Blog October 2019

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LOVE YOUR RADAR PART 2

Posted On: October 27, 2019

If you're feeling a bit confused at this point, consider that we haven't used one single acronym yet. And when it comes to radar (which, incidentally, stands for Radio Detection And Ranging,) there are plenty. Here are the important ones:

  • CPA: Closest Point of Approach. This is the point at which your boat and a target will be the closest, assuming neither changes course nor speed.
  • EBL: Electronic Bearing Line. The EBL on a radar allows you to accurately navigate with a radar and to determine the exact bearing to different targets.
  • MARPA: Mini-Automatic Radar Plotting Aid. MARPA functions help identify and track a target's speed, bearing, CPA, and TCPA and often allows you to associate these with a proximity alarm.
  • TCPA: Time to Closest Point of Approach. TCPA describes how long it will be before your boat and a target reach CPA, assuming neither changes course nor speed.
  • VRM: Variable Range Mark. This is exactly what it sounds like: a marker that enables you to determine the range to different targets.

LCDilemma

All of this radar knowledge is great, but about now, there are undoubtedly people rolling their eyes and groaning. All they really want to know is how to look at that LCD screen and distill what's a channel marker, what's another boat, and what's land. For you folks, investing in a system that overlays your radar returns on your chartplotter screen is probably a good move. (See photo below.) It eliminates an awful lot of the guesswork, as long as the overlay doesn't add to the confusion. Work with one to see it if works with you.

Broadband radar overlay

It's much easier to tell what you're seeing on screen when your radar is overlaid on your chartplotter. The red areas show the radar "echo" and clearly delineate the coastal outline.

Beyond that, there are several things to keep in mind. First off, before you try discriminating between those blips and blobs, zoom in as much as possible. For most of us, the majority of the time what we're really concerned about lies within a mile or two of our boat. Looking at the radar set to a farther range only reduces the size of the returns you're concerned about and adds unnecessary information. Long ranges, however, can detect squalls and enable you to cruise around them, can detect landfalls, and have other uses, so don't just set it for short ranges.

Secondly, don't view radar on a split screen but instead give it as much LCD territory as possible. The bigger the picture you're looking at, the easier it will be to figure out what's what. And when you really need radar, looking at something like the fishfinder should be the least of your concerns, so dedicate that entire MFD screen to what counts. Overlays of information can cause problems or solve them, so as we said before, see what works for you.

Finally, remember that some thoughtful interpretation is often necessary. Three strong returns that remain static and are lined up neatly in a row are likely to be a series of channel markers; weak returns that come and go are often poor targets like small fiberglass boats; and two targets keeping pace close to each other could be a tug and its barge. Accurately reading returns like these requires a different sort of algorithm — the one that's in your own brain.

Garmin's Fantom with Doppler technology

Some newer radars, like Garmin's Fantom, apply Doppler technology to accurately track moving targets.

Yes, it will take some practice to accurately and proficiently determine what's on the LCD screen. But we do have one very big piece of good news for you: Today's modern radars have such advanced processing powers that you'll rarely need to adjust anything. Gone are the days of constantly fiddling with sea state and clutter adjustments to get a clear picture on the screen. Leave your unit on auto mode and in most situations, it can do a better job than you or I at presenting the best possible picture. And whether you're trying to navigate through a pea-soup fog or the inky darkness, that one fact alone will make using your radar far easier than ever before.

Never overestimate radar, or any other equipment, however. For example, most radars will not see through significant amounts of rain, and you may find yourself running blind if you've only relied on radar as you approach the storm. Also, it's very important to practice steering to radar. Refresh rates of the best screens are less than what we're accustomed to with our vision. And loss of horizon, shorelines, and other external data can drastically affect orientation, distance perception, turn rates, and other things. Practice running on radar alone when it's safe, in good weather, to learn what it can be like in pea soup.

You may be very surprised

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LOVE YOUR RADAR PART 1

Posted On: October 25, 2019

Learning To Love Your Boat Radar Part 1

Here"s article by Lenny Rudow worth reading.

Radar can seem daunting to a newcomer.

Here's a brief introduction on all you need to know to get you started.

Radar in use aboard

Whether there's a pea-soup fog or night has fallen, there's no substitute for radar when it comes to operating a boat in reduced visibility. Even on clear, sunny days, radar can be a huge advantage, letting you "see" for miles into the distance.

But radar is expensive and complex, right? These days, no, not so much. Today's units are light-years ahead of those found aboard recreational vessels just a decade or so ago. They're easier to use, more sensitive, and less expensive. Yet still, many mariners who haven't used radar are a bit apprehensive about looking at all those blips and blobs and decoding exactly what they mean.

Here's How Radar Works

Before we delve into using radar, let's make sure you have a solid understanding of the basics. In a nutshell, radar sends out a transmission in the form of a high-frequency radio wave and "listens" for it to be bounced back by a solid object. Most traditional radar units send out this transmission in a burst of power, then calculate the time delay of any returned signals to calculate distance to the target. As a general rule, this type of radar provides the best long-range abilities. Unfortunately, that big burst of power creates something called a "main bang" 360 degrees around your boat. This is a visionless dead-zone that can cover 100 feet or more. So while long-range performance is excellent, very short ranges are hampered.

Instead of using strong bursts of power, some newer solid-state radar units instead calculate the difference between transmitted and received frequencies. The advantage is better target discrimination at short range; there's no big burst, so there's no main bang. Their range, however, is often more limited than that of traditional radar.

The latest and greatest units may combine these two technologies, and some also apply Doppler enhancements. Remember learning about the Doppler effect in high school? As an ambulance gets closer and closer, the frequency of its siren sounds higher and higher, and as it gets farther away, the frequency sounds lower and lower. Many of the latest marine radar use this same principle to help determine the speed and hazard-level of moving targets.

Powerful Returns

The strength of a radar's return depends on a number of variables, including the target's material, shape, and size. That's why some items (such as channel markers, which are designed to maximize radar returns) may appear to be bigger on radar than a boat 10 times their size. This is also why small fiberglass boats may not show up on some radar at all, or may show up only at very close range. Your radar's beam width also has a big impact on how it sees things. The narrower the beam, the more gain (intensity) it has, and the more range it will have at a given power level. Beam width is determined by antenna size, which is why larger, open-array units generally have much narrower beam widths, and hence more maximum range, than small, enclosed-dome antennas.

What's most important to recognize about radar range, however, is that beam width, power, and every other factor gets trumped by the curvature of the Earth. Radar is "line-of-sight," so the height of your antenna and the height of the target are most often the limiting factors that determine range. Ready for a little math? Here's the equation:

1.2NM x (square root of antenna height in feet) + 1.2NM x (square root of target height in feet) = Range

An example (don't worry, we'll keep the math simple for now): Your radar sits 16 feet above the water on your boat's hard-top, and the vessel you're looking for stands 16 feet above the water's surface. That's 1.2 x 4 + 1.2 x 4, or 4.8 + 4.8. No matter how expensive and powerful your radar may be, it will never see this other boat until it's within 9.6 nautical miles. Period.

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SOME PROBLEM SAVING PRODUCTS TO EASE YOUR PAINS

Posted On: October 21, 2019


Sole Searching

Some boat shoes may be OK for the yacht club, but don't fair so well onboard. A proper pair of boat shoes must offer sure-footed support on a wet, slippery dock or boat deck. Sebago's Cyphon range could be just the thing. Available in a range of styles and colors for both men and women, the grippy soles are made from a nonmarking compound. In addition, the shoes' C3 Technology (cross channel circulation, a fancy way of saying that they let water out and air in) means you won't be walking around in soggy shoes all day once you get back to dry land. The Cyphon SeaSport and SeaTech models look similar to sneakers, while Sea Fishermen look more like sandals, have large holes in the uppers, and are a good choice for kayakers and paddleboarders.

Hassle-Free Trailer Moving

Parkit360's Force 5K power dolly

Maneuvering a boat trailer takes some skill, but what if there's no room to get the tow vehicle to where you need to move your boat, like in your backyard? Parkit360's Force 5K power dolly could be the answer. Capable of shifting a combined weight of up to 5,000 pounds, power comes from a 12-volt, 1.5-hp electric motor. Essentially it's a trolley, similar to a handcart, with a pair of beefy wheels driven by the electric motor. There's handle for steering and a rocker switch that falls conveniently under the thumb for controlling forward and reverse. If you have a heavier boat, larger versions are available that will even connect to the electric brakes on your trailer.

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KEEPING AFLOAT PART 2

Posted On: October 18, 2019

  PART II

 Here are some more of the common causes for boat sinking.

Dock Damage Is All To Common

When the wind starts to blow  if your vessel is not properly secured, the boat will pound against the dock again and again until a hole appears.

Make sure you tie up on the downwind side of the dock so the wind holds you away from the structure. Fenders would also help. Use the round-ball type when up against a flat surface such as a seawall. Use fender boards, a heavy board suspended between two fenders, when you're against pilings.

 Freshwater Flooding

If a fitting fails in the freshwater system, thinking a tap has been opened, your pump senses a reduction in hose pressure and turns on the supply water. This is real bad news if you're hooked up to dockside water, which will keep pumping into the bilge.

Never leave the boat without shutting off the water at the dock. Better yet, disconnect the hose from your boat.

Generator Cooling Intake

If the hose cracked, water flooded, and your boat sank. I hope you're picking up a pattern here about hoses.

Use series 135 heavy-duty water hose-no exceptions. It resists chafe, is reinforced to prevent collapsing, and has a working pressure of up to 200 psi. Quick tip: Rub a damp cloth along the hose. If there are black marks on the rag, the hose is deteriorating.

 Head Intake

 An unprotected head-intake hose running through the engine room bulkhead chafed, then failed.

Do your hoses make as few bends and turns as possible? They should be secured tightly and padded where appropriate.

Head Intake Again

If the water-fill hose connecting the outside of the hull to the head fails, The head, being below the waterline, will fill and so will your boat.

 Besides maintaining the hoses and clamps, make sure you have easy access to the inlet's seacock. Make it a point that when you leave the boat, you shut all the seacocks. Then, if a hose fails, it's no big deal.

Head Discharge

The one-way joker valve on the head's discharge got something in it. You were smart enough to run the discharge hose above the waterline to keep water out but not smart enough to remember how a siphon works.

To prevent a reverse flow, when you run any hose above the waterline, remember to install a vented loop fitting at the top of the loop. This lets air in to prevent a siphon. Use fittings that let you disassemble the valve each season to make sure it's clear and working.

Check-Valve Backflow

Since the through-hull is mounted so low to the waterline, a clever mechanic put a one-way check valve on your bilge pump's exhaust hose to keep the sea out. But what happens if it fails. Check valves are proven to be unreliable and can get stuck open. Route the pump's exhaust hose as high as possible to a through-hull near the rubrail. If it must go to a low outlet, run the hose up inside the boat as high as possible, install an anti-siphon valve at the top of the loop, and run it to a seacock that you can close.

Ice in Sea Strainer

What Happened: When it was time to winterize, you put antifreeze everywhere except in the strainer at the raw-water intake. Then you left the boat with the seacocks open. The water in the strainer froze, expanded, and cracked the strainer. Water can come in and the boat will go down.

Make sure you close the seacock and open the strainer's drain plug to empty it of water. Then fill the hose and strainer with anti-freeze, because you never get all the water out and it's better to be safe than sorry.

Corrosion

Over the years, the dissimilar metals below the waterline have been eating each other-giving them an internal structure that's similar to Swiss cheese. Eventually, a slight nudge caused one to fail.

I prefer that stainless steel or bronze be used below the waterline. But no matter what, all metals must be protected. If your bronze seacock is turning pink, it's falling apart. All underwater fittings should be bonded to each other with a number 10-gauge green wire, and sacrificial zincs should be used. Check annually.

Speedometer Plug

 Good move pulling the Pitot tube for a cleaning. D’ont forgot to re-plug the hole.

Even with a plug, you can get a leak. Rubber O-rings can deform or come loose from their tracks. Put some grease on the rings to ensure long life and a good seal.

 Hose Slips Off Seacock Nipple
After a day of wave bashing, the shakes and vibrations worked a hose off an open seacock.

If there's room to put two hose clamps on each fitting, do it. Have the excess ring material exit in a different direction on each.

Rubrails

Be aware that from the many bangs against pilings, the screws, bolts, rivets, or adhesive that holds the rubrail in place has come loose. Plow into too many head seas or sit through a rainstorm and water will get below.

At the end of each season, walk around the boat blasting the hull-to-deck joint with a hose. Have someone inside to watch for leaks.

Muffler Rot
Water can sit in a low point and rot the muffler. Waves at the dock can come in the transom exhaust ports and go directly into the boat.

Feel under the mufflers or risers for moisture. They will ooze dampness months before giving way.

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KEEPING AFLOAT

Posted On: October 14, 2019

WHAT FLOATS YOUR BOAT?

 Or keeps it afloat......

Here’s some cold hard facts about boating mishaps involving sinking..

 According to BoatUS, the largest insurer of pleasure boats in the country, for every boat that sinks at sea, four go down in their slips.

That’s a fairly amazing stat.

 Why?

 The sad truth is you don't have to have a rendezvous with a rock to get a one-way ticket down to the bottom. In fact, you don't have to do anything. Just let your boat sit awhile, and eventually it will find the bottom.

SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?

As the storage season approaches for many of us, I offer some of the more common causes for boat sinking’s and things to explore and some tips on how to avoid the symptoms.

Avoiding sinking 

Store your stern drive in the down position when out of the water to avoid the bends and creases that stress rubber. Inspect the bellows two or three times a year and replace it annually.

 Scuppers in the Fall & Winter

 The scuppers can get clogged with leaves. This won't seal the drains, but it can greatly slow the release of water. In a heavy rain storm, the cockpit can fill enough to weigh down the boat so it floods or accumulates enough water to reach non-waterproof openings in the deck and fill the bilge.

 Keep the cockpit covered, or have wide-mesh external screens made to protect the scuppers.

 If you don’t, when snow falls and ice builds up around the scuppers, they will fill. Since this occurs under the snow, you won’t see it. The added weight of the snow and ice will cause the boat to sink. Haul out for the winter, or have a waterproof, reinforced cover that can take the weight of accumulated snow

While the boat is on land, check the hoses by flexing them back and forth. If there are any cracks, replace the hoses. And while its out of the water, inspect the plumbing. Look for apiece of plumbing corroded, cracked, or just weak. The weakest link is the hose that can crack, most often around the stress points created by the clamps.

 Hose Clamp Failure

Inspect your hose clamps. A hose attached to a seacock below the waterline, or a through-hull just above it, can came off its fitting because the hose clamps gave way. The result could be extremely wet. Secure each hose with two clamps where it passes over the fitting's nipple. Check that the clamps are all stainless steel (a magnet won't attract stainless). Often, the tightening gear and its case are mild steel, which rusts away.

 Stuffing Box

 The packing gland surrounding the prop shaft loosened. Or perhaps it rotted away as it hadn't been replaced for many seasons.

Dripless shaft seals that require minimal maintenance are used by 90 percent of today's boatbuilders. But many boaters still use old-fashioned stuffing boxes on the rudder shafts. Check stuffing boxes often, and replace.

 Trapped Under a Dock

 You tied up the boat at low tide. The wind pushed part of the boat under the dock, the tide came up, and the boat became trapped beneath the dock, then took on water and eventually sank.

 This can happen when the pilings supporting the dock are too far apart to keep the boat parallel to the dock and out from under it. No matter how many dock lines you rig, this will be a problem. If you can't dock elsewhere else, set anchors out from the bow and stern so the boat won't swing.

 Tied Down, Tide Up

At low tide, your bow and stern lines were tight. When the tide came up, the lines stayed that way-firmly holding the boat down as the water rose.

Long spring lines attached at acute angles to the boat adjust as the boat rises and falls. Bow and stern lines may have to be tended as the tide goes through its cycle.

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PUMPKIN ORIGINS

Posted On: October 11, 2019

It's that time of year and the orange orb is appearing all over.

But how did it get here?

A Short History of the Pumpkin


Pumpkins are believed to have originated in North America. Seeds from related plants have been found in Mexico dating back to 7000 to 5500 B.C.

References to pumpkins date back many centuries. The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word for "large melon" which is "pepon." "Pepon" was changed by the French into "pompon." The English changed "pompon" to "Pumpion." American colonists changed "pumpion" into "pumpkin."

Native American Indians used pumpkin as a staple in their diets centuries before the pilgrims landed. They also dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats. Indians would also roast long strips of pumpkin on the open fire and eat them. When white settlers arrived, they saw the pumpkins grown by the Indians and pumpkin soon became a staple in their diets. As today, early settlers used them in a wide variety of recipes from desserts to stews and soups. The origin of pumpkin pie is thought to have occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and then filled it with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in the hot ashes of a dying fire.

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NOT SO GOOD VIBRATIONS

Posted On: October 07, 2019



Vibrations may be good when listening to music, but vibrations are often indicative of an issue with a component on the boat.

This is not a comprehensive guide by any stretch, but it will, hopefully, help you identify the source of any unwanted vibration, starting with the simplest causes.

Does the engine vibrate when it is running with transmission in neutral?

If Yes:

Worn engine mounts.

Inspect each engine mount in turn. Is one shaking more than the others? Is there excessive rusting or rubber residue adjacent top one or more of the mounts?

Remedy: Adjust or replace engine mounts.

Engine does not idle properly.

A rough-running engine can lead to excessive vibration. Run diagnostic checks in accordance with engine manufacturer's recommendations.

Remedy: Service or repair the engine.

Does the vibration occur only when the engine is in gear?

If Yes:

Fouled propeller.

Inspect propeller for rope, fishing line, weeds, or other fouling.

Remedy: Remove fouling and clean the propeller.

Bent, damaged, or missing propeller blade.

Carry out a visual inspection of the propeller.

Remedy: Repair or replace the damaged propeller.

Propeller not corrected fitted properly onto shaft.

Remove prop and check key, keyway, and taper for damage.

Remedy: Have the propeller lapped to the shaft to fit the taper correctly. Lap prop taper to ensure it fits correctly. Install new key.

Does the vibration increase or decrease at certain speeds?

If Yes:

Propeller may be out of balance.

Check prop with a dial gauge to ensure it is in round. On a sailboat with folding props, make sure that the blades open and seat correctly.

Remedy: Have the propeller serviced by a reputable propeller shop.

Cutless bearing is worn.

Grasp the prop and also grab the shaft near the bearing and try to shake/move it up and down and side to side with a lot of your strength. If there's discernable movement between the shaft and the inside of the cutless bearing then the bearing will need replacing, as it's worn. There should be zero fore and aft movement, which would be indicative of either a loose prop, a loose prop shaft coupling, or wear in the transmission.

Remedy: Replace the cutless bearing.

Is it hard to rotate the propeller by hand with the transmission in neutral?

If Yes:

Shaft may be bent.

If you suspect a bent shaft, have it inspected by a specialist facility.

Remedy: Remove shaft and have it straightened or replaced.

Propeller shaft strut out of alignment.

Check for visible cracking and twisting. Check mounting bolts for movement. Check hull around mounting bolts for vibration when you're running.

Remedy: Replace or repair strut.

Engine alignment poor.

Disconnect shaft from transmission. If shaft then turns easily, alignment issue is likely.

Remedy: Correct alignment between shaft and transmission.

Engine mounts may be worn and sagging.

Inspect each engine mount in turn.

Remedy: Adjust or replace mounts.

Is one shaking more than the others?

Is there excessive rusting or rubber residue adjacent top one or more of the mounts?

Remedy: Check and replace engine mounts.

Is there a visible wobble to the shaft inside the boat when operating at speed?

If Yes:

Coupling may be misaligned.

Separate coupling from transmission and check alignment.

Remedy: Adjust and/or replace engine mounts.

Engine mount(s) worn or improperly adjusted.

Inspect each engine mount in turn. Is one shaking more than the others? Is there excessive rusting or rubber residue adjacent to one or more of the mounts?

Remedy: Service, adjust, or replace engine mounts.

Shaft could be bent.

Specialist equipment is required to properly check for bent shaft.

Remedy: Remove shaft and have it straightened or replaced.

Transmission output flange distorted.

Specialist equipment is required to properly check for runout or defective coupling.

Remedy: Replace output flange.

Drivesaver, if fitted, is worn or damaged.

Remove Drivesaver from between shaft and transmission coupling and visually inspect for tears and distortion.

Remedy: Replace Drivesaver.

Congratulations!

If you've made it this far, you should have been able to fix, or at least identify, the issue that was causing those unwanted vibrations. On the other hand, if you have not been able to isolate the issue, it may be a good time to seek expert help from a competent yard.

But at least you gave it a shot, and hopefully you learned something about your boat along the way.

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BATTERY SYSTEMS ARE ALL NOT THE SAME

Posted On: October 04, 2019

Dual batteries offer redundant starting capability.

However not all batteries are the same.

Based on a great article by Kevin Falvey in BOATING

A multiple-battery system’s best attribute may be the ability to provide engine starting should one battery short out, experience a wiring failure or simply get drained. The capability to run electronics, lights and stereos for longer periods also proves beneficial.

Consider these multi battery features whether shopping for a new boat or retrofitting your current boat.

Battery Type
The charging characteristics vary between battery types: absorbed glass mat (AGM), flooded cell and gel cell. Integration with engines, chargers and other components is easier if all batteries are the same type.

Battery Class
For most boaters, a pair of dual-purpose batteries serves as a good foundation. A ­starting battery and a deep-cycle battery, or bank of batteries, might serve a bass fisherman, or other boater with high accessory demands, better.

Battery Capacity
Ensure sufficient starting amperage by checking your engine’s owner’s manual for the appropriate capacity. Selecting the deep-cycle battery’s — or bank’s — size is more ­involved. Basically, you need to add up your anticipated amperage draw and assume a period of time you’ll need that amperage to flow.

Manual Switching
Manual switches are reliable but require you to remember to manually switch between batteries (or banks) in order to keep all batteries charged.

Automatic Switching
Voltage sensitive relays (VSR), and other devices, sense when a battery needs a charge and direct charging current from the alternator ­automatically. These can be built into the engine or may be a separate component. Such systems may simply have “on/off” switches rather than a four-position manual switch. Make sure a parallel switch to join both batteries for emergency starting is incorporated. (One is ­often installed at the helm.)

Access
Batteries should be accessible to the extent that they can be serviced and inspected without removal from the boat. Even if you do not perform your own service, good access will save you because it will take the technician less time to perform the task. The closer to the engines the batteries are, the better. Batteries should be ­robustly secured, be located where there is some ventilation, and not be installed directly ­underneath a battery charger or fuel-system fixture.

Cables
Cable diameter is directly related to a dual-battery system’s performance. There are formulas you can reference for determining the size of cable based on the amperage it must carry and over what distance. Suffice to say, thicker cables, which exhibit less voltage drop, are generally better, so when comparing the systems in two similar boats, compare the cable diameters.

What’s the difference between battery classifications?

Starting batteries deliver high amperage for quick engine starts but do not tolerate being used to power equipment. Deep-cycle batteries can be drawn down without damage to power equipment but may not provide enough amperage in a burst to start the engine. Dual-purpose batteries offer the ability to provide a lot of amperage in a burst for engine starting, but they do not provide equivalent performance to a deep-cycle battery for running equipment.

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