The Virgin Boaters Guide to Boating: Traps to Avoid On (and off) the water.

There are many many ways to fail in boating. Some are harmless and hilarious, like getting sprayed by the overflow on your potable water tank in summer. Some are not so getting sprayed by ANY other tank of anything on the boat.

Here are a few of the most common pitfalls new boaters experience, and how to either avoid them completely, or at the very least capitalise on their hilarity for others to enjoy.

The Boat Ramp Blunder

The boat ramp is the place where countless boaters, both expert and novice, have come unstuck. There are so many elements to the operation of launching and retrieving a boat that can catch you out in a variety of different ways. The simple stuff like slipping over on algae, or jumping into water up to your armpits rather than your ankles can be avoided by wearing the right footwear and looking before you bloody leap!

It’s the bigger stuff (think compilation on YouTube) that can really get you into trouble.

Creating a procedure in your head will help you avoid contributing to Fail Army’s 100k likes this week. By doing everything in a set order you will know where you are up to, from plugging in the wiring harness for your trailer at home, to checking the car is locked after the boat is launched, mentally check off each item. This way you won’t be the one who forgot their handbrake and created Australia’s newest reef.

Did the Tide go Out last Night?

This one is a classic for first time overnighters.

You are soundly asleep, enjoying the sounds of water against hull, and being lulled by the gentle rocking, when suddenly a thud jolts you rudley awake. A confused “Did something hit us?” stumbles out of your mouth as you try and brush aside the grey fog that swirls between sleep and wake, and not yet knowing the truth of the situation, you rush upstairs to catch the perpetrator red-handed..

To your surprise you find the perpetrator to be the earth itself because you, captain, have pulled anchor and drifted aground.

Setting anchor is a skill vital for boating in any size vessel. If you lose an engine or are de-masted, setting an anchor effectively can save you from a rocky journey to insurance claim town.

The factors involved in successful anchoring are the type of bottom, the depth of the water, and the weather conditions expected while at anchor.

First things first you should always know ahead of time about the weather forecast. In this day and age with minute by minute updates available on your phone you have no excuse for not knowing the weather. When you have decided to anchor, you get to choose your location, and this is very important. Anchoring in a sheltered cove, which blocks the expected wind direction, makes you much less likely to be bounced out of bed in the middle of the night as you run aground, or worse, wake up halfway to New Zealand without your passport or wallabies jersey.

Once you have a good location you then need to know what you are trying to stick to. A good navigation chart will give you an indication of what is on the bottom, look for rocks if you have a rock anchor, look for sand if you have a sand anchor, look for mud if you… you get it.

The length of chain and rope (called warp) that you need to let out is relative to the water depth. To measure this you need a depth sounder (or navigation chart) and either an anchor counter or markers on the anchor chain and warp to manually count out the length.

Let out about 3-5 times the water depth in good conditions and more, up to 8 times the depth, in rough conditions.

The most common reason for pulling your anchor off the bottom or “breaking anchor” is not having enough length of warp out. Just make sure you allow for changes in wind direction because more length means a bigger swing radius, and makes it easier to drift into another vessel, rocks or shallow water. Have a good look around for obstacles and don’t anchor within swing range, even if the wind is not predicted to change, because trust me, it will.

To set the anchor, motor up to where you want the anchor placed, and drop it over the side. Back away from the anchor slowly until you have the right amount of warp out, and then secure the anchor. This will cause the anchor to (hopefully) dig into the bottom and create a solid hold.

To check if you are holding position go old school and sight two objects on shore and watch for drift, or cheat and use the GPS on dashboard or your phone. When you are ready to move on simply reverse the process and collect the rode and chain as you motor up to the anchor. Use the momentum of the boat to pull the anchor out of the bottom rather than the winch or your hands.

Setting it correctly and checking the anchor is holding at regular intervals is the key to not drifting away in the night and enjoying a good night’s sleep.

The Old Fisherman’s Trap

As a fresh off the beach landlubber you will undoubtedly be exposed to copious comments and questions from other curious members of the boating community. Boaties love to chat, especially about their boats.

Everyone knows that the best way to be able to talk about yourself is to ask someone else a question about the topic, daydream patiently in your head while they waffle-on, and then once they finally finish, the spotlight is on you and the mic is yours!

Be prepared for this.

The conversation usually goes along the lines of “Hey mate, nice boat, what motor is she running?” You respond, as is socially expected, with a sentence approximating: “umm...I think it’s a diesel?” Which is immediately cut off with a 4 hour tyrade detailing every boat he has ever owned, fish he has ever caught, and why society has been in steady decline since 1963.

Once caught in the Old Fisherman’s Trap your only options are to sit and ride out the storm, with mental hatches firmly battened to prevent your brain dribbling out your ear, or to set sails against the winds of social norms and just walk off with his words still blowing hot in the air, casually, but firmly, throwing back a “thanks mate, have a great day!” in a jovially serious tone.

So those are our top pitfalls to avoid when you first get into boating. Follow these recommendations and you will deftly avoid the embarrassment of making these classic mistakes.

Check back regularly for more information on all things boating and Lake Macquarie, and contact us at to learn how we can take care of all your Boat Detailing, Boat Washing, Interior Detailing, Teak and Stainless steel cleaning and general Boat Maintenance needs. We are located on Lake Macquarie at Marmong Point Marina, and we also come to you, with our mobile vans servicing the greater Lake Macquarie, Central Coast and Newcastle NSW areas.