Two things you must do before taking up boating as a hobby

Boating can be a wonderful hobby. Being able to take your watercraft out onto the local rivers, lakes or ocean whenever the mood strikes can feel very freeing. However, it's not quite as simple as buying a boat and hitting the water; there are several things which you should do before you decide to take up boating. Read on to learn more about this matter.

Get to grips with boat safety

If you intend to purchase a small boat, such as a dinghy or a compact fishing vessel, you may feel that there's no need to be concerned about safety. However, if you fail to learn about how to stay safe on a boat, you could end up putting both yourself and any passengers you have on board at risk of injury or death.

There are several aspects of boat safety which you should familiarise yourself with before you ever step foot on a vessel. Firstly, you should know how to draw up a plan which you can give to a trusted friend or family member before each trip on your boat. This plan should include the names and phone numbers of everyone on board, a detailed itinerary, the registration information for your boat, as well as the details of any signalling or communication equipment you have on board (such as a personal locating beacon, for example). This will ensure that, should you run into trouble whilst out on the water, it will be easy for a rescue team to locate your vessel.

Additionally, you must understand the impact that alcohol may have on your ability to operate your vessel. Whilst many people dream about enjoying a beer or two whilst lazing on the deck of their boat, the reality is that this substance can have a serious effect on your judgement and could cause you to make a potentially fatal mistake, particularly in challenging circumstances (for instance, if a storm hits unexpectedly). A huge number of boating accidents involve alcohol consumption.

Lastly, if you cannot swim, or are a weak swimmer, it would be wise to take lessons to improve your swimming skills before you get involved in boating. Don't assume that you don't need to acquire this skill simply because you intend to use lifejackets. If an auto-inflating lifejacket fails to open at an inopportune moment and you do not know how to swim, the results could be catastrophic.

Educate yourself about the cost and time commitments involved in boat maintenance

Boat maintenance isn't just about making sure that your vessel looks good; it's also about maintaining its functionality so that it is safe to use. The process of caring for a boat can be time time-consuming, costly and complex. This is especially true for those who purchase second-hand vessels which are in somewhat poor condition and therefore need various components replaced.

If, for example, you're on a budget and have plans to purchase a cheap, second-hand boat that you can gradually 'upgrade', it's important to understand what this process may involve. For example, if the vessel's propulsion system has seen better days and you intend to replace it, you'll not only need to spend quite a bit of money on the system itself (basic outboard motors usually cost several hundred dollars) but will also have to teach yourself how to actually install it (or pay money to have a professional do this for you).

You will also need to stick to a consistent maintenance schedule, which will involve washing your boat (to remove corrosive saltwater), changing the oil in the motor (if it is a motorised vessel) and re-painting it periodically. That said, if you're responsible and can afford it, the expense of owning a boat is nothing compared to the joy of spending the day on the lake in your own boat.