Boating Tips


Posted 6/3/2009

Operating an outboard powered boat requires a proactive approach on your – The Captain's – part to ensure a trouble-free boating experience.

Pre-Op Checks
Before going for a boat ride, you will need to confirm that the outboard and boat are ready:

Fuel System
• Is the gas tank full?
• No fuel leaks or gas fumes? (If you smell gas, check for leaks).
• Are the fuel line connections secure? (Try wiggling the quick-disconnects to make sure they're tight).
• Is there water in the fuel filter? To check, put the shifter in neutral and turn the key to the "on/run" position. If the warning horn goes off and/or the water-in-fuel indicator light blinks, replace the exterior water separating fuel filter and drain any water-sensing on-engine filters (replace these filters as soon as possible). Oil Level
• If the outboard is a two-stroke, is there enough 
two-stroke oil in the tank?
• If the outboard is a four-stroke, trim the outboard so it is vertical (not tilted), remove the cowling and check the oil level on the dipstick; add oil if necessary. In the case of Yamaha four-stroke outboards, the oil level should be in the middle of the cross-hatch pattern on the dipstick.
• Make sure the outboard is securely fastened 
to the transom.
• Inspect the propeller (verify the prop nut is 
tight, check the propeller for damage).
• Is the battery fully charged? 
• Are the battery connections tight and 

• Double check that the steering operates freely throughout the full range of motion (no sticking, binding, looseness, or "dead spots").
• The throttle and shifter should move easily with no stiffness or sloppiness (although you may have to do this check with the outboard running).


• Make sure you have an approved personal 
floatation device (PFD) on board for every occupant. It is a good idea for each passenger to wear a PFD whenever boating.
• Make sure you know and understand the marine laws and local regulations where you will be boating and obey them. 
• Stay informed of the weather and avoid hazardous weather conditions whenever possible.

Getting Down to Business
Now that the prerequisites are in check, it's time to 
let the outboard earn its keep, propelling you and your crew to another great day on the water. Here 
are some general guidelines about how to operate 
an outboard:

• Open the vent on the gas tank cap (portable tanks).
• Squeeze the primer bulb until it's firm.
• Clip one end of the outboard stop switch lanyard to your clothes, life jacket, arm, or leg, and attach the other end to the engine stop switch.
• Start the outboard, following the instructions in the owner's/operation manual.

• After the outboard has started, let it warm up for 
3-5 minutes.
• While the outboard is warming up, check that the oil pressure warning light has turned off (four-stroke 
models) and that a steady stream of cooling water 
is flowing out of the pilot hole on the back of 
the engine.
• IMPORTANT – If the oil pressure warning light stays on or there is little/no water exiting the pilot hole, stop the outboard immediately, find the source of the problem (low oil, plugged-up pilot hole are common culprits) and rectify the situation before hitting the open seas.

• To shift the gearcase into forward or reverse, close the throttle, and firmly move the shift handle until the gears are engaged. 
• IMPORTANT: On most remote 
control models, the throttle and shift functions are incorporated into one handle. Be careful not 
to shove the handle past the point of gear engagement, because after this point, the throttle is activated and the boat could accelerate suddenly – not a good thing.
• With the outboard running and in gear, you're on your way to a wonderful time on the water.
The list above gives a general overview of 
outboard operation. For more information about boating tips and safety, please contact the 
following organizations:

United States Coast Guard
Consumer Affairs Staff (G-BC)
Office of Boating, Public and Consumer Affairs
U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
Washington, D.C. 20593-0001
Boating Safety Hotline: 1-800-368-5647

National Marine Manufacturers Associations (NMMA)
401 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611

Marine Retailers Association of America
155 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60601Use common sense and good judgment when boating. Know your abilities and be sure you understand how your boat handles different boating conditions. Always operate at safe speeds and keep a careful watch for obstacles and other traffic.

For more detailed information, consult the Yamaha outboard owner's manual that came with your outboard. The owner's manual can also be found online at If you don't have a Yamaha outboard, check your owner's Manual under 
"Operation" (or similar section).

Be smart, be safe, and have fun on the water.