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Boat Trip Planning Tips


No matter what size boat you own, you can take an extended trip. It just takes research and planning – which can be as fun as taking the trip itself.


For your first excursion, pick a destination that’s close by. Somewhere that only requires you to travel for a day, spend the night, and travel home the next day. This is a good opportunity to introduce yourself and your crew to boating beyond the local sand bar or favorite lunch spot, and get you ready to take longer trips to destinations further away. The same principles of trip planning apply, whether it’s a one-night trip, a week, or more. Who knows, you may even work your way up to a trip to the islands!


An important part of selecting the location includes the time it will take to get there. Keep in mind that you can’t base the time it will take just on the speed your boat will travel. Remember there may be no wake zones, other boats that you’ll have to pass or that will be passing you, and even people on the water with paddle boards, kayaks, and canoes that may slow down your progress. You never know what’s going to come up, so give yourself plenty of extra time. It’s better to arrive at your destination a little early, than to risk coming into an unfamiliar channel or marina after dark.


Once you’ve selected the destination, choose the best route for your skill level and boat. Compare your options to go from point A to point B, whether it’s traveling in the ocean, through a river, or along the intracoastal waterway. A trip through the intracoastal waterway may be easier than traveling out in the open seas, making it a better route for your first trip. If you chart the trip on your tablet or phone, take it with you as a backup just in case you experience any difficulty with the boat’s navigation system.


Once you have decided the route, you’ll want to chart the trip. There are many apps that will help you with this planning. Some will even allow you to plot the trip at home on your computer, tablet, or phone and upload it to your boat’s GPS system before you leave. The best program to select may depend on what brand GPS you have installed on your boat. A good place to find out what’s recommended by your GPS provider is by visiting a local boat show. Generally, the companies have booths there and their salesperson can demonstrate the best program and how to transfer the route to your boat’s electronic device. It’s also a good idea to do this ahead of time. You don’t want to be stuck loading the route the morning of the trip in case something goes wrong.

Questions to consider as you are planning your trip:
Does your boat hold enough fuel to get to your destination without stopping for more?
If not, you’ll need to identify where you can fuel up on the way.


You may know where you are going to stay when you arrive at your destination but where do you plan to leave the boat?
Many marinas are like hotels; you’ll need to make a reservation to ensure they have a slip for you. When making your reservation they’ll need size information for your boat so they can put you in an appropriately sized slip.


What is your plan if the weather suddenly changes?
This leads us to an important point. This trip is supposed to be fun! So, if the weather isn’t cooperating on departure day, or the day you’re supposed to return, you can always remain at the dock and plan the trip for another time or return home the next day. The most important thing is to stay safe and have a good time. Hopefully you’ll be taking many more trips, so you want the first one to be a great experience for everyone.


Do you have everything you need?
Before you leave go through your safety checklist
Make sure everyone has a proper fitting personal flotation device and that they are readily accessible and check your radio to be sure it works. If you have curtains for your boat, consider putting them up before you leave. You can always open them to let the air flow through, but if you end up in rough waters with some spray, or it starts to rain, you’ll be glad they are up and can be lowered quickly.


Remember, if something doesn’t go exactly as planned, which is going to happen sometime during your boating adventures, relax, regroup, and apply the skills and techniques you use when boating close to home.


Taking trips on your boat can be a great adventure! You’ll learn new skills, see new places, and maybe even make new friends. All it takes is a little preparation.


Read more about how to get more out of your GPS chartplotter here.


Click here for a list of ten top boating apps including navigational options. 


Click here for more boat trip planning tips.