Advice for First Time Boat Owners - Steering a New Boat

Advice for First Time Boat Owners: Steering a New Boat

Whether you’re a weekend lake adventurer or you own your own waterfront property, there’s something about the freedom given to you with a boat that’s hard to describe.

The problem is this—unless you grew up on the water, chances are you haven’t been taught how to steer a boat properly. The good news is if you can operate a car, then you can learn how to drive a boat. While there are a lot of differences between the two, you still have enough of the basics for the rest to come in smoothly.

One of the first things you need to consider is getting formal training in how to operate a boat. Think of this as the boating equivalent of “driver’s ed.”

These classes will cover not just the basics of driving the boat, but also cover boating safety and maintenance, topics that will come in quite handy. Additionally, each state has its own requirements for becoming certified to drive a boat. So, there is a chance that you may have to complete such a course to become licensed anyway.

A few things you’ll learn about steering a boat:

Starting your boat is not like it is in the movies.

You can’t just open the engine up full throttle and go racing off across the lake. There are speed limits involved in starting a boat and operating it in shallow waters. You don’t want to hit a swimmer, rocks, or a sand bar that is lurking right under the surface. Instead, you should start slowly and pull out carefully until you are into the open, deep waters away from shore.

A boat is steered from the back.

When you’re driving a car, the steering wheel allows you to move the front tires in the direction you want to go. With a boat, the steering wheel may be in the same place, but the boat is actually steered from the back. That means that you need to consider this when judging direction.

On a boat, the “road” constantly shifts.

Another thing to think about when learning how to steer a boat is that your “roadway” is constantly shifting. It looks easy to just get in a boat and hold a course for the horizon, moving in a straight line the whole time. But the lake or river is a moving entity. If the wind shifts, your boat will as well, even if you’re holding the steering wheel steady. As such, you need to compensate your steering to accommodate these shifts.

Boats don’t have brakes.

If you’ve ever had to slam on the brakes in your car, you know how dangerous that can be. Your car will skid as it suddenly decelerates. But your boat can’t stop on a dime. If you see a sudden obstruction, you’ll more likely have to steer around it rather than stop. Your “brakes” are really more of a gradual deceleration as you ease up on the throttle. This means you should never be caught unawares in a boat. Always pay attention to your surroundings and be ready to adjust as necessary. If you do have to stop quickly, you may need to switch into reverse. However, doing this a lot is dangerous as it can mess up your engine.

Operating a boat is not as tough as you might think. If you can drive a car, you can learn how to steer a boat. The actual mechanics may be different, but the essentials are similar enough that you can learn quickly.

If you love being on the water, come visit us at Diamondhead Resort. Our community is right on the banks of Lake Catherine in Arkansas. Many of our homes have their own private boat slips. Find out more about our property by visiting our website:

Gated Security, Swimming Pools, Picnic Pavilion, 18-hole PGA Golf Course, Pro Shop, 19th Hole Restaurant & Bar, Lighted Tennis and Basketball Courts, Marina, Boat Docks, and a Children’s Playground.

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