How do I get better at boating?

10th January 2022 Elena Manighetti

How do I get better at boating?

The pandemic has inspired many people to take up boating worldwide, so there are more boats out on the water than ever before. It’s great to see so much interest in spending time on our oceans, rivers, lakes, and waterways. Everyone should be able to get out and have fun.

However, this has led to increased risk levels for recreational boaters. As we’ve said in this article, in 2020, pleasure vessel accidents rose by 26.3% in the USA alone. Collisions with other boats were the primary kind of incident. So it has become crucial for people to become more capable and responsible boaters in order to stay safe.

But how do you get better at boating? Here are some tips.

Refresh your navigation skills

If you learned the basics of navigation years ago, it’s worth reviewing them. It’s easy to forget things when you often go on the same few trips. However, you may end up having to take a different route or call for help. In that case, you’ll want to know how to read a chart, how to interpret Aids to Navigation (ATONs), how to find your position, and more. 

Many boaters who went out on US waters in 2020 and 2021 could not explain where they were to emergency services. Take the time to learn navigation - it could save your life.

Need help remembering the most important ATONs? Take a look here. You can look them up individually on the Deckee map. You can also find the position of something (or your own) by clicking on the map. It will display the coordinates and the What3Words position.

Check your boat and gear regularly

Check your vessel and equipment every time you head out on a trip. Things can break on boats while they’re at the dock and gear ages quickly. Make sure you check everything before each trip. 

Learn boating knots

Knots can save your day, whether you’re on a sailboat, motorboat, or kayak. Knowing basic knots will allow you to tie a line to an anchor, secure your boat to a cleat, tie fenders around your vessel, and more. Follow a tutorial on how to tie a bowline, clove hitch, square knot, sheet bend, and cleat hitch. If you practice the skill, it will become second nature.

Keep a proper lookout

When driving a boat, you need to look all around (including behind) you regularly. Keep an eye out for other vessels, people in the water, submerged and floating objects, ATONs, and marine animals. Keeping a proper lookout allows you to make important decisions, such as slowing down or changing course, well on time. 

We wrote a whole article on the topic.

Refresh your knowledge of the COLREGs

Keeping a proper lookout is fundamental, but you need to know what to do if you see something or someone. The rules of the road are different on the sea. The COLREGs are a set of international laws that determine who has right of way on the sea and how boats should behave in case they are on a collision course. For example, motorboats should always give way to sailboats under sail. 

Need a quick review of the most important COLREGs? We’ve got it covered.

Learn basic engine fixes

Emergency services won’t always be able to come and get you. Plus, a tow can be extremely expensive. So being able to perform basic fixes on your engine becomes very useful on the water. Marine engines are fairly simple machines. There is a wide variety of how-to videos filmed by experts on YouTube. Why not take a look, so if your engine broke down in the middle of nowhere, you’d stand a chance of fixing it yourself?

Take a boating safety course

Whether you need to have a boat license or certificate in your country or state, if you’re new to boating and don’t have an experienced mentor, it’s worth taking a boating safety course. It’s money well-spent because you’ll learn how to keep yourself and your crew safe. When you’re out on your boat, you are responsible for your vessel and any people on it. Search and rescue services usually can’t reach you promptly. So it’s essential that you know how to minimise risks and what to do in case of emergency.

Perform man overboard drills

You and your crew need to know what to do in the event of a man overboard (MOB). Things happen fast and a person soon becomes a tiny spec on the water. Watching a video or reading an article about it isn’t enough. You need to regularly perform the MOB maneuvre, so you’ll be able to repeat it in an emergency.

Finally, understand that there will always be more to know about boating, sea conditions, and marine weather. Learn as much as you can from your experiences - every trip is a new lesson.


Download the Deckee app from the App Store or Google Play for free to help you become better at boating. On the app, you’ll be able to check a detailed marine weather forecast, look up Aids to Navigation, set reminders for equipment expiry dates, and more. The app will encourage you to act safely and be a responsible boater.

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