One of the best ways to strengthen yourself on the water is to learn basic seafaring skills. If you’re unsure how or where to start, find out about boating skills and seamanship courses run by the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Power Squadron, and state boating authorities. You should also spend a lot of time behind the helm under the guidance of an experienced boater, keeping course objectives in mind.
There are a number of practical seaman’s skills and boating safety tips that will help you become a better boater. Some examples of boating skills and sailor goals are as follows:
- Before you take the helm, review all applicable state and federal boating laws and regulations. On the status pages you will find links to current laws and regulations. Remember, these laws and regulations are subject to change. So it’s always a good idea to check for updates.
- Learn about weather and tides, including forecasting and route options, taking into account changing weather conditions. Stay up to date with sea weather forecasts, watch out for changes in wind direction or temperature, and keep an eye on the sky.
- Learn navigation and map reading skills. This should include the ability to support navigation aids, navigation maps, a compass and GPS (Global Positioning System).
- Gain a basic understanding of engine and ship maintenance. Know how your boat is performing, when it needs maintenance, and what fluids or spares to keep on board.
- Learn key boat handling skills such as docking in the wind, exiting and returning to a slip, close-up maneuvers, and anchoring. Take a hands-on class from a group like the US Power Squadron or US Powerboating.
- Know how to use a marine VHF radio. Note that channel 16 is only used for emergency calls and calls. If you need to communicate with another ship, call the ship on the 16th and then switch to a working channel on the leisure band to continue the conversation.
- Learn how to tie knots and secure dock lines. Learn how to tie a studded hitch hitch knot, clove hitch hitch knot, arch line knot, anchor flex knot, and spring string. You’ll be much safer and more comfortable around a boat when it comes to mooring to the dock or removing fenders.
When you learn basic seaman skills like these, you will be well on your way to sailing better and safer. Check a list of online boat safety courses in your state for upcoming course dates and times.