Boating 101. My Story. DO's and Don'ts
Purchasing a boat can be a frightening experience, it doesn’t have to be if you know what to expect. Living in Florida, I felt that I should join the ranks of the “elite”- Boat owners. I will take you along through my experiences as a boat owner.
I decided to start off small, due to the fact that my budget was tight. I was able to find a 16” Jon boat, something simple. It was just a boat and trailer no accessories or motor. I was psyched, on my way to do some cruising and fishing. Now all I needed was a boat motor. Generally, the motor is the most expensive part. Motors can be upwards of $100 per horsepower. (I.E. - A 100 HP motor can be $10,000 or more). At a friend’s house I spotted a small 6HP Johnson – BOAT MOTOR, just sitting all alone in the corner. I asked my friend if it was for sale, as luck would have it- it was! WOW-only 40 dollars. I quickly, ran to the bank and purchased my first boat motor.
Once home, I needed a few more parts to get things up and running. First, a gas can was in order. Wal-Mart here I come. Found me a 6 gallon can for about $30 Dollars. Ok, I have a boat and trailer, gas can and gasoline. Rushing home quickly hooking up all the parts. I primed the tank, pulled the cord on the motor and nothing, several more times it was spitting and sputtering, and once more it came to life. Special Note: Never attempt to start an outboard without water running through it. You can use a large bucket or purchase special “ear muffs” to attach to a garden hose. I was on my way.
By this time reality was slowly setting in, I was in need of a few more items- Safety Equipment. (Back to Wal-Mart). I made a short list. Life Jackets (2), Fire Extinguisher, Horn, throwable cushion, rope, anchor, dry storage box, flares, I was determined to do it right. Total roughly $150. Money was going fast. I didn’t care…I was going boating. Back home I assembled all my purchases and happily loaded up the cooler with my favorite beverages (please do not drink alcoholic beverages, the “fish police” can and will arrest you!). All ready to go I realized that I forgot to register the boat and trailer. DARN!! Luckily, it was Friday and the DMV was still open. Shelling out another $100, losing about 2 hours of my life and receiving my plate and registration sticker I was home. Now I’m set.
Now I had all I needed, hopefully. Once again, loading up all the necessary gear. I was determined to see water soon. Driving my SUV with a boat for the first time went well, just go slow. Traveling about 6 miles to the boat ramp, my friend and I pulled in and I lined the boat up and quickly realized that backing a boat up was a bit daunting if you do not have the experience. After several tries and many laughs from onlookers, I was lined up. My buddy got out and stepped on the dock, I slowly began to enter the water, immediately water started gushing in and the entire back end was full of water - I forgot to put the drain plug in. STOP and Pull out, were the next words I hear. Figuring out what was going on I pulled the boat out. At this time the laughing continued, apparently I was the comic relief for the day. Fixing my problem and getting some angry stares from experienced boaters waiting to put their boat in, the boat was afloat.
Finally, sitting in the boat, warm breeze blowing, things were good. Firing up the motor, frightfully putting the small motor in reverse, slowly backing out we were actually going forward…YES. Driving for about a half hour the decision was made to head towards the Vehicle Assemble Building at NASA, still 10 miles away. Navigating past some “no wake” signs the boat lurches to a complete stop throwing everything all over the boat. Now this was a dilemma, apparently it was real shallow and I was stuck on a sandbar. Sitting for about 10 minutes trying to assess what the next move should be I see two boats heading towards, I’m rescued!! Nope, the blue lights came on and now I am in real trouble - POLICE. Trying to explain what I was doing in restricted waters, (now I know what that red buoy was for) I was asked for the usual license and such. After a stern lecture, they asked for the registration so I pointed to the sticker on the side of the boat. Apparently, I left the actual paper registration in the truck. By this time I knew I was going to jail. Luckily, the FWC were slightly sympathetic, guess they have run into morons like me before. Once things calmed down and it was determined I wasn’t a terrorist, I got free and was on my way with several tickets and a realization that this boating stuff wasn’t as easy as it seemed. My day was done. Back home finally, I was safe.
The moral to my story is if you plan on going boating there are a few things to consider:
· DO your homework. This will save many headaches.
· Have the proper safety gear.
· Know the boating regulations and the area you are boating. Buy a Map!
· Bring a friend, they may need a laugh.
· Take as many spare parts as you can. Two of everything is a good rule. (no joke)
· Figure out how much money you need and add a zero to the total.
· Go to your local wildlife commission and talk to them first, they can be a wealth of information.
· Plan on the fact that anything can go wrong and will.
Sadly, my experiences are true. I learned the hard way; this is only with a small fishing boat. Imagine if I had a bigger more complicated boat. Luckily, after hundreds of dollars later and several successful boating outages. Successful, I mean you made it home with no tickets or destroying parts of the boat (prop). I have finally realized that the old adage is true- The best times of a boat owners life is the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it. Better yet, simply befriend someone who owns the boat and can pay for things, then sit back and enjoy the ride. Be safe and remember if it can it will go wrong it will.