You’ve been on your friend’s boats. You’ve rented fishing charters. You’ve even piloted here and there. But armed with a brand new license and a brand new boat, you are now you’re taking your boat out for the first time. Experienced boat owners know that the first few times on the water may result in a few awkward situations, like trying to get into the slip at waterfront dining as everyone watches and shouts their encouragement. But there is nothing like owning a boat and having that freedom – so don’t be intimidated, and get out there. Here are a few tips for your maiden voyage.

There are similarities between learning to drive and learning to navigate with a boat and trailer. Many of us have taken a teenager to an empty shopping center lot to practice parking, and that is one of the first tips of the experts. Along with perfecting your backup parking skills, this is also an excellent time to practice hand signals – boat ramps are often noisy and crowded, so know how to communicate “stop,” “left,” “stop” and “you did it!” with your hands. Don’t forget that even as a beginner, you have every right to be at the boat ramp, and launching doesn’t have a timeframe. Go slow, and moderate your movements with ample use of the brake pedal. Backing down a ramp, you will rarely use the gas pedal – keep your foot on the brake pedal when turning the wheels. The only difference between a professional and a first-timer is practice, so don’t be intimidated, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. It won’t be long before you are easily launching your vessel.

Ready to go? Make sure you have filed a Float Plan with someone onshore, so they know where you plan to be, and what your expected time frames are. Having someone else on board who knows how to pilot the vessel is also a good idea. Make sure that all safety gear has been inspected, keep cell phones and keys safe in a plastic bag or watertight container, and have plenty of drinking water and snacks onboard to keep everybody hydrated and happy. For the first time on the water, pay close attention to landmarks, make sure you understand your GPS and keep an eye on the headings so that you don’t get disoriented.

With a little preparation, your first time on the water can be everything you’ve dreamed of – and as always, we would like to suggest a Sign and Glide membership. It’s like having your best friend on call should you need any help. Heading out for your first time or if you have been sailing for years, the peace of mind our coverage provides is invaluable.shutterstock_211492003