To many, boating is an appealing potential hobby. You might love the pleasant feel and vast calmness of the open water, or you might have fond memories associated with boating in the past. In any case, boating can help you take advantage of that fondness, and give you a hobby you can do by yourself or with others for years to come.
But if you don’t have much boating experience or knowledge, it can all seem very intimidating. There are thousands of boats you could feasibly get, and dozens of ways to use them.
So how, exactly, does one get started in boating?
Learn the Types of Boats
It’s a good idea to visit a boating shop, online or in-person, so you can see what types of boats are available, and what purposes they serve. If you’re looking to spend multiple days on the water at a time, or if you’re trying to live a party lifestyle, you could purchase a houseboat or a mega yacht, designed to house people for overnight stays on the water.
If you’re more interested in watersports like tubing or water skis, you could get a wakeboard boat or a runabout. If you want something simple that gives you a good workout, you could go for a kayak. There are also fishing boats, designed to make it easier to fish, and sailing vessels for the born navigator.
After reading about these different types of boats, one or two types should jump out at you. Are you most interested in fishing on a regular basis? Or are you trying to get an adrenaline rush while you’re on the water?
Survey Your Surroundings
You can’t really get into boating unless you have a place where you can use your boat. If you live by a lake or by the ocean, it should be easy to check out a local marina or dock and determine how people are typically using boats in the area. If you have access to the open water in your hometown, you’ll have a variety of options.
If not, you may have to get creative with your boating hobby; for example, you may consider renting a boat for a short period of time each summer, treating your aquatic escape as a kind of vacation. If you’re serious about getting closer to the water, you may even consider moving.
Talk to Avid Boaters
Next, take the time to talk to some people in your area who have gotten into boating. It shouldn’t be hard to find them if you have a local marina. Tell them you’ve been thinking about getting a boat or spending more time on the water in general. They’ll probably be not only willing but eager to give you advice on your first purchase, recommending brands to stay away from and brands to gravitate toward.
They may also have some words of wisdom on how to operate and maintain your vessel, or how to comply with the restrictions set by the local authorities. Best of all, you’ll make a new contact; if you get along, you may be able to spend some time with them on their boat before you move forward with your hobby.
Depending on what type of boat you want to operate and how you’re going to be using it, you may be required or recommended to get a captain’s license. License requirements vary depending on the nature of your vessel, how many passengers you’re carrying, and where you’re operating the vessel, so make sure you do your research before applying.
You may also need additional licenses and permits to partake in water-related activities. For example, you will likely need a local fishing license before you can legally fish in local waters. Again, make sure you do your research before proceeding.
Learn to Maintain Your Craft
If you plan to move forward with purchasing a boat, it’s important that you learn how to properly maintain it. When properly cared for, a boat can last nearly a lifetime, but if you aren’t regularly inspecting and cleaning it, it can quickly turn into shambles.
Learn from others or watch online tutorials to learn how to inspect your vessel for damage, make small repairs, and keep things washed and wax to avoid rust buildup and other forms of deterioration.
Part of the enjoyment of boating as a hobby is learning just how much there is to explore. Don’t be intimidated if everything seems new to you; this is a learning opportunity, and a chance to get acquainted with aspects of the hobby you hadn’t previously considered. Keep an open mind, and be flexible; you might be surprised at what you ultimately choose.