Top 7 Boating Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

November 22, 2019

Whether due to inattention or hurriedness even the most experienced captains have probably fallen victim to these common boating mistakes. Committing these to memory can help you avoid the same fate. 


Forgetting To Remove Or Install The Boat Drain Plug

The concept of a boat drain plugs is so simple, it’s almost asking to be forgotten about. Installing the boat drain plug is Boating 101 and yet many boaters will at some point know the sinking feeling that comes with launching your boat only to be greeted with a boat full of water. Forgetting to remove the boat drain plug can come with other issues like a boat full of rainwater if left out overnight.

How to avoid it: Double check your boat drain plug every time you launch or retrieve your boat. Create a pre-departure boat check that includes this step (twice).

Failure To Secure The Anchor

Unfortunately, there are a few common mishaps when it comes to dropping anchor. Miscalculate the amount of line you need to anchor your vessel and you could find yourself dragging anchor and drifting ashore. Worse still is feeding out the appropriate amount of line or chain and finding the bitter end slip through your fingers. 

How to avoid it: Checking your anchor is actually attached to your boat before you set off is usually only something you need to do once. However, keep this in mind when chartering a boat that isn’t yours. The general rule for measuring anchor line is to let out 5-7 times as much line as the depth of water, plus the distance from the water to where the anchor attaches to your boat.

Not Carrying Up-To-Date Nautical Charts

It’s understandable that paper charts have gone the same way as paper maps. We’ve replaced them with better, more accessible electronic versions. The only problem? Losing power could mean losing your ability to know where you are and what’s underneath you. Shifting sands and a shoreline you don’t recognize could be a recipe for disaster given the wrong circumstances.

How to avoid it: For longer journeys that might see you boating back from your destination in the dark nautical charts can be a lifesaver. There’s no harm in adding paper charts to your on-board kit. They could get you home safe one day.

Not Understanding Lateral and Non-Lateral Markers


Green and red buoys and other markers indicate the edges of safe water areas. Green colors and lights indicate the edge of a channel on your port side as you enter from the open sea or travel upstream while red colors and lights mark the edge of a channel on your starboard side. Non-lateral markers (like diamond-shaped dayboards) are used to help determine location. 

How to avoid it: Brush up on your knowledge of the various types of buoys and markers. It could be the difference between staying afloat and running aground or worse, running into someone else. 

Failing To Take Care of Fishing Line Around a Motor

A line-wrapped propellor can sometimes still spin, but it’s doing more harm to your boat than good. Fishing lines can damage the seal causing water to seep in and oil to seep out. This is bad for your boat and damaging for the environment. 

How to avoid it: Sometimes you can’t avoid running over discarded fishing lines but this is an issue that should be taken care of as soon as you notice it. Make sure you have tools on your boat that allow you to take care of snags. Take a pair of scissors or a knife to the line immediately.

Leaving The Helm Unattended

While it can be tempting to leave your boat on autopilot while you duck away from the helm for a few minutes, or leave someone else in charge, inattention is one of the highest causes of groundings, collisions, and capsizing. Not to mention that submerged debris, unfamiliar sandbanks, and other hazards can take inexperienced crew members by surprise.

How to avoid it: Make sure the person taking over the boat is experienced enough to take the helm. If there’s no-one to take over, stop the boat.

Not Keeping An Eye On The Battery

There are all sorts of reasons a battery can drain — your boat has gone unused for longer than you intended, your battery water levels are too low or you forgot to disconnect the battery. A drained battery is a major inconvenience, and can also result in a catastrophic outcome if your boat is taking on water and there is no power to run the bilge pump.

How to avoid it: Siren Marine’s MTC monitors up to two batteries and sends alerts when the batteries fall below a preset level. The Siren Marine App displays the current battery voltage, so you never need to worry about dead batteries again.


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