If ever there was a lesson to be learned in boating, it is to believe in preventative measures. It seems like if it can go wrong, then it is going to happen with a boat, on a boat or because of a boat.

I guess that is why they say the best two days of boat ownership are the day you buy one and the day you sell it.

Well, perhaps that is a bit harsh, because boating can be great recreational fun, relaxing and enjoyable.

Of course, one key to really successful fishing access is via a boat. However, boat ownership and use definitely require some mandatory attention to details and proper procedures. If not, you might just find yourself aboard a sinking ship, as it were.


Boating enforcement

Just after you buy your boat, there are several legal requirements that have to be met. Best get those out of the way first; being out of compliance with these issues can land you a ticket and hefty fine. 

Naturally, a watercraft has to be registered with the state, and the correct registration numbers and decals have to be displayed appropriately.

“All boats equipped with propulsion machinery and sailboats (anchored or not) which use public waters of the state must be registered and numbered for identification. This has to be done within 10 days of the boat purchase,” according to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. 

Registration materials are available at all county tax collectors’ offices, most places where boats are sold, MDWFP regional offices or online at www.mdwfp.com.

More-detailed information is available at the web site or printed in the annual Mississippi Outdoor Digest. 

There are also requirements for completing a Boating Safety Course prior to operating a boat if you were born after June 30, 1980. The six-hour course is a good orientation to boating basics, and the legal and safe procedures for all boat operators.

Check out the state wildlife website for more information on these courses. 

In terms of safety requirements, boat operators must have a personal flotation devices for each person onboard. The operator also must comply with other safety regulations that include having a fire extinguisher onboard or other safety equipment.

All ownership and registration information must be onboard, too.


Prelaunch inspection

Every boat operator should inspect his watercraft, engine and trailer prior to leaving the driveway or storage area.

For the trailer, air up the tires to proper inflation. Inspect the tires for wear, cuts or other damage. Make sure you have a spare trailer tire and that it is in operational condition, too. How many times have you seen a boat trailer with a flat tire on the side of the highway? Do you have an appropriate jack for the trailer? 

Grease the hubs on the trailer.

Inspect and tighten all the boat straps. Check the motor-stability bar. Crank down the boat to the trailer winch and check the lock.

Go over the trailer hitch, safety chains and trailer light connections before leaving. Make sure your dock grab pole, side bumpers, docking rope and anchor are aboard.

Be sure to check the drain plug on the boat. Inspect the trolling motor, too. Are all your batteries charged? 

Make certain all external gas cans are secured. Turn down the gas caps on all fuel tanks. Are the tanks full? Do you have enough fuel for the intended trip? Running out of gas on the lake is not a fun experience either. 

It also is a good idea to have other gear aboard the boat. Start with a tool box, a first-aid kit, sunscreen, sunglasses, wet wipes, a roll of paper towels, plenty of non-alcoholic hydration and snacks or food.

Have a hat and a light rain jacket, just in case. If you require meds, then have them with you. Take along a urination vessel and heck, throw in a roll of TP, too.

Take your cell phone. But be sure to tell family or friends where you are going and when to expect you home.


Avoid the monkey on board

Just this past fishing season, a good friend of mine nearly experienced a boating disaster on Ross Barnett Reservoir. He and his grandson were fishing, with Granddad up front on the trolling motor positioning the boat and casting his bait.

After a while the grandson inquired about water coming in the back of the boat. His granddad thought he meant the box where the main boat engine was attached. 

His grandson tried to get his attention several more times, but “Pop” was busy fishing. By the time Pop finally turned around, the water was ankle deep at the center console.

The back of the boat was only inches from going under. Pop motored up, but he could not get enough power to get the craft up on plane to drain the water out because of the added weight of the water in the boat. 

Long story short, they barely limped the boat back to the dock, where some others at the ramp helped get the boat up on the trailer just as the back end was going under.

What was the issue? Pop found the boat’s drain plug was gone. He had just had a new one installed at the boat-repair shop, but apparently it came out.

A prelaunch inspection might have caught the problem. 

Boating can be great fun, and certainly fishing from a watercraft has its own rewards — but it can be dangerous, too. If you buy or own a boat, then follow all the legal and safety procedures necessary to make your time on the water safe.

Maybe that will keep the monkey off your back.