Boating is a fantastic hobby or sport that is not limited to fitness, age, or gender. Anyone can take it up, whether an enthusiast in their prime, or a hobbyist in their retirement years. However, to be safe and confident in your abilities, you will need to be familiar with the basics of boating and navigation.
Before you start, you will at least need to know how to start and stop the boat, to keep the vessel and everyone aboard safe, and to manoeuvre it correctly. If you have a group of people helping to sail a bigger boat, such as a canal boat or yacht, you will need to be able to direct your “crew,” from making sure everything is safe, to accounting for all of the necessary equipment, to evaluating the boat’s suitability for use. You will also need to know basic boating terminology, such as directions. For example, the front of the vessel is the bow, and the back is the stern; the left direction is port, and the right is starboard.
Escape City Life
Possibly one of the reasons that boating is such a good hobby is that it forces you to slow down and relinquish the fast pace of the world, as operating a boat requires long, deliberate movements characteristic of an unhurried lifestyle. A boat will need time to gather speed as it gets going, as well as to slow down and stop gradually. A boat is similar to a train or aircraft, in that it cannot stop suddenly like a car can, as it does not have a braking mechanism.
When setting off, take basic precautions such as knowing your waterways, or becoming familiar with new routes before embarking on them. Of course, you should always be familiar with your boat before going out in it. The boat will need to be pushed away from the bank before you can start the engine. Start the boat slowly, and gradually pick up speed once you know you are clear of other boats, shallow water, and swimming areas. Move slowly when passing other boats and entering shallow water, especially where there may be swimmers, to avoid wake and disturbance. In narrow waterways, such as canals and rivers, travel on the right.
Steering & Mooring
For steering, a boat may have a steering wheel or a tiller. A steering wheel is simpler, as on a leisure vessel, such as a speed boat, it may be located toward the front of the boat, which will make steering the boat similar to driving a car. A tiller is more complicated, as it requires steering from the stern, and you have to remember that turning is counterintuitive – you must steer left to go right, and vice versa. The boat also must be negotiated from a “pivot point” of approximately halfway along its length. This means that when turning, you need to consider the halfway point when timing the turn, rather than the front; otherwise, you could end up taking the turn too wide and hitting something. As with starting and stopping, the boat will need time to make the turn, so you need to start the turn in plenty of time.
When mooring your boat, ease in to the bank with the engine on a low setting, and stop by putting the boat in reverse briefly when the bow is near the bank. Put the engine into neutral, and position it facing upstream or with the tide. Tie the boat securely with rope, connecting it via both the bow and the stern using bollards, if available, or hitching posts driven into the bank.
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Andrew Silsby is a blogger for mustangsailing.com and a keen sailor and yachtsman. Andrew regularly enjoys sailing on the solent and is currently undertaking his day skipper course around the Sussex coastline.