Boating is a recreational activity to many, a real stress buster. However, boating does come with its own set of risks; which does not make boating any less relaxing. However, the enjoyment can only last until it is safe. So, the safer you are, the better your boating experience will be. In this article, we will look at some beginner tips for a safe powerboating experience in South Africa.

The Skipper’s License in South Africa

We have mentioned this countless times before, but yes. Getting Skipper’s License before you go boating is a must. These licenses are issued by SAMSA.

Alternatively, if you do not have a license but experience boating, you always have the option of hiring a certified skipper.

Either way, boating should be a safe and enjoyable experience. Knowing your ropes before you take your boat out there will keep you, your boat, and others safe.

Related: Getting a Skipper License in South Africa

Beginner Tips for a Safe Powerboating Experience in South Africa

The powerboating experience can be relaxing or adventurous, depending on your preference. However, it will always have to be a safe one. Here are 5 beginner tips to practice safe powerboating and improve your boating experience in South Africa.

1. Follow the conventional rules

There are certain general rules you should always follow to stay safe out there. For example, do not drive your boat above a speed limit near peers or other people. Or, maintain a safe distance away from the boat during watersports such as wakeboarding.

You get to learn about such rules during your training. For example, if you go through a training institution to get your skipper’s license, the trainers will make sure you are familiar with all these rules.

2. Planning your trip

You are a newbie with no experience. That means you should plan short trips along the shore for experience first. You don’t have to plan long voyages right off the bat, do you?

As a beginner, strictly stick to day voyages. You are not yet ready for taking overnight trips. Why? First of all, it is easy to get lost when the night falls. You may think you can simply drive back to the shore. But even the shores look different in the dark. You might run into rocks or shallow reefs which may damage your boat also. So, it is a good idea to stick to daylight voyages only for now.

And make sure you carry the latest navigation charts to safely plan your trip.

3. Pre-launch checkups

Pre-launch checkup ensures that your boat is in good condition and is good to go. This includes the condition of the hull, fuel level, and functioning batteries. Apart from that, make sure the drain plug is properly installed and the ignition is working.

Then comes the essential safety gear such as extra life jackets, personal floatation devices (PFDs), extra battery backup, flashlights, first-aid kits, and working radios. And lastly, make sure that all lines are secure, the fenders are set, and the engine kill switch is attached to your life jacket.

4. Weather Forecast

Staying updated with the weather forecast is paramount as it will help you plan your trip or altogether cancel it. This is essential especially if you are taking your boat out to the sea. The waves may not look like much from a distance, but they can be as tall as 2-3 metres, and strong enough to capsize your boat.

Besides that, storms move fast on the sea. Dealing with storms can be tricky and it is certainly not a newbie territory. Hence, it is better to actually stay away from storms.

Related: Basic Boating Tips for Rough Waters in South Africa

5. Life Jackets

Life jackets are an absolute must when you are boating. You might have observed that many experienced boaters sometimes do not prefer wearing life jackets. Well, while they are confident in their abilities, what they are doing is still generally wrong. Life jackets are basically essential for your safety, okay?

Always. Wear. Your. Lifejackets.

Apart from that, make sure you have PFDs—personal floatation devices for each member onboard. These portable devices can assist a person in the water to stay afloat until help arrives.

Common Marine Jargon

Also, it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with some common marine jargon.

  • Port: left side of the boat.
  • Starboard: right side of the boat.
  • Bow: front side of the boat.
  • Aft or Stern: rear side of the boat.
  • Helm: the steering wheel of the boat. 
  • Hull: the boat’s external structure.
  • Rudder: the flap-like mechanism on the stern that displaces water to make turns.
  • Propeller or Screw: only on motored boats, this is the fan-like structure that displaces water to push the boat forward or in reverse, depending on the direction of the rotation.
  • Knot: speed measurement unit on the seas. The speed of one knot is equivalent to crossing one nautical mile in an hour.
  • Nautical Mile: measurement unit for distance on the waters. 1 nautical mile translates to 1.852 kilometres.
  • Fathom: unit of measurement equivalent to 1.8288 metres. Used for measuring the depth or the rope/line lengths.
  • Latitude: coordinate for North-South positioning on the Earth.
  • Longitude: coordinate for East-West positioning on the Earth.
  • SOS: Save Our Souls, a globally recognisable distress signal.
  • VDS: Visual distress signals, like a flare, smoke etc.
  • Man Overboard: a common phrase used by boaters to alert that somebody has fallen in the water.
  • PFD: Personal Flotation Device. These portable devices are one of the strict requirements to have onboard.
  • Charts: Navigation charts that help you navigate and chart a course.

Final Words

Boating is supposed to be an enjoyable experience. The aim of this article was to introduce our readers to some of the most basic, beginner boating tips for a safe powerboating experience in South Africa. Of course, the topic is much more extensive than what it appears to be in this article. However, if you do follow these basics, you will significantly boost your boating experience while remaining safe.

If boating feels like your calling, then you should also get a skipper’s license in South Africa. For more information, we encourage you to visit our website or contact us for more information.

Beginner Tips for a Safe Powerboating Experience in South Africa