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Podcast: Can't We All Get Along?

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Pass it On

With boating participation on the rise, it's time to be patient and share the channel with newcomers.

I’ve long believed that a cold beer tastes better after a day of hard labor. A meal tastes better when you’re hungry. You appreciate fresh air more after a long flight. I can now add that boating is never more satisfying than after quarantining.

Blasting atop the water at 50-plus knots with the right song in your ears and good friends by your side is the antithesis of waiting in line at the supermarket with a mask and gloves on waiting to purchase your ration of toilet paper. Even today, as life marches towards “the new normal,” the juxtaposition between life on land and sea has never been more stark; the escape boating offers has never been more crucial.

I’m clearly not alone in this thinking. In recent months boat sales across the board have surged and surpassed expectations. Boat rental programs like Freedom Boat Club have seen new memberships skyrocket. This shot in the arm to the marine industry has resulted in new faces in old places, as well as a fair share of bent props and fiberglass damage as new boaters learn the ropes. (They’re called lines when you’re on the water.)

For seasoned, experienced boaters it’s easy to judge and shake your head at the actions of some of these ­newcomers; I’ve been there myself. When aboard a Steiger Craft recently, I wanted to start swinging a boat hook at a pack of inexperienced jet skiers as they blocked the entire channel while laughing like giddy children. I’ve seen new boaters obliviously throw wakes that put smaller craft in danger. I’ve seen more large boats than you’d imagine plowing down the wrong side of the channel. (“It’s red, right, returning! How hard is that, man!” I’ve thought to myself.) And who among us hasn’t suggested: Nice boat, next time pay for the lessons!

photo-by-johnvturner

Looking to trade up, I recently sold my first boat. The experience of closing the book on a boat I loved had me thinking a lot about my first year as a boat owner. I remembered the time I got my boathook stuck in a mooring ball. Forearms vs. current are a tough match; I ended up drifting away from the mooring with the pole sticking out of the top of it like a big middle finger. I remember leaving paint on a dock in Rhode Island. I shouted. I cursed. I once got my own line tangled in the prop and had to cut it free with a steak knife that still had residue on it from dinner the night before. A leak in our dinghy almost killed a new outboard. I’ve been towed. I’ve been embarrassed. I’ve been frustrated more times than I can count. And I’ve learned.

I should have no excuse. I was born into boating. I’ve seen great captains operate for my entire life. I’m the editor-in-chief of the most respected boating magazines out there, and I’ve still managed to make a lot of stupid mistakes. I know a number of new and first-time boat buyers—or renters—have joined our readership since our last issue. My message to you is … welcome. Welcome to the most rewarding pastime I know. Boating is not a perfect sport, and like yours truly, you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to have breakdowns (mental and literal). You’re going to get a yard bill(s) that’s more costly than you thought possible. You’re going to do something to embarrass yourself; it’s a mathematical certainty.

I’ll tell you this though: It’s those challenges that make boating so rewarding. How’s the saying go? Sunny days wouldn’t be special if it weren’t for rain.

And to our more experienced readers, of you I ask for patience. It’s easy to cruise atop your high horse, but I want you to remember when you first got into this sport and all the boaters who undoubtedly reached out a hand, a wrench or a cold drink along the way. What makes our sport so special is that we all look out for each other. Take your hard-won knowledge and pass it on.

See you all on the water,
Dan

This article originally appeared in Outboard magazine.

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