• Whatever way you choose to do it, just make sure you get afloat.
  • Kids love it, parents relax away from the stresses of daily life and the world seems a simpler place.

Paul Glatzel discusses various ways of getting started on the water …

Powerboat & RIB magazine contains lots of beautiful boats of many sizes and types, but if you are new to boating, your first step into getting afloat might not be purchasing one of these lovely craft – although if you can, then do! There are lots of ways to get going in boating and start enjoying your time afloat – let’s explore some.

There’s no doubt that actually buying a boat is a great way to get boating, and if it suits your budget and lifestyle, then no matter whether you begin with a small starter boat or a larger vessel, either is a great solution.

But there are other ways to get started too, and all provide a great route to getting you and your family/friends afloat.

Hiring a boat is one option, with a few locations around the UK and plenty overseas being prepared to hire new and experienced users a smaller craft.

In the UK there is no requirement for qualifications, and for these smaller boats, in most cases those lacking experience are taken through a short induction process before getting afloat. A whole nine-hour day on the water can cost as little as £260 for up to six people, with a few hours costing far less – a very cheap way of getting going.

With these hire companies you will tend to be limited to an area like Salcombe or Poole Harbour, but these harbours have lots of places to cruise to, anchor up in and swim, or have a picnic. This is simple boating at its best!

In locations like the Med, hiring boats is big business. In France and Spain you can hire boats up to 6hp with no qualification, but above a 6hp engine you will need your International Certificate of Competence – which you can get once you have your RYA Powerboat Level 2 certificate.

If you want a bigger boat in the UK, there’s no doubt that those seeking to go further afield will need Level 2 and possibly Intermediate. Almost always in the UK the larger hire boats will be RIBs, but in areas like the Med there is a whole variety of craft available. The RIBs for charter are typically around 8m and have the ability to carry a couple of families. Being fully ‘coded’ (licensed) means they are able to travel far further afield if you have the knowledge and experience to do so.

One of the often overlooked ways to get afloat is to do an RYA course, either on your own or with friends and family. Logically the first course to do is the RYA Powerboat Level 2 course, which suits both inexperienced and experienced boaters. If you have done this course, then a really great way to progress your skills is the RYA Intermediate Powerboat Course, which is appropriately also referred to as the ‘Powerboat Day Cruising Course’. This course focuses on giving you the skills to navigate along a coast into the next port or harbour while being able to assess the impacts on you of tidal issues around headlands so you can deal with more challenging environments.

Another option for those seeking to get time on the water is to simply spend a day afloat on a boat with either a charter skipper or an RYA instructor. Companies such as Solent RIB Charter offer the chance for families to get afloat like this and structure their day as they wish with the confidence that they have an experienced skipper on board. Alternatively, RYA schools will offer ‘Development Days’ where you can go out with an instructor and undertake a coastal passage, enter and exit marinas or practise close-quarter handling – or all of these things!

Buying a bigger new boat may not be right for you at the moment, but what about starting off with a small inflatable with an outboard – often referred to as a SIB (‘small inflatable boat’)? Around our coast there are numerous sheltered harbours and estuaries that in the right conditions are perfect places to launch and use such a craft. A 3m or 4m inflatable with a 15hp or 20hp outboard can be rolled up and put in your boot and launched from pretty much any beach or slipway. They won’t cost much and there are plenty of like-minded people who go out and use these boats for trips in harbours or even along the coastline. (Search ‘rigid hull inflatable boats’ on Facebook.) In many ways, people boating with SIBs have more fun per pound than any other boater.

Whatever way you choose to do it, just make sure you get afloat. Kids love it, parents relax away from the stresses of daily life and the world seems a simpler place. Have fun boating!


The RYA Powerboat Handbook is available for £16.99 from the RYA shop. 
It is also available as an e-book using the RYA app.  

Paul Glatzel is an RYA powerboat trainer and examiner and is based in Poole in Dorset. He runs Powerboat Training UK and is author of the RYA Powerboat Handbook and the RYA Advanced Powerboat Handbook.

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