10 Mistakes New Boat Owners Make

Owning a boat is a dream for many. The wind in your hair, the sun on your face, and the waves crashing against the hull; what could be better?

However, owning a boat comes with a lot of responsibility. If you’re new to the boating world, there are some mistakes you might make that could cost you time, money, and your safety.

This article will explore 10 of the most common mistakes new boat owners make.

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Common Mistakes You Should Avoid

When you become a new boat owner, you’re probably going to be so excited to hit the water that you don’t even think about the possibility of making mistakes.

However, it’s important to be aware of the common mistakes new boat owners make so that you can avoid them.

1. Not Having a Boat Mentor

When you’re new to something, it’s always helpful to have someone who can guide you and offer advice. The same goes for boat ownership. Find a friend or family member who is an experienced boater and ask them to be your mentor.

They can help you with everything from launching the boat, handling, and docking, and they can offer tips on what to do (and what not to do). You can easily find friends that have boats by helping out with their boats or fishing with them.

2. Not Reading Your State Regulations

Every state has different regulations when it comes to boating. Familiarize yourself with your state’s specific regulations before heading out onto the water.

You can typically find this information online or by visiting your local marina.

You’ll want to know the minimum age requirements for operating a boat, what type of safety equipment is required, and how many people can be on board.

This type of information can save you from fines and penalties, and it could even prevent an accident.

3. Not Having All the Safety Gear

Safety gear is a must-have when you’re on a boat. Be sure to have life jackets for everyone onboard and a throwable floatation device.

Here is a safety gear checklist:

  • Navigation lights: They help other boaters see you, especially at night.
  • Towline: In case your boat breaks down, you can be towed to safety.
  • Eperb: An emergency flare that signals for help.
  • Horns, anchor, whistle: To signal for help.
  • PFD: Personal flotation device.
  • Marine safety kit: A kit that has items like bandages, a flashlight, and a first-aid book.
  • Radio: So you can communicate with other boats and the Coast Guard. And also in case of an emergency, you can make a mayday call.
  • GPS: A global positioning system can help you navigate and find your way if you get lost.
  • Leak management: In case your boat starts to take on water.
  • Throwable floatation device: Used to rescue someone who has fallen overboard.

4. Not Knowing Proper Boating Etiquette

You might not realize it, but boating etiquette is a thing. Just like with anything else, there are certain things you should and shouldn’t do when you’re on a boat.

For example, you should always yield to larger boats, give the right of way to boats approaching from your starboard side, and keep a safe distance from other boats and docks.

Know which side you are supposed to be on when docking. You should also know the proper horn signals to use when passing. If there are fishers, you should stay away from them, as your boat motor could easily scare the fish away.

5. Not Taking Your Time

Someone might bring their wake over to you and make your boat rock. Or, you might have to dodge a log in the water. It can be tempting to speed through these situations, but it’s essential to take your time.

Remember, safety should always be your number one priority. You can increase your speed when you get more comfortable and have a better handle on the boat.

6. Not Having a Checklist

Do not rely entirely on your memory when packing for a day on the boat. You might forget something important, like sunscreen or food or even a maintenance day.

Before you leave, make a checklist of everything you need to bring. This way, you can be sure that you have everything you need (and nothing that you don’t).

7. Not Practicing with The Trailer

Knowing how much room you have when going backward with a trailer is important. Practice in an empty parking lot so you are comfortable with the movements.

Do not rely on the mirrors but turn your head to check your blind spots, not to jackknife the trailer.

8. Going During Peak Hours

Like with driving, there are certain times when it’s best to avoid boating. For example, weekends and holidays are typically the busiest times on the water.

If you can, try to avoid these times. You’ll likely have a much more enjoyable (and less stressful) experience if you do. If there are fewer people and boats on the water, you will have a more relaxing time.

9. Not Getting on Plane Trim tabs

If you want to improve your fuel efficiency and speed, you’ll need to adjust your boat’s trim tabs.

These are located on the back of the boat, and they help to level out the hull. If your boat is not trimmed correctly, it will ride lower in the water, increasing drag and slowing you down.

It can be tricky to get the perfect trim, but it’s worth taking the time to do it right. You’ll save money on fuel, and you’ll be able to move through the water more quickly.

10. Not Taking Care of Your Body and Gear

You should always take care of your body and gear when you’re out on the boat.

You should also take care of your boat by cleaning it regularly and storing it properly when you’re not using it.

If you take care of your boat, it will last longer and perform better. And if you take care of your body, you’ll be able to enjoy your time on the water more fully.

Also, staying hydrated is key, and wearing sunscreen because you can get sunburnt very easily. Putting on a hat or visor can help too.

You should also take care of your boat by hosing it down after every use and waxing it to keep the hull in good condition. This way, you can avoid doing major repairs down the line.

Other Common Mistakes

Having Too Much Ego

You might think that you know everything about boating because you’ve read a few books or watched some videos. But the truth is, there’s a lot to learn about boating, and even experienced boaters make mistakes.

So don’t let your ego get in the way of learning as much as you can. The more you know, the safer you’ll be on the water.

Lacking some Environmental Etiquette

You should always be aware of your impact on the environment when boating. For example, don’t throw trash in the water, and avoid damaging sensitive areas like reefs or mangroves.

If you have to change fluids or gas, do it in a safe place where the runoff won’t pollute the water. And always be respectful of other boaters and wildlife.

Keeping Your PFD on Your Captain Chair

You should always wear a life jacket when you’re boating. And it’s not enough to have one on board—you should also wear it while you’re underway. Many states require that everyone on board must wear a life jacket at all times.


There’s nothing quite like spending a day out on the water. The fresh air, the sun, and the waves can all work together to create a truly unforgettable experience. However, if you’re not careful, your day on the water can quickly turn for the worse.

Know that owning a boat is expensive. It needs to be part of your lifestyle otherwise you’ll just be adding to the other boats sitting vacant in marinas.

By following these ten simple tips, you can help ensure that your time on the water is spent safely and enjoyably. So, before you head out for your next boating adventure, keep these tips in mind.

Diana Nadim
Fishing Expert
Diana began fishing at the age of seven, as it has been a long-time family tradition. From catching small bullheads to catching strippers on the backwaters of Bighorn, she loves to get out in the wild and have a marvelous day on the water. Her dad was an expert angler, and he taught her fishing along with her two siblings. They used to go to the Bighorn River in Montana and Henry’s fork, Idaho. As a pragmatic person, she is obsessed with creating well-researched and practical guides and reviews of the best fishing methods and gear.
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