Thinking of having the perfect boat outing? Maybe you have someone to impress, it’s a special occasion or you just want to have a hassle-free day’s fishing. Whatever the reason, the key to a perfect boating trip will be in the planning. Maybe also the weather and how the fish are running, but some things we can’t control.
Here’s a checklist of things to keep in mind when planning a boat trip.
The Day Before:
There’s plenty you can do in advance so that you’re ready for an early start.
- Have the trailer ready for the road. Depending on how long it’s been since the last outing, that might just mean making sure the tyres are pumped and in good condition, the bearings are packed, the winch works and the jockey wheel and tow hitch are primed. Don’t forget to check the spare tyre, tools and repair kit.
- Have the boat ready for the water. Inspect the propeller, windlass, anchor and bilge pump. Check the lights are operating properly and that there are no loose, disconnected or corroded wires.
- Have the gear ready for some fun. Gather whatever you’re taking – fishing rods, skis, jackets, food and drinks – and pack it to be stowed. Put in a sweater and rain gear, so that your boating trip and health don’t go south if the weather turns.
- Make a float plan and share it with someone who’s staying on shore. Know where you can anchor, swim, go ashore and even find shelter if need be.
On The Day:
Before leaving home, get a last-minute marine weather check so that you know what to expect. You might also want to time your departure/return with the weather report and tide. To stay up-to-date with the latest info, download some handy weather and navigation apps.
Once you have the gear stowed and the trailer hitched, it’s time to get on the road. Before you go too far, however, take a few minutes to test the brakes, the rear vision and the boat tiedowns, so you know everything is travelling securely.
When you get to the boat ramp or marina,
- Inspect the safety equipment on board, including fire extinguishers, flares, personal flotation devices and first-aid kits.
- Check the battery is properly secured to the vessel.
- Check the fuel tank for leaks, the filters for water and that there is good ventilation.
- Fill up with good-quality fuel and carry extra if necessary.
- Check the oil level before starting the boat.
- Keep permits, licenses and phones in a sealable plastic bag or other waterproof container and place them where they’ll be easily accessible.
- Pack a cooler with ice to keep drinks cold on the way out and the fish fresh on the way home.
When launching a boat, prep and unstrap it from the trailer before you reach the boat ramp. This means you won’t forget anything in the rush and it’s also a courtesy to other boaters in the queue. Follow the etiquette of the boat ramp – you don’t want your epic launch spoiled by some disgruntled, impatient day-tripper.
Last thing before you’re away is to park your vehicle and trailer. If you can’t leave them inside a secure area, fit a lock to the wheels of the trailer to deter opportunistic thieves.
Once you’re on board, make sure you and your passengers know and follow safe boating practices. Put the kids in life vests and show your passengers where the safety equipment is stored and how to use it.
At The End Of The Day
Tides will always have a bearing, but if you don’t want to be sitting in a long queue at the boat ramp, time your retrieval accordingly. Time spent waiting to berth can be put to good use stowing loose items, packing up, sorting the rubbish and generally getting the boat ready for the road.
After you’ve pulled the boat out of the water, check the trailer bearings, lights and brakes before driving put of the car park. Remove and stow the drain plugs to allow the bilge water to drain away and lighten the load for the trip home. After you’ve driven a few kilometres, pull over and test the bearings again; if necessary, they’ll be easier to pack once the hub’s warmed up.
It sounds like a lot of work, but being prepared is the easiest way to ensure everyone has a carefree day on the water.
Your perfect boating trip needn’t cost the earth: check out these ways to save money on fuel consumption.