Boating can easily be an enjoyable activity with a rewarding experience, especially if you love the open sea. The smell of the ocean and the breeze touching your skin will give you a sense of peace. Time spent out in the water may be a different kind of adventure and that said, one – especially a beginner – has to be familiar with certain rules and guidelines that will ensure not only the safety of the passengers but also the environment.
One who is interested in boating should undergo proper training and have navigation skills to make the experience worthwhile. Here are simple guidelines every beginner should keep in mind.
1. Be familiar with the terminology.
Would-be navigators should be familiar with the terms commonly used in boating. To better understand boating, one should know the common boating-related terms and how to use them. Terms such as knots, fathom, port side and bow will just be some of the words an aspiring navigator would encounter. Here are the terms one needs to remember:
- Knots – the boat speed, wherein one knot is one nautical mile (or 6,076 feet) per hour.
- Fathom – a unit of length that is equal to six feet.
- Log – any record about boat operations
- Port side – refers to the left side of the vessel
- Starboard – the right side of the vessel
- Bow – the front section of the boat
- Aft or stern – the rear portion of the vessel
- Helm – steering system
- Hull – boat structure
- Chart – a map that a boater uses
- Latitude – the coordinates running north or south of the equator
- Longitude – coordinates that run east or west of the global meridian
- Rudder- a propulsion-related term for steering
- Screw- also known as the propeller
- PFD – or personal floatation device, a gadget that should keep people afloat.
- Founder – to sink
- Lifeline – a line or series of lines found on the deck that anyone can hold on to avoid getting thrown overboard.
- SOS – the globally-recognized term that signals distress
- VDS – or visual distress signals – also another way of signaling for help
2. Know the boating safety rules and regulations
To ensure boating safety, the U.S. Coast Guard strictly requires all boats to have PFDs or lifejackets on board for all passengers younger than 13 years old. Not only that, these safety devi
ces should be worn while the boat is in motion. Different U.S. states have different life jacket laws and it is a boater’s job to know them.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is a big no-no and is considered a federal offense with a fine of $1,000 or possible jail time. All boats should also have their registration number conspicuously displayed on the port and starboard.
Navigators should always carry the boat registration papers with them in an event of an inspection. Boats measuring 16 feet or longer should also have VDS devices like flares. For boats longer than 26 feet and those that have inboard engines, fire extinguishers should always be present. State governments have other rules that any beginner boat operator should be familiar with.
3. Have the necessary boating gadgets
Besides life jackets and floatation devices, boats should have the necessary gadgets to make the voyage smoother and safe. Would-be boat operators should be knowledgeable about these devices before operating the vessel.
Carbon monoxide detectors should be available in large boats that have cabins and enclosed spaces. Depending on where the voyage is, a boat may need to be equipped with paddles, anchors, cell phones, flashlights, shark repellent and VHF radios. Other gadgets may include voyage data recorder, GPS receivers, lamps to signal during daylight, pilot cards, ship flags and automatic identification systems. The list of necessary gadgets goes on.
4. Respect the environment.
Boating should not only be about fun and adventure. Boat operators should also be kind to the ocean and everything that lives in it. There are simple things that navigators can do to make sure they’re not contributing to water pollution. For one, avoid throwing trash into the ocean. Reducing your carbon footprint and avoiding oil spillage are also ways to protect the environment while on a boat.
The boating reminders for beginners mentioned above should help boaters have a safe and fun experience and become more confident while out on the ocean. But more can be learned if navigators would take boating classes before going on a sea voyage. Boating-related courses are not only offered in colleges but also online. Boating clubs can also help offer courses or find appropriate ones for beginners.