When it comes to boating, the topic of conversation will always return to the ocean. Humans have taken to the sea for centuries, though, these days, recreation in the form of cruising, watersports, and fishing are most of our reasons to get out on the water. For those who’ve never boated on saltwater before, it can be daunting, since it is often more unpredictable than most freshwater locations. For a sense of where to start and what to expect, look no further!
Types of Saltwater Boats
All types of boats can take to saltwater without incident, provided the conditions are favorable and the captain is comfortable doing so. However, various boats and boat components will interact with the sea in different ways, and it’s best to consider what equipment might be best before setting out.
The conditions on the ocean can change rapidly. With the potential for choppy seas and larger waves, hulls that cut through the water will have a slightly easier time. In the case of powerboats a deeper hull design will provide a smoother, drier ride. This type of hull can be seen on many kinds of powerboats, such as deck boats.
For most planning powerboats there are two types of boat motors – inboard/outboard, and outboard. They’ll be similar in terms of power for an ocean-going boat, so the biggest consideration is going to be maintenance. Saltwater is corrosive, which means that the motor will need to be flushed and cleaned to keep the salt from damaging the engine, which is typically easier to do on outboard motors. Another benefit of outboard motors is they can be tilted up, getting most of the motor out of the water in between cruises. Inboard/outboard motors might last longer without needing repairs, but those repairs could be more difficult to conduct, and the corrosive nature of saltwater may accelerate the need for these repairs without proper care and maintenance.
The size needed for the boat is going to depend on what its intended use will be. For extended fishing trips, a large, sturdy boat that can handle the rough conditions might be the best bet. For those boaters wanting to explore shallow locations close to shore, a much smaller boat can fit more easily into those areas. If all you are looking to do is leisurely cruising off the coast, and the conditions are calm odds are a mid-sized boat will suit just fine, with all the deck space anyone could need.
Safety Tips for Ocean Boating
For boaters who’ve never been out on the ocean, being safely prepared for conditions might seem difficult. But in reality, all it takes is a little research and the knowledge that, just like boating anywhere else, the rules to keep everyone safe will largely follow common sense and US Coast Guard regulations.
Boating In Rough Water
Checking the weather conditions before you go out is prudent no matter where you boat. However, conditions change and there are a few precautions to take for the safety of the boat and your passengers. When the waves kick up, be prepared to strap down every loose item on the deck so it doesn’t fall overboard, get damaged or injure somebody. Everyone on board should also wear a life vest in this scenario. To keep the boat afloat and in control, the goal is to stay on top of the waves. To help with this, boaters should try approaching oncoming waves at a 45-degree angle instead of head-on. In especially bad conditions, minimizing the boat’s speed will allow for more control.
Boating Rules & Regulations
US Coast Guard regulations state that all boats must be equipped with necessary safety gear, such as floatation devices as well as emergency signaling devices like flares and lights. Boaters must also follow posted rules for navigation and be aware of their surroundings at all times. More local regulations may be in place related to places boaters are permitted to go and what speeds they are allowed to travel at.
In addition to the gear that is required to have on board, it’s worth devoting some storage space to other helpful items. This will likely include a first aid kit, some basic tools for emergency repairs, a well-made anchor, a bailing device or pump, a flashlight, oars and paddles, to name a few. Boaters should also carry a method of calling for help, such as a cellphone or radio, and a device to help with navigation like a GPS. Similarly worth considering are paper charts for navigation should electronics fail. When packing these items, it may be helpful to keep a boating checklist of all equipment.
Additional Tips for Boating in the Ocean
Outside of basic safety tips, there are many tips for ocean boating that are worth considering. Remember that it's all about fun and excitement, and making the most of your boat!
Maintaining Your Boat
As mentioned earlier, saltwater is a corrosive, and will cause damage faster to components than freshwater. This will affect the entire boat, not just the motor. As such, it’s good to stay on top of cleaning the boat throughout the summer and schedule it for regular maintenance at the end of every season.
Bringing Boat Accessories
Pretty much every activity you can do on a boat in freshwater, you can do on the ocean. This means watersports of all kinds, launching non-motorized boats from the deck to explore, paddleboarding and, of course, fishing. You can also bring food or snacks, either pre-made, store-bought or the supplies to make something while you’re out. The sky is the limit to how you can have fun on the water.
Preparing for Weather
It’s absolutely worth the time needed to carefully examine the weather forecast before heading out. But if there are foul weather conditions on the radar, that doesn’t ruin the day completely – the best advice is to to stick close to shore in case the weather turns, and save long explorations for those beautiful, clear sky days. However, you should always prepare for the weather to change, ensuring you have a change of clothes and rain gear just in case.