If you have little or no experience on the water, no matter what size boat you have or plan to buy, first take your state or country’s basic boating instruction course, which is usually offered online. In some states or countries you are required to have an operator’s card to operate a boat, which you get by taking a required course. See www.boaterexam.com for information about basic U.S. and Canadian courses. Follow the basic course with on-the-water training on your boat, or on a boat similar to what you have or plan to buy. If your boating area is on the coast or on a large lake, take a basic navigation course. Some of this instruction is free or low-cost. Do an Internet search, read boating magazines, and ask at a local boat club about other courses and opportunities to learn. See learning to operate a boat, p. 235 in the Mariner’s Guide.
Priscilla Travis spends more than 110 days each year on the water, takes photos, and writes about nautical topics.