Essential Things for Every New Boat Owner

5th February 2024


While the term “new boat owner” can obviously mean someone new to boating, it can also be applied to an experienced boater who purchases a new boat. In addition to properly outfitting your new (or new-to-you) boat, here are additional things all new boat owners should do.

Registration and Documentation

When purchasing your boat, verify the appropriate provincial and federal paperwork required and that you have the correct documents onboard. Documented vessels are required to always carry the original certificate of documentation onboard (no photocopies) during vessel operation.

You’ll also want to ensure that all required decals and registration numbers are properly displayed on the boat. In addition to properly displaying your boat’s name and home port on the hull exterior.


Just like your automobile, you’ll want to have the proper type and amount of insurance on your new boat. And you should make arrangements for this before you take title to and possession of the boat. While some boat insurance needs and terms will sound familiar, such as liability and coverage to your boat if it is damaged, you’ll also encounter new types of coverage that are boating specific. These include environmental protection, which provides fuel and other spill liability should you accidentally spill fuel or discharge oil overboard.

Assemble A Vessel Information Folder

This is a centralized place for all the boat stuff you need to organize, such as registration paperwork, documentation, equipment manuals, insurance information, purchase receipts, work receipts and the like. Zippered index notebooks or accordion-style folders work great for this.

Start A Maintenance Log

Every boat will, at a minimum, require routine annual maintenance, such as oil changes, fuel filter replacement, zinc replacement, coolant change and winterization.

The first order of business for a new boat owner (or owner of a new boat) is to learn what maintenance is required and make sure it gets done. A maintenance log makes that job easier by providing a centralized location to note and track all the upkeep and maintenance required by your new boat and when it should be done. Use it to plan future maintenance, from engine oil changes to hull waxing, as well as document completed tasks.

Begin maintaining a parts list that shows the name and purpose of the part, the part number, the price, and your source for the part. This can save innumerable hours later. Many will do this in Excel or a similar spreadsheet.

Unless you’ll be doing it yourself, this is also the time to think about where you’ll take your new boat for routine maintenance or repairs. Finding a good service center or marine mechanic is best done before it’s needed. It also allows you to avoid the rush by planning and scheduling things such as annual maintenance, fall decommissioning, and spring commission well in advance.

Learn How to Properly Fuel the Boat

It seems like a no-brainer, but don’t take this for granted. The “open” fuel system of a boat is different than the closed fuel system of an automobile, particularly about vent spills resulting from overfilling the tank. Learning how to prevent these spills during fill-ups is crucial for avoiding environmental spills and the hefty fines they can generate.

Learn Your Boat and How to Operate It Correctly

The training and expertise to operate your new boat is an important step for any new boat purchase. While you must learn the basics (starting the engine, steering the boat), there are lots of other skills that go along with operating the boat, from docking, anchoring, navigation, and learning the rules of the road.

This is true even for experienced buyers, particularly if making the transition to a new type of boat, such as from power to sail. Although the basics may be similar, a single-engine sailboat operates differently that a twin-engine powerboat. Owners who are new to sailing may treat their new purchase like a powerboat with a big stick in the middle of it to begin with, and that’s not a problem. Everyone crawls before they walk (or in this case, throttle jockey before they sail), and it’s a perfectly acceptable attitude as you learn your new boat and new skills.