Blog June 2018


Posted On: June 29, 2018

4 Steps For Coming Alongside A Dock

Great Article By Michael Vatalaro

Too fast and BANG. Too slow and you lose control. Here's how to dock an outboard with finesse.

Docking makes boaters nervous. Throw a little wind and current in the mix, and you can find yourself overwhelmed with things to worry about. Your technique shouldn't be one of your worries. Coming alongside a dock or bulkhead can be accomplished in just four steps. But first, you need to know a few things about your boat.

This procedure is for outboard- or sterndrive-powered boats. Hopefully you've had enough time at the helm to know how your boat pivots when you throw the wheel hard over in either direction. Many beginning boaters are surprised at how much the stern swings or slides out when they initiate a turn. If you're not familiar with your boat's tendencies, to get a feel, practice by approaching a buoy or crab pot marker as though it were the dock. Once you've got that down, choose which side you want to tie up, deploy fenders, and you're ready to make your approach. These instructions are for a portside tie.

Step 1: Line Up Your Approach

When approaching the space on the dock where you want to come alongside, first judge wind and current. If the wind or current will be pushing you toward the dock, a shallow angle will help you keep control and not strike the dock with the bow of the boat. If the wind and/or current are conspiring to keep you off the dock, as so often seems to be the case, you'll need a steeper approach to carry enough momentum to get you into the dock. Start with a 30- to 45-degree angle as you learn what works best for your boat. Aim your bow toward the center of your landing point.

Step 2: Come In Slowly

There's an old saying, "Never approach a dock any faster than you're willing to hit it." Bump the boat in and out of gear to maintain slow progress toward your chosen spot. On twin-engine boats, use one engine at a time to creep in.

Step 3: Time Your Swing

When your bow is within, say, half a boat length, swing the wheel over hard to starboard (away from the dock). This is where knowing your boat becomes important, particularly regarding where it pivots. Turn too soon, and you won't end up parallel with the dock. Too late, and bang. With the wheel hard over, bump the engine into gear for an instant to kick the stern to port. This will
also swing the bow away from the dock (to starboard) so you won't hit it.

Step 4: The Flourishing Finish

As the boat glides toward being parallel with the dock, swing the wheel all the way back to port, and kick the engine into reverse (on twins, use the engine farthest from the dock for maximum effect). This will simultaneously stop your headway and pull the stern of the boat to port and closer to the dock. When the boat has stopped moving forward, put it in neutral. The boat should continue side-slipping right up to the dock, allowing you to simply reach out and grab a
line or piling. 



Posted On: June 25, 2018

Learn five tactics to get away from the dock when the gusts are against you.

5 ways to leave a slip in the wind

Depending on how your boat is docked, here are five different maneuvers for getting out of the slip.

Your boat's hull shape, prop walk, windage, current, and other factors may affect results. Click on image to enlarge. (Illustration: Marcus Floro/BoatUS)

Leaving A Slip In The Wind

From The Annapolis Book of Seamanship by John Rousmaniere

1. Wind Pushing Starboard Side, Stern Out

Step 1: Hard left rudder. Engine forward will kick out the stern.

Step 2: Reverse engine with left rudder, after releasing line and clearing dock.

Step 3: Forward out of the marina.

2. Wind Pushing Away From Dock, Stern Out

Step 1: Engine forward and right rudder kicks out the stern.

Step 2: Engine reverse with left rudder after releasing line and clearing dock.

Step 3: Forward out of the marina.

3. Wind Pushing Port Side, Bow Out

Step 1: Reverse engine, right rudder to pivot bow into the wind.

Step 2: Remove line and steer into wind.

4. Wind Pushing Away From Dock, Bow Out

Step 1: Release bow line first, then stern and power forward with right rudder.

5. Wind Pushing Starboard Side, Bow Out

Step 1: Reverse engine, left rudder to pivot bow into the wind.

Step 2: Remove line and steer into wind.

A challenging maneuver for any boat (power, sail, big, small) is leaving the dock. Slow speed makes a boat less maneuverable because the rudder isn't very effective until the boat's going fast enough for water to flow over it cleanly. Called "steerageway," that efficient speed can be elusive when the wind's pushing you back or when you make turns, which also slow the boat.

Before heading out, check the wind strength and direction, and then plan your tactics. The illustration shows five ways to cast off from a slip and head out of a marina into a head wind. It's a two-step process. First, clear the slip, using docking lines and the engine to control the boat and prevent rubbing against the pier. Be careful, though. The forces can be larger than they appear. Then point the bow as directly as possible down the channel and get going. On that heading, turns will be gradual, which improves your speed and control. 



Posted On: June 22, 2018

Flares And Fires

Fire extinguisher nozzle

Nothing lasts forever, and that's especially true of anything on a boat. When you inspect your safety equipment this spring, pay close attention to those things that have a limited lifespan. Flares, in particular, are only good for 42 months after manufacture (not purchase date) unless otherwise specified by manufacturer and authorized by law.

How old are your fire extinguishers? Many disposable (nonrechargeable) fire extinguishers typically used on boats have a 12-year expiration from the date of manufacture, but don't hesitate to replace them before that if they're damaged. The manufacture date is stamped on them, sometimes on the bottom. Rechargeable fire extinguishers have far more stringent maintenance requirements. Follow manufacturer recommendations and applicable laws as to inspection, maintenance, and care of your particular fire extinguishers. The seriousness of boat fires requires extreme diligence.



Posted On: June 18, 2018

Stainless Hose Clamp?

Corroded hose clamp

You've read it before — hose clamps that say they are "all stainless" aren't always being 100 percent honest. Sure, the clamp itself may be stainless, but often the screw that tightens it isn't. That deception means that the most important part of the clamp may fail within months — or even weeks if it's exposed to saltwater.

A failed hose clamp may be as inconvenient as a leak in the potable water system or as dangerous as an exhaust leak that pumps deadly carbon monoxide into the boat. Because your boat likely has dozens, if not hundreds, of hose clamps, you need to inspect them at least every spring and replace any that show signs of corrosion.

Besides rust on substandard screws, check the bottom of vertically mounted hose clamps where water may collect from a slow leak. Standing saltwater will corrode even stainless steel, so use a flashlight (and mirror, if needed) to inspect the entire clamp for rust.

Replace damaged clamps with name-brand clamps, such as Tridon or AWAB, that are made from 316-grade stainless. Check with a magnet if you're not sure; proper stainless is nonmagnetic. AWAB clamps use smooth nonperforated bands, which prevent the inevitable corrosion in slotted-type clamps. The rounded solid bands also prevent your clamps from acting like a cheese slicer on your hoses.

Want to go to the next level? Try titanium clamps. They're more expensive but are nearly immune to corrosion.



Posted On: June 15, 2018

Father's Day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. In Catholic Europe, it has been celebrated on March 19 (St. Joseph's Day) since the Middle Ages. This celebration was brought by the Spanish and Portuguese to Latin America, where March 19 is often still used for it, though many countries in Europe and the Americas have adopted the U.S. date, which is the third Sunday of June (falling on June 17 in 2018).


The nation’s first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910, in the state of Washington. However, it was not until 1972–58 years after President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day official–that the day honoring fathers became a nationwide holiday in the United States. Father’s Day 2018 occurs on Sunday, June 17.



Posted On: June 11, 2018

Estimating Distance Off

Here's a great article by Dick Everitt to help you while at sea.

Got a tape measure and a piece of string? You can use them to find out how far away you are from, say, a lighthouse.

Distance off by vertical sextant angle is an old navigation technique used for keeping a safe distance from an object of known height, such as a lighthouse, the height of which is shown on a chart. With modern GPS, there's no longer a need to know how to calculate this, but it's a fun trick to show the kids, and it's a useful backup if you're ever forced to use basic navigation techniques. But as many of us don't carry a sextant, or a set of tables, we can copy what the ancients had been doing for centuries before the sextant was invented. They simply exploited their knowledge that the ratio of 60:1 is equal to an angle of 1 degree. To find this distance, simply measure the angle of the center of the light above sea level and look up the "distance off" in a set of tables, such as those found in a nautical almanac, or use a simple calculation (below). The center of the light itself, not the height of the top of the tower, is used because that's the height marked on the chart. Usually we can forget any tidal height allowance, as less tide will put us farther off in safer water.

In its simplest form, you'll use something that measures 60 units from your eye attached to a vertical ruler marked in the same units. (Using a metric rule to do this exercise makes your math calculation simpler because you can work in whole numbers instead of fractions.)

Hold a piece of string 60 cm (about 2 feet) in front of your eye. (I find a loop of string of the correct length around my neck more comfortable than holding a knot in my teeth.) Sight across the ruler and measure the height of the center of the light above sea level, in millimeters.

Then use the formula below.

It's a rough-and-ready technique, but one day it might save you being set in too close to a nasty reef or rocks. 




Posted On: June 08, 2018

Dangerous Gases

If you are on a boat, you are exposed to potential danger...

Carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream though the lungs by breathing in this dangerous gas. Exposure in a well ventilated environment is generally not a problem. Brief exposure in a more confined environment can cause sickness and prolonged exposure to higher concentrations can kill you. Since symptoms of carbon monoxide mimic seasickness or alcohol intoxication it is sometimes overlooked as nothing serious and those affected never receive the medical attention they need.

Tip: Maintain fresh air circulation throughout the boat at all times and maintain your vessel to assure peak engine performance. An improperly tuned engine is more likely to produce elevated levels of CO.

To avoid CO you should know the areas of where CO can accumulate such as inadequately ventilated canvas enclosures and engine compartments. If you are tied to a dock be certain exhaust ports aren’t blocked which can force exhaust back into the boat and if you are rafted to another boat be certain exhaust from one boat doesn’t enter the other.

Beware of Carbon Monoxide

  • Make sure you know where all exhaust outlets are and they are not blocked
  • Confirm that water flows from the exhaust outlet when motors or generators are running
  • Educate all passengers about the symptoms of CO poisoning and where CO may accumulate
  • Test the operation of each CO detector for proper functioning by pressing the test button
  • Open hatches or canvas enclosures if CO accumulation is suspected
  • When rafted to another boat be certain that exhaust flows freely into open air
  • Avoid swim platforms or swimming around or near a boat when the engine is running
  • Periodically examine the exhaust fixtures on your boat to be certain of proper performance
  • Always maintain your boat to peak performance to reduce the risk of CO production




Posted On: June 04, 2018

Cumulus Clouds

BASED ON AN ARTICLE FROM The Annapolis Book of Seamanship

Reading Clouds

Learning what clouds can tell us is a useful skill that will help decide if it's safe to head out for a grand day on the water or weather a storm in port.

Weather forecasts are very important, and so is a barometer, but you can also get a reliable gauge on your local weather if you think of the sky as something like the face of an emotional person whose moods are shown right on his or her face.

Reliable indicators are the changing shape and color of the clouds, which are created by the same natural phenomena that cause the weather itself: temperature and humidity. Here are some hints for predicting weather by reading clouds.

Isolated, wispy, or very high clouds are an indication of fair weather.

Crowded, dense, dark, and towering clouds indicate changing or worsening weather.

The sharper the edge of a thundercloud and the darker its color, the more violence it may contain. Don't go below or near it.

If cloud color, shape, and size change, so will the weather.

As puffy cumulus clouds darken, enlarge, and become dark cumulonimbus clouds, expect squalls within two hours.


The highest and least-substantial clouds. Composed of ice crystals, cirrus clouds lie at altitudes of about 45,000 feet. Wispy and lying at oblique angles, these clouds may herald the approach of a warm front.


Wispy clouds lying in sheets may form a ceiling slightly lower than cirrus clouds as a warm front nears and layers of cold air mix with upper warm air. May drape the entire sky in a gray haze and cause a halo around the sun or moon — an indication of a nearing storm.


Have barely-defined puffy balls and, like cirrostratus, lie at altitudes of 16,500 to 40,000 feet, usually in large clumps. From below, these clouds may look like fish scales. The saying "mackerel sky mackerel sky, not long wet, not long dry" describes them and the changeable weather that follows.


Sheets of cloud between 6,000 and 23,000 feet. Thicker, darker and more claustrophobic than the higher cirrostratus clouds, they promise rain soon.


These have grayish-white rolls that look like cirrocumulus but are darker and sometimes appear in layers. If the wind is steady between northeast and south, these clouds promise rain soon.


Large, dark, puffy balls occurring in compressed layers and foretell bad weather.


Puffy white cotton balls at about 6,000 feet promise fair weather. They may, however, darken and be transformed into stratocumulus or cumulonimbus clouds, which can signal bad weather. Seen over land during the day indicates thermals and promises good sea breezes.


Dark, tightly-packed balls that may churn and tower as thunderheads at about 6,000 feet. If broader above than below, it's called an anvil head. This shape is due to violent updrafts through a wide range of temperatures. As the updraft hits, cold air is condensed as a cloud. Winds are strong around these threatening clouds.


Heavy, rain-laden, low-lying, dark gray blankets that come with warm fronts and wet nor'easters. Their soggy bases may be just above the earth's surface and be indistinguishable from heavy fog.


These clouds combine in a dense gray overcast that promises light to heavy rain.