The Sheltered Islander: Some Additional Boating Tips

Shelter Island is conducting its first Boating Safety class of the year. To learn more info and get certified call 631-749-1801.

Naturally, a one-day course can’t cover everything, so here are a few additional pointers.

One of the most common mistakes I see is overcrowding on the boat. If you’re bringing the family, consider towing a small dinghy and putting the kids in that. You can pull them in to feed them, let them drift out when they are too noisy, and if they really become a problem, you can threaten to cut the rope. Now, of course that’s just a threat. You’d never really cut the expensive, complaining, whining creatures who don’t appreciate anything you do, loose, but they don’t know that…

On-the-water trades. When you’re boating, if you’re short of something, you’re allowed to call to boaters nearby and see what you can trade. We traded four PB&J sandwiches for bait once. Another trade I remember—somebody dropped the “church key” in the water. The church key is what my family calls a bottle opener, I’m not sure why, but that’s what I’ve called them since childhood. Anyway, one of my uncles dropped the church key overboard and we sailed over to another boat to trade for an extra if they had it or borrow theirs to open all the beer at once. Lucky for us, they had an extra. I think my grandfather traded a kid’s fishing pole and a spool of line for the church key. Truth is, he’d have traded more if they asked. Pop kept the key with him the rest of the day so no one else could lose it—once was traumatic enough.

Bring more sunscreen than you think you need. The salt air peels off sunscreen on a steady basis. Keep slathering it on until you wise up and just put on a shirt. Note for the Celts: Stop pretending that there’s an SPF level high enough to protect us. If you have family members who get sunburned at fireworks displays, just put everybody on the boat in t-shirts before somebody bursts into flames.

There is something about sea air that dramatically increases the effects of alcohol, so really watch the drinking. Just like on land, you should have designated drinkers and one person to keep his/her blood alcohol level low enough to aim the boat toward land.

Sea sickness. Of all the sicknesses in the world, sea sickness ranks way up there for sheer misery. Looking at the horizon never helps. I only experienced it once, the one time I was on a sailboat. If there was a gun on that boat, I would have shot myself. If you have someone suffering from sea sickness, try to get them close enough to shore that you can throw them overboard and they can swim in. They’ll jump even if they can’t swim, anything to get off that boat. If you’re out too far, put them on a raft and pull it behind the boat. Nobody wants to hear them moaning and groaning, and they’re so sick, they won’t care what you do with them.

Take the time to bring the boat in right. Coil the ropes, wipe the deck, whatever is needed to make the boat right for the next trip. You’ll never do it tomorrow when you’re less tired. And there’s nothing worse than getting on a boat that has old garbage, tangled ropes, and how is it that somebody always leaves their underwear on the boat?

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