Blog February 2017


Posted On: February 27, 2017

Marina Contracts Part One

It's almost Spring, and the migration to the marina will again take place. I came across a good article which points out the importance of knowing what you are signing.


Reading a marina contract, especially the fine print, is about as exciting as watching paint dry. But this contract is every bit as important as any other major contract you're likely to sign, and you need to know what your responsibilities are, as well as the marina's. To complicate things, marina contracts may trigger the application of "maritime law" rather than state law, as in most consumer contracts. Maritime law is a specialty field with different types of remedies, recoverable damages, and even lawyers, so it's especially important to know what you're agreeing to.

A marina contract is much like any other contract, in which each party is responsible for something — you agree to give the marina money, and it agrees to give you something in return, namely a place to keep your boat. But it's worth noting that such contracts are usually written by lawyers whose focus may be more aligned to benefit the marina than the customer. Discussions about legal liability and how it may be limited or shifted can be woven throughout the contract. What provisions are enforceable will vary, depending on your jurisdiction, and with that in mind, it's important to be alert to how those provisions might affect you.

Marina Contract Basics

Marina contracts often have many basic similarities. As an example, they're usually very specific about what you can do with the slip you use. It may say you can't sublease it or carry on any business there. It will also say how much your fees are and what the consequences are for not paying.

If you're not sure about some of the liability language in your contract, talk to your insurance company.

Marina contracts almost always require that your boat be covered by a marine-insurance liability policy with a certain minimum limit, and many marinas require that your boat also be covered by hull insurance. You'll usually be required to have the boat state-registered and/or have a state-use decal. Often, there is language that requires a boat to be operable, and some marinas require that the boat actually leave its slip once or twice a year. Be aware that the contract may require you to pay for such things as fenders or docklines if yours are deemed inadequate or even having your boat pumped out and raised if it sinks. If you hire someone to work on your boat, the contract may require that you have that person present his or her worker's compensation or liability-insurance certificates before entering the premises.

Many marina contracts have what may appear to be one-sided clauses. Some may say that the marina can cancel the contract for any reason beyond its control (for example, after the marina is damaged by a storm), though that same right is usually not extended to the slip holder. The marina can usually terminate the contract for cause, which means that if you don't abide by the marina's rules (say, if you don't pay your fees, or even if your guests fail to abide by the marina's rules) you can be kicked out. The contract may say that it doesn't have to give you a pro-rated refund. If you get behind on your slip fees, the contract may say that the marina can file a lien on your vessel and may even be able to "arrest" it, preventing you from moving it until your fees are paid. Such liens also may make you responsible for the marina's legal and other expenses. While most of these clauses are pretty easy to understand, in recent years, marinas have begun including new language that is often full of hard-to-comprehend legalese, which may leave you on the hook for damages.



Posted On: February 24, 2017



Posted On: February 20, 2017

History of President’s Day

President’s Day began in 1800 after George Washington’s death in 1799. After his death, his birthday became a day of remembrance for the man who has been called the Father of the Country. The holiday was unofficially observed for most of the 1800s and became a federal holiday in 1870. It was signed into law by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1879, but was initially only for the District of Columbia, but expanded to the entire country by 1885. It was the first holiday to celebrate the life of an individual.

In the late 1960s, Congress proposed a measure known as the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The act shifted several federal holidays from specific dates to predetermined Mondays. It was thought that moving the holidays to Monday would give employees additional three-day weekends and reduce employee absenteeism. The act included a provision to combine Washington’s birthday, which falls on February 22, with Lincoln’s birthday, which falls on February 12.

Lincoln’s birthday had been a state holiday in some areas and many supported recognising Lincoln’s contributions to the country by combining the holidays. In addition to President’s Day, Columbus Day, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day were moved to Monday holidays, although Veteran’s Day was moved back to November 11 due to widespread criticism.

During the early days of the holiday, people spent time reflecting on the contributions of the country’s leaders. Although the day is designed to celebrate all presidents in the country, it is mainly used to pay homage to Washington and Lincoln. The most common celebration is based in the economy as many retail outlets offer significant sales for President’s Day, leading many citizens to spend the day shopping.

Schools and offices are closed on President’s Day. However, students spend a significant amount of time learning about the history of the United States and the social responsibilities that come with being a citizen of the country during the month of February.

George Washington’s farewell address is read in Congress every February 22nd since 1862. Only during the Civil War was it read more than once in a year in order to boost morale.



Posted On: February 17, 2017


Some believe February once boasted 29 days and that Augustus Caesar stole a day so he could add it to August, which was named for him. (If there’s a month named after you, why not milk it?) But that’s a myth. Rather, February has 28 days because, to the Romans, the month was an afterthought. In the 8th century BCE, they used the Calendar of Romulus, a 10-month calendar that kicked the year off in March (with the spring equinox) and ended in December. January and February didn’t even exist:

Martius: 31 days
Aprilius: 30 days
Maius: 31 days
Junius: 30 days
Quintilis: 31 days
Sextilis: 30 days
September: 30 days
October: 31 days
November: 30 days
December: 30 days

Tally up those numbers, and you’ll see a problem—the year is only 304 days long. Back then, winter was a nameless, monthless period that no one cared for much. (Planters and harvesters used the calendar as a timetable. To them, winter was useless and wasn’t worth counting.) So for 61 days out of the year, Romans could ask “What month is it?” and you could correctly answer, “None!”

King Numa Pompilius thought that was stupid. Why have a calendar if you’re going to neglect one-sixth of the year? So in 713 BCE, he lined the calendar up with the year’s 12 lunar cycles—a span of about 355 days—and introduced January and February. The months were added to the end of the calendar, making February the last month of the year.

But no Roman calendar would be complete without some good old-fashioned superstition mixed in! The Romans believed even numbers were unlucky, so Numa tried to make each month odd. But to reach the quota of 355, one month had to be even. February ended up pulling the short stick, probably because it was simply the last month on the list. (Or as Cecil Adams puts it, “If there had to be an unlucky month, better make it a short one.”) Numa’s calendar ended up looking like this:

Martius: 31 days
Aprilius: 29 days
Maius: 31 days
Iunius: 29 days
Quintilis: 31 days
Sextilis: 29 days
September: 29 days
October: 31 days
November: 29 days
December: 29 days

Of course, a 355-day calendar had its bugs. After a few years went by, the seasons and months would fall out of sync. So to keep things straight, the Romans would occasionally insert a 27-day leap month called Mercedonius. The Romans would erase the last couple days of February and start the leap month on February 24—further evidence no one ever cared much for the month.  

This caused headaches everywhere. The leap month was inconsistent, mainly because Rome’s high priests determined when it would arrive. Not only did they insert Mercedonius haphazardly, but the priests (being politicians) abused the power, using it to extend the terms of friends and trim the terms of enemies. By Julius Caesar’s time, the Roman people had no clue what day it was.

So Caesar nixed the leap month and reformed the calendar again. (To get Rome back on track, the year 46 BCE had to be 445 days long!) Caesar aligned the calendar with the sun and added a few days so that everything added up to 365. February, which by now was at the top of the calendar, kept its 28 days. We can only imagine it’s because Caesar, like everyone before and after him, just wanted it to be March already. 



Posted On: February 13, 2017

Dead zones can muck with seafloor life for decades


Monitoring sections of the Black Sea, researchers discovered that even days-long periods of low oxygen drove out animals and altered microbial communities. Those ecosystem changes slow decomposition that normally recycles plant and animal matter back into the ecosystem after organisms die, resulting in more organic matter accumulating in seafloor sediments, the researchers report February 10 in Science Advances.

Carbon is included among that organic matter. Over a long enough period of time, the increased carbon burial could help offset a small fraction of carbon emitted by human activities such as fossil fuel burning, says study coauthor Antje Boetius, a marine biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany. That silver lining comes at a cost, though. “It means your ecosystem is fully declining,” she says.

“We need to pay more attention to the bottom of the ocean,” says Lisa Levin, a biological oceanographer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. “There’s a lot happening down there.” The new work shows that scientists need to consider oxygen conditions when tracking how carbon moves around the environment, says Levin, who was not involved in the research.

Scientists have noticed increased carbon burial in hypoxic waters before. The mechanism behind that increase was unclear, though. Boetius and colleagues headed out to the Black Sea, the world’s largest oxygen-poor body of water, and studied sites along a 40-kilometer-long stretch of seafloor. (Military activities in the region following Russia’s annexation of Crimea limited where the researchers could study, Boetius says.) Some sites were always flush with oxygen, some occasionally suffered a few days of low oxygen, and others were permanently oxygen-free.

The ecological difference between the sites was stark. In oxygen-rich waters, animals such as fish and starfish flourished, and little organic matter was deposited on the seafloor. In areas with perpetually or sporadically low oxygen, the researchers reported that oxygen-dependent animals were nowhere to be seen, and organic matter burial rates were 50 percent higher.

Bottom-dwelling animals are particularly important, the researchers observed, helping recycle organic matter by eating larger bits of debris sinking from the surface ocean and by mixing oxygen into sediments during scavenging. What’s more, the researchers found that the microbial community in oxygen-poor waters shifted toward those microbes that don’t depend on oxygen to live. Such microbes further limit decomposition by producing sulfur-bearing compounds that make organic matter harder to break down.

Depending on the size of the area affected, animals could take years or decades to return to previously hypoxic waters, Boetius says. Some of the studied sites experienced low-oxygen conditions for only a few days a year yet remained barren even when oxygen returned. The absence of animals prolongs the effects of hypoxic conditions beyond the times when oxygen is scarce, she says.




Posted On: February 10, 2017

February's Snow Moon is no ordinary full moon in most parts of the world, as it coincides with a special lunar eclipse that will cast a shadow over the full moon's usual bright, glowing face.

On Friday (Feb. 10), just 10 minutes after the full moon peaks, so will a penumbral lunar eclipse. The moon will spend more than 4 hours coasting through Earth's outer shadow, called the penumbra, and it will appear darker than normal.

While penumbral eclipses can be difficult to see and don't look nearly as dramatic as a total lunar eclipse — in which the moon passes through the darkest, central part of Earth's shadow — Friday's penumbral eclipse will be darker and more noticeable than most lunar eclipses of its kind. That's because the moon will veer so deeply into Earth's penumbral shadow that it will be almost entirely submerged in shade.



Posted On: February 10, 2017

From celestial identification to tidal data, lots of handy information is available at the touch of your finger.

More boaters are relying on smartphone and tablet apps for everything from navigating to fishing and safety information. To help you find the most useful ones, here are some useful ones:

Marine Day Tides

If you have an iPhone or iPad and don't want to pay for one of the more comprehensive applications that includes tidal data, this app is for you. It offers tidal data for more than 5,000 locations worldwide, sunrise/sunset/moon phase information, and tidal graphs. Available on the App Store. Free |

Boat Ramps

Want to know where to launch your boat? Nothing is as comprehensive as Boat Ramps, which gives the locations of more than 35,000 boat ramps nationwide. You can search by zip code, city, or current location. The app also gives driving directions to the ramp so you shouldn't get lost, even if you're in unfamiliar territory. Available on the App Store or Google Play. Free |


Handy for yacht-club cruises, poker runs, and fishing friends who make trips en masse, this nifty app lets you and up to 23 of your buddies track each other. Everyone appears on each other's maps. You can even one-touch dial any of the friends appearing on your phone's map. Available on the App Store or Google Play. $1.99


Boat at night and want to identify all those sparkling lights in the sky? There's an app for that, and it's called GoSkyWatch. Best used on an iPad, the app is intuitive to use — point it at the sky, and it identifies visible stars and planets. It's a great tool for students of celestial navigation to verify they're looking at the correct heavenly body before taking their sights. Available on the App Store. Free


This app does one thing and one thing only: It tells you your speed. Make a sail adjustment or change your trim tab set, and it can impact your speed. With this app, you can instantly see what happens as you make those adjustments. This simple application turns your iPhone into a speedometer with large digits. Available on the App Store. $3.99

IGFA Mobile

Anglers can check on the record status of any species of game fish caught in the world in real time. It includes a list of International Game Fish Association-certified weigh stations so you can find the closest scales to check in your catch. Plus, there's a trip-planning list and complete IGFA rules. Available on the App Store or Google Play. $8.99



Posted On: February 06, 2017

Five things you should never try to repair.


Some boaters will spend two hours trying to fix a part or jury rig a solution they could have bought new for two bucks. Or worse, they'll waste time trying to fix something that just can't be properly repaired. If this sounds like you, and you fit into this category, it's time you learn when to cut your losses. If one of these five problems pops up on your boat, leave the tools in the shed and reach for your wallet instead.

  1. Cracked or Leaky Fuel Lines

Fuel lines that are exposed to direct sunlight have a limited lifespan, and after five or six years, they crack or leak. Sure, it's tempting to cut out the offending section and barb-and-clamp the line back together. But once one crack appears, more are sure to follow. Considering how dangerous a fuel leak can be, it's not worth messing with. Buy a new hose. If you have an outboard, replace the entire assembly. Why fix one piece of it, when you know the rest is as aged as the section that went bad?

  1. Sticky Thermostats

Thermostats are easy to identify, remove, and clean, so when they fail it's common for boaters to pop them out and try fix to them. But once they fail, it's likely they'll fail again. Next time it might not be so easy to fix, which can be a real problem if you're miles from the marina. Plus, thermostats have a limited lifetime and are cheap to replace. If you've already taken it out, just replace the entire unit.

  1. Canvas Bimini Tops

Rips or bald spots will appear in a canvas after years of use, usually where a top support or strap attaches to it. You may be tempted to patch it...but that's a terrible idea. No matter how hard you try, you'll never get the color to match the original (even most professional canvas shops can't get it perfect), and a patch is only a temporary fix at best. When one area wears through, you can bet others will soon follow. Plus, the weakened, aged material may not be strong enough to support the threading necessary to cover the problem spot. It's time to toss the entire top and have a new one made.

  1. Cracked T-Top Welds

When the welds crack on a T-top, it's easy to have them re welded, but you can be sure the welds will crack again soon. Cracks usually result from bad design or improper mounting, and you need to eliminate the root of the problem, not treat the symptom. Having a new top made specifically for your boat by an aluminum shop is the best bet. Check your boat to make sure the deck is level (a common reason tops start cracking is because the welds are stressed when the mounting bolts are cranked down) and that the high-stress areas are beefed up. In many cases a builder is more concerned with how a top looks than how it holds up, which can lead to struts or attachment points being sub-par. But a dedicated shop has a different goal: Installing a top that won't break. What about the old top? Offer it to the welder for scrap. Maybe he'll knock a few hundred dollars off the price of a new one.

  1. Delaminated Stringers

Ouch -- this one's tough, but if you're faced with delaminated stringers, you should get a new boat. No patchwork bond you make will be as strong as the original one between the stringers and hull -- and that bond has already proved insufficient. Properly fixing it would mean your boat would be out of the water for a month, and the labor bill would be huge. Even then, there would be no guarantee the bond wouldn't fail the first time you get on plane. It's a classic case of throwing good money after bad. Time to hit the boat show.