You don't have to hang around a busy marina long to see boaters of all skill levels operating at their best — and worst. This is what I learned about both during my job as a dock boy.
Savvy boater: Makes reservations or calls the marina before arriving, with slip requests such as bow-in, port-side tie.
Newbie: Calls on the VHF only when already bobbing around and blocking marina traffic.
Over and Out
Savvy boater: Has a pen and paper ready to receive instructions when calling the marina on the radio and repeats the instructions back.
Newbie: Still bobbing around wondering where he's supposed to be.
Savvy boater: Has proper-length lines already lashed to bow, stern and spring cleats, leading under railings and ready to throw to dock personnel.
Newbie: Drifts past slip trying to untangle lines, then throws looped end to dock boy.
Savvy boater: Checks height of dock and adjusts fenders, if necessary, before pulling into slip.
Newbie: Curses at new marks in gelcoat.
Savvy boater: Relaxed on approach, takes his time, gauges wind and current, familiar with his boat's handling characteristics and takes advantage of dock helpers, if available.
Newbie: Red face, white knuckles, overcompensates at the controls, full speed ahead — then in reverse, yells at wife and dock hands.
Savvy boater: Engine off, electrical system off, crew off, triple checks he's filling correct tank and has absorbent pad at the ready beneath overflow vent.
Newbie: Radio blasting, crew below, cigarette dangling from lips, wonders why everyone is fleeing the area.