Start Your Boating Journey
Everything you need to know to get off the dock
First time boaters, NO Sweat!
If you are new to boating, you will have more questions than answers when you start looking into resources. The dreams of days out on the water with family and friends, fishing, watersports, or just feeling the wind on your face have arrived!
But finding the right boat for you can be overwhelming. Luckily, you have us at Union Marine to be your North star and chart your course so you can choose which boat is right for you. Before you get too deep in the water, here are some tips to get started.
Are you looking to go out for the day, the weekend, or longer?
Are you going to be in the ocean or freshwater, or both?
Are you fishing, partaking in wake surfing or wakeboarding, or diving?
Answering these questions will help you figure out what boat is right for you.
Where will you keep your boat, and more importantly,
where will you launch it?
Depending on the size of your vessel, you have options. If you plan to keep it at home, we’d recommend covering it at a minimum, preferably in a garage or undercover. Storing your boat at home, of course, is free. If you do not have room at your home, you can store it on rack storage for a monthly fee. Larger boats might require moorage at a marina or boat club (more on that here) and a monthly fee.
Launching the boat comes with another set of options. If you’re already moored at a marina or boat club, you can unplug and go! However, if you’re storing the boat at home, you can look up your nearest boat launch on Google, your city parks and rec area on the website, or use takemefishing.org as a resource by using their “boat ramp finder” option. Check that out here.
Like a driver’s license, many states require the driver to pass a test and/or complete a boater safety education course. You can search online if your state requires a license or head to the Discover Boating page here to see the requirements.
Find a body of water near you and familiarize yourself with the rules of the water. In the same way, you learn to drive a car and learn the “rules of the road” and the ins and outs of driving, you should do the same with your boat.
If you can receive on-water instruction, we would recommend it!
At Union Marine, we provide several workshops throughout the year to teach new boaters the basics, so make sure you check our events page for information on upcoming classes. You can also utilize Union Marine’s very own captain, who will take you through the ropes once you have purchased your boat.
Owning a boat opens you up to a world of possibilities you never knew existed and a new way of exploring. Once you learn what it takes to get your sea legs, it will be time to get out and use them!
What is the total cost of boating?
Almost anyone you’ve ever talked to who has NEVER owned a boat will probably tell you that “boats are expensive.” The acronym “Bring Out Another Thousand” is a joke that has been around for as long as most can remember.
People don’t realize that with proper care and maintenance, your boat can last a lifetime with minimal issues just like any vehicle. Here we will address the costs of boat ownership so you’re not stuck with sticker shock going into the buying process.
Since not all boats are created equal, we will generalize with the initial costs that all boats require and move into more specific maintenance costs. Let’s get started!
Like any other vehicle, you must register your boat in your name when you buy your boat.
Every state will have different registration requirements, with Washington State’s requirements being 60 days of moving to the state with the vessel or 15 days of buying the vessel if bought in another state and you live in Washington State.
Like registration, a requirement in most states, your boat must be insured. Costs here will vary depending on your insurance provider and your boat’s status, type, and options. There are many providers online to determine what coverage works best for your boat, but you may get a discount if you’re bundling it with your current vehicle. You can find more on boat insurance details here!
If you purchase a new boat, it’s likely to come with a trailer. If it doesn’t, and you intend on moving the boat from point A to point B out of the water, you will likely need one. The cost of a trailer does vary depending on features and size, but one constant is that in Washington state, the trailer, like the vehicle, needs to be titled and registered to the owner with attached license plates. Check your state’s DOL (Department of Licensing) to see if you need to register your trailer after purchase. Figure the yearly licensing fee as an added recurring cost to boat ownership.
Depending on the length of your boat, the cost of storage and moorage can vary wildly. Outdoor storage areas, while less secure, will be cheaper than indoor storage if you can’t keep your boat at home, undercover, or in a garage. Indoor dry storage allows for a safe, secure storage environment out of the elements. Marina moorage for larger vessels is another way to go.
Undercover, wet storage, and enclosed boat houses can keep your vessel ready to go and out of the elements. Shore power can ensure the batteries stay charged, and the heat is running so your boat doesn’t succumb to moisture.
Google will be your friend in locating storage options for your boat. Contact your nearest marina for moorage information and your nearest storage facility to see if they allow for vehicle storage and how much they cost.
Depending on what kind of boater you are will determine the accessories you need to accommodate your vessel. That being said, you will need to invest in a few key pieces of safety gear to make your boat legal to operate and take out.
- Type IV throwable Throwable flotation devices: Think of the ring floating devices you see in movies. Those or the square kind. These devices are designed to be grasped and not worn.
- PFD’s (Lifejackets): Life jackets are required for every single person aboard Being on any floating vessel, life jackets are required for everyone aboard. If the person joining you doesn’t have one, then it’s your responsibility to ensure that they’re provided for, as not doing so can lead to injury or even death in an emergency.
- Visual signaling devices: These can be in the form of smoke and flares. Boats under 16ft have minimum night signals, while vessels over 16ft have to have both day and night visual devices.
- Audible signaling devices: In the form of handheld boat horns. While most boats will have mounted horns of some sort, in the case of the battery going dead or the onboard horn going out, it’s good to have a backup to signal out in low visibility.
- Fire extinguisher Extinguisher: You’re on the water? There’s no chance of a fire, right? Wrong. Where there is fuel, there can be fire. Having a fire extinguisher on board in case of a fire can prevent even more serious situations such as the boat sinking or the fire spreading and hurting the people on board.
While these are the Coast Guard required options, there is other safety equipment you may need depending on your boat and what you’re doing with it. Discover Boating recommends the following 12 options.
Depending on the boating you do and where you do it, some may be required or only recommended items. Either way, you can pack most of these aboard even the smallest boats:
- Medical kit for cuts, scrapes, seasickness, or small emergencies
- Anchor with a line to hold your boat in place while you wait for help to arrive
- Bailing device or bucket to dewater and stay afloat
- >Oars or paddles if the engine quits;
- Cell phone to call for help
- VHF radio to call for help;
- Knife to cut a line around a fouled propeller
- Snorkel mask to inspect what’s going on under the boat
- Heavy-duty flashlight
- Skier or diver down flag;
- Working running lights if your boat is equipped with them
- A way to get weather updates because things can change quickly, even on a lake.
This sounds like a lot! But the safety of your crew and boat is paramount.
Arguably, the most daunting of any boat ownership is maintenance. While keeping your boat clean and lubricated where applicable is a great way to start preventative care. In places like Washington State, where boating is a seasonal activity, the cost of winterization presents itself. Luckily, our professionals at Union Marine can winterize your boat and minimize your cost and effort.
Generally speaking, yearly maintenance for your boat should be about 10% of your vessel’s cost. If and if you’re buying new, it will likely be much less than that! Remember that your boat’s engine will likely be the #1 component that needs the most care. and learn to flush your engine yourself after trips into saltwater.
Next comes the boat’s hull, bottom, top, electrical, moving parts, and upholstery. With large boats and boats with heating/cooling systems, you’ll also have to consider plumbing and HVAC. Since each boat operates differently, the maintenance will be different as well. Refer to your manufacturer’s instructions to see exactly what needs to be done and when.
How to tow a boat?
Towing or “trailering” a boat can be a lot tougher than it looks. If you’re new to boating and researching what boat is right for you, you may also want to research your road vehicle to ensure you have something capable of towing your new boat! Here are some valuable tips on towing your boat, so you’re ready on day 1!
Knowing the vehicle that will tow your boat is extremely important as we mentioned above. Making sure it can tow the boat loaded with gear is the first thing you need to do. Secondly, the hitch. The proper-sized hitch and ball will ensure your boat is secured and safe.
Making sure the boat trailer is ready for a fun boating season will save you a lot of headaches and money in the long run! Very few things are more terrifying than blowing a tire on your boat trailer and potentially damaging/losing your boat entirely. We recommend making a checklist you can refer to that include some of the following key things to check before departing.
- Check tire air pressure before each trip (check thoroughly before departing after the off-season).
- Check signal lights. Be sure all lights are working. Newer trailers will have the longest-lasting LEDs; you can upgrade the replacement bulbs to longer-lasting LEDs.
- Double-check and make sure the boat is secure. This includes all straps at the bow and transom!
- Check trailer brakes (if applicable) and ensure they work properly.
- Check to ensure there is no loose gear, such as life jackets, water toys, lines, etc., that could fly out of your vessel.
- Double-check the loaded gear for loose gear to ensure you didn’t forget anything for your day/weekend/trip out on the water.
Congrats! Now that you have made your trip and arrived safely at the water, you’re ready to launch your boat! After your outing on the water is done, load your boat and trailer back to its original resting place! Stay tuned and subscribe to our newsletter for detailed tips on launching and loading your boat!
Where can you find moorage?
Have you just purchased a big boat and need a place to “moor” or store it? Are you out on an overnight or weekend trip and need a place to stay? Are you heading out for a prolonged journey and will require multiple spaces?
Are you looking for long-term liveaboard slips? Are you reading this and just wondering what we’re talking about? There are many options for mooring a boat, so let’s explain what moorage is and why it’s important to you as a boat owner.
While there are more definitions, the basic long and short of it are defined by the above. Now let’s define “slip.”
Perfect. Now, why are these important? If you’re a bigger boat owner of a fishing boat, yacht, or cabin cruiser and primarily anything in the 30ft or above, it’s likely you’re going to have your boat moored.
Those who have been around boats for a long time will likely correct you on your use of “slip” versus “moorage,” but when you call around to the local marinas they’ll know what you mean as a new boat owner when you ask for moorage fees.
***Note***The difference between a slip and a mooring area is that mooring balls are set in the middle of water and can be tied up to by a boat while a slip is attached to a dock.
Whether you store your boat in the water year-round or during boating season you’re going to need to moor in a slip at the marina of your choice. This comes with a price-per-foot fee that you will either pay monthly or yearly, depending on your agreement with the marina.
Long-term slips are becoming more valuable as the popularity of boating increases. Since we don’t know where you’re located, Google will be your friend to find the moorage nearest you to keep your boat stored year-round. Slips can also be seasonal as well, and that moorage ends at the end of said season. But what if you’re going on a trip?
This is where the mooring balls mentioned above can be your friend, as well as dockside parking. Usually, payment is required daily, the same as staying at a hotel, and isn’t going to be long-term. Moorage balls and free dock spaces can be found in most port-based cities, but to find specific areas, make sure to map your trip ahead of time, so you know which spaces are available to the public.
We hope this explains moorage all around and can provide you with enough information to find your local marina to find a space for your boat! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact one of our professionals to help you further! Cheers!
Where to store your boat?
Alright, you have your boat. You have your boating license. But you don’t have the property or a garage to store your boat. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?!
Don’t worry; we’re here to help. Boat storage is a common issue for many boat owners in large cities. Where are you going to put your boat? Here are some options!
Starting with options during boating season, let’s begin with land storage.
With smaller vessels, most boats will be subject to “boating season,” starting with the time that the freezing temps subside, and it’s comfortable to take your boat out to the time that your boat will have to be winterized.
Again, these are the options to be used if you CANNOT store the boat in a garage or at your own home.
Several local storage businesses usually have parking lot areas that can provide a space to store your vessel. Union Marine offers Outdoor Dry Storage and Winterization options.
Space fills up fast, so contact our service department to reserve your space today!
To protect your boat from the elements, always keep a cover on it!
Indoor storage can protect your boat from the elements year-round, and if the storage is heated your vessel will be protected from freezing.
Although more costly than outdoor storage, you can guarantee more security and protection for your vessel.
This can be an option in places that offer commercial storage or larger storage areas. Anywhere you find boats, you can usually find rack storage.
Indoor or covered outdoor (sometimes uncovered) rack storage is usually inexpensive and guarantee’s your boat is protected.
Moorage is usually for larger vessels that are too heavy to put on rack storage and too big for a garage. Outdoor storage is still a viable option, but launching is not easy nor conducive to a pleasurable boating experience. So the final option is to keep your boat in the water.
Moorage fees may vary, and slips may differ between short-term and long-term. Lastly, some may be covered while others aren’t.
All of these options affect moorage prices as well. While in the water, keep in mind that there will be haul-out fees for maintenance while in the water.
Washington storage costs vary. For boat-centric storage, you can count on $55-$60/foot as a base and $250/ft for indoor storage. This is a higher estimate, but keeping your bases covered is good and ensures no surprise fees arise.
For non-boat-centric storage/moorage, you can call your local storage companies and see what they charge monthly.
The most important thing you can do for your dry storage vessel is winterize it at the end of the boating season.
Union Marine’s team provides this service to ensure freezing temperatures and rough weather don’t damage your boat during the off-season. Lastly, we recommend shrink-wrapping your boat to ensure the inside stays dry and the outside is protected from the elements.
There you have it! Google will be your friend in searching for boat-centric and local storage options and moorage if you’re around high boat traffic and water areas!
Get a boating license
CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR NEW BOAT!
You did it! You took the dive and picked up your new vessel, and it’s ready to hit the water! Hypothetically you should already have your license before you make your purchase, but if you don’t, here’s a little “how to “guide to the steps needed to get your boating license. This shouldn’t be confused with how to get your boat licensed…. Your salesperson will go over that with you, and we’ve covered that in “owning a boat” in our other resources.
We’re going to assume that if you’re reading this here on the Union Marine website that means you’re a Washington State resident. This means that you must be at least 12 years old to operate boats (classified as vessels) with 15 or more horsepower and 14 years of age or older to operate a personal watercraft (classified as a PWC).
***NOTE*** PWC classifies as a wave runner, jetski, etc.
If you’re not in Washington state, then check out Discover Boating’s website here to see what your state’s requirements are.
Sign up for boaters’ education classes.
A majority of boating classes can be taken online. In the Puget Sound area, a fair amount of resources are available for “in-person” classes. While we recommend those as a supplement, we recommend getting your boater’s safety license and certification through Boat-ed.com, as it is the official Washington State resource. That can be found here.
We recommend keeping a boaters handbook on hand until you’re familiar with the rules of the water as well! Pick that up here!
You’ve done it! You have your boat and your license – now get out on the water and enjoy your new vessel!
Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to keep up on continuing training and workshops year-round at Union Marine if you’re ever feeling rusty or need a refresher!