We recently polled our Waterway Guide Facebook Community of cruisers to share what they considered to be the best tips for first-time cruisers. Thirty active cruisers chimed in to share their thoughts and here's a summary of their best tips (in no particular order):
1. Don't Have a Schedule
Weather will dictate your cruising schedule, so remain adaptable.
2. But, Have a Plan
Despite the advice against a fixed schedule, having a well-thought-out plan is crucial. "Know the forecast for the area you're traversing every day." It's essential to prepare for the day ahead with planned destinations and to be ready to adjust these plans based on real-time conditions and unforeseen circumstances.
3. Better Yet, Have a Few Plans
"Always plan your passages for the worst part of the weather forecast and have at least two backup plans," one for cutting your passage short if necessary and another for taking advantage of favorable conditions.
3. Know Your Boat
Know your boat inside & out, and know how to fix issues that may arise. "There is maintenance before you leave, after you leave, and after you get there - know how to do most of it." Bring a well-equipped tool kit on board—and, humorously, possibly "your checkbook".
4. Pack the Essentials
One cruiser summed it up well, emphasizing the need for a balance of minimalism with the practicality of being well-prepared. "1. Unpack half of what you packed to bring along. 2. Bring twice as many batteries (AA and AAA) as you think you will need."
5. Take a Class
Recommended courses include a Coast Guard boating safety course and a basic boating class covering essential navigational rules and techniques.
6. Learn How to Navigate (with & without GPS)
In today's tech-savvy world, learning to navigate both with and without GPS is invaluable. While navigation apps like Navionics & AquaMap come highly recommended, it's crucial to view GPS as a supplementary tool rather than a sole reliance.
7. Enjoy the Ride
Don't rush. Slow down. Stop often & stay a while. Embrace the journey, practice patience, and fully appreciate the cruising experience.
8. Get Started
Don't overthink it. Get out there and enjoy the adventure.
And here are a few more notable tips from the community:
"Check your bilge before you go to bed, and shortly after you wake up."
"Never go faster than you want to hit something."
"The boat can handle a whole lot more than you can."
"Have rum on hand at all times." 😉
Join Waterway Guide's Facebook Group to connect with fellow cruisers in our community, exchange tips and stories, ask questions, and find inspiration for your next adventure on the water.