I Bet You’ve Made One Of These Boating Mistakes Before!

Riviera M360 in Port Hacking

Getting out on the water on a new boat is exciting, but it can also be nerve wracking. With a long list of things to remember, it’s easy to make little boating mistakes with costly consequences. 

Here are seven common boating mistakes I’ve seen, including some I’ve done myself.

Boating Mistake 1: Leaving a dock line on when leaving the berth

Picture this. You’re ready to go, everyone jumps on the boat and you put the engine into gear, ready to carefully navigate out of the berth and into the open water. Your deckhand has indicated that all the lines are off, but suddenly the boat jerks and you get that sinking feeling. You’ve left a line on. 

When you fail to remove a line when you are leaving a berth, it will take up the slack and jar the boat, likely crashing it into the wharf or another boat next to you. This makes for an awkward conversation with the owner of the other boat, a costly insurance claim and potentially higher premiums for you next year.

Boating Mistake 2: Forgetting to secure the boat on the roller trailer

Navigating your boat onto its trailer can be stressful. Often there’s plenty of people around waiting their turn, which can be nerve wracking. 

If you forget to properly secure your boat on the roller trailer before you drive up the ramp, you run the risk of your boat falling off the trailer. You may be able to use the winch on the trailer to get it back up. However, larger boats may require a crane. When the boat slides off the trailer, there is also the chance of injury to yourself or others.

Boating Mistake 3: Not putting the bung in before entering the water

The bung, or drain plug, is a small but essential part of your boat. When the boat is on its trailer or in storage, removing it from the bottom of the transom allows water to drain out. However, if you forget to put it in before taking the boat off the trailer, water will rush in and can put your engine at risk.

The first thing to do it to put the bung in as soon as possible. You can put the boat back on the trailer to put the bung back in if you notice it straight away. If you’re already out on the water, you might have to jump in to put the bung in and then turn your bilge pump on.

Next, you should make sure that no water has made its way into your engine. You need to assess how high the water has gotten in the bottom of the boat. In addition, you should determine whether it has caused damage to the electrics, the fuel system or the engine. You should also flush out the hull so that the salt water doesn’t damage anything else. It’s not a bad idea to have a couple of bungs readily available, from places like Whitworths and BCF.

Boating Mistake 4: Leaving the bung in while the boat is on the trailer

Forgetting to leave the bung out of your bung is one of the most common boating mistakes. If you make this doozy, it can cause expensive damage. If rain gets into your engine, over time it can cause harm to your engine, hull and electrics. This is usually the result of a leak in the cover, or no cover at all. Some new boaters might make the mistake of assuming the bilge pump will take care of this. It’s important to remember that not every boat has a bilge pump and even if it does, if the boat is left in storage for a long period, the battery can run flat and water can pool in your boat.

Boating Mistake 5: Not servicing your trailer wheel bearings

If you don’t service your trailer wheel bearings, rather than spending a day cruising on your boat, you might find yourself stuck on the side of the road with a broken trailer. Just like the wheel bearings in your car, those in your trailer are essential to its operation. They allows friction-free movement and provide smooth tyre and wheel rotation.

Unlike a car wheel bearing, those on a boat trailer are subject to harsher conditions as they are often exposed to corrosive salt water. This can make them more prone to failure. It is recommended that you get your bearings serviced every year. If they aren’t, over a few years it’s quite common for water to make its way into the bearing and the wheel can begin to smoke. If left untreated, the wheel bearing can seize and in extreme cases the wheel can snap off, and with enough force, your boat may fall off the trailer.

Boating Mistake 6: Not following navigational markers

If you are unfamiliar with a waterway it can be easy to misread the navigational markers. It’s very important you understand which direction you’re heading in relation to the sea because that will dictate which side of the navigational marker you need to be on. This is especially important in areas like Port Hacking, which can be quite confusing for a new boater and there are plenty of sandbars.

Not following navigational markers can end with your boat hitting a sandbar or rocks and becoming beached. The severity will depend on level of tide you hit it at and your speed.

If you hut the sandbar at low tide and become beached, sometimes you can just reverse off. However, if you can’t, you make need to wait for the tide to come up before you reverse off it.

If you hit a sandbar at high tide you may have to dig the boat off or get towed off. Depending on the size of your boat and the speed you hit, you may need to be towed off by a tug or a crane. Unfortunately, in this instance it can become a salvage operation. 

What you hit will also determine the damage caused to your boat as a sandbar will cause much less damage than rocks. Becoming beached in any conditions can cause damage to the hull, running gear such as the rudders and propellors and under-hull fittings such as transducers and skin fittings. There is also the possibility that your engine may have sucked sand through it, which can cause further internal damage.

Boating Mistake 7: Forgetting to trim the gearbox before taking the boat out of the ramp

After a day out on the boat, the last thing you want to do is cause damage right before you head home. Once you have driven the boat on the trailer and have attached the safety chain, make sure you remember to trim the engine before driving up the ramp. If you forget to do this, the gearbox or propellors will hit the ramp, causing expensive damage to the gearbox and the skeg.

If you manage to catch many of these common boating mistakes early, you can take action to prevent them from turning into a major problem.

When taking a boat out for the first time, or for the first time in a while, it can be easy to rush the process and let nerves get the better of you. At BoatBuy, we always recommend for new boat owners to practice on their own or with one or two people first to allow them to get used to the process. It is often better to wait until you feel comfortable to invite the whole family, or group of friends along. It will allow you to enjoy your time on the water and help to avoid costly boating mistakes.

The Best Boat Ramps On Sydney Harbour

Drummoyne Boat Ramp

Growing up in Sydney and being in the marine industry, I’ve visited most of the boat ramps on Sydney Harbour. I haven’t been able to find anything decent online detailing the ramps, so I thought I’d give it a crack.

Manns Point Boat Ramp

Now, this is one ramp I haven’t actually visited, and for good reason. As quoted from Fabien on Google Reviews “Unless you are willing to smash your boat on the concrete, probably the worst boat ramp in Sydney.” Given that there are better boat ramps on Sydney Harbour, it’s probably worth giving this one a miss unless you’re only launching a small boat, such as a small tinny or kayak.

Address: Greenwich Sailing Club, Greenwich

Woolwich Boat Ramp

Located right next to Woolwich Marina, this is a good ramp with a decent floating pontoon. However, the ramp is unprotected from waves. You will get pounded by all oncoming wake from boats heading towards the Harbour. This includes the ferry which goes past constantly every 15-30 minutes. This can be tricky when loading and unloading your boat. If you want somewhere a little quieter, you’ll have to sneak around to Lane Cove at Burns Bay Reserve/Rivierview Boat Ramp.

Address: 2 Margaret St, Woolwich

Riverview / Burns Bay Reserve Boat Ramp

There are a few downfalls to this ramp. The road entering is a little tight, the ramp is only single lane, and the flow of the ramp means you need to turn around just before the ramp, which is not ideal if your trailer boat is a monster. Parking is also limited – I counted 4 spots for trailer parking next to the ramp. You’ll almost always struggle for a spot here on the weekend, but sometimes you’ll get one during the week.

Address: Kooyong Rd, Riverview

Drummoyne Boat Ramp (Five Dock Bay)

I used to regularly visit Drummoyne Boat Ramp, and it is probably the busiest of them all. On a popular day, you’ll drive laps to find a park if you come at peak time – say at 10:00am on the weekend. The ramp itself is decent with an updated floating pontoon right down the centre. This makes it easy to launch, tie-up, and park your car. Parking is ample, with number of trailer and car bays scattered around. Just don’t get caught parking your car in a trailer bay – the rangers are ruthless down here!

Address: Bayswater St, Drummoyne

Cabarita (Kendall Bay)

Stop by Cabarita (Kendall Bay) if you dare, but be aware. You’re going to be launching between a rock and a hard place at low tide at this boat ramp. There is also no floating pontoon, making it a two person job. The ferry blast’s past quite regularly, so, you may well end up on the rocks. Trailer parking is also dismal, and anything inside the park is paid, with the rangers being brutal. Be sure to checkout Bayview Park for a close alternative.

Address: Cabarita Park (Cabarita Rd, Cabarita)

Burwood (Bayview Park)

Photo credit Col Stark

A double launch ramp with a floating pontoon about 25 metres long in very great shape, and immediately adjacent parking (but remember to pay the fee!).  The pontoon runs SE to NW and is well protected from all but westerlies, so in most weather conditions the waters around the ramp are pretty calm – good news for inexperienced boaties.  The only real hazard is that the waters immediately around the ramp and pontoon are not too deep, but this is OK with a bit of navigation care.

Address: Bayview Park (End of Burwood Rd)

Putney (Kissing Point Park)

A little further down the river you’ll find Putney (Kissing Point), which like Drummoyne – is a super busy ramp too. Sure, go in Winter you’ll easily get a spot, but on any sunny day, families will be enjoying the park, taking up some of the parking. This ramp is popular for a few of the commercial guys, and a local boat hire business also operates here. The ramp itself is decent, with a floating pontoon down the end a little smaller than the one at Drummoyne. Just watch out for the regular ferry which will send your boat bobbing into the wharf – so make sure you deploy your fenders when tying your boat up.

Address: Kissing Point Park, Waterview St, Putney

Rhodes Boat Ramp

Just before the bridge on the left, you’ll find Rhodes – a relatively new ramp with an updated floating pontoon. You will still suffer from ferries passing quite regularly, but because of the location you have a lot less private boat traffic than Putney and Woolwich. Parking is limited to about 13 bays, so get in early or miss out.

Address: 93 Blaxland Rd, Rhodes

Wharf Road Boat Ramp


Second last on the west of the river you will find Wharf Road Boat Ramp – a popular ramp for many, with great facilities. A decent amount of parking and a good traffic flow on the ramp, but come on a public holiday (for example, Australia Day) and be prepared to wait. Due to the ramp being relatively private, there have been incidents of jockey wheels, trailer wheels and rollers going missing on trailers that get left here – so take anything off that’s valuable (for example, electric winches) and watch out.

Address: Wharf Road, Melrose Park

Silverwater Boat Ramp

Last ramp on the river is Silverwater. I’m yet to go here and find it busy, but the downside to this ramp is that there is only a fixed pier wharf – making tying up a little trickier. I’m told the ramp can be a little short, so be careful if you’re launching a monster trailer boat on a skid trailer at low tide, as you’ll easily run off the end of the ramp and find it difficult to retrieve your trailer as it sinks down into the mud…

Address: Silverwater Park, closest cross street is Clyde St & Silverwater Rd

What about the other side of the Harbour Bridge?

I haven’t been to all of the boat ramps on Sydney Harbour – but there are three below that I’ve visited and stand out:

Northbridge (Tunks Park)

Not a bad ramp, but parking can be a pain. The street down to the ramp is usually littered with parked cars and boats, making access a little tight. The parking area is paid, but if you launch here, it’s super close to The Spit and Middle Harbour – saving you the commute in your boat and giving you access to the heart of the harbour.

Address: Brothers Ave, Northbridge

Rose Bay (Lyne Park)

This ramp is ideal, because the facilities are great. Although it can get very busy at times, it has a huge floating pontoon to tie-up to, which also helps protect you from wind while you’re launching your boat. Most of the time I’ve visited were mid-week, so I can’t comment on it’s availability on the weekends – but I would imagine it would become very busy with general traffic as there are a lot of other things going on close by – such as sea planes, ferries and general park visitors.

Address: Lyne Park, New South Head Road, Rose Bay

Roseville Bridge Boat Ramp (Davidson Park Boat Ramp)

Photo courtesy of John from MyHarbour.com.au

One of the better boat ramps on Sydney Harbour with great facilities. It has dual launching ramps with a floating pontoon down the centre, a third launching bay, and an additional public wharf right next to it for picking up and dropping off passengers. Parking here is paid, but there is plenty of parking for cars with trailers.

Address: Davidson Park – The turn off is located on Warringah Road

5 Spots You Absolutely Have To Visit On The Hawkesbury

Refuge Bay view from waterfall

When I first started boating I would float around Sydney Harbour, and Sydney Harbour only. I didn’t realise there were so many other places to explore and discover. After years on Sydney Harbour, I moored a boat at Brooklyn and this forced me to explore the Hawkesbury. I was incredibly surprised with the number of good spots the Hawkesbury had to offer. In this article I’m going to go through my top 5 spots that all accessible by boat.

Refuge Bay – Photo courtesy of @hikeandseek

1. Refuge Bay

Think complete and utter wilderness, with a national-park vibe, but filled with empty moorings and a handful boats! Cruise over to the southern side and you’ll be greeted with a waterfall that flows year-round, and a golden sandy beach. Hitch up on one of the public moorings, sit back, and enjoy the serenity! Want to explore? Drop your tender (or just swim in), to test your hiking skills. If you make it to the top, you’re sometimes greeted with an amazing rock pool looking out across the bay. Although, if you go at the wrong time you might find a mosquito swamp instead.

Refuge is protected from all angles of wind except for the north. If the northerly comes up you can drop the mooring and head to Americas Bay for protection, which is only about 500m away. This makes it ideal for overnighters and weekends away.

Cottage Point – Photo courtesy of @eat.with.monica

2. Cottage Point

Do you like to go boating, and even though your boat may be decked out with a fully functional kitchen – you just can’t comprehend cooking and cleaning for yourself on the weekend? Well… Cottage Point has you covered!

The perfect spot to stop for fuel, food and fishing supplies. You can grab breakfast from $10-$30, depending on your taste buds. You will also have access to a more upmarket restaurant open for lunch and dinner. Make sure to check out the Cottage Point Kiosk.

The single white buoy situated out the front is for visitors, but it’s little use to you if you’re in anything larger than around 45ft. The Ku-Ring-Gai Motor Yacht Club boasts a recently renovated pontoon with fuel facilities.

Cottage Point is also a Sydney Seaplanes destination, flying from Rose Bay to Cottage Point daily, providing an exclusive lunch.

Jerusalem Bay – Photo courtesy of @jaygoodo

3. Jerusalem Bay

Situated a little further down the river, Jerusalem Bay is a spot that is also accessible by land – although it’s a short hike down. With an approximate 15m jump rock – you can jump at your own risk! It’s safe from most winds, however you may get a slight easterly come through, but it’s still deemed a great overnight spot.

Smiths Creek – Photo courtesy of @karenturnerperks

4. Smiths Creek

Are you looking for a spot where you’re almost guaranteed to have no phone reception? Want to kick back, unwind, and not receive any work calls? Littered with public moorings, Smiths Creek is protected from all angles of wind and is very secluded. Perfect for a kayak or to go for a dip, the end of the creek has crystal clear water for metres on end.

Yeomans Bay – Photo credit @kaytemarie1

5. Yeomans Bay

A few bays West of Refuge, you’ll find similar surroundings minus the waterfall and moorings. It has the same national-park vibe, and you’ll be protected from most angles of wind. One of our customers summed up the area perfectly in a few words: “I prefer cicadas as an alarm.”

Local Marinas

The biggest marina connecting to The Hawkesbury with direct access to these spots is Empire Marina in Bobbin Head. Empire Marina has over 200 berths (and great coffee). Second to Empire Marina, there is a number of marinas with berths and moorings at Brooklyn, which is a little closer to all the action, but the facilities are definitely more dated. Hawkesbury River Marina is located in Brooklyn and has a great breakfast and lunch. Lastly, there is D’albora Marina, Akuna Bay – which has recently undergone extensive renovations and also boasts a large dry stack.

If you want to make the most of the Hawkesbury, I recommend leaving your boat at one of the local marinas. It will give you the opportunity to enjoy a few day and overnight trips over the course of a few months to soak it all in. Who knows, you might permanently relocate your boat after trying some of these amazing spots (and saving on marina fees)!

What are the best places to visit by boat on The Hawkesbury?

Refuge Bay on Pittwater

Hands down the 5 best places to visit by boat on the Hawkesbury River are:

1. Refuge Bay
2. Cottage Point
3. Jerusalem Bay
4. Smiths Creek
5. Yeomans Bay

7 Most Common Ways To Stop Your Boat Sinking

Sinking Chris Craft

1. Check your float switches and bilge pumps

It never ceases to amaze me how many people own a moored boat but don’t even know what the bilge pump or float switch look like. As an owner, one of the most important things you can do is test the automatic float switch is working. To do so, you need to turn all your battery switches to “off”. From there, you will need to get down into the bilge and search around for the pump and float – they’re usually positioned at the very back section of the boat, and sometimes your boat will have three – one at the back, one in the middle and one at the front.

When you activate the float switch, your bilge pump should run until the float is returned to its original position. If it doesn’t, you can then go to the dash and try manually turning your pump on. If it works from there, you’ve likely got a faulty float switch. If it still doesn’t work, you’ll have to get a multimeter and test the float manually.

2. Inspect your skin fittings

Although this is probably something most people leave to their surveyor – there is no reason why you can’t keep an eye out for any loose skin fittings. Sometimes it is possible that new plastic fittings snap off (I’ve only seen it above to waterline) – and if you do see this it’s a relatively simple fix that can help avoid further trouble.

3. Check your cockpit drains

Every so often I lift an engine hatch and the cockpit drain is blocked with either bottle caps or just dirt build-up. While it won’t immediately sink your boat – it is possible that water builds up and gets into places you’ll never know about. Then you’ll have more weight to lug around, or even worse – the water will make its way to the top of the engine as opposed to the drain, and corrode from the outside in.

4. Replace your bellows

Everybody loves buying a boat with a sterndrive – they’re cheaper and they’re better on fuel. But what does it mean and what on earth are “bellows”?

Bellows are a rubber part designed to keep water out of your boat, and allow the sterndrive to be flexible and steer left to right, up and down. Unfortunately, they don’t last forever, and getting them changed every 2-3 years is in your best interest. If they tear, they can potentially let water in through the back, and sink the boat. Another hot tip is to never let your boat get too much barnacle growth, because when they grow behind the bellows it’s possible the shells will pierce a hole in them when the boat is turned.

5. Check your propeller shaft seal and bellows

What’s the equivalent of bellows on a shaft drive? Your stern gland! Attached to the fibreglass, you will have a bellows and shaft seal– keeping the water out from underneath. They are usually water cooled from the engine, and it’s common for the water cooling fittings to corrode or break off – then causing the seal to overheat and destroy the bellows.

Whilst they do last a lot longer than sterndrive bellows, it’s worth replacing them every 5 years. The shaft seal should be checked while the boat is running (as opposed to stopped) to see if there are any leaks. Just don’t get caught out with a packing gland – as it is normal for them to drip 2-3 times every minute while the shaft is spinning.

6. Carry a timber bung onboard

This is more relevant if you’re doing a long offshore trip – but nevertheless it doesn’t hurt to have a spare timber bung onboard for the most common has size. If you have a sea-cock malfunction, you always know you can blow the water off with the timber bung. They also come in handy when completing service work, for example changing the sea pump impeller.

7. Test your sea-cocks

Simply testing your sea-cocks every 6 months will avoid Having them seize. Generally speaking – clockwise is off, anticlockwise is on, but it can depend on how it’s fitted. You will likely have more sea-cocks then you realise – one for each engine, one for the toilet, one for the air conditioning, and the list gets larger as the boat gets bigger.

How To Effectively Trim Your Boat

Sea Ray trimmed up

What is the best way to use trim and trim tabs?  One of the most common questions we get asked are “how do I adjust the trim tabs”, and “how do I trim the leg?”. First things first, if your boat is a shaft drive, you don’t have to worry about trimming the leg. You will likely only have port and starboard trim tabs to worry about, if they have been fitted. Trimming the leg adjusts the angle that the bow sits out of the water. If you find the right angle, you’ll get optimum speed for the power used. On the other hand, trim tabs can be used both to ensure your boat stays level side-to-side and to set the bow angle.

What are trim tabs?

Pair Of Bennett 12 x 12 Electric Trim Tabs

Most commonly, trim tabs are a metal plate attached to a hydraulic or electrically operated mechanical arm. The arm extends the plate which in turn pushes down against the water and alters the boat handling. Tabs are fitted on the port and starboard sides at the stern of the boat, and are operated from the controls at the helm.

I’ve already got power trim, what’s the difference?

Mercury Alpha Stern Drive Trimmed Up
Mercury Bravo 3 Stern Drive Trimmed Down

Power trim is the hydraulic adjustment of your stern drive or outboard, which will affect the direction of the bow. Trim down,  you will lower the bow, and cut through the oncoming water. Trim up, the bow is lifted assisting the hull achieving a faster, more efficient cruise. Excessive trim up, and one of two things typically happen:

  1. The propeller will lose “traction” and the engine will over-rev.
  2. The hull will start porpoising – which is when the bow bounces up and down as you are travelling along.

Now, just to confuse things – different brands have different features. Some to lookout for include:

Automatic trimming

Bennett AutoTrim Pro Helm Display

A top of the range model can incorporate automatic trimming. Once activated, the system will adjust the trim tabs for you. If you have too much weight on one side, they will trim to compensate. They also position themselves down before the boat is powered up on the plane.

Automatically retracting

Linked into the ignition, your trim tabs will retract to the “up” position when the engines are switched off. This is helpful because it resets them before you head out, so you won’t have prior adjustments altering the ride.

Tab indicator

Some brands, such as Bennett, provide a dash panel with position indicator lights. This way, you can adjust them to your favourite settings every time – you can tell when they’ve been left down, and you know when they’ve reached their limit. It’s important to note that gauges like this need to be calibrated before you trust their readings, and it is usually a reading individual to the boat. For example, if your buddy has the same tabs fitted to his boat, his gauge may actually have them higher or lower on the same gauge reading.

How do you use your trim tabs?

  1. Trim your stern drive or outboard all the way down.
  2. Give your boat full throttle until it is “on the plane”. On the plane is when your boat is on top of the water, and skims across rather than pushing the bow through. Typically your bow will rise, until it’s going fast enough to “skim” across.
  3. Make minor adjustments to the stern drive / outboard trim in the up direction. Minor adjustments are achieved by pressing the up button for 1-2 seconds at a time. After each adjustment, give the boat another couple of seconds to settle and note any differences. If the trim is adjusted too far up, the propeller will lose “traction”, the boat will lose momentum, and the engine will over-rev. The aim is to find a sweet spot between the two, where the boat increases speed and the bow lifts out of the water.
  4. Once your boat is planing nicely and the power trim has been adjusted, we are ready to adjust the trim tabs. In this situation, they are used if the boat has a list to port or starboard. A list means a “lean”, so for example we have 3 passengers on the port, and only 1 on the starboard, it’s likely we will have a list to the port. Much like the power trim, minor adjustments are essential. Adjust the starboard side “down” for a couple of seconds, and then wait to see if the list is corrected. If not, further adjustment may be necessary.

The #1 rule for all trimming is to make minor adjustments. Your boat will take a few seconds to react, and too much adjustment will become unsettling.

Most manufacturers suggest trimming down before powering onto the plane. This assists with getting the boat out of the hole noticeably quicker. It will be more evident if you have a full load, or the bottom of the boat is dirty.

Bennett Rocker Style Trim Tab Switch

It is worth noting that popular manufacturer “Bennett” writes on their website that rocker switches are wired up in the reverse of what you may think. The port side tab lowers the starboard bow, and conversely the starboard tab lowers the port bow. This can be confusing initially, but will usually become second nature after some use.

What about stern drive trim gauges?

9 out of 10 times it is easier to adjust by feel. Acceleration onto the plane will be noticeably slower when you attempt it with the leg trimmed up – and it’s very common for trim gauges to fail. You must take into consideration when you are steering, that the boat will likely lean in that direction, so all trimming should be done whilst going straight.

Sydney Harbour Boating Bucketlist – 9 Must Visit Spots

Spring Cove Sydney Harbour

1. Athol Bay

Getting a good vantage point on Sydney Harbour for NYE – Photo credit @ainslee

Situated out the front of Taronga Zoo, this may be the most popular spot on Sydney harbour to anchor and swim. A great spot to avoid the wind, there are a few public moorings and plenty of spots to lower your anchor. Facing the harbour bridge, it is, not surprisingly, a really popular spot on New Years’ Eve. You will need to get here a day or more before New Years’ Eve to reserve your spot. Any other day that’s blisteringly hot – Athol bay is waiting!

2. Balmoral Beach

Balmoral Beach Sailing School – Photo credit @lucyjarvis2 & @balmoral.sailing.school

This spot is popular by car, but it also makes a great spot to visit via boat. Quite busy any time of the week, Balmoral has a shark net set up for swimming. You can also visit nearby restaurants and local cafés.

3. Sirus Cove

Sirius Cove – Dog Beach & Swimming Spot – Photo credit @baileycavoodle

What’s different about Sirus Cove? It doubles as a dog beach! Expect to see plenty of dogs around when visiting, so it’s a good opportunity to take your furry friends along. Also a nicely sheltered spot from the wind, it makes for a perfect spot to anchor and soak up the scenery.

4. Clifton Gardens

Clifton Garden – Sydney Harbour – Photo credit @garrythesquirrel

This spot will have you wondering if you’re still in Sydney! As you approach via boat, you’ll see glassy waters, a leafy green landscape, and a sandy beach with just a few buildings amongst it. Come down on the weekend and you will find other boats on anchor, or come during the week and you may be the only one. There is also a small coffee shop tucked away to one corner of the beach – to get all you coffee lovers through!

5. Manly Cove

Manly Cove Sydney Harbour Side – Photo credit @slipinto

This has to be our all-time favorite spot. Pull up to the right of the ferry wharf – drop an anchor and swim in. The vibe here is amazing, with a mix of families, couples, tourists and kids all sharing the amazing waterfront together. You can hire a paddleboard, or if you’re hungry there are plenty of options ashore for restaurants, fast food, convenience stores and bars. You’ll be the envy of on-lookers from the wharf bar as you soak up the atmosphere from your own boat, or float around on inflatable toys. Always be mindful to give way to the ferry, which comes regularly during the summer season.

6. Jump Rock

Manly Jump Rock – Photo credit @_kikkaa

Another great spot, only minutes from Manly Cove and Quarantine Bay. There is a popular rock-face 10-15m high that, for safety’s sake, despite the name, you should NOT jump from. With a deep-water anchorage, a lot of bigger boats tend to linger here – whether it be having parties or just driving past.

7. Watsons Bay

Watson’s Bay, facing the all-so famous Doyle’s on the beach – Photo credit @ali_walker12

Who doesn’t love fish & chips on the beach? Watson’s bay is home to the famous “Doyle’s” restaurant, which also serves take-away. Pull up to the public wharf to drop-off or pick-up passengers, but never tie up to it. Be mindful of the ferry, as you must always give way. There is also the Watson’s fishing club, which has over 100 years of history. There are plenty of old photos of sharks and large game fish shackled up to the weighbridge in the 1950’s to 1970’s at Watsons Bay. The fishing club wharf can only be used by members, so keep this in mind when in the area. Depending on the time of day you arrive, it’s possible you may see them weighing a fish after a competition.

8. The Spit

View from the Middle Harbour Yacht Club

Middle Harbour Yacht Club is a great place to stop for lunch or dinner, if you’re in the area. The bistro overlooks the marina, so it provides for quite a spectacular view of the boats and golden sand. There are a couple of public moorings available, and you can ring the MHYC tender service to pick you up if you’re dining. Occasionally if you ring they can provide a temporary berth while you eat. Call the club, on (02) 9969 1244 to arrange it with them directly.

9. Quarantine Bay

Quarantine Bay – Photo credit @dallascarrington

The Quarantine Station may have been a sinister place in Sydney’s early days, but now it is quite magnificent to visit. Ghost tours through the station are offered at night time, but during the day it’s all golden beaches and gleaming water. It’s protected in the bay, so another great spot to anchor and swim.

What If You Breakdown On The Water?

Coiled rope

Owning a boat can have a lot of benefits, which we will list in another article, but what if you experience a breakdown? Unlike a car, you can’t just jump out and leave it on the side of the road. The marine environment is harsh, and you need to keep on top of preventative maintenance. You also need to make sure you have all the right gear and know what to do if, despite good planning, things go wrong.

In this article we give you nine quick tips to keep you afloat and having fun.

1. Keep Preventative Maintenance Up-to-Date

The first thing you want to do is make sure your boat is in good order. Don’t skimp on preventative maintenance. Find a good mechanic and keep your boat in top condition, with regular scheduled maintenance. Be realistic and factor it in to your costs. Have it checked before you take friends and family for the big trip, especially if you haven’t used it for a while.

2. Maintain Safety Gear

If you’ve broken down and you’re now sifting through your boat to find the missing safety gear, it’s too late! Always keep tabs of the safety gear you have on-board. A good time to check this is when you first purchase the boat. You should also check expiry dates, wear and tear and missing items at least once a year.

3. Care for Your Boat

After a great day out you might be tired, and not really feel like hosing down your boat, cleaning out the rubbish, flushing out the engine or putting on the covers. But think about the cost of extra repairs and maintenance, or the condition your boat will be in next time you use it. Trust us, it’s worth the effort at the end of a trip, for the sake of the next one.

4. Prepare for Your Trip

Check the Weather

Checking the weather is must! Who wants to go sunbaking in the rain? It can also give you an insight into water conditions and if it’s suitable to take your boat where you’re intending to go.

Do a Pre-Trip Inspection

A quick peek into the engine bay before setting off is always a great idea, and can save a potential breakdown. If your engine bay is filled with oil you must figure out why. Maybe it’s time for further inspection, or to be taken to someone who is qualified. Ignoring potential problems could be regrettable by the end of the day. Before you get too far from the wharf, always double check that you’ve put the bung in.

How many people are you taking?

Everybody is your best friend when they find out you have a boat! Makes sure you accurately gauge how many people are coming, and if your boat is suitable. You just can’t fit more people than your boat is licensed for. Taking each passengers weight into consideration and where they are sitting if your boat is small, can have an impact on how well your boat handles and its top speed/acceleration. You can take all your friends out at once, but you’ll just need a bigger boat.

Bring Your Boat Licence

Always make sure you’re carrying your valid boat license. Maritime conduct random checks at the boat ramp, so be prepared.

Fuel Up

It’s obvious, but can still be forgotten: make sure you have adequate fuel!

Empty fuel gauge equals breakdown

If this is your fuel gauge you’re in trouble!

Keep Comfortable

Remember to pack things like snacks, water, a hat, sunscreen and a warm jacket. If something unpredictable happens, you might really appreciate them.

Log Your Trip

NSW Marine rescue have an app for your phone, which tracks where you are going/have been. You fill in details of your boat and personal information (tow car, boat rego etc), and then you can log a trip. The app also provides a checklist for going offshore, and a weather report.

5. Stay Aware

Sure you can relax, but keep an eye on your boat, the weather conditions and the amount of fuel you have remaining. Things can turn bad very quickly out on the water.

Is your boat making strange noises? Does the engine stutter or is it harder to start than usual? Don’t ignore it until you have no choice. Investigate while you still have options.

6. Assess the Situation

Sometimes things just don’t go to plan and you breakdown.   Here you will need to assess the situation and keep calm. First priority is to ensure you and your passengers are kept safe. If you break down in a high traffic area, putting the anchor down isn’t a great idea. Figure out which way the wind is blowing, and decide if where you’re headed is safe. If you’re headed for a rock-face with crashing waves, you need to try and divert, or get the anchor down to buy some time. Once this is sorted, ask someone to keep a lookout while you inspect a few things.

7. Check the Basics

Kill switch

Sometimes it can be as simple as the kill switch was knocked out, and the engine won’t fire.

Tip for avoiding a breakdown – Kill switch must be fitted for the engine to run

In-gear lockout

Most engines have a safety cut-out that prevents the engine from cranking whilst in gear. Check that you’re in neutral. In the photo above the control is in forward gear, a position where the engine will not crank if the key is turned. This feature stops owners starting their boat and propelling it forward accidentally.

Gauges

What are the gauges reading? Have you got any warnings on the dash such as engine light, overheating or water in the fuel? Always take note before and after you fill up, to ensure your fuel gauge is calibrated correctly and giving an accurate reading, especially if it’s a boat you’ve just bought.

Water Entry

Check for water in the bilge, specifically around the engine. Water and engines don’t work well. If you have a leak that you didn’t know about, and your bilge is filling with water this is a one-way ticket to a useless engine. Did you remember to put the bung in when launching? Have you been over some rough water with a lot of water crashing over the sides? Your boat should have an automatic bilge pump fitted, but some of the smaller trailer boats don’t – they have a switch on the dash which you need to turn on and off manually.

Unfortunately this boat has taken on too much water in the engine bay, and the engines are completely submerged. Luckily this boat didn’t breakdown whilst being used.

Battery

If you’ve been moored, anchored or tied to a wharf and you go to start the boat and you get nothing, or a clicking sound, it is likely the batteries have been drained. If you have a dual-battery setup, you’ll be able to turn to the 2nd battery, and get going. Otherwise if you have a small outboard, you may be able to pull start it. If you don’t have these options, you’re going to have to call for help.

8. Limp home

Sometimes you are able to get back on low power or one engine. Most engines have a “guardian” mode designed to limp back, without damaging the engine. Limp mode is usually activated by a number of things such as overheating, oil pressure, low coolant, or water in the fuel.

9. Call for help

Who to call for help?

Commercial breakdown companies

BoatAssist24

They are much like the NRMA on Sydney Harbour offering vessel-side assistance for a membership fee. They will come to you and can offer things such as:

  • Towing
  • Jumpstart/Battery replacement
  • Pump-out
  • Running gear un-tangling

Local Marina, Slipway or Workshop

Some workshops offer a towing and breakdown service. Ask them when you’re getting your preventative maintenance done.

Local marinas also sometimes offer tender and towing services.

Marine Rescue

If there aren’t any commercial towing companies available, and the situation is an emergency you will need to contact NSW Marine Rescue.

  1. Channel 16 on VHF (distress and calling channel)
  2. Channel 88 (27.880 Mhz) on 27Mhz radio
  3. Phone on 9450 2468
  4. Emergency via 000

When contacting them via radio two emergency calls are used:

  1. Mayday mayday mayday for grave or imminent danger.
  2. Pan pan pan for help urgently required.

You will need to broadcast:

  1. Your call-sign
  2. The nature of your emergency
  3. Your location

If it’s not an emergency but you are stranded and need their help sometime soon, make a normal radio call requesting assistance. Always keep in mind that if you see another boat in distress you can call for assistance for them, too.

Owning a boat can be rewarding and relaxing, cruising around some of the world’s finest waterways, but breaking down can turn a great day out into a nightmare. With care and attention paid to the condition of your boat, many breakdowns can be avoided before they ruin your day. These 9 tips should give you a basic understanding of what to check/do before a trip and what to do if you do have problems. Buying a well-maintained vessel also has merit, as does finding the right boat suitable for your needs.