Working with idioms is difficult and teaching them is always tricky for a teacher. I try to use the same technique both for me to improve my vocabulary and learn more about the language and for my students: I use images, connections.
Miss the boat, as in the title, is an example of idiomatic expression and there’s nothing to do with boats or water. The meaning is to have an opportunity and miss it.
But if I need to make connections to remember this meaning, I’ll leave here my line of thoughts.
Last month I saw a movie on TV called “En Solitaire”. I love French movies! There are always lots of feelings involved… and it goes: a man, a famous skipper, is about to leave on a competition around the world but something goes wrong and he believes he missed the boat. In order to keep his dream on, he asks his brother-in-law to go on his place and he accepts it. Everything is going just fine and Yann (the brother-in-law)leads the race until he has a problem with his boat and has to stop it for a few days. He finds out eventually that a boy has joined him in his boat and that could be the end of this adventure.
A great movie with a great ending. Loved it! And got me the connection I needed about opportunities and boats.