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Boating Basics for New Boat Owners

Knowing the boating basics for new boat owners will help make all of your adventures on the water safer and more enjoyable.

As a new boat owner, once you learn the boating basics, fun family memories await on the water. Knowing the boating basics for new boat owners will help make all of your adventures on the water safer and more enjoyable. Find out how to make sure you have the right safety equipment, gain an understanding of basic navigation rules, and pick up launching tips.

Boating Basics for First Time Boat Owners

Boat ownership is a rewarding experience that leads to new skills and quality time spent outdoors with your family. Before taking your new boat out on the water for the first time, you'll need to do a few important things.

  • Register your boat. All boat owners are required to follow state laws that pertain to boating, boat registration, titling, and operation.
  • Make sure you have a Certificate of Title that proves you own the vessel.
  • Find out if your state requires you to take a state-approved boater education course before operating a motorized vessel.
  • Confirm that you have all of the required safety equipment on board.

As a first time boat owner, you can take advantage of online and classroom boating courses that can help teach you how to boat safely and responsibly.

Safety Equipment Basics

If you aren't sure about the types of PFDs or safety equipment you need to have on board your boat, it may help to reference a new boat owner checklist of required safety equipment from the U.S. Coast Guard. In fact, you can even request a free vessel safety check (usually performed by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or the United States Power Squadrons).

Since the safety equipment requirements vary for different types of boats, an equipment checklist or vessel safety check can eliminate any guesswork and make this step much easier. Follow the boat safety equipment basics to ensure that your boat is properly equipped with the right safety gear before your first trip out on the water.

Boating Navigation Basics

Boating basics for new boat owners includes learning the fundamentals of navigation. When encountering other vessels, all boat operators are responsible for taking the action necessary to avoid a collision. This means that every boat operator should always follow three fundamental rules.

  1. Practice good seamanship. When you practice good seamanship, you are demonstrating knowledge and skill involving the operation, navigation, safety, and maintenance of a vessel.
  2. Stay aware by keeping a sharp lookout. Use your sight and hearing at all times to maintain a lookout for other boats, any changes in the weather, or anything unusual.
  3. Maintain safe speed and distance. In the event you do encounter an unusual situation, you'll have time safely react.

In addition to these three fundamentals, you'll need to learn two terms that will help to explain navigational rules.

  • Stand-on vessel: The vessel that should maintain course and speed.
  • Give-way vessel: The vessel that must take early and substantial action to avoid collision by stopping, slowing down, or changing course.

Here's a summary of the navigation rules for meeting head-on, in crossing situations, and when overtaking. This should help you gain an understanding of the boating basics that involve safe navigation.

Boat Trailering Basics

The best boat for a first time owner is a trailerable boat that can easily be towed from one waterway to another. If you have never trailered a boat before, don't worry, there are boating basics for first time boat owners that pertain to trailering a boat. Keep these guidelines in mind.

  • Align the trailer hitch and ball on your towing vehicle, lower the trailer hitch down over the ball.
  • Close the coupler latch, insert the safety pin and coupler lock.
  • Cross the trailer safety chains, attach both chains to your towing vehicle.
  • If your trailer has brakes, attach the safety line to the tow vehicle.
  • Plug in the trailer lights, run a full check to make sure they are working.

Learn about boat trailering basics, boat gas saving tips, boat anchoring basic and more information on how to get started boating in our next section.