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Old 26 January 2006, 10:57   #1
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Country: UK - England
Town: The wilds of Wiltshire
Boat name: Dominator
Make: SR5.4
Length: 7m +
Engine: Yam 85
MMSI: 235055163
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 13,053
Starting boating? Nos's guide for beginners.

I wrote this for a fishing forum I'm a member of. As you guys are in the great majority extremely competent I doubt it'll be a huge amount of use, but it answers a lot of basic questions for newbies-specially those doing it on a budget. Any additional stuff is very welcome!

I've noticed that on these forums there's a few people who I'd quite happily go out to sea with, but also quite a few who through no fault of their own haven't got a clue as they are only just starting out, buying their 1st boat, doing it on the cheap etc. This is for them.


Make sure your boat is SECURELY fastened to the trailer before towing. The winch strop is NOT enough-Chain the bow eye to the winchpost too. Use a padded ratchet strap or tiedowns (specially on a RIB use tiedowns rather than a ratchet strap) to hold the stern down. Contrary to some people's opinions, boats WILL bounce off a trailer.

Cover your propeller with a fluorescent bag or bucket while towing. This is a legal requirement.

Make absolutely certain your outboard is tilted and can't drop down while towing.

There should be about 25kg of weight or 5-10% of your outfit's weight (depending on the weight/setup of your rig)on the tow ball of your car from the trailer. If there's significantly more or less then move the gear in the boat or if that's not enough move the trailer axle-they usually move on U-bolts. If it snakes about at normal motorway speeds at all then it needs adjusting.

Always check your trailer tyres for cracks and correct pressure,brakes for binding and operation (if braked)and wheel bearings for stiffness/rumbling/notches before towing any distance. None of these last too well when they get dunked in salt water regularly. If it's got grease nipples on it then buy a grease gun and use it regularly. Make sure you hose your trailer down with fresh water after every recovery-brakes included.

Regularly check the bolts holding your trailer together. The trailer may well be galvanised but bolts still rust and may well give way. Pay special attention to the bolts holding the tow hitch on.You really don't want to kill someone or lose your boat when it decides to cross 6 lanes of motorway before it hits a car head on.

On unbraked trailers use a safety chain that will stop the tow hitch hitting the ground if it becomes disconnected.

On braked trailers use the correct wire breakaway cable-this will apply the trailer brakes then snap if the trailer becomes disconnected from the car while moving.

Check your trailerboard/lights works properly EVERY time you use it. The one time it doesn't you'll get stopped by the police for it.

Trailers are NOT allowed in the outside lane of the motorway-the guy you saw last week doing it will eventually get points on his licence for it. IT IS ILLEGAL.

Your speed limit while towing is 60mph on motorways, 60 on dual carriageways and 50 on a single carriageway A-road. Don't forget your braking distance will be around double your braking distance without a trailer.


Most slipways have an area in the car park for prepping your boat. DONT prep in the way of anyone launching or on the slipway itself.

DON'T FORGET THE DRAIN PLUG and CHECK YOUR BATTERY is charged before you launch.

Whatever method you use for launching, get your boat away from the trailer as fast as possible.One idiot jetskier can ruin your whole day with his wake as your hull smashes against the trailer.

Safety gear onboard

EVERYONE on board should have a lifejacket-and be wearing it. They aren't expensive and may well save a life.

You will need a flarepack. Go to a proper chandlers(not one that specialises in yachting fashions!), tell them what boat you have and what you plan to use it for then ask what they recommend. Make sure your flarepack is within it's expiry date.

Get the best VHF radio you can afford. Steer clear of handheld VHF sets unless it's the only option you have due to the layout of your boat-but if you DO buy a handheld be aware that their range is somewhat limited. Unless you have a marine radio licence don't transmit on it unless you need to call for help-you might get fined but it's better than being dead.Monitor channel 16 and the local coastguard channel-use channel 16 for EMERGENCIES ONLY. If you've got a licence you'll know the correct procedures anyway but if you haven't that is as much as you need. REMEMBER-when you transmit (button on side of microphone) then you can't recieve at the same time so don't talk over the person who you're calling-he won't be able to hear you at all until he stops transmitting.Mobile phones don't always work on the water-have one as backup but seal it in plastic so it doesn't get wet. If it DOES work it takes a lot longer to speak to the local coastguard via mobile than via VHF.

GPS is a very useful tool to have onboard-it means that if you're in trouble you can tell the coastguard/lifeboat/helicopter exactly where you are to within a few yards. Handheld sets are fairly cheap but they do use a lot of batteries so make sure you have a spare set.The best bet is a fixed GPS set, but they aren't cheap.They are also very useful for finding fishing marks!

Get an auxiliary outboard as backup. A good size for an auxiliary engine is up to 4m boat-4hp. After that add 2hp per metre of boat length and round it up to the next available engine size-for example a 7m boat would need a 12hp auxiliary to be adequate. Run it EVERY time you go out and get it serviced with the main engine.
Get one that has its own tank and uses the same fuel/tank fitment as your main engine if possible-or get one with an inbuilt tank that uses the same fuel as your main engine.

Carry a set of paddles. You'll be surprised how useful they are.

If you have removable tanks, carry 2. Carry at least 3 times the fuel you need to get to where you're going to fish- work on the rule 1/3 out, 2/3 back and you should always have enough fuel to get home.

When you buy an anchor, buy the next size up to the one recommended for your boat size if you plan to anchor in anything other than flat calm. Use 2m of chain minimum on it (but preferably the length of your boat or more if fishing in tidal flow/rough water) before the anchor rope-it 'll hold better that way. Use 3 times the depth of water in rope to anchor with.

Carry a method of bailing out water just in case. A bucket will do, but a bilge pump and a bucket are better.

Outboard Motors

Never EVER run an outboard motor without a water supply. You will destroy the water pump in seconds and overheat then trash your motor.If using 'flush muffs' then have the tap turned on full-your engine can pump more water than a tap can supply.

Flush your outboard with fresh water using flush muffs every time you take your boat out of the water.

NEVER EVER rev an engine out of water. They can rev up to twice their recommended maximum revs when they have no load and they will destroy themselves in the process.

Get your engine serviced at least once a year-and make sure that your water pump impeller is changed as part of the service.

DO NOT USE solely copper based anti-seize grease on anything that will be submerged-it causes galvanic corrosion. Use an anti-seize grease that has a high zinc content as well as copper.

DO NOT GO OUT if your water telltale isn't showing-this is a small stream of water from your engine that's sole purpose is to tell you that the cooling system is working. Outboards damage very easily when overheated.

If your outboard is a 2-stroke make sure you use the correct 2-stroke oil at the correct premix or that you have sufficient oil in the tank for engines that mix their own.
Motorcycle 2-stroke oil is NO GOOD FOR OUTBOARDS-your engine will wear out extremely fast if you use it-no matter what it says on the oil bottle, unless it says it's for use in outboards then it ISN'T.

NEVER EVER use easy-start on a 2stroke.It has the same effect as running it with no oil and will eventually destroy your engine. If it's hard to start then get it serviced and set up properly so it isn't hard to start. IF you think your engine is addicted to easy-start it's not, it's WORN OUT and you shouldn't be using it at sea. Easy start is also highly explosive and toxic.

Always make sure your battery is charged and that you have an alternative method of starting (emergency rope start etc)

If your engine doesn't have an emergency stop lanyard, get one, fit it and USE IT.
Attach it to yourself by looping it round a wrist or leg-don't just clip it to itself. If you fall out while under way your boat won't sail off into the sunset without you.
Keep a spare one on board and make sure passengers know where it is so they can restart the engine and come back to pick you up.

It might sound obvious but NEVER GO NEAR A MOVING PROPELLER unless you have a fetish for being an amputee.Stay WELL AWAY from swimmers for this reason.

Laws while boating

If you're not sure of speed limits or local restrictions on fishing/launching etc look on the net-most harbours have local byelaws available online. The fines can be heavy for disobeying them.

Some harbours insist on seeing proof of insurance before you launch-don't forget it.

Read the maritime collision regulations and know who's got right of way. Assume that if it's bigger or less manouevreable than you that it has right of way.
Don't forget that powered boats MUST give way to sailing boats that are sailing. They will NOT give way to you.
If practical, stay out of the way of anything coming anyway-it's safest. Just make sure you go in the right direction (it's in the collision regs)

Learn what the various marker buoys mean. Some mean 'stay well clear' with good reason.

Using your boat

ALWAYS check the local,inshore and shipping forecasts before you go out.If the weather looks like it might turn nasty when you're out then it probably will- head in before you get a problem.

Make sure you have a copy of the local tide times for the day you go out(These are available online). Some slipways are unusable at low water.

Don't fish or go near divers while they are in the water. You can tell if a boat has divers down as it will be flying the Divers 'A' Flag (below)

Treat any inflatable buoy near a dive boat as a diver-it will be attached to one. Stay WELL CLEAR-if you get his line tangled in your propeller it will pull him to the surface and possibly kill him.

Watch for floating line near buoys-specially lobster/crab pots. Get this round your propeller and you won't be going anywhere.

When passing chain/wire ferries like the Sandbanks ferry in Poole or the upper Dart ferry it's always advisable to pass behind them as the chain/wire is only just under the water at the front of the ferry.

You can't pull over on the hard shoulder if something goes wrong.

The people who the RNLI spend days looking for are usually the ones who 'thought it'd be ok-it won't happen to me' and are blase to the dangers. It's not much comfort to the relatives when their bloated corpses finally float to the surface.
DON'T BE ONE OF THEM. It doesn't make it any less fun if you do it properly.
Anyone want to add anything to this lot?

< Edit: Any comments or discussion here please: JK >
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