A number of people, boaters and non-boaters alike have asked me, how much does it…
So you want to go boating. Boating is one of the fastest growing recreational activities today. Spurred on by the lifestyle changes imposed by the pandemic, boating is a great way to get friends and family out for a day, a weekend or longer in a safe outdoor setting.
The beauty of boating is that it can be so many different things to different people. Starting with the choice of sail or power, both modes of propelling your boat are fun and rewarding, each one offering its own special attributes. For many, sailing is about the destination rather than the journey. Of course being able to sail to your favorite destination is equally rewarding.
Powerboating can offer speed, a thrilling ride or the ability to lay down many miles towards a destination in a shorter amount of time. Whether it be dayboating to the sandbar for swimming, heading to the secluded picnic spot or that favorite overnight harbor with the family, powerboats can offer a wide range of fun activities.
Lets not forget fishing. Fishing from a boat is immensely popular and a favorite pastime of many. Whether it be using a small skiff to take you to a secret fishing hole, a bass boat to scoot across the lake for bass, or a center console boat to take you further afield. Fishing is a major reason people are out on boats. In fact, the sheer number of folks who like to fish make a significant contribution to the industry.
So how do you get started? Find a friend with a boat….! Seriously, the best way to see if you and your family would enjoy boating in whatever form it takes, is to join a friend, if possible, who has a boat for some time on the water. For those who do not have a friend with a boat, read many of us, you have a couple of options assuming you are reasonably close to a body of water suitable for boating and willing and able to spend a modest amount of your hard earned money. The first option is to join a boat club, such as Freedom Boat Club. This program is a membership program requiring an up front payment and a monthly fee that covers your boating costs. The cost is a function of the size of boat you want to use. Freedom has a number of locations. The program even offers instruction and requires a check out to ensure competency behind the helm.
Another option, is to scan your local Craigslist or similar used boat listing for a small, outboard powered boat that includes a trailer. Small can include a 14-16 aluminum boat with a 25-40hp motor on it. Such a boat is perfect for taking four people to many places on a lake or river. This type of previously owned boat is fairly inexpensive to own and operate. Such a vessel can be towed by the smallest of vehicles and stored in the yard. Maintenance is relatively simple and can be learned if not already known. A 25-40hp motor, especially a four-stroke uses very little gas to move the boat at speeds of 18-25mph depending on load.
I include rigid bottom inflatables in this group. These are boats that have a hard shell hull made of fiberglass or aluminum with an inflatable tube collar running all the way around the boat to provide additional buoyancy. Although often smaller, a 12 foot rigid inflatable can take the same size motor and have similar carrying capacity as the larger traditional skiff. The added complication of buying a used rigid bottom inflatable is determining the integrity of the inflatable tube collar. If the collar is in good condition with no leaks, then a boat such as this is more compact than an aluminum skiff for a similar price.
Now that you have access to a boat whether through a friend, a club or a small purchase, plan an outing on a warm day. Bring a picnic, some fishing rods, a tube or whatever you want. I will throw in this one PSA, alcohol and boating rarely mix. Drinking in the hot sun on a moving boat can be far less fun than one might think. Boating like driving a car also demands a designated operator who is stone sober to ensure the safety of all on board. Spend the day on the water having fun, come back to the dock and enjoy a cocktail or beer when you are tied up.
It’s also a good idea to learn how to keep you and your family safe on the water. Learn what the requirements are and good safety items to have along with you for your type of boating. Having good, comfortable life jackets ensures you will wear them on the water as well. Similarly, familiarizing yourself with basic navigation including how to read and use a chart or GPS, and a compass ensure you will get to and home from your destination. With boating in this size craft, most navigating is by sight. Learning the contours of the waterway you are on and where the hazards and fun spots are is usually all it takes.
However you do it, on whatever size boat you do it in, get out on the water and have fun! Boating does not need to be expensive and you can tailor the cost to your budget. Remember, boating is about the experience with family and friends. Old friends and the new ones you will make. This has been the ongoing motivator for Calypso II and her crew.