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Boat driving advice
Old 07-05-2018, 10:20 PM   #1
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Boat driving advice

OK, so here I am, 62 years old and I've never driven a boat (other than a kayak or canoe). I've been out on them a number of times, but always as a passenger. But I'd like to be able to rent a boat, probably starting with a pontoon party boat in the bay, and take my family out for a nice time. I know about the boating safety courses and plan to take one, but what about the actual operation of the boat? Do I need to take a course? And if so, how can I find one? I live right on the shore of the Atlantic in MD, and I haven't been able to find a boating operation course anywhere within an hour's drive. I checked the Coast Guard Auxiliary, BoatUS, and USPowerBoating.com, and nobody seems to teach the actual operation of a boat. So maybe I should just rent one and take it out and figure it out? I did teach myself how to drive a stick shift as a teen, so maybe that's the way to go. I would appreciate any advice or suggestions y'all might have.
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Old 07-05-2018, 10:29 PM   #2
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You might try the folks from whom you'd be renting the boat. If they don't offer some sort of service to teach you how to actually operate the craft they'll be entrusting you with, they may know someone who will.

The actual operating of the boat, i.e. starting it, putting it into gear, steering, putting it into reverse etc is dangerously simple. Learning to maneuver it safely takes some practice, and a pontoon boat, in wind, can be exciting, if you are trying to get into a tight docking situation at a marina, or lakeside restaurant.

Everyone, no matter how much experience they have, had to start somewhere, so I'll be interested to know how you make out in your quest, and I would be especially interested to hear what the boat rental folks say when you ask them.
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Old 07-05-2018, 11:15 PM   #3
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I would also see what they have to offer... and if you do not see anything near you look for info on youtube...


The one thing that I hate the most is people who do not know who has the right of way... I have an 18ft boat and almost got hit by a 25 ft one because he did not know I had the right of way... I am not supposed to change my course when we are close to each other, but he decided to gun his engine and would have hit me in the side if I had not made a drastic turn...


Also remember there are no lanes.... people can be coming at you from 360 degrees... have to have your head on a swivel...
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Old 07-05-2018, 11:15 PM   #4
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When I learned to drive a car, I had a driving instructor who went with me, showed me how to drive, gave me tips, and kept an eye on me until I was good enough to drive on my own.

When I learned to drive a boat, my late ex-husband was there, showing me how to do things, giving me tips, critiquing my skills, and keeping an eye on me until I was good enough that I could drive it on my own.

Learning to drive our boat was very similar to learning to drive a car. Personally I think that it might be a good idea to get someone who knows how to drive that type of boat, to go out with you at least the first few times.
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Old 07-06-2018, 01:47 AM   #5
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US Powerboating does offer hands on, on the water courses in many locations. Here’s one in Annapolis Powerboat Training Aug 18-19 and Sept 15-16. As noted above, you can learn a lot reading up, and actual operation is pretty simple, docking in and out is far and away the hard part especially alone - wind, current, prop walk, etc. If the course above is too far away, just call the nearest powerboat dealer and ask - they’ll know where you can learn.

Unless it’s a very small boat on a small body of water, I’d be very surprised if any boat rental operator would rent you a power boat of any size without you first clearly demonstrating you’re capable. The few that do will probably charge you a pretty penny additional if they have to come out to bring you back. And I suspect you’ll be liable if there’s any damage to the boat. In any event, I wouldn’t recommend you “just rent one and take it out and figure it out.
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This 16-hour hands-on, on-the-water course is for anyone who wants to learn how to safely operate a small motorboat and improve their boathandling skills. No previous experience is required!

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Old 07-06-2018, 05:09 AM   #6
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Pontoon boats are quite simple. Its just start/stop, forward, reverse, throttle speed, and steering. The rental place should give you a quick overview. Lots of youtube videos also.
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Old 07-06-2018, 05:15 AM   #7
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One important difference between driving a car and a boat is that a car goes where the front wheels are pointed... a boat steers like a car backing up... the aft end swings where you steer it and the bow responds accordingly.... an important difference when operating in close quarters.
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Old 07-06-2018, 07:39 AM   #8
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There is a lot more to driving a boat than "driving" a boat. In controlled waters, one must know maritime rules including what the different bouys mean; How to approach waves; How to approach a dock in a crosswind or in moving waters and secure the boat properly. And much more. On the Atlantic, things could get pretty intense in a hurry. Plus you are responsible for the safety of your passengers.

I have been in and out of boating (lakes and rivers) since I was 12 yrs old never on big water until a couple of years ago on Lake Michigan. I would never suggest that driving a boat is a simple task, easily picked up in a 10 minute intro by a rental place. The bigger the boat, the more experience it requires. IMO.


I recommend taking classes even if they are >1 hr drive to get there.
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Old 07-06-2018, 08:05 AM   #9
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I recommend taking classes even if they are >1 hr drive to get there.
+1 to everything you wrote. I want to focus on classes, please take them!

Years ago, a family member was involved in a tragic boating accident that ended with an accidental death. A young family member was in control when the accident happened.

There was an investigation and the young person's training and classes were instrumental in helping determine his innocence. Truly unfortunate accident that could have been a serious liability if the kid didn't have training.
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Old 07-06-2018, 08:45 AM   #10
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I would start by watching some free youtube videos, search for how to drive a pontoon starting a pontoon, docking a pontoon, pontoon safety and perhaps pontoon fails, so you know what not to do.

Always weat and have enough life jackets for each passenger, have a throwable beyond the jackets, and make sure you properly trim out the engine.

Pontoons are pretty resilient but one key is to always yield to bigger and unpowered boats, kayaks sailboats etc. That means basically just staying away from them.
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Old 07-06-2018, 08:50 AM   #11
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There is a lot more to driving a boat than "driving" a boat. In controlled waters, one must know maritime rules including what the different bouys mean; How to approach waves; How to approach a dock in a crosswind or in moving waters and secure the boat properly. And much more. On the Atlantic, things could get pretty intense in a hurry. Plus you are responsible for the safety of your passengers.

I have been in and out of boating (lakes and rivers) since I was 12 yrs old never on big water until a couple of years ago on Lake Michigan. I would never suggest that driving a boat is a simple task, easily picked up in a 10 minute intro by a rental place. The bigger the boat, the more experience it requires. IMO.


I recommend taking classes even if they are >1 hr drive to get there.



Agree that is you plan on going to a larger boat you will need much more training... and if you are in congested waters the same...



My BIL had a 45 ft sailboat and would cruise on the inter-coastal waterway... LOTS of traffic and you better know what you are doing or you could be in big trouble fast...



But if you are just going to a local lake without commercial traffic it is not as important to know all the rules...
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Old 07-06-2018, 08:57 AM   #12
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+1

Driving a boat is simple. Operating a boat safely requires training, skill and practice. You can get into trouble quickly if you donít know what youíre doing.
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Old 07-06-2018, 09:00 AM   #13
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Do you have a friend that has experience with boating that you could take with you the first time you rent a boat? DH has his Coast Guard Captain's license (he is licensed to be a charter captain) and both of us have years of experience boating including bareboating in the caribbean. We had some friends who wanted to learn boating on a local lake ask us to go with them their first couple of times out. The friends had take the basic boating class but did not have any hands on experience. We were glad to go with them and give them some help. We got a free boat ride and a nice lunch.
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Old 07-06-2018, 09:00 AM   #14
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However you go about it, hands-on practice is the key. As pb4uski points out, it's not like driving a car. Folks who learned on small sailboats or outboards, which you steer sitting at the stern, seem to "get it" better than those who were plunked down in front of steering wheel.

The boating safety classes (which I sometimes teach) are great for learning the rules, as Texas Proud pointed out. I'd highly recommend taking one from the Power Squadron, CG Auxiliary or other local organization. State-run classes sometimes focus more on laws and less on practical advice, but they all follow the same basic outline, so it's more about getting a good instructor than which organization they belong to.

For the record, the concept of "right of way" has been largely abolished in favor of "stand-on" or "give-way." The point being, both vessels have obligations, not rights.

If all else fails, there are paid captains who will do on-water training for a fee. The CG Aux and USPS have tried it, but liability issues always kill that idea. Probably with a small pontoon boat, you can find someone who'll do it for free, just for the boat ride.
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Old 07-06-2018, 09:14 AM   #15
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Oregon requires that power boaters have a licence: https://www.oregon.gov/OSMB/boater-i...t-Courses.aspx

That doesn't address how to operate a specific vessel so if you rent a boat have the owner show you the ropes.

Years ago we rented a sailboat out of Bellingham for a vacation. The lessor asked us if we knew how to operate a sailboat. I turned to my son but also saw a current Latitude 38 on a display case that included a picture of my son and the Cal Maritime sailing team on the cover. I picked up the magazine, pointed to the picture and said "That is him." The lessor asked for my son's school ID and said "Congratulations!" (they had beat Stanford and Cal in a race). Even then the lessor escorted us to the boat and familiarized all with its operation.

In addition to knowing the rules of the road it is important that the renter know how that particular boat operates.

There are boat sharing clubs in many communities. IMHO that is better than owning a boat you rarely use.
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Open sea is no place for beginners
Old 07-06-2018, 09:48 AM   #16
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Open sea is no place for beginners

DW and I took sailing lessons from a private instructor who owned the boat. Classroom sessions first, then hands-on in the water. We found him through our county adult education agency.

You may live on the Atlantic side, but the Bay side of Delmarva would be a better place to practice.
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Boat driving advice
Old 07-06-2018, 11:07 AM   #17
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Boat driving advice

I agree with the suggestion of having an experienced friend go with you on your first time. That would be a real confidence booster. Having said that, itís just not that difficult. Just go slow, donít get in a hurry (especially when approaching a dock), and practice maneuvers until you feel comfortable with operating the boat. I taught my two sons when they were young and they got the hang of it pretty quick. And, always, always be aware of your surroundings. I think the biggest danger is from other boaters, many of whom are drinking alcohol.
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Old 07-06-2018, 05:54 PM   #18
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Check with your nearest Power Squadron location. They have a new program called Jump Start that provides one on one on the water training on your boat and is designed for the new boater.
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Old 07-06-2018, 07:19 PM   #19
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I will give you the best advice I ever got, and it was about landing the boat in a dock space.
I got it from a wiley old charter captain.

"Don't go in any faster than you want to hit."
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Old 07-07-2018, 05:39 AM   #20
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I will give you the best advice I ever got, and it was about landing the boat in a dock space.
I got it from a wiley old charter captain.

"Don't go in any faster than you want to hit."
While there’s some truth to that, I’ve seen lots of boaters who go in too slow and get pushed sideways by wind and/or current before they’re in the slip. There’s a range of “right speed” depending on conditions, too fast and too slow are both bad.

And newbies sometimes forget that most powerboats (few have rudders) won’t steer if they’re out of gear - unlike a car. You go in under (forward) power, and finish in reverse, with very little time in neutral. Again, get lessons or go out with an experienced boater at least once.

https://www.boatingwithdawsons.com/a...difficult.html
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