5 Common Boating Mistakes to Avoid

Some boating mishaps are unavoidable. Mechanical issues and other internal problems, for example, can make for a horrible day on the water—but they can’t always be foreseen. On the other hand, many mistakes can be easily avoided with a little forethought.

Here are 5 common boating mistakes—and tips for avoiding them:

Mistake 1: Forgetting to Plug the Boat Drain

TIP: Don’t forget to plug the drain in your boat (and keep in mind that some boats today have more than one drain you’ll need to plug). It may seem silly to even mention this mistake, but every year boats fill with water from this embarrassing mishap. To ensure a day of smooth sailing, make a list of things to double-check on your boat while you’re at the launch.

Mistake 2: Being Slow at the Launch

TIP: Okay, this isn’t really a boating mistake. But being slow at the launch does create a rushed, pressured environment that will likely lead you to forget something important. For new boaters in particular (who may not have mastered the art of backing a boat down the launch), a little practice can help a lot. Set up some cones in your driveway and practice moving around while towing the boat. You’ll feel much more confident when you show up to launch.

Remember, of course, never to run your boat engine on land. Without a water supply, you are sure to overheat.

Mistake 3: Uncontrolled Wake

TIP: There’s nothing worse than being in a canoe or small boat and getting smashed by huge waves that will inevitably push you off your course. As a boater, slowing down the speed of your boat is not enough to ensure a smaller wake. Understanding how to balance the plane and minimize your waves is a useful—and welcomed—skill. Be respectful of others on the water so everyone can have a fun and safe day.

Mistake 4: Letting Out Too Little Anchoring Line

TIP: Finding a sweet spot on the water and taking time to relax there is one of the pleasures of recreational boating. But continuously drifting from your anchor point can be frustrating. The trick is to let out the right amount of line. Boating Safety Mag offers this helpful tip: “Remember that the amount of line needed to anchor a vessel (called scope) should be 5 to 7 times the depth of the water in calm weather, plus the distance from the surface to where the anchor attaches at the bow. If high winds or rough sea conditions are present, then use 10 times the depth. Fail to use the proper scope and your vessel may drag anchor and drift ashore, into other vessels or – worst case – out to sea!”

Mistake 5: Forgetting Your Nautical Charts

TIP: All too often these days, boaters overlook nautical charts and depend instead on GPS. While GPS is a fantastic and useful tool, this technology does not negate the multiple reasons for needing nautical charts, including when the unexpected happens. At a minimum, paper charts should be carried as a complement to electronics.

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