Dock Lines

Combine summer fun on the water with gaining new skills

SAN DIEGO—Now that spring is quickly passing and summer is upon us it’s time to think summer fun. While it’s delightful to relax on the boat and veg out at the marina pool, I’m always intrigued by the idea of trying something new or learning or enhancing my skills. This year, why not experience a new-to-you watersport?

Many boats carry their own stand-up paddleboards and kayaks, but if you don’t have any they’re easy to rent. Most marinas have nearby vendors renting many types of SUPs, kayaks and other water toys if you’d like to try before you buy.

There’s an added benefit to trying out these low-on-the-water boards or vessels. In many busy waterfront communities, there’s fierce competition for water acreage between SUPs and kayaks and high-freeboard powerboats and sailboats, leading to conflict and even the potential for tragic accidents. If you normally drive or sail a larger boat and have found yourself frustrated with paddleboarders or kayakers, trying out one of these self-propelled vessels will give you a view of their world and help you understand the risks they encounter.

Alternatively, if you’ve always been a powerboater or sailor, why not try the “other persuasion” by taking sailing lessons and renting a sailboat or runabout? Or try out windsurfing with a convenient local rental. For the more adventurous, consider a jet-pack experience.

On your own boat take the time to practice and improve your boat handling skills, such as docking, maneuvering, backing your vessel in and out of your slip, and line handling, including effective use of  spring lines. If you have bow and/or stern thrusters, practice using them, and, for powerboats, controlling your boat through twin screws. While you’re about that, make sure you experience the location and effect of your boat’s pivot point.

If these terms are unfamiliar to you, why not sign up for a boating safety course? The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons list their local classes on their websites. Consider hiring a skilled licensed captain instructor to help you improve your boat handling skills.

A lovely summer’s day is the perfect time to experiment with your electronics, learning how to use them in good weather so you know how to operate them should you find yourself waylaid by sudden fog or rolling in heavy seas.

Get yourself a knot book and a length of line and teach yourself how to tie useful knots like bowlines, hitches and bends and learn when and how to use them.

It’s always delightful to explore your neighborhood. Wander through your local harbors and coves on your boat. Better yet, take your dinghy and discover your own at nearby marinas. You may be surprised at all the new things you’ll see for the first time, travelling closer to the water than in a larger boat with fewer distractions. Arv and I have encountered restaurants and marine suppliers we didn’t know existed and seen fascinating boats and other sights we never would have found any other way.

Be sure to watch out for wildlife, too. While on our dinghy we’ve spotted wonderful groups of quacking ducks (we’re duck lovers) and groups of placid birds lolling in the sun around the docks. Good friends recently reported an unusual sighting of a green sea turtle swimming in our marina, likely the result of climate change.

A small boat or dinghy is also the perfect choice for “dine & dock” opportunities at the growing number of restaurants in or near marinas.

With summer just beginning, be sure to take advantage of everything your boat offers you and your family.

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