fishing on the ocean versus a freshwater lake, as the hull choices are different.

7. Learn How to Dock a Boat

As a boat owner, you need to know how to dock your boat. Think of it as parking your car. You want to keep your passengers safe and protect your boat and dock from taking on any damage in the docking process. Docking a boat is a skill that can be mastered through practice, proper education and patience.

8. Get Familiar with Tying Knots

Another must-know in recreational boating is how to tie knots properly. From the most experienced boater to the beginner boater, tying the right knot is crucial in safety and security.

There are hundreds of types of knots, and that can be overwhelming for first time boat owners. Many boat safety courses cover basic knot tying practices.

Bayliner boats docked on waterBayliner boats docked on water
Boats on Rack for Winter StorageBoats on Rack for Winter Storage

9. Plan Ahead for Winter Storage

If you live in the part of the country where snow flies, you're going to have to have a plan to store your boat, even if you decide to keep it in the water through the winter. Storage is also an associated cost with boat ownership and should be factored into your annual boating budget.

For more information, check out our blog on storing your boat in the winter.

10. Be Ready to Tow Your Boat

If you are trailering your boat, taking it from one spot to the water (typically advisable for boats 25’ and under), you’ll want to know the best hitch to use, and the appropriate boat cover. Covers protect your boat from taking on any damage from debris and other things that can happen while transporting your boat to and from various locations.

Our poll results revealed that first-time boat owners need to be clear on how to best trailer their boat. Get answers to your trailer questions as it relates to towing your boat and best for your vehicle.

Questions to Ask When Buying a Boat

Finally, when you’re ready to start looking for a boat, you may want to ask these questions:

  1. What are the associated costs with this boat?
  2. Can you detail the type of maintenance needed for this boat?
  3. What type of anchor do I need for this boat?
  4. Is this type of boat aligned with what activities I want to do?
  5. How easy is it to dock this type of boat?
  6. What's the best way to store this boat?
  7. What type of trailer will I need to transport this boat?

Have fun and enjoy your boat!