What Skills Do You Need To Become A Competent Powerboat Driver?

Posted on November 5, 2014 by Lee under Motorboats, Powerboat Courses, RYA Comments Off on What Skills Do You Need To Become A Competent Powerboat Driver?

Powerboats can be a lot of fun but becoming a competent driver requires a considerable amount of training. Manoeuvres in the water are far more complex than on land and the traffic is a great deal more varied. Learning to control a powerboat is not only a matter of building on existing experience; it is a matter of adding a whole new set of skills to your arsenal.

Of course, learning to drive a powerboat is about far more than control of your vessel. It’s important for you to pay close attention to your changing surroundings and the ways in which they might affect your journey.

The skills necessary to become competent fall into two main categories – safety and efficiency. While some of the things you learn will keep you and your passengers safe, a lot of the skills are necessary simply to get you from A to B in the shortest time possible.

Many beginners are keen to point the bow at the destination and hit the throttle. For a number of reasons, driving a powerboat is far more complex than this.

Here, we take a look at the skills you’ll learn en route to becoming a competent powerboat driver which can be achieved with the necessary motor boat courses.

powerboat on the sea

Close quarters manoeuvring

Even in the largest harbours, space can be limited. Out on the open sea, you’ll be moving at pace but in the harbour it’s all about your ability to fit into tight spaces at a slow pace. This might not be considered the most exciting aspect of using a powerboat, but it is in fact the most rewarding element. Close quarters manoeuvring is an essential part of gaining a feel for your vessel.

Close quarters manoeuvres will also include picking up mooring buoys, dropping anchor and coming alongside safely. These are all essential skills for hitting the water in your own boat and powerboat courses from RYA will help you to develop them.

Tidal changes

While powerboats are considerably less beholden to tidal changes than yachts, it is still an important factor that sailors need to consider. The power of your engine does reduce the impact of tidal streams but changes in height remain a hugely important factor in any trip.

Tidal changes should be at the forefront of your mind when dropping anchor but they’re also important when you’re on the move. Certain parts of water may not be passable below a certain tide height and this isn’t always clear to the naked eye.

Knowledge of tidal changes should be coupled with a competency in chart reading to ensure safety in unfamiliar areas and advanced powerboat courses can equip you with this knowledge and ensure your safe to take to the water during the day or at night.

Chart reading

Charts are an invaluable resource for those on the water, particularly when you’re entering unfamiliar waters. Needless to say, all the power of a chart is lost if you don’t know how to interpret the information.

Many powerboat courses focus on chart reading and provide you with the knowledge you need to make key judgements about new areas.

Knowledge of collision regulations

Just as on the road, there is a great deal of traffic to be encountered on the water. While the majority of other boats you’ll encounter on the water will be small and manoeuvrable vessels, there are also some incredibly large commercial ships to be encountered too.

Beyond the basic ‘port-to-port’ rules which help vessels decide how to pass one another, there are a number of more complex and situation-specific regulations which any boat-owner needs to make themselves aware of.


A competent powerboat driver will have all the information and skills necessary to avoid incidents on the water – but they can never eliminate the risk entirely. Alongside all of the safety information you’ll learn when taking a yachting or powerboat course, it could be worth taking some time to learn basic medical skills through designated first aid courses that are specifically targeted at the threats posed by sailing.

You can find more details of sailing courses for powerboats, yachting, first aid and more at The Boating Hub.


Image Credit: onthewater.co.uk

Find Boating Courses

Find Boating Courses

Get Our Newsletter!

* indicates required