Own a Perfectly Broken In Pair of Boat Shoes: It usually takes at least one full season to break them in (walking in salt water, clamming in the mud and changing the oil in tight quarters helps). Once done, it’s paradise for your feet and the sign of a hard-core boater.
Learn to Tie a Bowline: Do it left-handed, right-handed and with your eyes closed too. This is the most useful knot there is and one of almost 4,000 knots, links, sinnets, hitches, bends and splices you can find in the classic The Ashley Book of Knots.
Become a Boating Boat Tester: Find out that it’s not all fun and games. Testing and making valid comparisons between manufacturers requires years of experience plus hours of crawling around hot bilges. Not always fun, but it’s better than your job by a nautical mile.
Go Away for a Long Weekend by Yourself: Take the boat, a book and a case of suds, and just veg out for a couple of days to recharge your batteries.
Cruise to a Movie: There are plenty of film festivals by the water. Motor on over and catch a future Oscar winner before the masses do. Find out where at filmfestivals.com.
Unplug Your Boat: Disconnect the GPS and try some classic navigating. Take bearings, lines of positions and fixes. Next time your electronics go up in smoke you’ll be prepared. Get started with Boat Navigation for the Rest of Us by Capt. Bill Brogdon.
Design a Boat: You’ve walked the docks and wondered “what the hell were they thinking when they drew up that beast?” Well, now’s the time to show them how it’s done. Enroll at the Savannah College of Art and Design, The Landing School, or Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology.
Make a Deviation Chart: Don’t trust the compass that came with your boat; it’s probably wrong due to localized magnetic disturbances. A deviation chart shows you how to correct for this.
Learn to Love Personal Watercraft: The idea that PWCs are only for hyperactive kids is so 20th century. Go on an adult adventure with Discovery River Tours (pwctours.com), which offers civilized watercraft cruises of the country’s great rivers.
Buy the Boat You Always Wanted: And get it new! It’s like you died and went to heaven. Best of all, finance rates are about as low as they’ve ever been.
Take a Voyage Down the Intracoastal Waterway: But be careful, it’s tempting to just keep going and not come back. You can travel more than 1,000 miles from Norfolk to Key West. Sneak up a creek and tie up alongside a shrimper in Calabash, North Carolina, to get the world’s best she-crab soup.
Teach a Kid to Fish: Go for flounder; go for tuna; go for the experience, closeness and companionship that it brings.
Get a Friend into Boating: There’s nothing like introducing someone to the world of boating, seeing them take to it like a fish to bait and watching them get hooked for life.
Make a Successful Coastal Passage: Going offshore in the “Big O” (as in ocean) is a thrilling experience. It’s most successful when you don’t barf on the deck and do make it back in an unknown inlet safely.
Read the Heavens: Spend a night lying in the cockpit picking out constellations. It’s a lost art in these days of GPS, but impressive as hell to land folks. Click on botproductions.com/stellar and learn it all.
Negotiate Your First Set of Locks: This means getting through without scratching the gelcoat or getting grunge on your hands or topsides. Use your largest cylindrical fenders and always wear gloves. A pair of soccer goalie gloves with the little rubber thingamajigs seems to work best.
See a Double Rainbow: One of these happens when a few of the light beams bounce off the back of the raindrop not once, but twice. These secondary rays of light leave at a different set of angles than the first and form a second rainbow about 9 degrees above the first one. It’s best seen when at anchor in a tropical setting with a chilled rum punch.
Pay Off the Loan: It’s better than paying off the mortgage on the house. The boat is yours, and now your spouse isn’t reminded every month of what it’s costing just to be in the game.
Retire and Move Aboard: It doesn’t matter if you decide to travel or just stay at the dock with permanent phone, cable and water umbilicals attached. The idea is to go to sleep and wake up gently rocking, while the masses head off to work.
Hire a Boat Boy: They’re not just for 30-year-old investment bankers and hedge-fund managers. But, think about it. You pull into your berth and toss the keys to Kato, who cleans up the mess, washes down the decks, polishes the chrome and restocks the refrigerator.
Voyage up the Alaskan Inside Passage: Hey, cheechako (“newcomer to the north”). Leave from Seattle and head for Juneau or Skagway, the end of the line. This is rough traveling, so leave lots of time, dress right, and get home before it starts getting cold in mid-September.
Row Well: The ultimate thrill is in a one-man shell, but a dinghy will do. It builds character plus your back, legs and pecs.
Win a Predicted Log Contest: The ultimate proof that you know your boat so well is that you can bring it around a miles-long course, to the minute. Learn how it’s done and where at usps.org/e_stuff/supp/pred_log.html.
Take Scuba Lessons: Ah, to be weightless and see the world from a fish’s perspective. The sport has its dangers, so play it smart and get certified. NAUI and PADI are the main accrediting groups.
Learn to (Oh, My God) Sail: Despite what the ragmen say, sailing isn’t that tough. It’s a study in applied physics. Not to mention the odd sensation of a breakneck speed at 5 knots in silence. Don’t worry; I won’t tell your friends.
Talk a Water Cop out of a Speeding Ticket: What can you do when the little blue flashing light atop the Harbor Patrol is winking at you? Stuff a pillow under your mate’s muumuu and tell the officer that her water just broke. No mate handy? Dump cocktail sauce on your “Save the Whales” T-shirt and tell him you fell on a shark hook and ripped open a six-incher. Under no conditions try to bribe him with a beer.
Charter in the Virgins: Rent a 43-footer for a week and sip piña coladas and Dark ‘n Stormys while moored off Mosquito Island’s Drake’s Anchorage as the sun sets on seven back-to-back perfect days. Try bareboatsbvi.com for information.
Do the Great Circle Route: Prove that the land east of the Mississippi is really a large island. Head up the Hudson and through the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes to Chicago, and south through the rivers to the Gulf. Once there, head east along the Gulf Coast, down to Key West and back home via the ICW with a little coastwise action from Cape May back to New York. If you’ve got the money, you’ve got to find the time to do this.
Feel free to send in your own as well. Just do it quickly — there’s not much time left for us to meet outside the inlet because the end is near. And if it isn’t … well, just look at all you’ve done!