Improving Your Boating Skills
We look at how you can improve boating skills
By Allan Whiting
Boating groups around Australia have long voiced concerns about boating legislation that allows people to take charge of large boats after completing a written knowledge test, or at best having had basic training in a ‘tinny’.
While a one or two day boating course is obviously not comprehensive training in all facets of boat operation, it’s better than no training at all. As with car driving licence testing, hands-on courses should be compulsory in all states.
A typical boating course embraces the following theory topics: basic boating safety, weather factors, collision avoidance regulations, buoys and beacons, lights, shapes and sounds, medical emergency procedures, safety equipment, fire fighting and prevention, marine pollution, water sports safety, signal flags, safe anchoring, tides, radio and the role of the master.
A typical on-water training program requires participants to demonstrate the ability to control a boat as it leaves and returns to a launching facility or berth, moors alongside a floating vessel and a wharf, and anchors with a safe swing radius.
Some boating courses require participants to manoeuvre and berth or moor in adverse conditions, such as tight marina berths or in strong winds or tides.
Responsible boat sellers offer familiarisation sessions to new boat buyers and freshly-licensed boat owners should take advantage of these hands-on sessions.
New boaties attempting crossing river bars should seek out experienced ‘locals’ before venturing into troubled waters.
Boating theory and practice
As with a car licence test, classroom theory and one or two days of practice can’t prepare you for the real world. It doesn’t take long before beginners realise that many boat operators they encounter have either forgotten their training or just don’t care.
The most common transgressions we see on the water are excessive speed in flagrant violation of posted speed signs, heavy ‘wash’ in posted no-wash zones, incorrect procedures in head-on and give-way to the right situations, careless anchoring without regard to ‘swing’ during wind and tide changes, and disregard of ‘distance off’ regulations – 30 metres from any object in the water and 60 metres from people, when travelling at more than 10 knots.
So, if you’re new to the game, expect the other skipper to do the wrong thing much of the time.
As with learning ‘the way of the road’ in a car, fledgling boaties should operate as defensively as possible and keep speeds down. There are no quick-acting ABS brakes on a boat!