Tips for boating in unfamiliar waters

Posted on Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - 09:59

When it comes to boating in foreign, unknown waters, even the most experienced boaters may get their hands sweaty and make some classic beginner mistakes. As entertaining and as enjoyable as boating may be, at the same time, it’s quite a serious affair. 

Without fear of contradiction, there’s always a slight likelihood of having your boat come to a grinding halt. Every time I am about to enter a new harbour I think – what could go wrong? Being prepared is always a good prerogative if you ask me. Hence, here are a few tips that shouldn’t miss your attention the next time you embark on your sailing adventure.

Be informed

Similar to shifting sandbars, as much as we don’t like to admit it, not every hazard of navigation will emerge on a chart. Before you set out to a new harbour or inlet, getting acquainted with some local information is never a bad idea. In the present modern context, with a push of a button you can get across a range of valuable information online, checking local boating forums. Also, picking up the phone and discussing with a harbour master is a viable option. Did you know that many inlets along the coast have webcams for real-time weather conditions? The bottom-line is that, in a matter of minutes, you can grow your knowledge on a particular harbour.

Think about it, if half of the people who struggled to get back in Boca did a bit of reckoning, things would have been a bit different if you ask me.

Follow (or not) the leader

Whether you have experienced it before or not, captains can be wrong. In fact, always abide by a rule which is as simple as that – don’t assume that a captain or another boat is all-knowing. On the contrary, there are plenty of boaters whose knowledge is rather limited, and their dangerous approach to boating is, by no means, praiseworthy.

There’s an exception to the rule, however. And that would make the commercial vessels. A captain of a commercial fishing boat, for instance, might be aware of things that, to you, are mainly unfamiliar. If you keep your eyes wide open to observe their sea behaviour, you can aim at learning what you should steer clear of.

Always, always watch for traffic

The sole forewarning about sea traffic, particularly when it comes to harbour pilots and ships, is that there are situations in which they may not see you. That would be because, as their objective is to complete a job, their attention isn’t directed towards you. Plus, close quarters might cause the captain’s vision to be restricted.

An experienced boater once said to me that, from the bridge, the greater majority of ships have a blind spot, right in front of their bow. To get a bigger picture – it’s roughly the length of three football fields. On that account, even if you’re just admiring commercial vessels, avoid getting too close – it’s for your own good.

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