12 Things To Do Differently

Tips from veteran houseboaters

March 2015 Feature Hannah Smith

A cruel but natural part of life is making mistakes, but when those mistakes happen out on the open water it seems more catastrophic than when on dry land. Whether it is a simple mistake like breaking the coffee pot or something more intense like forgetting to tie up, even the most experienced houseboaters can sometimes find themselves in a sticky situation. Here are the top 12 most common mistakes new and experienced boaters should be aware of.

Tip 1: Watch The Wind

One of the most common mistakes of an inexperienced boater is pulling into the marina without checking the wind direction. Not accounting for the wind can make maneuvering a houseboat quite an ordeal. Windsocks and flags are your best friend when trying to dock and should be checked well before angling in.

Tip 2: Check The Lines

According to Houseboat magazine reader Tom Miller, not checking all the lines and hook-ups before leaving the dock is a big mistake. A good captain always checks his lines himself before pulling out of the dock. Don’t expect anyone else to do that for you.

Tip 3: Tie Up

If you can’t remember if you did it, double check. It is definitely okay to be a bit neurotic about double-checking. Like checking the oven at home, make sure you tie up your houseboat before you walk away.

Tip 4: Don’t Overload

Facebook fan Matt McNulty shared an experience where he loaded too many friends into his boat, causing water to come in the exhaust and flood the cylinders. At least it was a good party.

Tip 5: Watch Your Speed

When docking, there is a lot to focus on and to look for, but it is important to lay off the throttle when coming towards the dock. You don’t want to use full throttle in those close quarter situations.

Tip 6: At The Helm

The captain should never leave the helm while docking and an equally bad mistake for novice houseboaters is turning off the engines as soon as the houseboat comes into the slip. As the captain, you should never count on your dock friends to stop the boat for you.

Tip 7: Pull The Lines Tight

Thanks to the unfortunate mistake of our Facebook fan Laurel Perry Trahan, we learned to always pull our dinghy line in tight. It could get caught in the outdrives, which isn’t fun for anyone.

Tip 8: Watch The Water Levels

Before beaching for the night, always check the water levels. It is not a good idea to pull in on the shore while the levels are dropping. This can be a costly mistake and very difficult to maneuver out of.

Tip 9: Carry Extras

Whenever possible, carry extra parts and tools for those unfortunate moments when they might be needed. Nothing ends a trip quicker than breaking an impeller on some lake debris and not having the necessary equipment to fix it.

Tip 10: Turn It Off

Joan Ervin Underwood, a Facebook fan, had the unfortunate experience of tying up for the weekend and forgetting to turn off the motors. Luckily, they were able to grab some friends to tow them back to the marina to get gas.

Tip 11: Check The Anchor

Before you decide to anchor in, check that you have enough line for your location. There is nothing worse than not having enough anchor line. The minimum scope on any boat is five to one, therefore the minimum length of an anchor line should be five times the depth. Seven times would be better and 10 times in a storm. All chain doesn't change this time-honored rule. 

Tip 12: Stay Afloat

The nautical floating key chain is more than just a decorative item for your houseboat; it serves a very important function. Simply put, if it’s important to you, make sure it floats. Often newbie houseboaters ditch the floating key chain because they feel it’s too bulky to carry. All it takes is one mishap like Houseboat reader Dave Perry witnessed and you’ll understand why all boating keys need to be able to float.

Mistakes happen. But when we break the coffee pot and need a jolt, get stranded without gas and need a tow, or just want help after flooding the motor, life is kind enough to provide other houseboaters to assist us with those sticky situations. The biggest mistake a newbie could make would be to avoid getting to know his dock neighbors. These little problems are bound to happen, even to the most experienced houseboaters. It is most important to have that safety net of friends around to lend a helping hand when trouble strikes. Just make sure you are the kind of neighbor that is always there to help another houseboater out; you never know when you will be the one needing the tow.

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