Boating Tips and Tricks


Knowing how to tie a few basic knots is essential to a boater's security. The art of knot tying is known as "Marlinspike." Good sailors take pride in their ability to chose and tie knots. Below are 7 Basic Knots you should know....If you master these knots, you'll be way ahead of most recreational boaters in your knowledge of marlinespike. For practice, a section of rope six feet long with a diameter of 3/8" is a good size. Tie each knot several times to make a mental picture of the sequence. With practice you'll be able to tie each knot without thinking about it. NOTE: The end of the line that you work with in tying knots is called the "Bitter End." The main length of line is the "Standing Part."
Two Half Hitches
This reliable knot is quickly tied and is the hitch most often used in mooring. To tie: two half hitches
  1. Pass end of rope around post or other object.
  2. Wrap short end of rope under and over long part of rope, pushing the end down through the loop. This is a half hitch.
  3. Repeat on long rope below first half hitch and draw up tight.

This knot doesn't jam or slip when tied properly. To tie: bowline
  1. Make the overhand loop with the end held toward you, then pass end through loop.
  2. Now pass end up behind the standing part, then down through the loop again.
  3. Draw up tight.
Figure Eight
This knot is ideal for keeping the end of a rope from running out of tackle or pulley. To tie: figure eight
  1. Make underhand loop, bringing end around and over the standing part.
  2. Pass end under, then up through the loop.
  3. Draw up tight.
Square Knot
This knot is used at sea in reefing and furling sails.
Square Knot                    
To tie:
  1. Pass left and over and under right end. Curve what is now the left end toward
    the right and cross what is now the right end over and under the left.
  2. Draw up tight.
Anchor Bend
Anchor Bend This knot is used to secure a rope or a line to an anchor. To tie:
  1. Pass two loops through ring.
  2. Place free end around standing line.
  3. Pass free end through loops.
  4. Complete by making half hitch.
Clove Hitch
Clove HitchThis knot is the "general utility" hitch for when you need a quick, simple method of fastening a rope around a post, spar or stake. To tie:
  1. Make a turn with the rope around the object and over itself.
  2. Take a second turn with the rope around the object.
  3. Pull the end up under the second turn so it is between the rope and the object. Tighten by pulling on both ends.
Cleat Hitch
In order to secure the boat to a dock or secure a line to the boat you will probably use the cleat hitch.
  1. Take the line to the ear of the cleat furthest from where the line comes from the boat (or load).
  2. Take one wrap around the base of the cleat and then start a figure eight across the top of the opposite ear.
  3. Finish with a half hitch turned under so that the line is coming away from the cleat in the opposite direction from which it came in. 


The ability to trailer your boat from one location to another opens up virtually unlimited boating opportunities. Towing a boat, however, is not as simple as many novices perceive it. On the other hand, it's not an overly difficult skill to learn either. The following tips will help ensure that your towing experience is a positive and safe one.
Choose the proper trailer for your boat.
More damage can be done to a boat by the stress of road travel than by normal water operation. A boat hull is designed to be supported evenly by water. When transported on a trailer, your boat should be supported structurally as evenly across the hull as possible. This will allow for even distribution of the weight of the hull, engine and equipment. It should be long enough to support the whole length of the hull but short enough to allow the lower unit of the boat's engine to extend freely.
  • Rollers and bolsters must be kept in good condition to prevent scratching and gouging of the hull.
  • Tie-downs and lower unit supports must be adjusted properly to prevent the boat from bouncing on the trailer. The bow eye on the boat should be secured with either rope, chain or turnbuckle in addition to the winch cable. Additional straps may be required across the beam of the boat.
  • The capacity of the trailer should be greater than the combined weight of the boat, motor, and equipment.
  • The tow vehicle must be capable to handling the weight of the trailer, boat, equipment, as well as weight of the passengers and equipment which will be carried inside the tow vehicle. This may require that the tow vehicle may need to be specially equipped with an:
    • Engine of adequate power.
    • Transmission designed for towing.
    • Larger cooling systems for the engine and transmission.
    • Heavy duty brakes.
    • Load bearing hitch attached to the frame, not the bumper.
    (Check your vehicle owners manual for specific information)
Check Before You Go Out On The Highway
The idea here is to avoid being in transit when you start wondering if your brake lights work, or if you cinched the tie-down straps, or raised the trailer jack, etc. You should know all those things and then some before you even pull out of the driveway. To do this effectively, it's good to have a checklist. A literal checklist written on a tablet or piece of paper that you keep in the tow vehicle's glove box is best, but in the real world, the majority of people are not likely to do that. So, at the very least, go through a mental checklist before taking to the road. Interestingly, it's the experienced tower that sometimes gets overconfident and develops a lackadaisical attitude in this regard. Don't.
Your checklist should include such things as.....
  • The tow ball and coupler are the same size and bolts with washers are tightly secured. (The vibration of road travel can loosen them.)
  • The coupler is completely over the ball and the latching mechanism is locked down.
  • The trailer is loaded evenly from front to rear as well as side to side. Too much weight on the hitch will cause the rear wheels of the tow vehicle to drag and may make steering more difficult.

    Too much weight on the rear of the trailer will cause the trailer to fishtail and may reduce traction or even lift the rear wheels of the tow vehicle off the ground.
  • The safety chains are attached crisscrossing under the coupler to the frame of the tow vehicle.  If the ball were to break, the trailer would follow in a straight line and prevent the coupler from dragging on the road.
  • The lights on the trailer function properly.
  • Check the brakes. On a level parking area roll forward and apply the brakes several times at increasing speeds to determine a safe stopping distance.
  • The side view mirrors are large enough to provide an unobstructed rear view on both sides of the vehicle.
  • Check tires (including spare) and wheel bearings. Improper inflation may cause difficultly on steering.  When trailer wheels are immersed in water, (especially salt water) the bearings should be inspected and greased after each use.
  • Make certain that water from rain or cleaning has been removed from the boat. Water weighs over eight pounds per gallon and can add weight that will shift with the movement of the trailer.
Towing Precautions

Allow Greater Stopping Distance

The added weight of several thousand pounds in motion can dramatically increase the distance it takes you to stop. Granted, most trailers are required by law to come equipped with their own set of brakes. Nonetheless, your tow vehicle's stopping ability still isn't as good as when you drive it alone. If not careful, the boat and trailer can push you too far into an intersection, or into the back of another automobile. You can allow for this by driving slower and giving yourself greater distance in which to stop.
Driving slower not only permits you to stop more quickly and in less distance, but it also provides you more time to react. And with several thousand extra pounds pushing you forward, you need every second you can get. Regarding distance, it's recommended you leave the equivalent of one length of your car/trailer combination for every 10 mph.

Make Sure You Have Adequate Mirrors.

Many tow vehicles today come with side mirrors that provide meager rear visibility. If that is the case with your tow vehicle, then buy aftermarket mirrors to remedy the problem. Small circular convex mirrors that can be attached to your existing mirrors will help eliminate blind spots. However, larger mirrors that extend farther out from the vehicle provide a better view of what's behind you. There are several portable mirrors now available that can be put on and taken off with ease. Some even attach to your existing mirrors. Most RV stores carry a variety to choose from.

Allow More Room

Never forget your overall length has greatly increased. Even if you're towing a small boat, your combined length is likely more that double what it is when not towing. You'll need to compensate for this in more than one way. For instance, regardless of your speed, it will take you at least twice as long to pass another vehicle because your combined rigs are physically twice as long (or longer). That's not even taking into consideration that your added load also affects acceleration. So you'll need to allow more room and, consequently, time when passing vehicles and switching lanes.
The added length also requires being cognizant of not cutting other vehicles off when pulling in front of them. When passing professional towers, you'll notice that they often flash their lights to indicate when you've put enough distance between them and you to safely pull back into their lane. This is a good courtesy to imitate.

Don't be Swayed

Trailer sway is one of the more serious, and intimidating, things you may experience when towing. In worst case scenarios, trailer sway can force the tow vehicle out of control and cause a serious accident. If your trailer begins to sway, or "fish tail" from side to side, the first thing you want to do is slow down and, if necessary, stop, to determine the cause.
Realize that gusts of wind generated by topography (canyons and bridges for instance), or from passing vehicles &151; especially large trucks &151; can cause a temporary sway. So can a quick turn of your vehicle's steering wheel. The key here is to slow down and don't overreact. If the sway stops, proceed cautiously. However, if the swaying persists or is drastic, you need to stop immediately and do some inspecting. Check to see that the hitch is still fastened securely to the tow vehicle and that the hitchball and coupler haven't worked loose. Check that the tire lug nuts are tight and that the tires have adequate air. One of the chief causes of sway, however, is that the load is not situated properly. Too much weight in the rear of the boat &151; whether it's a result of gear, loaded fuel or water tanks &151; can result in too light a tongue weight, which contributes to sway. Rearrange the load and try again. Also make sure the boat is properly situated on the trailer.
Pre-Launching Preparations
For the courtesy of others and to prevent rushing, prepare your boat for launching away from the ramp.
  • Check the boat to ensure that no damage was caused by the trip.
  • Raise the lower unit (remove supports) to proper height for launching so that it will not hit bottom.
  • Remove tie-downs and make sure that the winch is properly attached to the bow eye and locked in position.
  • Put the drain plug in securely.
  • Disconnect the trailer lights to prevent shorting of electrical system or burning out a bulb.
  • Attach a line to the bow and the stern of the boat so that the boat cannot drift away after launching and it can be easily maneuvered to a docking area.
  • Visually inspect the launch ramp for hazards such as a steep drop off, slippery area and sharp objects.
When everything has been double checked, proceed slowly to the ramp remembering that your boat is just resting on the trailer and attached only at the bow. The ideal situation is to have one person in the boat and one observer at the water's edge and in view of the driver's mirror to help guide the driver of the tow vehicle.


  • If at all possible, keep the rear wheels of the tow vehicle out of the water.  This will generally keep the exhaust pipes out of the water. If the exhaust pipes become immersed in the water, the engine may stall.
  • Set the parking brake and place tire chocks behind the rear wheels.
  • Make sure someone else on shore is holding the lines attached to the boat.
  • Lower the motor and prepare to start the engine (after running blowers and checking for fuel leaks).
  • Start the boat motor and make sure that water is passing through the engine cooling system.
  • Release the winch and disconnect the winch line from the bow when the boat operator is ready. At this point, the boat should be able to be launched with a light shove or by backing the boat off the trailer under power. Finish loading your boat at a sufficient distance from the ramp so that others may use it.


The steps for removing your boat from the water are basically the reverse of those taken to launch it. However, keep in mind that certain conditions may exist during retrieval that did not exist during launching. As you approach the ramp, take special care to note such factors as:
  • Change in wind direction and/or velocity.
  • Change in current and/or tide.
  • Increase in boating traffic.
  • Visibility, etc.
First, unload the boat at a dock or mooring if possible. Next, maneuver the boat carefully to the submerged trailer, and raise the lower unit of the engine. Then, winch the boat onto the trailer and secure it. Finally, drive the trailer with the boat aboard carefully out of the ramp to a designated parking area for cleanup, reloading, and an equipment safety check. Practice will make launch and retrieval a simple procedure. The best advise is just, "do it cautiously with safety as your main concern."


If your boat will be sitting on its trailer for quite some time before it is used again, it is important that it be stored properly .To avoid damage from sun and weather, cover the boat with a tarp. To remove weight from the wheels, put cinderblocks or wood beams under the tongue and all four corners of the trailer frame.
These tips don't cover everything there is to know about towing, but they cover some of the most important aspects. The most important thing is to be careful and use common sense. And remember, the more you do it the better you'll become. In the meantime you can begin experiencing the wide world of boating opportunities trailering affords.


There are no crowds of boaters on lakes and rivers in the colder months of the year. Fishermen work their favorite spots nearly undisturbed. On inland waters migrating waterfowl appear in the fall and return again in the spring as soon as the ice goes out. The fine, breezy days of spring and fall are the best of days for many anglers.
There are trade-offs for these blessings. The water is cold (less than 60° F) in the off-season. More than half of the fatal boating accidents occur when the water is cold. Most such accidents occur in calm weather relatively close to shore. Because fewer boaters are on the water, the likelihood of a prompt rescue is greatly reduced. Off-season boaters must be as self-sufficient as possible.
Immersion in cold water rapidly incapacitates and may kill boaters who are not wearing protective clothing. Surfers, sailboarders and river paddlers wear wetsuits or drysuits when the water is cold. Off-season sailors, anglers, hunters and other folks out in open boats can use these same precautions to greatly improve their safety on the water. What happens in cold water?
Water removes heat from the body 25 times faster than cold air. About 50% of that heat loss occurs through the head. Physical activity such as swimming or other struggling in the water increases heat loss. Survival time can be reduced to minutes. Strong swimmers have died before swimming 100 yards in cold water. In water under 40° F, victims have died before swimming 100 feet.


  1. Without a life jacket, a victim may inhale while under water (involuntary gasping reflex) and drown without coming back to the surface. This can only be prevented by wearing a life jacket at all times on cold water. There is no second chance.
  2. Exposure of the head and chest to cold water causes sudden increases in heart rate and blood pressure that may result in cardiac arrest.
  3. Other responses to cold water immersion result in immediate loss of consciousness and drowning.


Hypothermia (decreased body temperature) develops more slowly than the immediate effects of cold shock. Survival curves show that an adult dressed in average clothing may remain conscious for an hour at 40° F and perhaps 2-3 hours at 50° F (water temp.). The crisis is more serious than these numbers suggest. Any movement in the water accelerates heat loss. Survival time can be reduced to minutes. Hands become numb and useless. Without thermal protection, swimming is not possible. The victim, though conscious, is soon helpless. Without a life jacket, drowning is unavoidable.
Even with a wetsuit/drysuit on, one's hands rapidly become useless in water in the low 40's° F. Protective fingerless gloves for fishermen can be important. Shivering occurs as body temperature drops from 97° F down to about 90° F. Uncontrolled rapid breathing follows the initial gasping response and may cause loss of consciousness. The victim must attempt to recover control of his/her breathing rate.
Muscle rigidity and loss of manual dexterity, physical helplessness, occurs at about 93° F. Mental capacity also deteriorates at this point. Unconsciousness occurs when the body's core temperature reaches about 86° F. If drowning doesn't occur first, death occurs at a core temperature of about 80° F.


Try to get back in or on your boat immediately. Do not leave the boat. If you are not wearing thermal protection and cannot get out of the water, stay as still as possible. Fold arms, cross legs and float quietly on the buoyancy of your PFD until help arrives. If two or more people are in the water, put your arms around one another. Stay still and close together (Huddle posture).
HELP OFF-SEASON BOATING, COLD SHOCK and HYPOTHERMIA TIPS, Black Lake, NY Your Fishing Location for Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike, Walleye, Perch, & Crappie. Black Lake is a Freshwater Fishermans Paradise located in Upstate, New York
On Memorial Day, 1996, an 18-year old canoeist capsized into 50° F lake water. He sank to the bottom before a rescuer in a boat towing the canoe could reach him. He was wearing blue jeans, a light shirt and no life jacket. His body was recovered the next day by divers. Your ability to survive accidental immersion will depend on how you prepared yourself before going out.
Dressing for the possibility of immersion helps buy time to work out a rescue in case of an accident. Warm weather does not cancel out the danger of cold water. Instead, wearing lighter clothing on warm days may increase risk.
  1. Mild hypothermia. (victim shivering but coherent). Move victim to place of warmth. Remove wet clothes, give warm, sweet drinks; no alcohol or caffeine. Keep victim warm for several hours.

  2. Moderate hypothermia. (shivering may decrease or stop). Victim may seem irrational with deteriorating coordination. Same as above but no drinks. Victim should be kept lying down with torso, thighs, head and neck covered with dry clothes, coats or blankets to stop further heat loss. Seek medical attention immediately.

  3. Severe hypothermia. (shivering may have stopped. Victim may resist help or be semi-conscious or unconscious). Removed from water, victim must be kept prone, on back and immobile. Victim must be handled gently. Cover torso, thighs, head and neck with dry covers to stop further heat loss. Arms and legs must not be stimulated in any manner. Cold blood in extremities, that suddenly returns to the core, may induce cardiac arrest. Seek medical attention immediately.

  4. Victim appears dead. Little or no breathing or pulse, body rigid. Assume victim can be revived. Look for faint pulse or breathing for two minutes. If any trace is found, do not give CPR. It can cause cardiac arrest. Medical help is imperative. If pulse and breathing are totally absent, CPR should be started by trained medical personnel.

Planning Ahead

Wear clothing that permits safe cold-water immersion and a life jacket. It is the only way to combat the risk posed by cold-water boating.
The common advice to wear layers of wool (nylon, polypropylene) is misleading. These fabrics do not effectively retard heat loss in cold water. They are warm when damp, after being wrung out, due to air trapped in the fibers. They must be worn inside a waterproof barrier (shell) having neoprene or latex gaskets at ankles, waist, wrists and neck. Fleece lined "wetsuit grade" polartec clothing is rated equal to 2.5 mm neoprene and is comfortable under outer clothes. Such clothing ($100-300) may be found in catalogs & shops that serve river paddlers and windsurfers.
Carry dry clothing in a water proof bag. Tie a bailer and paddle to your boat. Evaluate the flotation in your boat. A short sling tied to the transom, with a foot rest in the loop, may assist boat re-entry. Attach a whistle or horn to your life jacket.
Tell someone where you are going and when you will return. Inform them of your return. Check the weather forecast for the day.
On cold water, you are depending on one another for prompt rescue in case of an accident.

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