Home Boating Basics • Boating Basics – Things you need to know

Boating Basics – Things you need to know


Cruising, Wake-boarding or fishing the possibilities are endless. Recreational boating is one of the most versatile past time you, your family and friends could enjoy. Boating is a recreational activity that has it’s perks such as Freedom, however with that freedom comes responsibility to be safe on the water and operating your boat in a safe and legal manner at all times without injuring others.

Operating a boat means more than just getting into a boat and turning the key, as a boater you have to learn your federal and state boating laws so that you don’t get into trouble with the law. At the end of the day it is a vehicle you are operating that is out on the open water. You’ll also need to understand the operating characteristics of your boat and what to do in case of an emergency. You will need all this information before you set off on your boat and the more you know it will make a difference in terms of comfort, put you at ease and confidence when you’re out on the water.

Many of us all know the road rules when it comes to operating and driving a car on the road and what the components on the car are called, but there are many new rules when you are in the water with a powerboat and parts on the boat. The front of the boat is called the Bow, whereas the back of the boat is called the Stern, the left side of the boat is called the Port and the right is called the Starboard. The Hull is the physical structure outside of the boat the Beam is the width of the boat from the Port to the Starboard side. The waterline is the separation point of how much boat that is submerged underwater and above the water. When we refer to the Draft, it simply means the Hull of the boat that is under the water. Freeboard is amount the amount of Hull above the waterline. The Keel is the bottom most center point of the boat usually the backbone and the Transom is the Vertical are of the Stern.


There may seem like there are many different styles of boats but most boats are built on one of two hull designs – displacement or planing. Displacement refers to the amount of space the boat takes up in the water and planing is the ability of a boat to get up on top of the water such as fast boats and ski boats where they skim across the water. A tug boat is a good example of a displacement boat as it just ploughs through the water.

Engines on a boat is what gets the boat moving through propulsion. There are only 3 propulsion systems and they are outboard, inboard or outboard/inboard. Other propulsion types are human powered crafts such as canoes and kayaks, some use sails as the force of the wind to propel them forward and use of a rudder will allow them to turn.


Each powerboat will have a manufacturer’s capacity plate stuck inside of the boat stating the number of passengers it can safely carry and also the Power of the boat in terms of horsepower. It will also have a Hull Identification Number(HIN) which is similar to a vehicles identification number. This will usually be embossed or stamped in the Transom area of boats. As the same with vehicles altered or missing HIN will pose some legal problems.

Before you depart it is important to have a Float Plan, a float plan is a simple form informing your family or friends where you intend to go and when you expect to return, having this plan will allow any marine rescue team to quickly and effectively locate you in an event of an emergency. At the very least it should contain description of your boat, who is on board and when you plan to board the boat. With all this basic information you could be sure that you are well equipped and prepared when taking your boat out for a boating experience you will never forget.