By Capt. Carl Kelly
A boat is not a car, and a boat doesn’t handle like a car. Boats slide over the water. They do not have the positive grip on the road that a car has. While a boat turns one way it slides a bit the other way as well. Boats do not have brakes. They don’t stop quickly. And going in reverse is often a joy to behold, the captain says sarcastically.
So, it is important for anyone piloting a boat to understand the fundamentals of boat handling, and to recognize that water going vehicles handle and react very differently than road going vehicles.
Boats pitch, move up and down front to back. They roll, move up and down side to side. And they yawl, something of a combination of pitching and rolling while the bow moves one way and the stern moves the opposite. Yawling is dangerous.
Boats act differently in different combinations of water current and wind. A single engine boat handles differently than a twin engine boat. A large boat handles differently than a small boat. Different hull designs create different handling properties.
Each of these and many other conditions require knowledge and experience for safe and effective boat handling. The new boater should find an experienced boater as teacher. Many licensed captains are available to teach boat handling and seamanship, and both the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Marco Island Power Squadron offer courses for the public in boating knowledge and safety.