I Learned About Boating From This: Turned the Boat and Got Turned Around

Even the most experienced boaters can get lost on familiar waters. Here's how to prepare for even the shortest boat trip.
Boater lost in the fog
Decreasing visibility can make navigating tricky. Tim Bower

One sunny afternoon, I decided to take a solo pontoon boat trip from my home on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay to the Eastern Shore, about an hourlong 10-nautical–mile trip that I have successfully completed many times in the past. Since land was in sight for the trip, I planned to head out with land to port and return with land to starboard.

It ended up being more complicated than that.

About halfway through the trip, I realized that it was nearing dinner time. Since I hadn’t told my wife—or anybody else—where I was going, I decided to turn around and head back home.

Things took a turn as I turned the boat. Visibility had dropped, and what shadows of land I could see all looked the same. I had not installed a GPS aboard the boat or even a -compass. Furthermore, a huge power plant, with coal stacks tall and lit, which had always served as a navigation aid for me in the past, had recently been razed. In the course of turning the boat 180 degrees to head home, I realized I was lost.

Read Next: Lessons for Boating in Fog

Fortunately, I had my cellphone with me. And I had a good signal! I also had a charging cable. I plugged it in so that there was no fear of running out of battery. And I had installed the Know Wake and Argo apps on the phone. The phone would be my salvation leading me home.

Still, I made some mistakes that I will not make again. I will always let someone else know where I am going and when I am expected back. Also, I will make sure to take extra water and snacks aboard the boat. I recommend that boaters make sure their phone is charged, can be recharged aboard, and practice with a navigation app so that using it is -second nature if needed.

My boating experience turned into an education for me and, I hope, for others.

Joe Maranto
Middle River, Maryland

[A decent compass costs approximately $100. Also, visit boatingmag.com/how-to/filing-float-plan/. Finally, take Mr. Maranto’s excellent suggestions. —Ed.

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