Imagine the perfect day out on the water. Maybe you see yourself gliding along calm seas as you feel the wind in your face and the ocean spray all around you. This dreamy image can be a reality, but only if you are properly prepared for your first boating adventure.

Perhaps you have just purchased your first boat or you’re in the market for one. Wherever you find yourself as you prepare to become an avid boater, it is important to understand your responsibilities and strategies for staying safe and smart while on the water. We’ve come up with our top 10 tips to help you efficiently and responsibly prepare for your first time out on your vessel. Take a look!

1) Obtain License & Registration

Having your boat registered and obtaining your Florida boating license is absolutely crucial to beginning your life as a boater. These important documents are required by law when you are operating a marine vessel, big or small. After purchasing your boat from South Florida Yachts, determine where you’ll be boating—rivers, lakes, the ocean—and the state (if anywhere other than Florida) in which you’ll be operating your boa. These details can have an effect on what type of license and/or registration you need. The type of boat you will be operating is also a determining factor.

Once your boating location has been determined, do research on what information you will need to get your boat registered and how to obtain your boater’s license. Going over these important, legal requirements and details are very important to take care of early on instead of regretting it later when you’re approached by law enforcement on the water.

2) Check the Weather

Now that the background information is taken care of, you can begin to plan your first day aboard your new vessel. Choosing the day and time to launch your boat is an important factor in safe boating. Even if the weather looks like it will be good a few days out, it’s important to continue checking for sudden changes and unexpected storms. This includes the morning of your chosen launch day. Weather can change unpredictably and you do not want to be stuck in a dangerous situation on your first excursion. Wait it out for a clear, sunny day with calm winds so you’ll be able to sail smoothly into the evening.

3) Pack Smart

Don’t wait until of the morning of to begin gathering items for your boating excursion. It is wise to pack a day or two in advance for your day on the water. Include items such as a first-aid kit, a basic toolbox, sunscreen, flashlight, a radio and other basic supplies. Bring plenty of water and snacks to keep everyone hydrated and fueled. It’s always good to bring more food and water than you think you’ll need. You’ll be surprised at your heightened appetite after some time on the water.

It is absolutely required that you pack enough life jackets for everyone onboard. These floatation devices should be kept on your vessel at all times. To make future boat day packing easier, you can keep all of these items stored on your boat or keep a large duffel bag that comes with you each and every boating day.

4) Overdress

When it comes to dressing for the boat, more is always better. It may be hot on land, but once the boat gets going and the wind is whipping you’ll be thankful for those extra layers. Also, if you are riding back at sunset, you’ll notice a drop in temperature as you head back to the docks.

The sun is particularly strong when you’re on the water and it’s smart to cover up in white, breathable clothing for part or all of the day. A hat and sunglasses are also great ways to keep your skin protected from the sun’s rays. Remember that you can always take layers off when it gets too warm.

5) Have a Float Plan As a first-time boater, you never know what to expect on the water. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a rookie, you should always provide a float plan on shore before leaving for the day. You never know when something could go wrong on the water and it’s smart to have someone on land that knows your whereabouts in case you don’t return. Provide a friend or family member that is staying behind with where you are planning to boat and how long you plan to be out. If you are not heard from, your float plan will provide law enforcement with crucial information to help find you in the case of an emergency.

6) Train Out of the Water

This may seem silly, but just like a car, boats are different in the way they drive and handle. As a first-time boater it’s wise to get familiar with your vessel before hitting the water. Explore your boat on land and get to know all the mechanical gadgets aboard. Ideally you could find someone who is experienced in your type of boat who can show you the ropes. Good old trial and error is also an easy option on land. Sit in your boat while it’s still on the trailer and familiarize yourself with all buttons, switches, gauges and gadgets.

You can do your own research or read a boat manual to learn more about terminology, wind awareness, steering skills, knot tying and more. Many think that operating a boat is just like driving a car and we’re here to say that this is simply not true. When steering on the water, you must also take into account the wind and current which can have effect on your steering accuracy. Once you’re familiar with your new boat and how it operates it’s time to head out on the water.

7) Ramp & Dock Responsibly

To avoid issues at the boat ramp, become comfortable driving with a trailer and backing it up accurately.  Come launch day, take your time and don’t feel pressure from surrounding influences. Focus on what you’re doing so you can successfully and smoothly get your boat in the water with no damage to your vessel or vehicle.

When docking, be sure to take it slow. Rushing and going too fast when approaching a dock can result in damage to your boat or the dock itself. If your initial approach is not going as planned, don’t be afraid to turn around and try again. Trust us, taking it slow is much better than having a docking disaster on your first day.

8) Go Slow

Taking it slow goes for cruising on the water as well. Driving a boat for the first time can feel unnatural. Especially when operating amongst other boats, it’s wise to take things slow. A slow moving boat is much easier to stop and control than a speedy one. Don’t worry though, pretty soon you’ll have the skills and experience to zoom down the waterway, depth allowing.

9) Know the Rules

Following the rules of the water is much like following the rules of the road. It is crucial to everyone’s safety. This means maintaining a safe speed at all times and obeying no-wake areas. Always stay alert to your surroundings and posted buoys. Do not venture into restricted or shallow areas and do not consume alcohol before or while operating your boat. Be sure to avoid large vessels that may not have the steering or stopping ability that you’re used to. With caution and responsibility you’ll have no problem getting comfortable with life onboard.

10) Have Fun

The most important part of boating is that you have fun. Bring along your family or friends for a adventurous day enjoying the gorgeous outdoors. You’ll make memories that will last a lifetime and we’re almost certain you’ll be planning your next outing right away. Now it’s time to get out on the water and have some fun!

If you’re ready to take the plunge and embrace the boating life, consider purchasing a top-quality boat from South Florida Yachts. We’re happy to help you find the perfect vessel in the right size, style and make to get you out on the water as soon as possible! Browse our incredible inventory of center consoles, bay boats, yachts and more with one of the largest selection of Robalos in Florida. Hope to see you soon!