7 Things You Should Know as a First-Time Boat Owner


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In 2016, 142 million Americans went boating.

That’s 36% of U.S. households! Not only that, but boat ownership has been increasing for several years in a row now.

It’s no wonder. Boating is a great way to spend time with friends and loved ones, enjoy the great outdoors, and develop a relationship with the water.

Are you thinking about becoming a first-time boat owner? Let’s dive into 7 things you’ll need to know.

1. Don’t Skimp on Safety

Depending on the size and horsepower of your boat, your state will require you to keep a specific number of safety items on board. These might include a distress signal, life jackets, and a fire extinguisher. You can either ask your local boat dealer or marina, or research online, to find out what the requirements are in your state.

You might consider taking a boat safety course before heading out onto the water the first time.

According to the National Recreational Boating Survey, 88.2% of participants reported that they spend time on their boats relaxing alone or with friends. Make sure that your alone time or your time with buddies is as relaxing as possible with the peace of mind that you took every possible safety precaution.

2. Keep Up With Repairs and Maintenance

Boats need to be properly and regularly maintained just like cars do. There are certain things you’ll want to do after each outing as well as sticking to a regular maintenance schedule. A lot of the upkeep you’ll be able to do yourself if you choose to and won’t require a mechanic.

It’s important, though, that if you need a major repair or need help with upkeep tasks, it’s definitely worth it to turn to the pros.

Here’s a handy guide to how frequently you need to do these upkeep and maintenance tasks.

Every Time You Use Your Boat

Right before you’re going to launch, be sure to do the following things:

● Check boat propellers for damage
● Check the oil and top it off if necessary
● Check the hull for damage and repair if necessary
● Check the steering movement
● Check the bilge pump
● Wash the hull and deck
● Make sure the electrical systems are working properly
● Check the battery to make sure it has a proper charge
● Check the fire extinguishing systems

Every 20 Hours

Every time you use your boat for 20 hours, you should complete the following tasks:

● Treat the fuel with decarbonizer
● Refill oil if needed and check the lower unit for water
● Clean and protect the interior
● Check the engine for proper RPM

Every 50 Hours

Each time you reach 50 hours of use, make sure to complete these maintenance tasks:

● Wax and polish the deck and hull
● Check fuel lines for degradation
● Clean the bilge pump
● Check the fluid level of the steering system and look for leaks

Every 100 Hours

After 100 hours of use, you should do these tasks:

● Touch up paint
● Tighten all accessible fasteners and bolts
● Lubricate grease points
● Check the power trim and tilt fluid, refill if necessary
● Check the engine mounts
● Replace fuel and oil filters
● Replace the water pump impeller
● Check the rub rail for any damage
● Check bow and stern eyes for secure mounting
● Have your boat inspected by a professional mechanic

This might seem like a lot of work, but it’s well worth it to take good care of your boat. You’ll significantly lengthen it’s lifespan if you do, and you’ll be a lot less likely to have a preventable issue occur when you’re out on the water.

3. Make Sure You’re Insured

You don’t drive your car without insurance, so why would you drive your boat without insurance?

You’ll want your boat to be insured both for liability and for damage to the boat. There are a lot of different options when it comes to boat insurance, and it’s worth taking the time to find a policy that covers you for everything you could need.

Boat insurance cost can vary depending on how much coverage you purchase, but the general rule of thumb is that you’re going to pay about 1.5% the value of your boat per year in insurance costs.

While some states might require you have boat insurance and others might not, many marinas will require it if you’re going to dock your boat at their location.

When you’re out enjoying your boat, you don’t want to have to worry about anything. If you know you have insurance in the case of damage to your boat, someone else’s, or any other unforeseeable boat-related events. You’ll find your time out on the water much more relaxing if you’re not worried about potential financial liability if something were to go wrong.

4. Know How to Store and Tow Your Boat

Where are you going to be storing your boat when you’re not out on the water? You have a lot of options, but it can take some research to find out what works best for you.

Even if you are going to store it on its trailer, you should look into whether or not your community permits boats to be in residential driveways long-term. Other outdoor options for boat storage include using uncovered or covered boat storage at a self-storage facility or mooring at a marina.

If you’re hoping to store your boat indoors, you can either do so in your own garage at home, through dry-stacked boat storage, or at an indoor self-storage facility.

Remember, if you live in a place where the weather turns cold in the winter, you’ll need to take extra steps for winterizing a boat.

In addition to knowing how to drive your boat on the water, you’re going to need to learn how to drive while towing your boat. The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure your tow vehicle is rated to be able to tow the boat you’re looking to buy. You definitely don’t want to buy a boat and find out after the fact that you’ll need a new truck in order to tow it!

5. Have a Pre-Departure Checklist

It doesn’t matter what type of boat you’ll be going out in, you’ll want to take the preparation before going onto the water seriously.

Before leaving shore, you’ll want to file a float plan with either a relative or a friend. Let them know where you’re planning on going and when you’re going to return. Also, instruct them on what to do if you don’t return by the predetermined time.

You’re also going to want to identify people in your party who can’t swim. Make sure non-swimmers have life jackets that fit them properly and have them wear them at all times on the water.

Choose someone to be your second-in-command in case the skipper is incapacitated.

Make sure everyone on board knows where all the safety items are stored. You might also let them know where additional gear is located, like first-aid kits, sunscreen, and radios. Of course, you’ll also want to do your pre-trip maintenance tasks as well.

6. Learn as Much as You Can

It never hurts to do your research. Before heading out on the water, learn everything you can about boat ownership.

This means everything from learning the local laws of the spots you plan on boating in, to boat lingo.

Take the time to watch videos and read articles about responsible boating, and consider taking a course.

If you are totally new to operating regular boats, you could also take lessons in this. Wherever you feel your knowledge is lacking, educating yourself before you’ve left the shore is essential.

7. Always Check the Weather

Whether or not a boating trip happens is always contingent on the weather. You’ll want to avoid heavy fog or strong winds whenever possible. It’s also very important to pay special attention to hurricane warnings.

You should absolutely never go boating if there is a hurricane warning currently in effect.

Keep a portable radio with you on the water and tune into a VHF-FM weather station that broadcasts the NOAA Weather Radio. This will keep you update if the weather is going to turn sour.

You’re Only a First-Time Boat Owner Once!

Being a first-time boat owner can be overwhelming, with so many different things to learn and keep in mind. Soon enough, though, it’ll become old hat. The work to become an expert in boat ownership is fairly front-loaded, so it requires quite a bit of research and attention at the beginning.

Did you find this article on being a first-time boat owner helpful? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more informative content!


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