10 Boating Myths – Debunked!

Don’t let these common falsehoods get in the way of the truth when you shove off the dock.

This may be the information age, but it’s also the age of misinformation – and that includes fallacies regarding topics like boat maintenance, boating tips, boat hull design, and more. The worst thing? Although boating has existed ever since some hairy Neanderthal named Og discovered he could sit on a log and float across the Euphrates to hook up with Ogettea, back in the stone age, it took time for misinformation to circulate.

Today, rumors and falsehoods can be passed from one person to one million people in a matter of seconds. So let’s dispel some common boating myths once and for all.

wood boats
Yup, there’s plenty of wood under the beautiful exterior of that Jarrett Bay – as there is in most high-end custom sportfishers – and that’s a good thing.

Wood Is Bad

Credit marketing guys for convincing us that wood is not a great boatbuilding material. In fact, it’s excellent for use in boats and the rot problems that used to plague boaters are mostly ancient history. Pound for pound, many wood products are stronger than synthetic core materials, and it can be had in varying degrees of stiffness, sizes, and weights, and it can be easily shaped and formed. Though some sales slicks would have you believe otherwise, don’t discount a boat simply because it has wood in it and remember that most of the premium builders of high-end sportfishers order wood by the truckloads.

boat engines

Four Stroke Outboards Are More Fuel Efficient Than Two Strokes

This one was true at one point in time when four-strokes were storming onto a market dominated by carbureted two-strokes. But hi-tech two strokes with direct fuel injection have displaced the old-tech designs and their economy is vastly improved. Four-strokes may still hold a slight edge in the lower and middle RPM ranges, in some cases. But the latest generation two-stroke Evinrude G2 outboards regularly post efficiency numbers 10- to 15-percent higher than many competing four-strokes.

boat tips
Close-quarters maneuvering is almost always easier, not harder, as boats get bigger.

 Bigger Boats Are Harder To Handle

No way, for one simple reason: as boats get larger they get more motors. Almost any twin-screw boat handles like a dream compared to a single-engine boat. What about those hot new triple and quad rigs you see around the docks? They’re even easier to put in a slip, thanks to the joysticks and bow thrusters most are equipped with.

Boat Theft Is Uncommon

Og found out the hard way when Zog rolled his prized log into a fire pit so he could roast a mastodon. You’ll find out the hard way, too, if you keep parking your boat and trailer on the street without locking them up. According to the most recent BoatUS analysis of boat thefts, only one in 10 stolen boats ever gets recovered and even those that are recovered are rarely worth much. Trailer boats parked in driveways are the prime target, Florida leads the way in boat theft by a wide margin (47-percent), and the vast majority of boats that get stolen (85-percent) didn’t have any kind of lock installed because the owner believed “where they kept their boat seemed safe.”

10 Boating Myths
Apples-to-apples comparisons show that trips are actually more efficient than twins, in many applications.

Triple Engines Burn More Gas Than Twins

Though it seems completely illogical, as long as you measure efficiency at specific speeds of twins versus triples (with approximately equal horsepower), this is simply not true. Trips work a lot less than twins to get a chunk of fiberglass up to a particular speed, and their overall fuel burn at cruise is often actually less. One example: According to Yamaha performance testing (which in our experience has proved dead-on accurate) A Jupiter 38 with twin Yamaha F425 XTO Offshore outboards gets 1.09 mpg at 36 mph. The same boat with triple F300 V6 four-strokes gets 1.31 mpg at that speed. Sure, there’s a higher maintenance and purchase cost if you get triples, but don’t let worries of inflated fuel bills make you think twice.

Your Compass Is Obsolete

Don’t believe it for a moment. What’s that you say? You carry a back-up GPS and spare batteries, so you really, truly don’t need that compass? Not so. What if a problem crops up in the satellite system, as opposed to in your gear? In that case, your chartplotter and back-up handheld may be working just fine, but they won’t get you home. This isn’t a far-fetched scenario, by the way – in December of 2007 sunspots caused an 80- to 90-percent GPS signal loss for about 10 minutes (few boaters noticed because, well, it was December). And in 2012 researchers from the University of Texas demonstrated how easy it is to intentionally fiddle with GPS signals by hijacking a GPS-guided UAV. Whether it’s nature or intentional, one day you may find yourself with no electronic navigation abilities. That compass may be the only thing that can get you home.

boating tips
If you’re in a boat traveling at very high-speeds and there’s any hint of chine walking, the sole solution is to slow down.

Chine Walking Can Be Controlled

Some people think by trimming, or at times by adding power, chine-walking can be controlled. Nope. Reducing power is the only reliable way to eliminate this dangerous phenomenon. Try it for yourself and you’ll either reach the same conclusion or flip your boat. Chine walking’s root cause is sometimes from having the motor too high, so if you have a jack plate you may be able to lower it a hair and keep up your speed. But otherwise, back off on the throttle.

Tilt Your Engine Up As Far As Possible When Entering Shallow Water

Okay, now ask yourself: if you’re engine’s up as far as possible, what are you going to do if you run aground? Get out and push. Here’s a better idea: when you enter shallow flats tilt the engine up as far as possible, then lower it back down a couple of inches. Now if you run aground, you have a slim safety margin. You can tilt it up that little bit and back off or maneuver as necessary, to get back to passable waters.

10 Boating Myths
Do you need a tow? We hope your insurance is paid up.

The Coast Guard Will Tow You Home If  You Break Down

Once upon a time, sure. But not today. Nowadays the USCG won’t lend a hand unless it’s an emergency situation and there’s imminent danger. Did you break down? Call a tow-boat, and be prepared to shell out some cash. This is a great argument for tow insurance, by the way, since towboats can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get you back to the dock.

Life Jackets Are Too Uncomfortable Yo Wear All The Time

Ten or 20 years ago we would have agreed, but not today. The new inflatable life belts and suspenders are so lightweight and unobtrusive that five minutes after putting them on, you’ll forget they exist… unless you end up in the drink, that is.


Unless you live in a cave with Og, you’ve probably heard the one about the blond airhead who launched her new boat by uncoupling the trailer from the truck. Then, she complained about the boat’s lack of performance while running it with the trailer still attached. Alas, this urban boating legend is just that – a tale. Mythbusters even did a segment on this one and discovered that with the trailer attached a 13’ Boston Whaler will do a whopping 4.8-mph. They then found a marine mechanic who could confirm the story. Confirm? Wait a sec, weren’t we dispelling this myth? Well, as it turns out the story is real but the characters are not. The bubble-headed boater wasn’t a blond gal – it was a 56-year-old man.

10 Boating Myths
Nope, it wasn’t her fault!

Get more great boating information and tips from Lenny Rudow on BD.

Lenny Rudow
Lenny Rudow …has been a writer and editor in the marine field for over two decades, and has authored seven books. He is currently the Angler in Chief at Rudow's FishTalk Magazine, is Electronics and Fishing Editor for BoatUS Magazine, and is a contributing editor to several other publications. His...