How to Drive a Runabout Boat: Step by Step

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Driving a boat is a different thing entirely; it can be an intimidating process as compared to driving a vehicle, but it sure is a rewarding hobby and sport. Nothing beats the fun of being in the waters with your friends and family, so huge congratulations on that.

Be it wakeboarding, waterskiing, fishing, or just cruising, driving the boat is always the preliminary step to get your fun started.

One needs to learn by heart all the steps to drive a runabout boat. Be cautious because you are about to set foot in the water which isn’t a man’s best friend always.

Everybody has a first time and there is no shame in seeking help. For starters, you could ask your experienced friends to guide you through the process.

Most boaters are more than glad to help you through the process so our recommendation is to go to the ramp and watch how it is done. Ask an experienced boater or a guide friend to teach you the basics and then plunge into the sea with your boat.

The following are some of the essentials that one has to keep in mind before entering the realms of water.

Key lookouts before you dunk your boat in water:


  • Before you set sail, get yourself acquainted with the type of your boat. Focus on the boats that you find similar to yours. For a runabout boat, you obviously won’t follow the lead of a local fisherman because yours has a motor, and the functioning and handling become entirely different.
  • Do not launch immediately and check if you have plugged in the boat or not. To avoid panicking later, save yourself the trouble by double and triple-checking the plug before you put your boat in the water.
  • You might want to check vests and lifeguards or any other floatation device that you want to bring aboard. Make sure you have enough of such floatation devices to prevent an unpleasant incident from happening.
  • Always load the gear into the boat.
  • Before setting off, make sure you have broken all ties of the boat with the land. Remove the trailer tie-downs, ropes, straps, and engine support. It is wiser to do it when you are on the ramp.
  • Trailering your boat is very important to make sure you have enough know-how of the mechanisms, harness, hitch, and chain attachments.

Having done that, you are now ready to sail into the waters. You have now taken care of the precautionary measure and half of your job is done. Following is what you need to do next when your boat is in the water.

When in water:

  • Be absolutely sure that your boat does not float off the trailer so you do not just release it randomly and absurdly from the trailer. Back your trailer down first and put the boat in a manner where the engine or outdrive is the water.
  • Run the blower to evacuate the engine compartment. This is an imperative and crucial step that takes care of explosive fuel vapors if any.
  • You need to see if the engine is cold so pull out the choke knob. You can easily do it yourself.
  • Start the boat now with initially a little gas if needed in the throttle only. Do not charge up the propeller while your boat is on the trailer.
  • Unhook the boat to release the remaining ties that are gluing the boat to the trailer. When the boat is running smoothly, do this step then.
  • Run the bilge to see if the water is coming out because if it is then there is an issue and abort launching the boat. You want to double-check the processes for you do not wish to die in the preliminary phase.
  • Being the driver you must straddle yourself near the motor because you would keep a check on what is going around and ensure streamlined movement.
  • Your position near the motor is crucial. You could also stand to be more alert and vigilant to the waves and other boat drivers.
  • As soon as the engine roars, it means your boat has started, so adjust the choke inwards. At first, you might want to start off with slow motion to adjust the throttle to a slow speed in the beginning.
  • In order to halt the boat, decrease the throttle and then go back to neutral. This will immediately halt the drive.

How to Dock?

  • Push away from the dock and then by putting the boat in reverse you back out slowly and steadily.
  • After having turned around, put your boat in a forward motion and then idle away from the dock region.

A Couple of Reminders for Newbies Out There:

  • Help other boaters: they could also be the first-timers like you are. Help them by tying their boats up. Use your judgment and intuitions for safe navigation and the movement of those around you. Push them away if need be.
  • The docking area is not a place to just hang around so the dock gets in, dock, and gets out of it. Push away from the dock and slowly move in reverse. Clear the pathway.

Aside from all this, if it is your first time then practice in a less populated area. Go for wide and tight turns. You should always leave plenty of room in from of you as you have no idea who the other driver is and how professional is he in the open waters.


Congratulations, you have successfully and beautifully made it to the waters. You are ready to enjoy the vastness of the sea or the water bodies you are in. take your time and get acquainted with the sea by water skiing and fishing.

It surely is going to be a little intimidating in the beginning but once you have docked, you will get past your fear of drowning.

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