Beginners Boating Tips

It Pays to Prepare

There are a few things to be prepared for before you start trailering your boat even just to the lake outside town.

  1. Is your vehicle the right one for the job? Does it have enoughppower to tow? Is the ball size on your hitch correct (most are 2″)? And do you have the correct wire connections?
  2. Is the trailer ready to be towed? Does it have the correct tongue size that matches the hitch on the vehicle? Are all the tires aired up? Are your wheel bearings greased(Bearing Buddies are a great way to ensure bearings are kept well lubed)? Do you have the correct wire connections? Do you have ratchet straps on back of the trailer that are secured to the boat? Is the safety chain and strap securely on the front of the boat?

Once you have all those things checked out and good to go, you’re ready to proceed. These Beginners Boating Tips aren’t just for beginners, these are things I check everytime I get ready to go out. (Of course I know I have the correct wire connections by now, but are they still in good working order?) Its a great idea to get in the habit of checking them every time, so you don’t have any silly hold-ups down the road.

Trailering a Boat: Hookin’ ‘er up!

  1. Back vehicle up to trailer to match up with hitch.
  2. Lower trailer onto hitch.
  3. Lower tongue latch and insert lock or pin.
  4. Connect wire harness.
  5. Attach chains to receiver
  6. Turn on lights and check all bulbs for operation.

Smooth Operation for Beginners

Practice driving in less populated areas. Making wide and tight turns, stopping and backing up. Remember to keep plenty of room in front of you because other drivers may not be aware, and can slam on their brakes or turn in front of you at any given moment!

You don’t want to show up at the dock and not know how to back up to it. A good trick is to practice at the dock early in the morning or during the week when there aren’t many boaters. However, if you get in a bind during the “real thing” most other boaters will understand and be happy to help out.

Putting in the Water: Back That Thing Up!

  1. So its the big day and your next at the dock! Just remember to be calm and take your time. Even Veteran Boaters have their bad days. Some boat ramps are kind of steep so a helper is always nice to guide you in the water.
  2. Before you get too excited, there are a few things to do before you put the boat in the water. a. Always, ALWAYS put the plug in the back bottom of the boat! (You don’t want to sink!) b. Remove the ratchet straps from the back of the boat and trailer. Have a few buoys attached to the side of the boat that the dock is on and one or two dock ropes, about 4 or 5 feet in length, ready for when you put the boat in the water so you can tie to the dock easily-don’t want to float away! (The buoys are so you don’t scratch or dent that shiney new boat!)
  3. Back up the boat into the water far enough that it starts to float above the trailer alittle or until the back wheels of your vehicle are in the water. Every ramp is different, so the one you might be used to at home could be more or less steep than the one on that big trip you took, so be sure you’re in before unlatching the boat.
  4. Remove the safety chain and start to winch the boat the rest of the way out – SLOWLY.

At the Dock

Once the boat is in the water, tie it to the dock. It’s nice to have a helper at this point-if you do, have one person in the boat to do these small tasks while the other person drives the vehicle out of the dock area and finds a parking place-thus getting out of the way of other boaters waiting to put their boat in.

  1. Turn on the boat fans to remove any fuel vapors from the engine compartment.
  2. Lower the trim and start the engine. If the dock is busy and you have other people with you that may be a few minutes, go ahead and pull the boat away from the dock and wait in the water. You can come back and pick them up when they get to the dock. This way other boaters can still get in the water and everyone can enjoy their day quicker! If no one else is waiting to put their boat in the water, just wait for your buddies there!

A Couple Reminders

  1. Help other boaters by tying them up, holding the side of the boat so it doesn’t hit the dock, or pushing them away from the dock when they are ready to take off. Just don’t “over help”. Some boaters have a “routine” and you could get in the way. Use your judgement.
  2. Get in and get out. The dock isn’t the “hangout” area. Thats in another area. Push away from the dock, put the boat in reverse and back out slowly, far enough to turn around.

Departing the Dock

  1. Push away from the dock, put the boat in reverse and back out slowly, far enough to turn around.
  2. Once turned around, put it in forward and idle away from the dock area.

No Wake Zones

No Wake Zones are usually marked by a buoy. It is always No Wake near the dock because if it is wavey, the people at the dock have a hard time either backing their boat in the water, putting the boat on a trailor or trying to keep the boat from hitting the dock. There is plenty of time for “Wide Open Throttle” (W.O.T.) once you get past the buoys.
Cruising: Wide Open Throttle(W.O.T.)/Cruise

You just idled past the last No Wake Zone buoy and its time to let ‘er rip! There are some lakes that allow boats and jet skis to only drive in one direction. Typically this is something reserved for smaller lakes. If you have any questions regarding the lake you are visitng you can ask someone at the lake’s marina or other boaters.

If you are planning to do some boating on a river you should be aware of the red and green buoys. Cruising up river you want to keep the red buoys to your right, and green buoys to your left. Down river, just the opposite, red to the left and green to the right. One of our favorite places to boat is on the river, the scenery is gorgeous, you feel like your in the middle of no where and you can go for miles and miles!

The only thing about river boating is that there are plenty of things to look for. Besides keeping track of those red and green buoys, you should keep a look out for debris-this can include anything from trash to full trees floating down. Trash typically isn’t a threat(except to the environment-so if possible try to pick it up) however, trees, can be a huge threat and can put your boat in the boat graveyard! So be careful and always keep an eye out!

On lakes or rivers you want to be sure you’re watching for No Wake Zones, other boats, people doing water sports and activities, fishermen(and women), and any other tom-foolery! The water can be enjoyed in so many ways, you want to make sure to stay safe and help others stay safe as well!

Common Courtesy more than Beginners Boating Tips – Please don’t pollute the waters with trash and debris, we all want to be able to go boating for many years to come!


Setting an anchor can be tricky sometimes. If you are on a river, the best way is to lower the anchor down in the water until it hits the bottom, then give it an extra 20 feet or so of line and tie it off to a cleat. Let the current take you back (if its not too fast) and the anchor will dig into the groud and set itself. If the current is too fast, then keep the boat in gear (making sure the rope or chain doesn’t pass under the boat and propeller) to slow you down a bit while drifting. Once the rope is tight, the anchor is set.

Many times you’ll see a chain attached between the anchor and the rope, this chain gives the anchor a little extra weight and helps to stay on the bottom of the lake or river while drifting instead of skipping along making it hard to dig in.

If you are setting your anchor while on a lake, lower the anchor into the water. Once it hits bottom, give it an extra 20 foot or so of line, and tie off to a cleat. Slowly back the boat up to let the anchor dig in and set itself. It’s best to make sure the anchor is set in case a storm comes out of nowhere and you’re trying to set it in wind, rain and swells.

To retrieve the anchor simply pull on the anchor until the boat is above where the anchor is set. leave a foot or two of slack and retie the rope to a cleat. Put the boat in gear and move slowly over the anchor to pull it out of the ground. Once it is free, pull it up and store it away.


Beaching your boat is a little easier. First time in an unknown area, always approach at a slow pace to see if it is safe. You’ll be looking for protruding objects, rocks, or debris. If the “coast is clear” raise the lower unit up a bit and about 5 foot or so from land give ‘er some gas until you stop moving, then let off the gas. All set.

If you plan to get out of the boat for a while, its a wise idea to set an anchor or throw a rope around a nearby tree or rock to make sure she doesn’t float off without you. Make sure to raise the lower unit before getting too settled-waves can come up and rock the boat occasionally hitting the lower unit on the ground repeatedly.

When it’s time to take off, untie the boat, lower the prop and put it in reverse. Some areas you may be able to just push the boat out by hand if you have some helpers.

Leaving The Water

You’re all tuckered out from the big day and you are ready to depart the lake. Heading back to the dock, remember that all docks are No Wake Zones. While waiting for your turn to pull into the dock, it’s a great time to get the bumpers out and attach them to the side of the boat, and get your ropes ready to tie up. As the other boater pulls his boat out of the water, approach slowly. Wind, currents, and waves can make it tricky to maneuver so it may take a few times of forward and reverse before you get all the way there.

Once you are beside the dock, hop out of the boat and tie it up so it doesn’t float away, and get your vehicle. Back the trailer into the water in front of the boat until the rear tires are in the water. At this point you can either push the boat onto the trailer and winch it the rest of the way up, or if you have a helper, one person can drive the boat up onto the trailer and the other person can winch it the rest of the way until secure. Once fully winched attach the safety chain and raise the trim. Pull the boat out of the water slowly.

Occasionally the boat may lay on the trailer crooked. If that happens just back the boat into the water enough that the rear end starts to float, and then try pulling it out again. Sometimes we’ll position someone inside the boat on the side that’s high when we go to pull the boat out of the water to give it some weight and make it lay straight.

Once away from the dock and out of the water and on level ground, pull aside to remove the drain plug and re-attach the rear straps. I always make a habit of snugging the boat winch once more before we drive away.

When you get back to park the boat to store until next time, remove the trailer from the hitch and chock tires.


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