This summer, did you spend weekends on the boats of friends or family, wishing you had your own?
That’s not surprising. Along the way, you most likely discovered that boating takes the enjoyment of being outdoors to another level (if you didn’t, maybe you should consider trying again with different friends!). Did you catch yourself smiling most of the time on the boat? Probably so, and you should!
Feeling the warm breeze on a sunny cruise, being a kid again while tubing, the surprise of a fish taking your bait, picnicking on a sandy beach. It all goes with the fun of boating.
You got a taste of what avid boaters know all too well. Boating is more than launching the boat, spending a day on the water and then parking it in the garage until next weekend. For boaters, the adventure never ends, because boating is a lifestyle—not just a hobby.
Eventually the daydreaming ends and reality sinks in. Questions begin popping up in your mind.
What would I do with it? Will it fit in the garage? How much will it cost?
Those questions and more weigh heavily on first-time boat buyers’ minds. Read on to find the answers and then begin daydreaming again, this time about living the boating lifestyle in a boat of your own.
Summer weekends and holidays are always blocked on the calendar. When else can you go boating? The answers depend on where you live, of course. But there is a time of year when few people think of boating, and it’s one of the best seasons of the year to be in the boat—and that’s fall. Fall is the “other” boating season, when fewer boats are on the water, the boat ramps are less crowded and the days are cooler. Pack a picnic, enjoy the fall colors and bring along friends to enjoy the crisp, cool air.
Of course, down South, the answer to that question is “anytime of the year you have free!”
From sunup to sundown, any boating trip, you can go fishing, cruising, wakeboarding, tubing and the other givens of boating (obviously, depending on which boat you decide upon). But, did you ever think of using your boat to host a dinner party? What about using it to get to a secluded island or spot for camping, or even camping in the boat? What about decking the hull and taking part in a Christmas boat parade?
Those are just a few of the extra activities you can do aboard a boat, depending of course on the type. Here is a short list of other far-out ideas you might never think of doing with a boat. You can build your own list using your sense of adventure—isn’t that what boating is all about?
Dinner is served
Food and boating go together, and a pontoon boat is the perfect setting for a dinner party. Host yours at dockside, on a secluded shoreline or even in the middle of a quiet (or rowdy) cove. Invite your landlubber guests to bring a dish and serve it ashore, then take a post-dinner cruise. Or you can meet up with other boater friends on the lake. Propane grills are even optional on many pontoon boats, and you can make food ahead of time and heat it up at the lake if you don’t want to cook it all up on the water.
You don’t have to be an angler to enjoy seafood; you can take your bay boat out to search for scallops, go crabbing or clam raking. All those activities are easy and can be enjoyed by all ages. Best of all, you will feast on fresh seafood you caught yourself.
Join a poker run
The game is played on the water, where you race fellow contestants from spot to spot to pick up a playing card for a poker hand. The best hand at the end wins. The game is commonly played aboard bigger boats, but any size vessel will do.
You might be overlooking—or speeding past—a quiet, peaceful activity to enjoy aboard the boat. All it takes is backing off the throttle, a spirit of adventure and binoculars. Wildlife abounds near water, especially shorebirds native to riparian zones (the area between land and water). For safety’s sake, beware of your underwater surroundings in shallow water to avoid cutting short your birding expedition.
You don’t need a cabin boat to overnight. All you need is a place to cruise, anchor out and pitch a tent onboard, if your boat is large enough. If not, you can adapt by pitching the tent ashore. Designated camping areas on state and national parks and recreation areas are options on larger bodies of water.
Fish a tournament
If your boat is rigged for fishing, then why not channel your inner competitive self by going rod to rod with other anglers? Ideally, it’s you against the fish, but tournament fishing is a great way to share the fellowship of fishing, learn more about the sport and maybe even take home a trophy. If you are a novice, the ideal way to get started is by joining a fishing club where you can learn from experienced anglers. And no, you don’t necessarily need a high-powered fiberglass behemoth of a bass boat to compete on the local levels. As long as you have a livewell to keep your fish healthy, you’re ready.
Think the scenery is picture-perfect above the waterline? Another world awaits you below the surface. All it takes is a pair of swim fins, face mask, snorkel and sense of adventure. Clear lakes are ideal for extended underwater visibility, and you can even explore underwater photography. Getting started is cheap and you can turn diving into a hobby, including scuba diving.
Take a trailering road trip
You might take a weekend car trip, diving a few hours to a nearby city to enjoy a festival, concert or the city itself. Why not hitch up the boat and make a lake your destination for fun?
Christmas boat parade
If you live near the water and it doesn’t freeze over, odds are a town or marina near you throws a Christmas boat parade. They’re fun to watch, but it’s more fun to decorate your boat and join the flotilla.
Skip the traffic jams
Live in a metropolitan area with a waterway or that sits on a body of water? If so, instead of dealing with the traffic on the road, as well as the problem of finding a good parking spot, just load up your boat and head to your waterside destination. And when you’re done with the fun, you can take a relaxing cruise home.
You might be in for a nice surprise if you’re skeptical a boat and trailer will fit in your garage. Some trailers come with swing-away tongues, which unlatch and swing out to make the trailer shorter. In fact, boat manufacturers designed the features for tight spaces.
If your mind is made up, the boat won’t fit in the garage, or you are an apartment or condo dweller, there are other options. One of those might even be in your neighborhood. Boat and RV storage is oftentimes available for rent at self-storage businesses. Those facilities are also ideal compromises for homeowners living in neighborhoods with restricted covenants. Some storage facilities near lakes even cater specifically to boat owners for even greater convenience.
Dry dock storage is another option to be found at many large marinas. For a fee, the boat is stored inside a building, and you call ahead to have it put into the water. Yacht, houseboat and pontoon boat owners often rent boat slips at marinas. Some even have slip space available for smaller boats during the high season.
And, if your dream rig is too big for all of the above, a downsized version of the same model might be available.
So there you have it. There are plenty of options and workarounds for storing the boat of your dreams.
This is the easiest answer of them all. Bass Pro Shops/Cabela's Boating Center is your one-stop for sales, service, financing and everything else you desire, with 130 locations across the nation.
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