You’re out on the water, and looking around you wonder, “How many of these boaters have any training in boat handling?” I ask audiences this very question and the response is universally,“probably none.”
Historically, most boaters learned by trial and error. With a small boat as a youth they could make mistakes and the damage was generally small, and the boat didn’t have much power anyway. They learned what worked for them and what did not. Damage was limited, and the boat was probably not visibly the worse for wear. Maybe what they were doing wasn’t the best way, but it seemed to work. These boaters then moved up 2 feet at a time and today consider themselves to be experienced boat handlers.
Today, people tend to buy their first boat when they are older. It is usually a bigger one and represents a larger investment. This is not the one to learn on by trial and error. Some hesitate and never get to fully enjoy their boat. Ultimately selling their boats. Others plow ahead, but panic strikes as they approach the dock with all those people watching. That’s no way to enjoy boating. Why not learn how?
When I was managing boating education for the U.S. Power Squadrons, the Coast Guard awarded us a grant to develop on-water training. This was based on our classroom Boat Handling seminar which used one of my books. Once the program was developed, we did some beta tests. Half of the participants were newbies and half were experienced boaters. Guess who did better on the water? You got it, the newbies. Why? The “experienced” boaters needed to unlearn some bad habits. Those who were new learned what worked and why before they got their hands on the controls and just did it.
Boat Handling takes you a step outside the classroom to see “live” what to do and why, and then see the boat do it. We’re out on the water in a new 40-foot Nordic Tug with a very seasoned captain at the wheel. We explain what to do, and then show you. You can watch it, over and over if need be, until you are comfortable and ready to try it yourself. You will learn some simple tips and tricks that will help you around those stress-filled maneuvers near other boats and docks. You’ll also learn how to handle those variable conditions of wind and current that can make docking the much more of a challenge.
Boat handling is not that difficult once you realize a boat behaves differently from a car and understand how it is going to respond to the controls. It also helps to have a proven docking strategy that brings you in and looking good to those spectators.
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Written By Bob Sweet