Once you Discover Boating, you’ll soon find yourself looking for great new places to boat. You probably already know where the best boat ramps, docking spaces and restaurants are in your own area, but how do you find that information about a potential vacation destination? You’d think it would be easy. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Finding that perfect hot spot can be a hit or miss proposition.
With today’s technology, however, the hunt for that perfect destination is not only easier; it’s also much more enjoyable. Step one – grab a computer.
The Internet is a great resource; the trick, of course, is finding the needle in its information haystack. Start with a search engine such as Google or Bing. Using simple key words like “boating Destin” or “boating Key Largo” (Don’t forget the quotation marks!) will return pages of possibilities. It may take some time, however, to sort through all of the results. Narrowing your search can help. “Destin restaurant boat dock,” will get you better results, for instance, than just "Destin restaurant.”
Another option is to find local boating forums. You can find a forum for just about anything from boat repair to the local fishing hot spots. You can post specific question on forums, and hopefully someone from the area will provide an answer, or at least point you in the right direction. Forums vary in their degree of usefulness and activity. Check out the forum itself before you post; look at the number of members, as well has how active the discussions are. This will save you time and energy and ensure your question gets answered in a timely manner.
Another option: online boating communities. A community is similar to a forum, but its members can post other information such as personal photos, advertisements, personal updates and even blogs. Think of these communities as Facebook sites for boaters. They can be full of great information. The downside to communities is that they are just that, a “community" and can become cliquish over time.
There’s also a new option popping up around the country: all-in-one resource sites that feature both information and education. One such example is a new website called Florida by Water (http://www.floridabywater.com). This site is a comprehensive resource for the boating community that lists establishments such as marinas, boat ramps, hotels, restaurants and even the popular boating hot spots for a given city. The site also includes nautical charts, GPS coordinates and weather information for most of the cities in the state, as well as tourism information such as special events, and area highlights.
Regardless of how you start charting your next trip, there are always a few things you should keep in mind before you start your motor.
1. Study the nautical charts for the area before you go.
2. Keep an eye on your Chart Plotter or GPS while in a new area. If possible, pre-plan your routes.
3. Play close attention to water depths.
4. File a float plan. Always let someone know where you’re going and when you’re coming back. This is even more important when you’re in unfamiliar waters.
5. Follow the channel markers.
6. If you’re headed for a restaurant or hotel, be sure to call before you arrive to confirm docking conditions. Waterfront doesn’t always mean there’s a place to tie up.
7. Look up and carry a list of emergency phone numbers for that area.
8. Always check the weather and tide conditions.
With a little online time and practice, you’ll be able to locate the information you’re looking for in a matter of minutes, instead of hours or days. Not only will you save time, you’ll alleviate the stress of the unknown, and make sure every boating trip will be perfect for you and your family.
Robin Herriff and Rusty Gardner
Shared with permission by www.floridabywater.com