Boat Driving Tips For The Newbie Boater

Want to rent a boat on Lake George, but unsure you'll learn enough in a boating course to feel safe out on the waters? Here's what a LakeGeorge.com staffer learned in just two hours of instruction during a boating course at a local marina. It was informative and fun, yet our staffer - who had never been behind the wheel of a boat! -- walked away feeling confident about her abilities to pilot a boat.

Getting Started

  • Know your terms: Bow (front - "you bow forward"), Port (Left), Starboard (right), Stern (back), Beam - greatest width of the boat.
  • When you get in the boat, check that you have the basics: 3 flares (not expired), fire extinguisher, paddle and life vests, gas and oil. (Note: from Nov 1st to May 1st, even adults must wear life vests on the boats.)
  • ALWAYS turn the ventilation blowers on for a few minutes prior to starting the engine, so that the gases can escape the engine, and you don't blow up.
  • Look at the bilge pump area to check for water, turn on the bilge pump if needed
  • Then turn on the ignition and just look at the engine. As the instructor said, "You can see if something's wrong. You don't have to be a mechanic to notice if a hose is spurting out water".
  • Know your gauges: RPM should be at 3000 at 30 mpg, Oil pressure about 60 and engine temperature from 160-175.

On The Water

  • Most people don't know the rules so don't assume they do.
  • On Lake George the speed limit is 45 mph in daytime and 25 mph at nighttime.
  • You should be 100 feet away from the shore at all times on a boat and 500 feet away in a jet ski.
  • Stay at the "one click" speed when in the 5 mph zone. This is easy to feel: when you move the lever forward, you'll move really slowly. When you want to speed up, lift up the trim when you are starting out, and remember to level out the boat, ie. plane.
  • In crossing situations, the boat on the starboard (right) side has the right of way. A boat being overtaken by another also has the right of way. Powerboats must yield to sailboats that are under sail alone and windsurfers, except when the powerboat is slower.
  • Vessels with a lower priority must keep out of way of vessels with a higher priority unless being overtaken. The order of highest to lowest priority is as follows: a vessel not under command (unable to maneuver), a vessel restricted in its ability to maneuver, a vessel engaged in fishing (not including trolling lines which do not restrict maneuverability), a sailing vessel, a power driven vessel.
  • In general, it's best to avoid hampering the progress of any larger vessel even if you believe you have the right of way.
  • You'll see green and red buoys - remember "Red Right Returning", so when heading NORTH, the red buoys are on your left and vice versa when heading south.

Docking

  • The most important thing about docking is doing the "one click", never going past that "first click" forward and backward and go slow, slow, slow - there is never a hurry to dock.
  • Once you've docked, turn off the battery with the switch - that way, if you accidentally left a light on, your boat will start up next time.

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