This paper addresses the challenge of commissioning recreational boats with joystick control systems when the boat's physical parameters are not known. The work was conducted through matlab simulations and scale-model physical testing. The outcome is a working nonlinear, closed-loop control methodology shown on a small-scale prototype boat. The control methodology, L1 adaptive control (L1AC), provides adaptive velocity and angular velocity control. The control system delivers performance levels that could reduce the cost of commissioning boats with joystick control, improve overall performance, and potentially enable the technology to support new boat markets.