Boating Blunders – Whatever You Do, Don’t Do This!

Wrapping A Prop

Boating blunders can be costly, but the mistakes you make with the boat itself can be even costlier. Case in point: A few years ago, we were chunking on the drift for when the water started erupting with tuna and three out of four lines in the water went down simultaneously. In the ensuing chaos, one line broke and then a hook pulled, whittling us down to one fish. Determined not to lose the last tuna, as it ran towards the bow, I opposed the outboards to keep the fish off the stern. But one of the other lines wasn’t all the way in yet, and I sucked it right into the prop. Ignoring the potential damage, I might be doing – I wanted that fish, dammit – I continued jockeying the boat until 10 minutes later when we sunk the gaff and dragged the fish in. At that point, I shut down the engines and tilted the drives up, but there was no visible line left on either prop.

boat blunders
Would I have shut down the engines mid-fight, had I known how much damage I was doing? One would hope.

It wasn’t until a week later that my stupidity became apparent, when six miles from the inlet, the starboard outboard’s lower unit blew. Sure enough, that line had worked its way into the prop seal. I’d lost all of my lower unit oil without even realizing it, and now my boat was out of action for weeks.

Boating blunder moral of the story? If you wrap line around an outboard prop, immediately shut the engine down take the time and care to be sure each and every bit is pulled free before you re-start your engine, or you’ll pull the same bone-headed blooper I did and kill your lower unit. Here are some more boating blunders which you’ll want to avoid.

boating tips
Anchors should always be set from the bow – always, no ifs, ands, or buts.

Anchoring Astern

This boating blunder is a big no-no for safety reasons. Any time you anchor from the stern of the boat you’re putting the square end into the seas. And, remember that old adage about keeping the pointy end into the waves? Even if it’s perfectly calm out, you can’t predict when a boat wake will appear out of nowhere and wash right over the transom.

Dry-Start an Outboard

One of the biggest boating blunders is right after making a repair or charging a battery, you might be tempted to turn the key and momentarily dry-start your outboard. “It’ll just be for a second,” you tell yourself. “What could go wrong that quickly?”

Plenty. No, you don’t need cooling water flowing through the motor for the first couple minutes it runs, but your raw water impeller does need water for lubrication from the very moment it starts spinning. Dry start that motor and you risk tearing the impeller to pieces. Then you may head for the boat ramp the next day confident that everything is working fine, only to discover that a few minutes later (and a mile from the boat ramp) your engine is hopelessly overheated.

boat tips
You need a constant reminder regarding the drain plugs? The door method works.

Launching Without the Drain Plug

Yup, this one’s the mother of all boating bloopers, and if you’ve never done it yourself, then you probably don’t launch your boat very often. Here’s my method of prevention: I keep my garboard drain plugs in the armrest pocket of my truck’s door. Each and every time I open or close the door, I hear the things rattling around annoyingly. So, each and every time I pull into the marina and open my truck door before I get ready to launch, those drain plugs “ask” me to put them in.

Trailer with a Bimini Top Up

This is an egregious boating blunder crime because it’s so darn easy to put a Bimini down and common sense tells you that the frame and canvass can both be damaged whipping around in 70-mph winds on the highway. So, why does this blooper occur? Mostly out of laziness, when someone simply doesn’t feel like taking the time to fold the top down and wrap it in the boot. Too bad – it would save a lot of trouble down the line.

Bent frames ripped canvass, and stress cracking around the support bases are all symptoms of a top left in the up position on the road. If you’ve ever grabbed onto one of your Bimini’s supports while your boat was running, then you probably know that even at 30- or 40-mph, these things are under a ton of stress and get racked back and forth constantly. So when you catch a glimpse of the erected Bimini in your rear-view, get back out of the truck and secure it properly.

Just getting home may not be the end of the story, if you run your engine out of fuel. Photo courtesy ofBoatUS

Run Out of Fuel

Another common boating blunder for sure, but it’s not the embarrassment we’re worried about – it’s engine damage. Contaminants that get into your fuel tank settle to the bottom, and whenever you run your fuel down to the last drop you risk sucking that goop into your engine. It can damage the fuel pump(s,) restrict the fuel filter, and clog injectors. Soon, your engine is running poorly and you’ll be due for an expensive trip to the mechanic – one you could have avoided, simply by filling up more often. (Note: if it’s to late to prevent running the tank dry, when you fill up give the fuel a good dose of a high-quality additive like Techron Marine.  It’ll help clean up the deposits and with a little luck you might get off scot-free).

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...