Power Boating For Dummies®

Table of Contents


About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

What You’re Not to Read

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Part I: Getting On the Right Boating Track

Part II: Safely Operating Your Boat

Part III: With Much Boating Fun Comes Much Responsibility

Part IV: Keeping Your Boat Shipshape

Part V: Enjoying Your Boat

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I: Getting On the Right Boating Track

Chapter 1: Powering Up to Be a Boater

You Might Be a Boater If . . .

Weighing the Costs of Boating

Costs of landlubber family activities

Costs of boating as a family

Considering Different Kinds of Boats

Getting Trained and Licensed

Navigating the Boat-Buying Scene

Buying a new boat

Buying a pre-owned boat

Getting Your Boat On and Off the Water

Getting Your Boat Around on the Water

Getting Your Hands Dirty

Chapter 2: Choosing the Right Boat Type and Engine for Your Boating Needs

Acquainting Yourself with the Parts of a Power Boat

Getting Serious with Fishing Boats

Freshwater fishing boats

Saltwater fishing boats

Kicking Back with Runabouts and Pontoon Boats

Running around in runabouts

Living large on pontoon boats

Going the Distance with Cruisers

Express cruisers

Sedan cruisers


Understanding Different Boat Engines

Getting sporty with inboard power

Tooling around with outboard power

Spending the day with sterndrive power

Maneuvering with pod drive power

Zipping about with jet propulsion power

Chapter 3: Finding and Buying the Right Boat for You

Narrowing Down Your Boat-Buying Choices

Considering location and type of water

Matching boating activities to the right boat type

Choosing the right horsepower for your boat

Setting Your Boat Budget

Budgeting for boat storage costs

Figuring in trailer, fuel, and maintenance costs

Insuring your boat (immediately)

Choosing how to pay for your boat

Deciding Whether to Buy a Pre-owned or New Boat

Buying basics for pre-owned or new boats

Considering a pre-owned boat

Looking at a new boat

Going Shopping for Your Boat

Buying through a Web site

Buying from an individual

Buying from a dealer

Buying at a boat show

Getting Licensed and Educated

Passing the state boating exam

Taking a boater safety course

Chapter 4: Accessorizing Your Boat for Safety and Fun

Getting Quality and Approved Safety Gear

Staying afloat with life jackets

Being prepared with throwable life preservers

Having the right fire extinguisher onboard

Keeping a spare anchor on hand

Stowing paddles just in case

Securing and Protecting Your Boat with Mooring Lines and Fenders

Choosing the right mooring lines

Fending off scrapes with fenders

Communicating and Navigating Safely with Marine Electronics

Avoiding the bottom thanks to a depth finder

Verifying your location with a GPS

Staying in touch with a VHF radio

Choosing Safe, Fun Watersports Accessories

Inflating the fun with tubes

Washing away boredom with wakeboards

Getting started on two skis

Slipping through the water on a slalom ski

Selecting the correct tow rope to match your watersport

Jacketing up for safety and looking cool

Part II: Safely Operating Your Boat

Chapter 5: Towing Your Boat and Maintaining Your Trailer

Getting Properly and Safely Hitched

Defining the parts of the vehicle-trailer connection

Getting help aligning your vehicle and trailer

The same old routine: Coupling the trailer securely to the vehicle

Pulling Your Trailer Safely and Efficiently

Bring ’Er Back: Mastering Techniques for Backing Up a Trailer

Backing up while looking over your shoulder

Backing up while looking in the side mirrors

Keeping Your Trailer Roadworthy

Lighting and wiring are the first things to fail

Keeping those trailer wheels rolling

Making sure you can stop

Checking all the hardware regularly

Getting Some Handy Trailer Gadgets

Chapter 6: Launching and Loading Your Trailered Boat

Being a Prepared and Polite Boater at the Ramp

Get it together at home

Don’t be a ramp hog

Staging for Launch

Sizing Up the Boat Ramp to Tailor Your Technique

Mastering a shallow ramp

Meeting the challenge of a deep ramp

Combating a crosscurrent on the ramp

Launching Your Boat with a Crew

The boat handler

The vehicle driver

Guests and kids who board after launch

Launching Your Boat Alone

Time to Go Home: Getting Your Turn in the Loading Line

Figuring out what’s going on around the loading line

Offloading passengers and getting into position

Loading Your Boat on the Trailer

Approaching the trailer

Making contact with the trailer

Getting Up a Slippery Ramp

Making Your Boat and Trailer Road-Ready

Chapter 7: Hitting the Open Water: Driving Your Boat

Fueling Up Your Boat

Taking care of your engine’s special oil needs

Fueling up on land

Fueling up at the dock

Getting Your Motor Running

Putting safety first

Priming the fuel line on outboards

Choking the engine and pumping the throttle on carbureted motors

Troubleshooting a nonstarter

Getting Underway

Throttling up for take-off

Maintaining and changing course

Adjusting the boat for a great ride

Shutting Down the Engine

Chapter 8: Docking, Rafting Up, and Anchoring

Docking Your Boat Like a Pro

Docking stern-in (back first)

Docking bow-in (pointy end first)

Docking alongside (parallel)

Tying your boat safely to the dock

Undocking and shoving off

Rafting Up with Fellow Boaters

Approaching a boat or raft at anchor

Hitching your boats together

Putting fenders at the rubbing points

Breaking up the party and the raft

Anchoring Your Boat the Right Way with the Right Anchor

Understanding the parts of an anchor

Choosing the right anchor style

Determining where and how to set the anchor

Keeping an eye out for drift while anchored

Weighing (raising) anchor

Part III: With Much Boating Fun Comes Much Responsibility

Chapter 9: Rules Do Apply: Navigating to Avoid Collisions and Confusion

Sharing the Water: Boating Rules

Boating’s golden rule: No right of way on the water

Maintaining a proper lookout

Crossing paths with another vessel

Overtaking a vessel

Meeting another vessel head-on

Keeping your speed in check

Reading Boat Lights

Light colors and locations on the boat

Interpreting the lights you see

Understanding Navigation Markers

Intracoastal Waterway markers

Other channel and navigation markers

Chapter 10: Finding Your Way on the Water

Charting Your Course Over Big and Little Waters

Understanding chart basics

Where to buy your charts

Finding True North (And the Way Home) with a Compass

Discovering how a compass works

Navigating with a compass

Choosing the right compass for your boat

Understanding the Value of VHF Radios

Turning on and tuning in

Communicating between boats

Scanning the Unseen Depths with Sonar

Seeing how sonar depth finders work

Choosing the right sonar unit

Using sonar

Spotting fish with sonar

Using GPS Chart Plotters

How GPS units work

Choosing the right GPS for you

Finding your way with GPS

Letting Radar Spot Things Far in Advance

How radar works for you

Choosing the right radar for your boat

Chapter 11: Navigating Bad Weather

Tuning In to Marine Forecasts Before You Go Out

Checking weather on the Web

Using VHF and weather radios to monitor weather on the water

Locating weather information on your GPS

Knowing about Warnings and Advisories for Small Crafts

Taking small craft advisories seriously

Knowing regional advisory differences

Taking Precautions When the Forecast is Bad

Tweak your departure or destination plans

Head for port at a hint of lightning

Anticipate sudden weather changes

Secure or relocate your boat in named storms

Dealing with Weather Conditions

Gauging wind, waves, and seas

Understanding the power of thunderstorms and lightning

Navigating through fog

Handling Your Boat in a Storm

Preparing your crew

Riding out the storm

Handling your boat in rough seas or waves

Chapter 12: Preparing for and Handling Boating Emergencies

Being Equipped for Dealing with Boating Hazards

Checking your safety equipment

Stowing a first-aid kit

Bringing communication gear

Taking navigation tools

Filing a float plan and checking insurance

Tackling Types of Emergencies

Equipment failure


Grounding on hazards below the surface

Collision with another vessel


Personal accident or injury

Calling for the Help You Need

Making a mayday call

Making a pan-pan call

Other means of getting attention

Deciding whether to wait for help or head for shore

Deciding to Abandon Ship

Attempting Temporary Repairs

Assessing the damage

Fixing what you can

Part IV: Keeping Your Boat Shipshape

Chapter 13: Keeping Up with Routine Boat Maintenance

Checking and Changing Your Engine’s Oil

Lubing up four-stroke outboards

Dealing with oil in two-stroke outboards

Changing inboard and sterndrive engine oil

Changing the oil in a jet-drive engine

Changing Gear-Case Lubricant and Transmission Fluid

Changing gear-case lubricant

Checking and changing inboard transmission fluid

Other Sterndrive Lubricants You Should Monitor

Checking the power-steering fluid

Checking the hydraulic engine trim fluid

Protecting Your Engine from the Effects of Ethanol

Understanding the negatives of ethanol

Dealing with the effects of ethanol

Monitoring Engine Gauges

Maintaining Your Boat’s Battery

Using a battery charger

Replacing a worn-out battery

Washing, Waxing, and Preserving Your Boat’s Good Looks

Getting the right boat-cleaning tools

Using the right soaps and waxes for boats

Chapter 14: Getting Your Boat Ready for Winter and Spring

Preserving Your Fuel and Engine

Changing Your Oil for Long-term Storage

Preventing Your Engine from Freezing Up

Keeping Your Battery in Shape for Spring

How to Freeze-proof Your Plumbing

Freshwater systems

Locker drains and other plumbing

The bilge

Covering the Boat Lengthens Its Life

How to Get Your Boat Ready in the Spring

Chapter 15: Repairing Leaks and Other Damage to Your Boat

Doing Quick Repairs to Keep Things from Getting Worse

Fix leaks

Tighten or replace bolts and screws

Check and tighten hose clamps

Tighten and repair hardware

Spotting and Fixing Loose or Damaged Belts

Testing belt tension

Knowing when a belt needs changing

Understanding Propeller Types and Repair

Getting propeller dimensions right

Having the right number of blades

Knowing the differences in prop materials

Determining if your prop is damaged

Removing the propeller to replace or repair it

Repairing different types of propellers

Handling Electrical Problems

What do those colored wires mean?

Working on a 12-volt battery system

Resetting circuit breakers or replacing fuses

Tampering with 110 volts is dangerous

Tracking down electrical problems

Using some helpful wiring tools

Part V: Enjoying Your Boat

Chapter 16: Finding a Safe Harbor for Your Boat

First Things First: Make Sure You Have a Mooring Cover

Floating Your Boat in Wet Slip Storage

Getting what you want from a wet slip

Preparing your boat for wet slip storage

Another alternative: Hoisting your boat

The cha-ching factor of wet slip storage

Weighing the pros and cons of floating your boat

Stacking the Deck for Dry Storage

What you can expect from dry-stack storage

Preparing your boat for dry storage

Racking up the costs of stacking your boat

Weighing the pros and cons of racking up

Buying into Convenient Moorings

Sizing up the ’minium craze

Enjoying premium marina amenities

Using a Trailer for More Freedom and Frugality

Where to keep your trailered boat

Preparing your boat for open storage

Weighing the pros and cons of trailering

Chapter 17: The Well-Fed Boater

Navigating Your Galley

Refrigerators and coolers

Appliances that bring the heat

Civilized eating: Tools and utensils

Planning to Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Keeping your stuff cold: You gotta pre-chill

Having plenty of drinks on the drink

A navy travels on its stomach

A word about alcohol

Chapter 18: Getting Your Feet Wet with Boat Clubs

Getting Hooked on Fishing Clubs

What fishing clubs have to offer

Finding the right fishing club for your interests

Joining Boat-Brand Clubs and Rendezvous

Finding boat-brand clubs

Tapping in to rendezvous

Joining a Watersports Club

Joining the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary

Some Boat Clubs Are Like Timeshares

Joining a fractional ownership boat club

Weighing benefits and liabilities

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Chapter 19: Ten Tactics That Separate Pros from Amateurs

Know the Limits of Your Crew

Give Fair Warning for Any Maneuvers

Prepare Your Crew for Docking and Disembarking

Yell to Be Heard, Not to Offend

Resist the Temptation to Hot-Dog

Be Clear about Who Has the Helm

Use Proper Docklines

Avoid the Tangled Mess of Lines

Tie a Bowline Knot

Go All the Way with a Half-Hitch Knot

Chapter 20: Ten Important Items to Keep Onboard

Life Jackets

Clean-Up Equipment

Extra Rope

A Boat Hook

A Backup Horn

Spare Fuses

Four Key Tools

Spray Grease

Materials to Plug Leaks

Sun Protection

Chapter 21: Ten (Plus Two) Mechanical Checks for Buying a Pre-Owned Boat

Check All the Engine Fluids

Engine oil

Gear case oil

Hydraulic drive trim fluid

Trim tab fluid

Power steering fluid

Operate All Engine Devices

Check the Engine Belt

Examine All Engine Instruments

Test All Electric Devices

Check the Drive System Alignment

Check for a Sound Deck and Hull

Ferret Out Trailer Troubles

Power Boating For Dummies®

by Randy Vance


About the Author

Randy Vance has been boating since he was 8 years old. From family boat to personal runabout at age 20, he’s bought and sold nearly a dozen boats in his boating career.

With his family, Randy ran a small resort and marina on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri for more than 20 years. During that time, he was a popular outdoors columnist in local papers and magazines and hosted or appeared on many radio and television programs covering topics of boating and fishing. Later, Randy began a public relations career at Bass Pro Shops, employing his enjoyment of boating, outdoors, and writing in one happy position. After a short stint at the failing Outboard Marine Corporation, Boating Life magazine publisher John McEver asked Randy to take the helm of his magazine — a position Randy has enjoyed with co-editors Robert Stephens and Sue Whitney since 2000. Boating Life magazine and some of Randy’s articles have won awards in many publishing circles.

During his tenure at Boating Life, Randy has had the pleasure of piloting thousands of boats in hundreds of different places and conditions. Mexico, the Exumas, Dry Tortugas, Alaska’s Admiralty Island, Sweden, and Bimini, Bahamas, are among his favorite boating destinations.

Randy, his wife Linda, and youngest daughter Amy, along with three champion Cotons du Tulear and a stray Jack Russell Terrier, enjoy a 25-foot Bluewater offshore boat with twin Evinrude outboards. Most often you’ll find him offshore at Cape Canaveral or just outside of Springhill, Florida, or Punta Gorda, Florida.

Randy and his daughter Amy are in the midst of the long and arduous process of researching his next book Restoring Old Boats For Dummies. . . just joking; they’re attempting to bring a 1978 Glastron GT 150 back to its former glory. The GT 150 was made famous in the 1973 James Bond movie Live and Let Die when it jumped a levee over the head of a local sheriff.

Randy’s son Justin and wife Shasta are currently raising the next crop of boating Vances in Phoenix, Arizona, a desert state surprisingly blessed with beautiful boating waters. Randy’s daughter and fellow boater Megan Chacon is raising another boating infant named Brody while husband Gabe Chacon gets his mariner’s fix aboard the U.S.S. Lincoln, stationed in Seattle, Washington, when he’s not boating.

Boating creates strong bonds among those who participate, and Randy’s primary pleasure has been bringing new boaters into the sport.


To my wife and kids, who are ready to boat any time I jingle the keys.

Author’s Acknowledgments

This book would not be possible if it were not for the “What Next?” That was the name my family gave the 15-foot outboard-powered Starcraft that Dad bought in 1963. We launched it the first time in Huntsville, Alabama, and left the drain plug out. It sank on the ramp. We raised it that same day and went skiing. A few years later, when I could barely see over the helm, my dad let me drive it from the launch ramp to our rented cabin on the lake. Later, renting that boat at our family resort helped put me through college. For me, boating has always been what was next and sometimes what came first.

Howard Vance, my grandfather, was a guy who boated to fish. Somewhere, I have a photo of him in his captain’s hat beaming from the helm of his Kayot pontoon boat. He infected me with the bug of fishing from a boat. When a boat wasn’t available, my grandpa Leonard Young kept the fishing bug stoked: I’d visit him at his Kentucky farm and find a bucket of minnows in the stock pond and a bass rod leaning up against the pump house when I arrived.

But just as this book wouldn’t have been possible without those responsible for my boating origins, it wouldn’t be credible without the boating experiences I’ve enjoyed later in life with other greater boaters.

Midland Michigan outdoors columnist Steve Griffin and I paddled a blue canoe through the Quetico Provincial Park. That darned canoe would go every way but where you pointed it. We taped a new name on its freeboard: “Blue Bitch.” We laughed our heads off the rest of the week, and I learned a valuable lesson: No matter how bad a boat is, it’s good for friendship.

Bob Orth, my father-in-law, approaches boating with the systematic logic of a pilot — which he was for some time. For him, planning, preparation, and careful execution of every aspect of boating is the challenge and fun of the game. Mike Folkerts is Commodore of the Alaska branch of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. A week of boating with his team and watching them work together like a well-oiled machine taught me much about the way families and friends learn to enjoy each other while boating. Mike’s crew also moved the needle on my safety gauge a little closer to the U.S. Coast Guard ideals. Curt Jarson and I have adventured to the Bahamas often, and from him I learned both the finesse of setting up a boat to run through rough water and the mental discipline of “holding on loosely” while other boaters handle my boat.

Many other people in the boat building and marine publishing arena, friends, peers, and competitors have influenced my boating almost always for the better. I could not have written this book were it not for the friendship I share with all of you.

Perhaps most instrumental in creating this book are my teammates at Boating Life magazine, Robert Stephens, Sue Whitney, and John McEver, who all covered my butt while, in my spare time, I pulled many loose ends together in Power Boating For Dummies.

What makes For Dummies books so easy and fun to read is their carefully formatted style that lets readers grab concepts one tidbit at a time, sort of like browsing a buffet line to select the goodies you want when the mood strikes. I might never have captured that style in this book if it were not for veteran For Dummies author Chris Bigelow.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form located at For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Development Editor: Christopher Bigelow

Senior Project Editor: Christina Guthrie

Acquisitions Editor: Michael Lewis

Senoir Copy Editor: Elizabeth Rea

Assistant Editor: Erin Calligan Mooney

Editorial Program Coordinator: Joe Niesen

Technical Editor: Lenny Rudow

Editorial Manager: Christine Meloy Beck

Editorial Assistants: Jennette ElNaggar, David Lutton

Art Coordinator: Alicia B. South

Cover Photos: iStock

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Katie Key

Layout and Graphics: Reuben W. Davis, Sarah Philippart, Christin Swinford

Special Art: Interior illustrationsby Precision Graphics (

Proofreaders: Laura L. Bowman, John Greenough

Indexer: Steve Rath

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Kristin Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Ensley Eikenburg, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


I’ve been power boating for 45 years and even sailed a little, too. In that time, I’ve had the pleasure of guiding fishermen, teaching my kids and friends to water-ski, and in many ways ushering new boaters into the fun and adventure of a lifestyle I wouldn’t consider life much fun without. In all that time, I’ve written newspaper columns and magazine articles on the how-to’s of power boating. For nine years I’ve been the editor-in-chief of Boating Life magazine.

Through my work and play, I’ve learned that new boaters don’t get into trouble from the complexity of boating but from their preconceived notions of how boating should be done. In Power Boating For Dummies, I do my best to protect you from trouble by helping you know just what to expect from a boat before you ever get your hands on the controls.

Among non-boaters and especially among sailing boaters, there’s often an unjustified assumption that power boaters are goof-offs who bungle along with beer in hand as they pilot crafts they know nothing about. Well, every group has a few outlaws, and I’ve had the fortune of watching diligent water cops take them out of the game. But I’ve also had the pleasure of helping others who want to get better at boating to avoid the stereotype.

Power boaters are responsible people seeking family unity, friendship, and personal growth in a pastime that requires the ultimate in teamwork. In all cases, power boaters want to get outdoors in a place filled with like-minded individuals and enjoy nature, each other’s company, and maybe a little bit of adventure. But most of all, power boaters don’t want their fun to depend on something as fickle as the wind! If you’re in this group, this book is for you.

About This Book

Power Boating For Dummies is a comprehensive guide to practically everything you need to know about buying, owning, operating, and maintaining a boat to about 35 feet in length. However, you’ll find that the information and recommendations in this book also give you great foundational knowledge for handling larger boats as well.

If you read this book before ever stepping foot on a boat, I walk you through the process of imagining what kind of boating you may like to do. If you have some boating experience but haven’t yet looked into buying your own boat, I escort you through that process as well. If you already have a boat but want to know more about how to pilot it, equip it, store it, tow it, handle emergencies on it, or dine onboard it, this is the book for you. Even if you already have some experience captaining your own boat, this book could help fill in some gaps in your knowledge and give you some new ideas for improving your boating experience.

Of course, no single book could tell you all there is to know about boating; here are a few facts you need to investigate on your own:

Boating rules vary by state. When it comes to boating, every U.S. state has its own jurisdictional quirks regarding safety, equipment, and licensing, among other things. Although I give you some tips about how to find out about your local regulations, you need to do some investigating on your own to be fully informed.

Boat brands and specifications vary by manufacturer. Boats are all similar, but none are the same. In my years as a boater, I’ve owned a dozen different boats and several different kinds of boats. As editor-in-chief of Boating Life magazine, I’ve driven literally thousands of boats. In this book, I’ve tried to make some reliable generalizations that hold true for nearly all makes and styles of boats. Of course, you should find out all the specifics about your own boat, starting by thoroughly studying the owner’s manual.

Boating activities and preferences vary by geography. I’ve boated in enough places to know that people tend to boat different ways in different regions. For instance, brand loyalty to certain boats or motors can be so fierce in some regions that you’ll just want to go with the flow, in case you ever want to resell your boat in that area. I recommend that you fully immerse yourself in your local boating culture to learn the local lore.

Conventions Used in This Book

As you know if you’ve ever watched a movie or read a book about sailors or pirates or other nautical types, the marine world is filled with specialized jargon. Many of these terms are commonly used in power boating as well, especially words for boating gear and the parts of a boat.

Long-time boaters sometimes develop a little bit of snobbery about their mastery of boat jargon. As the editor-in-chief of Boating Life magazine, I regularly receive snide letters about our occasional inadvertent failure to adhere to every dictate of boating jargon. I respond to such letters in online video format at in a piece called Naughty-cal Terminology, so check it out!

For this book, I’ve sprinkled in some boating jargon, but I put those terms in italics and define them upon first mention in every chapter, so you won’t get lost even if you skip around in the book. Here are some other conventions you should be aware of:

Keywords in bulleted lists appear in boldface for ease of reading and reference.

Web sites and e-mail addresses appear in monofont, so they stand out better on the page.

What You’re Not to Read

Of course I’d love for you to read every word of this book — I worked so hard on it and all. However, if you’re pressed for time or would rather be out on your boat than reading every bit of this book, you can skip some parts and not miss a beat.

Throughout the book, you’ll see sidebars, which appear in gray boxes. The topics of these sidebars are ancillary to the overall topic of a particular section or chapter, but again, you won’t miss out on critical information if you decide not to read them.

Foolish Assumptions

In writing this book, I assumed you were either a newbie to boating or someone with some experience who wanted to hone your skills in a systematic way. You’re on the verge of getting into the sport, or you’ve been in it just long enough to thump a dock real hard with your boat or get embarrassed because you missed the trailer when you were loading up. Thanks to the cool For Dummies format, you can jump in, grab just the information you want and need, and get out there to try it out while it’s fresh in your mind.

That’s what I was thinking when I wrote this book. That and one other thing: Everybody makes mistakes in everything, including boating. I’ve been boating for 45 years, but I still make embarrassing mistakes. In this book, I don’t try to hide my blunders if I think you can learn from them. Some people won’t play games they can’t play perfectly. I hope you’re not that way, because you’ll quickly abandon boating if you are.

How This Book Is Organized

The format of Power Boating For Dummies helps you find exactly what you want to know and gives the information to you in bite-sized pieces. Here’s a quick rundown of how this particular book is organized, so you know where to look for exactly what you need.

Part I: Getting On the Right Boating Track

Part I is about getting geared up for boating. In it, I assume you don’t yet have a boat or the gear you need to operate it safely. I explain how to determine what kind of boat is right for you and how to go about shopping for it, plus the goodies that make it fun and safe to operate.

Part II: Safely Operating Your Boat

In this part, I assume you’ve never driven a boat, or if you have, you’ve found the experience completely foreign and frightening.

If you can set aside what you may already know about boat operation, tell yourself that driving a car is not like driving a boat, and read the chapters in this part from a perspective of complete ignorance, you’ll quickly get your handling skills up to snuff and be better than 90 percent of boaters out there.

Part III: With Much Boating Fun Comes Much Responsibility

There’s more to boating than just racing toward the open water to kick back, soak up some rays, maybe do a little fishing, and splash around in the refreshing waters. In this part, I help you become a more responsible boater, starting with the rules and regulations of boating. To boat safely, you need to know the boating laws in your state and locality. And you can’t be a safe boater unless you take a boating safety course approved by your state.

This part also explores navigation tools, navigating your boat in all sorts of conditions, and dealing with common boating emergencies.

Part IV: Keeping Your Boat Shipshape

Part of the boating lifestyle is routine boat maintenance. Many boaters embrace this wholly, taking on the tasks of detailed mechanical repairs as well as the money-saving and relatively easy task of changing their boat’s engine oil. This section gives you lots of practical tactics for servicing your boat and doing minor repairs and replacements. I also help you decide what you can tackle yourself and what you should leave to a mechanic.

Part V: Enjoying Your Boat

This part covers topics that ensure a good time on the water. I start with boat storage because taking care of your boat when you’re not on it is key to a long and happy boating life together. You want your boat to be ready when you are, don’t you?

Most boaters love company as much as they love solitude. My boat seldom leaves the dock without guests onboard, which led me to include a chapter on dining onboard. An important part of entertaining on your boat is making sure everyone’s well fed! And half the fun of my boating experiences is meeting new people in marinas and at waterfront attractions. Boating clubs and other organizations are a great way to get the most out of your boating experiences.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

I love this characteristic part of For Dummies books. In this book, it contains short, memorable lists of ten tactics to separate yourself from amateur boaters, ten key items to keep onboard, and ten checks to do when buying a boat to protect yourself from buying a lemon.

Icons Used in This Book

As you flip through this book (or any other For Dummies book, for that matter), you’ll notice that certain paragraphs have icons attached to them. They’re another handy reference tool for you to highlight various types of information. Following are descriptions of each of the icons used in Power Boating For Dummies:

Tip.eps This icon calls attention to handy tactics that make it easier to accomplish the tasks under discussion.

Warning(bomb).eps Think of this icon like the emblem on your lawn mower that shows a few fingers leaving the hand as the blade passes by. Heeding warnings will keep you out of trouble, pain, or embarrassment.

Remember.eps This icon highlights simple, helpful notes as well as reminders to keep in mind as you hit the water or engage in other boating-related tasks.

Where to Go from Here

Where you go from here is entirely up to you. If you’re looking for a specific topic, the table of contents and the index are your friends. Find the topic you want, flip to that chapter or section, and get the inside scoop. Watch for the handy cross-references I provide to other parts of the book that contain related information.

You don’t need to read this book cover to cover if you don’t want to. Look at Power Boating For Dummies as a candy store: Just pick out the morsels you know you want, and go ahead and try out any unfamiliar items that look enticing! Of course, you can always be a traditional-type and read the entire book from start to finish; no one will think less of you.

Part I

Getting On the Right Boating Track


In this part . . .

About 250,000 new power boats and about 1 million used ones are sold every year — and that’s just in the United States. With so many boats on the market, how can you be sure to get the right one for you? In this part, I explain how to decide what you want to do with a boat. I identify the different kinds of boats that are available and what they do best. I also give you advice on figuring out what boat is right for your favorite boating waters and stocking it with safety and playtime accessories for optimal enjoyment on the water.