Driving a Boat: Step-by-Step Guide

August 29, 2022 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

While the general process of driving the boat is essentially the same for both outboard and inboard-powered boats, there might be small discrepancies from one type to another. Driving a boat is different from driving a vehicle, but it is not complex. Below is a guide on how to drive a boat.

Run the Blower

Before you start the boat’s engine, you need to ensure it is safe to do so. If the boat has a separate engine compartment, it might be full of petrol vapor which can be catastrophic if you ignite by a starting engine. The engine’s compartment should be ventilated by running the compartment’s blower.

Knowing how to operate the engine’s compartments blower ought to be the first foray into discovering boat driving. 

Start the Engine 

After venting your engine compartment, and checking the pre-departure checklist, start the engine. Some boats have a push-button or a key ignition, but they both function the same. Put your key in the ignition, or if you have a fancy setup, ensure your keyless fob is on your person. Push-button ignition will require you to push the button. For keyed ignition, you should turn the key like in any other vehicle, to start. If you go this far, and she does not start up, check the kill switch.

Kill Switch 

Most powered boats have a version of a kill switch to disengage engine function in the absence of an operator. A small clip attached to the driver’s vest, life jacket, or belt loop while they are riding the boat keeps the switch. The switch is normally a red button or knob next to the throttle or the ignition. If, while driving, the boat operator leaves the wheel while connected, the engine shuts off. 

Throttle Position

The throttle position can make the boat’s engine fail to start when engaged. For the boat’s engine to start, the throttle should be in the neutral position. 

In most situations, the throttle will be in the neutral position as you start the engine. 

Remove the Mooring Lines 

Docked or moored boats are secured to the dock using lines. The lines are tied onto cleats anchored to the dock. Once you have done the pre-departure checklist, remove the mooring lines. 

In some cases, you can remove your lines by yourself. In other cases, you will require a fellow boater or a dockworker to untie the vessel and throw the line ends to you. 

Start Moving

Once your vessel is free of the mooring lines, you can start moving. Depending on how the boat is docked, you can pull forward and leave the area. In other instances, you may need to back your boat out before you get underway.

To begin the movement, you should put the engine in gear. To engage the engine, you should follow the following steps:

  • Grip the throttle control, squeeze the button on the underside, 
  • Gently move the throttle backward or forward until it clicks into gear,
  • Release the button. 

If you are gentle enough, the vessel will be in gear at idle speed, permitting slow, controlled movement.

Operating the Throttle

You can think of the throttle as the accelerator pedal in a vehicle. However, unlike a pedal, the boat continues at the set speed until it is adjusted. Pulling the throttle backward slows the boat while pushing it forward accelerates it.


To stop the boat, pull the throttle to neutral, pause for some seconds, shift into reverse and apply power. You should never shift from neutral directly into reverse or forward, as it can cause mechanical damage.

Steering the Boat

Steering a boat can be more complicated than steering a vehicle. The boat follows the direction that you turn the wheel; however, that might not always be so as a result of waves, strong winds, or fast currents.

Book Your Reservation Today!

At Cool Breeze Boats & Jet Ski Rentals, we provide affordable rentals for kayaks, jet skis, boats, and scheduled tours. We are members of the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce and the Osprey Nokomis Chamber of Commerce. We hold a Certificate of Excellence with TripAdvisor. For your next boat rental look no further than Cool Breeze Boats & Jet Ski Rentals. For more information, call (941) 485-3333.


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