10 Important Skills to Learn for Safer, Better Boating


If you want to get more out of your boating experiences and keep everyone on board safer at the same time, it's important to develop a robust skill set. With the right set of skills, you'll have an easier time manoeuvring your boat, you'll be less likely to get involved in an accident, and in an emergency situation, you'll know how to handle yourself confidently.

The Most Important Boating Skills

In many areas, no boating license is formally required to operate a marine vessel. That means you won't have to pass a test, nor will you have to attend any formal education on boat operation. But you should be familiar with the following skills if you want more enjoyment and safety:

  1. Weather forecasting. First, you should be familiar with how to read the weather. You don't need to be a meteorologist, but you should at least be able to understand what the meteorologist is saying. Before each trip, you should pay close attention to the weather forecast, understanding not just the central prediction for the day but also the current conditions and how they may change in the future. Additionally, it's a good idea to learn how to predict weather changes based on wind speed changes, temperature changes, and the behaviour of certain animals. If you can predict violent weather before it hits, you can minimize the chances of a catastrophe.
  2. Pre-boat inspections. Every boat owner should be familiar with the basic elements of their boat, including the names for each part, where they're located, and why they're important. You can use this knowledge as part of your pre-boat inspection, designed to make sure everything on your boat is intact and operational before you leave the dock. Check to make sure your bilge pump and engine blower are working. Check your propellers to make sure they're spinning properly. Idle the engine to warm it up before leaving and check for leaks or damaged parts. Your pre-boat inspection is also a perfect opportunity to inspect your safety equipment. Do you have fitted life jackets for everyone on board? Are your emergency supplies and first aid kits available and accessible?
  3. Float plan documentation. You should get in the habit of filling out a float plan every time you head out on a lengthy voyage, or any voyage for that matter. Your float plan is essentially a document that tells people where you're headed and how long you plan to be gone. This way, if you go missing, rescuers will know where to look for you.
  4. Safe driving and familiarity. You probably already know the basics of how to operate a boat, but it's also important to familiarise yourself with all the necessary elements of safe boating and commit yourself to driving as safely as possible. That means becoming familiar with different signs, buoys, and signals so you know what each one means. It also means maintaining a distance of at least 150 feet from other vessels and other individuals whenever possible.
  5. Controlled handling. Do you know how to maintain control of your boat even during difficult circumstances or for intricate manoeuvres? For example, are you familiar with how to pull your boat into a dock successfully? Would you be able to handle occasionally rough waters? It's a good idea to practice these skills so you're ready for conditions that are especially tough.
  6. Anchoring. You should also be familiar with how to anchor your boat safely and adequately. When anchoring, you should typically point your boat into the wind and anchor off the bow, using an appropriate length of wind for the depth of water you're dealing with. When pulling your anchor up, always check to make sure everyone is on board and secure the anchor and your lines inside the boat.
  7. Tying knots. There are a handful of basic knots that every boater should know how to tie. Tying a basic shoelace knot is useful for a wide variety of practical applications, but it's not a good fit for most marine applications. Instead, you'll need to use the right knot for the right purpose; some knots are much stronger and capable of bearing more weight, while others are specialized for quick release or fast tying.
  8. VHF radio operation. Your VHF radio is going to be your primary means of emergency communication, should you need it. You should be familiar with how VHF radios operate and how to signal an emergency on one. You should also have a backup plan for your VHF radio, suggest having a spare battery to use for it.
  9. Emergency signalling. Just in case your VHF radio fails, it's a good idea to be familiar with other forms of emergency signalling. Do you know how to use a flare gun, and do you have one available on your vessel?
  10. Compass and celestial navigation. If your digital navigation equipment fails, you'll be reliant on your independent ability to navigate. That's why it's a good idea to learn how to use a basic compass and potentially learn celestial navigation, so you can navigate by the stars alone.

Improving Your Abilities

The skill cap for many of these areas of knowledge and practice is exceedingly high. You can learn the basics of many of these skills in the span of a day or two, and sometimes in the span of an afternoon. But to become a true master, you'll need to practice regularly and keep looking for sources of new information.

If you're looking to get started with boating for the first time, or if you're trying to expand your horizons in your boating hobby, you might be looking for a new vessel to purchase. If so, you're in the right place. At TheYachtMarket, we have countless new and used boats for sale all over the world. Browse our selection today!

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