What is all this crap?
When you purchase a car you get the car and a set of keys. You probably don't need anything else to use the car. Put fuel in it, get insurance, turn the key and drive it. You might want to get a toll pass and have a pair of gloves and a jump start pack but you don't really need anything to use the car.
Boats are different. Unless you are looking at an inflatable or something made of rubber you are going to want fenders. If you saw a previous post there is a difference between fenders and bumpers, just like on a car. Bumpers are built into a dock and fenders are movable balls or cylinders that you place between the boat and the dock to protect your very fragile fiberglass, steel, aluminum, or whatever your boat is made of. You definitely need them and you need the right size and type for your specific boat and docking situation. Cygnet came with four large cylinder style fenders and they work great most of the time but in our specific slip we needed to purchase a couple large ball fenders to keep Cygnet from hitting the posts that the dock float on. We leave the ball fenders at the dock when we leave but we take the cylinder fenders to protect us when we dock elsewhere. Fenders that are too small for your boat will not offer the protection you need and fenders that are too large will make it harder to get on and off your boat at the dock all while taking up too much space when on board. Experienced boaters scoff at people who drive their boat with fenders hanging off the side and you'll probably want to buy a fender holder like we have on Cygnet if your boat doesn't offer a stowage spot.
Boat hooks are essential. Boat hooks are often collapsable poles with a hook on the end. They are used to pull you into a slip of you're a bit far or push you off of something you don't want to touch like a wall of a lock. You need at least one, we recommend two quality hooks and have had good luck with the West Marine brand.
Safety gear is not just important, a lot of it is required. Your state or country may vary but in Illinois and most states you need PFDs (aka life jackets) on board for every person. For children under a certain age they need to be worn all the time however on some boats it isn't recommended to wear them inside. Check your local laws. Children under a certain weight also need ones that fit their smaller bodies. Make sure any kids on board have a proper fitting PFD. We have a few different sizes and try to buy ones that are gender neutral, lots of young boys don't want to wear pink ones and young girls might not want blue. Kids are kids. PFDs come in various types, you can do your research on them but the least expensive ones are actually some of the best. Type II are a foam "U" that goes around your neck and a strap clasps them on your body. They are inexpensive and often come in packs and will keep your head out of the water if you fall in. We have lots of these. Make sure you have more on board than you think you'll need.
Flares, safety flags, non-mechanical bailing devices, fire extinguishers, and many other things may also be required by law and are a great thing to have in case of an emergency. You just spent a lot of money on a boat and yes now you need to spend a lot more money to use it. Make sure all flares and fire extinguishers are the right type for use on your boat and aren't expired. When flares expire we keep them aboard and buy new ones. We'd rather have more flares than required in an emergency, old flares will probably still work if needed.
Boat share companies are becoming popular. If you are thinking about boat ownership you can try one out for a year and use a boat, or multiple boats, whenever you want. You don't have the maintenance costs and trouble and you just get in and go. Our issue is that while you may have all the required safety gear on board you don't have anything else. You need to bring everything with you and pack it up at the end of the day. Kevin had a coworker who was a member of one service and the only thing the boat came with was paper towels. Lots of paper towels. If you need sunscreen, beach towels, plates, utensils, a cutting board, bug spray, a cooler, a corkscrew and bottle opener, or any of the other things you take for granted on your own boat you need to bring them with you and take them when you leave. This can be a hassle. But it might be better than changing engine oil and refinishing teak decking, so it's up to you.
Another thing you'll want to look for is toys. Even if you don't have young kids on board you might want to have rafts to float on, balls to throw around, or anything that will keep you occupied or make you time on the water more enjoyable. Lots of people have kayaks on their big boats so they can explore areas the big boat can't reach. You might want to have bicycles to explore towns you run into along your journey.
Weather on boats can be extremely unpredictable. For us specifically, Lake Michigan can have totally different weather than inland. You may leave your house thinking you'll have a fun day in the sun, just like it is at home, but find out you will spend the day in a sweatshirt and blanket at the lake. The wind, water, and sun are always changing. Make sure you have good rain gear, warm clothes, a couple blankets, extra shoes and lots of sunscreen and aloe. You need to prepare for anything!
Polarized sunglasses are by far the best type to have on board as they allow you to see better in the sun. Non-polarized are not recommended. If you aren't a sunglasses person you need to become one. Sunglasses can save lives by allowing you to see correctly in bright sunlight. You may not notice a person or small vessel in the water if you are cruising straight toward the sun with your naked eyes. Buy a decent quality pair of polarized sunglasses and have extra pairs of any type of sunglasses for your guests.
One more thing you'll need are motion sickness aids for you or your guests. We've seen lots of people get seasick on Cygnet and Kevin has experienced this on another boat before. It's not fun for them and often times it's not fun for you. Have dramamine, ginger ale or other ginger drinks or candy, and motion sickness bands. When used properly the bands actually do work, trust us. When someone is getting seasick the best thing you can do as a boat owner is get to calmer water if possible. They need to be in the fresh air and looking all the time at the horizon. Often times people with motion sickness want to curl up on the couch but it's better for them to be outside and looking off in the distance. Another great cure is for them to swim it off. Getting in the water is a nearly instant cure and has worked for many people on Cygnet. Of course it might return once they get back on board so be prepared for that. Have something they can vomit in, lots of people don't want to vomit off the side of the boat. Also have the cleaners and towels to clean up if they don't make it outside the boat or in the bin. It may be gross to talk about but it will happen - often.
Next time on a very special Water We Thinking: I'm keeping it! How do I prep it for the winter?