Blog February 2019


Posted On: February 25, 2019

What You Do Next Can Mean The Difference Between Life And Death

Came across this article, and as always, a great read at the start of the season.

It’s your worst nightmare. A fitting may have failed; perhaps you struck a deadhead; maybe you stuffed a wave, or chopped the throttles to avoid a collision, bringing aboard tons of green water. You are taking on water faster than the pumps can evacuate it. What do you do now?

Here are seven steps that form the basis of an action plan. They are ordered by priority, but if you have able and responsible crew that you trust, assign them to handle some of the tasks so things get done simultaneously. Time is of the essence.

Order crew to don life jackets. Also, grab the ditch bag that you assembled with key items like a personal locator beacon, waterproof handheld VHF and signal flares.

Order crew to don life jackets. Also, grab the ditch bag that you assembled with key items like a personal locator beacon, waterproof handheld VHF and signal flares.

Make a mayday call. Hail the Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16, providing your location, the number of souls aboard and the nature of your distress. Wait 10 seconds for a reply before repeating.

Find the leak. If a hose has burst, you may be able to close its seacock. You can also jam wadded clothing into a rudder, prop-shaft hole or crack in the hull. Wedge the wad with whatever is available — knives, fishing rod butts, etc.

Use crash pumps. Inboard and sterndrive owners may be able to disconnect the engine’s raw-water intake hose and use the engine as a crash pump. Drop it in the bilge and get a crew member to monitor the water level: As it drops, throttle back so as not to run dry and overheat. Some boats are fitted with so-called “safety seacock” adaptors, like Groco’s SSC series that provide a valve enabling you to switch between engine intake and bilge at will.

Trim to slow the flow. If the leak is on the starboard side, shift crew and gear to port. Even if the hole doesn’t clear the water, moving it higher slows the flow.

Head for shore. Intentionally grounding on a bar or beach may be better than sinking, if you can avoid jagged rocks or high surf.

Stay with the boat. Many boats will float capsized and make a bigger target for a helicopter. Climb aboard to stave off exposure. 

Have a plan in place.



Posted On: February 22, 2019


Data, Not Intelligence

Chartplotters have made everyday navigation a dream. But, like all technology, they have their limits. The first is the user. As in the case above, if you're going fast enough it's possible that the screen might not refresh quickly enough to keep up with your position. That could be because of processor speed, but it could also be a function of the GPS chip, and the amount of data you're displaying. When you are navigating in areas with obstructions, you need to rely on something lower tech than your chartplotter — your throttle. All you have to do is pull it back. While modern plotters have better processing power and faster refresh times, slowing down when you're unsure can prevent a big headache later.

Refresh rate is just one of several things you need to understand about your plotter. Chartplotters can provide so much information that usually a few hours of training are needed to use them well. But there's a strong temptation to "hook 'em up and start pushing buttons." It's fun and you want to get out on the water. But push those buttons for awhile at the dock with the manual until you become familiar with your new tool. You may be surprised how much information it can provide you, if you just use it correctly.

For example, you need to know if your chartplotter is set to give you latitude and longitude in degrees, minutes, and seconds, or degrees and decimal degrees. Failure to report and/or record position without knowing which "language" is being used has resulted in serious errors, even death.

Getting A Fix

Seeing your boat's icon sailing along on the screen, up in the trees, isn't reassuring. But it's a common event with chartplotters. They're only as accurate as the cartography they're using, and no cartography can be perfect. Things change, particularly on the water. Even the most current and carefully done "maps" can be rendered inaccurate by a storm or grounded barge causing a shoal to shift, or by a change to an aid to navigation. You can and should regularly update your cartography. But even that precaution doesn't completely preclude inaccuracies.

Chartplotters can't change the fact that we're boating in the real world. Newer cartography and plotters offer access to "user-generated" data, which is uploaded by your fellow boaters and can in theory show you current bottom contours. But these are still only as accurate as the most recent upload, and you never know whether the person who reported has a properly calibrated depth sounder.

Even when the cartography is accurate, not all fixes are created equal. The accuracy of your position on the chart depends upon how many GPS signals the chartplotter is receiving, the strength of those signals, and the angle of those signals to one another and to the receiver. Most chartplotters have an icon that will alert you if the accuracy of the fix has deteriorated. If you see that icon, proceed with caution. On most chartplotters, you can check the signal quality by accessing a screen that shows what signals the chartplotter is receiving and how strong they are.

Plotters are only as accurate as the GPS information they're receiving and, as precise as this has become, myriads of things can throw its accuracy off. This includes equipment glitches, from what's on your boat to what's in space, temporary shutdown of satellites for maintenance, and even the possibility of deliberate interference by government entities.



Posted On: February 18, 2019

Washington's Birthday has a history as old as our country. It was celebrated publicly for the first time in the late 18th century, while George Washington was still president.

George Washington was born on either Feb. 11, 1731 or Feb. 22, 1732 depending on which calendar you consult.

At the time, England and its colonies were following the Julian calendar , instituted in 46 B.C. by the eponymous Julius Caesar. By that calendar, Washington was born on Feb. 11, 1731. But in 1752, England switched to the Gregorian calendar, which is still in use today, and that threw everything off.

Washington's Birthday became official in 1885, when President Chester Arthur signed a bill making it a federal holiday. Meanwhile, there was President Lincoln's birthday on Feb. 12, which never became a federal holiday but was celebrated as a legal holiday in many states outside the old Confederacy.

In 1968, Congress passed the Monday Holidays Act, which moved the official observance of Washington's birthday from Feb. 22 to the third Monday in February. Some reformers had wanted to change the name of the holiday as well, to Presidents' Day, in honor of both Lincoln and Washington, but that proposal was rejected by Congress, and the holiday remained officially Washington's Birthday.

Nevertheless, there was a popular misconception that the day had been officially renamed, a misconception only reinforced by the fact that the third Monday in February can only occur between Feb. 15 and Feb. 21. This means that the holiday is always after Lincoln's birthday and before Washington's birthday, without ever coinciding with either. Furthermore, some states which had previously celebrated Lincoln's Birthday dropped the observance after the federal holiday reforms, supporting the notion that the two presidential birthdays had been combined.

While the name change has never been authorized by Congress, it has gained a strong hold on the public consciousness, and is generally used on calendars, in advertising, and even by many government agencies. There have been attempts to introduce legislation requiring federal agencies to call the day Washington's Birthday, but these have never gotten very far. No matter what's in the law books, the popular usage is now well established.



Posted On: February 15, 2019

Help Your Boat Live Longer

 “Wax, wash, flush and cover.”

Great advice we've all heard but, there’s more you can do to extend the life of your boat.

Many a boat has died an untimely death, or looked like it was about to, because of an ignored 29-cent part or a few missed hours of upkeep.  Sometimes that might be all it takes to keep your boat young.

So here's some tips on staying young.

Bring It Back
Your gelcoat is only 10 to 20 thousandths of an inch thick, so clean it with care. Don’t use products with bleach, as found in many of the brown-waterline or rust-stain removers. Products with solvents such as acetone and toluene can clean almost anything but will also wipe out the gelcoat’s plasticizers. Abrasives are natural no-nos too. Look for cleaners with chelating agents that get into the gelcoat on a molecular level and carry the dirt out as you rinse.

Time: Two hours

Cost: Star Brite Instant Hull Cleaner, one quart, $16

Frequency: Varies

And Keep It Back
Gelcoats contain plasticizers that keep them shiny and supple. Over time, these leach out, making the gelcoat dull and brittle. To slow the process, use carnauba — the hardest natural wax. Carnauba isn’t reflective, so the product you use will also need silicone, oils, other waxes and solvents to produce that jaw-dropping shine. Don’t pay extra for waxes that claim to be 100 percent carnauba — anything more than about 30 percent would be rock hard and impossible to apply.

Time: About five hours for a 24-foot hull

Cost: Meguiar’s Pure Wax, 16 ounces, $14

Frequency: Twice per season

Breath of Fresh Air
Sad to say, but our boats sit unused and sealed up most of the time — a perfect environment for mold, rot and corrosion. All of which can be prevented by circulating fresh air. Ideally, you want to replace the air in every part of your cabin every hour, and you can’t rely on natural ventilation. Use solar-powered fans. The cabin of a typical 30-footer holds about 800 cubic feet of air. Nicro claims its 4-inch solar vent moves 1,000 cubic feet per day. Use one for intake and another for exhaust. To reach all parts of the boat, drill vent holes at the tops and bottoms of
lockers and closed-off areas.

Time: Half a day

Cost: Two 4-inch Nicro solar vents, $140 each

Frequency: Once

Healthy Carbs
When “ethanol-induced” varnish deposits start to clog the jets of the carburetor, less gas gets into the engine. Your now lean-running carb can lead to hotter operating temperatures, making the aluminum pistons expand and causing cylinder scuffing and the loss of compression. Or the engine simply seizes up. Spray the intake with a carburetor cleaner. Do this when you first crank over the engine each spring, and regularly add a stabilizer containing fuel-system cleaner to the tank during the season.

Time: Two minutes

Cost: Gumout Carb + Choke Cleaner Jet spray, $3

Frequency: Every third fill-up



Posted On: February 11, 2019

10 Important Things To Know About Boat Insurance

Based on an article by John at MoBox.

You just bought a really sweet boat.

A fine piece of watercraft that will allow you to zip about on a body of water with the wind in your hair and the water on your face. You can’t wait to get out there and start using it. To glide over the water on waterskis. To sip a cold beverage while being gently rocked by the waves. To embarrass your kids by wearing a Speedo that’s two sizes two small. To take guests out for pleasure cruises on moonlit evenings.

But before you can get down to business, there’s one crucial piece of information you need to consider: boat insurance.

Before you unleash the full power of your watercraft, you need to give some time and thought to how you will insure your boat.

Yes, I know, this isn’t a particularly exciting subject, but it’s an important one.

Thankfully, we’re here to help. Let us answer some of the crucial questions you have about protecting your precious boat.

In this post, we’re going to answer 9 crucial questions about boat insurance. The answers will allow you to make an informed decision regarding how you insure your boat.

Let’s get started.

QUESTION #1: What Is Boat Insurance?

Let’s construct a hypothetical situation. You’re out on the lake, enjoying a gloriously beautiful day, just happy to be alive and a boat owner. You’ve applied all the necessary sunscreen / tanning oil to your body and are soaking in the rays.

Unfortunately, your day of happiness is abruptly ruined when you strike a boulder that was hidden just under the surface of the water. Your beautiful, gorgeous, well-maintained boat suddenly has a giant gash in the side, hurting both the boat and your heart.

This is where boat insurance comes onto the scene. If you have boat insurance, you can be confident that your vessel will be repaired to it’s former state of glory and the costs will be covered by the insurance company.

If you don’t have insurance? Let’s just say you’re up a creek without a paddle. Actually, you’re in a sinking boat because there’s a giant hole in it, but you get the point.

Boat insurance protects you in the event of damage to or even the loss of your boat. See! Boat insurance really can be a fun topic. Well, not fun, per Se. But more fun than having to pay thousands of dollars to fix your boat.

QUESTION #2: How Exactly Does Boat Insurance Work?

Sometimes, boat insurance can be bundled with your car insurance and your home insurance, sparing you the hassle of trying to find a separate insurer for your boat. Just like any other kind of insurance, when you purchase insurance you have to make decisions about:

- How much deductible you’ll have
- The type of coverage you want
- The amount of coverage you want

So far, so good.

When you go to insurance companies, they will consider the following factors:

- Age of boat 
- Length
- Value
- Speed/horsepower
- Condition (Are US Coast Guard standards are met?)
- Is it a houseboat used as primary residence? (This would be awesome, by the way).
- Type of boat? (Inboard, outboard, utility, cruiser, bass boat, saltwater fishing boat, performance boat)
- How many owners?
- Where will it operate? (ocean, lakes, bays rivers, Great Lakes)

Depending on the answers to these questions, the cost of your policy will be higher or lower. So, for example, if you own a high speed houseboat that doesn’t meet US Coast Guard Standards and is worth $50,000, you’ll probably be shelling out quite a lot of cash to insure your boat.

QUESTION #3: How Does Home Insurance Differ From Boat Insurance?

Believe it or not, some home insurance policies will actually cover your boat if it’s small, but if it’s worth more than $10,000, you’ll probably need to purchase a separate policy.

A boat policy also includes liability coverage if someone is injured aboard your boat. For example, if your friend has had a few too many drinks and is salsa dancing while you’re traveling at 50 mph and accidentally trips and breaks his leg, you’re covered. Do you really have friends who would do that? You may want to reconsider some of your life choices.

 A boat policy also will allow you to suspend coverage when you’re not using your boat. For example, if you don’t plan on doing much boating during the winter, you can put a hold on your coverage.

QUESTION #4: What Is Covered In Your Boat Insurance Policy?

Here are the items traditionally covered in boat policies:

- Collision damage. This includes repair and replacement of boat, but maybe not clean-up wreckage. Just don’t totally sink your boat and this won’t be an issue. If you’re legitimately concerned about this perhaps you shouldn’t be driving a boat in the first place.

- Property damage liability. If you accidentally crash into someone else’s boat or destroy someone’s dock, you’re covered.

- Engine damage. You’ll want to double check on this one because some policies will have machinery damage exclusions.

- Bodily injury liability. If you accidentally hurt someone while operating your boat, you’ll be covered. If this point makes you happy, you may want to be psychiatrically evaluated.

- Weather damage. Some policies will cover weather-related damage to your boat, although you’ll certainly want to check on this one.

- Comprehensive. Coverage can provide payments for medical payments, fishing equipment, oil spills, personal property, roadside assistance, uninsured or underinsured incidents. 


QUESTION #5: Is Your Boat Covered When It’s Out Of Water?

 Why must you ask all these questions? Just kidding. We like helping. If your boat is on a trailer being pulled by your car, it’s covered by your auto policy, although the limits of your policy apply, so familiarize yourself with those.

Your homeowners policy may provide limited coverage if your boat is damaged while on your property, but it might not cover vandalism or if your boat is stolen.

QUESTION #6: Does Your Boat Insurance Policy Cover You Everywhere?

Most policies for smaller boats have a “navigational warranty”, which determines where you boat insurance policy is in effect. For example, your policy may cover you for the inland waters of the US and Canada or the coastal waters of the two countries.

Policies for larger boats typically have different areas covered, like the territories between Eastport, Maine to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

There are some places that could be excluded for security reasons, like if you’ll be sailing in an area inhabited by Somali Pirates. Listen, if you’re in an area like that, you’ve got bigger problems than your insurance policy. Like what type of assault weapon you should choose.


QUESTION #7: Are You Required To Have Boat Insurance?

Some states may require you to have liability coverage. Some marinas may require you to have insurance to dock your boat. Finally, the lender may require you to have insurance before giving you a loan.

But seriously, why would you not have boat insurance? Unless you’re an independently wealthy billionaire who is able to purchase boats without a second thought, you probably should have some form of insurance.

QUESTION #8: What’s The Difference Between Agreed Value and Market Value Policies?

It works like this. The moment you purchase your boat, it starts depreciating in value. Isn’t that a wonderful thing?

An agreed value policy covers the value of the boat when the policy is written. A market value policy covers the actual market value of the boat when any damage occurs. Agreed value policies usually cost more upfront but you don’t need to worry about depreciation.

No matter what policy you start with, your insurer will probably eventually insist you switch to a market value policy, which will save you money anyways.

QUESTION #9: What Does Boat Insurance Typically Cost?

As you would expect, the cost of your policy will depend on a large number of variables, including:

- The state where you reside
- The type of boat
- The age of boat
- The size of the motor
- How you use the boat
- Where you use the boat
- And a variety of other factors


QUESTION #10: How Can You Save Money On Your Policy?

First, buy a policy that is very specific to your boat. Don’t purchase a policy that offers coverage you don’t need. To put it bluntly (because we know you can handle it), that’s stupid.

Second, ask your underwriter if they offer any discounts for safety features. For example, a wireless auto tether that kills the engine if you or one of your passengers falls overboard. If they do offer safety discounts, consider investing in those safety measures. Also, consider doing the safety dance, just for fun.

 Third, see if there are any discounts available for taking safety classes. You may be able to reduce your premium simply by attending one of these classes.

Fourth, take advantage of any times when you won’t be using your boat to suspend your coverage. Don’t pay for those months your boat is sitting idle (see above note re: stupid).

Finally, you may be able to get a discount if you’re boating in fresh water rather than salt water.



Boat insurance is like a prostate exam: you hope you never need it but it’s pretty important. So while it’s certainly not fun to research which policy you should use, you can make the process as painless as possible by knowing what you need, how you’ll be using your boat, and ways you can cut the costs.

Now then, happy sailing!

This article is based on one that originally appeared on blog "



Posted On: February 08, 2019

Emergency Procedure Words

There are three emergency procedure words that carry extra importance when you're communicating by radio. In order of decreasing severity, they are mayday, pan-pan, and sécurité.

Emergency Words

WordDerivationMeaningWhen To UseComment
MAYDAYFrom the French "m'aidez," which means "help me"A vessel and/or crew is in grave and imminent dangerLife-threatening medical emergency; possibility of losing the boatUse for imminent danger only
PAN-PANFrom the French "panne," which means "broken"A vessel requires urgent assistanceSerious mechanical breakdown; urgent but not life-threatening medical issuesBecause it handles such a wide range of difficulties, details can be added to the transmission: "Pan-pan, pan-pan, pan-pan, this is the vessel Surprise requesting medical advice, over."
SÉCURITÉFrench for "safety"Important safety information followsInformation that could be important to another vessel's safetyCovers a wide range of issues: hazards to navigation, pyrotechnic demonstrations, Coast Guard Marine Safety Broadcasts, large vessel traffic alerts"

Through the use of these words, you will alert all mariners to the seriousness of your transmission, and to the possibility that they might be involved in lending assistance. All three are anglicized versions of French words, and each is repeated three times in succession so that those who hear the transmission understand that they're hearing an actual call for help and not a discussion of another vessel's distress call.

When you hear a transmission that uses one of the three emergency words, what action should you take? A lot depends on your proximity to the vessel or incident in question. It also depends on your ability to respond and give assistance.

If you hear a mayday and you are the most appropriate vessel to respond, you are legally and morally required to lend assistance, if you can do so without endangering your crew or vessel.



Posted On: February 04, 2019

How To Make A Mayday Call On A VHF

When you need help, every second counts.

The goal is to broadcast the most important information as quickly and clearly as possible.

If you have a DSC-equipped radio, flip up the cover on the DSC button and press the button for 3 to 5 seconds. Some radios will allow you to choose your problem from a list (Fire/Explosion, Flooding, Collision, Grounding, Capsizing, Sinking, Adrift, Abandoning Ship, Piracy, Man Overboard) so that vessels receiving your transmission will automatically know what happened. After the radio transmits your position, MMSI number, and the nature of your distress, it will revert to Channel 16 so you can make a voice transmission.

Icom IC M422 VHF marine radio

The regulations require a two-step process to send a DSC distress call, so most radios

will have a spring-loaded red cover over a red button. Press and hold for 5 seconds.

If you don't have a DSC-equipped radio, select Channel 16 and high power (25W), press the transmit button, and say the following:

"Mayday!, Mayday!, Mayday!" (Urgency word three times.)

"This is the vessel Surprise, Surprise, Surprise." (Vessel name three times.)

"Mayday Surprise."

"We are located at ..." [insert latitude and longitude of your location]

"Surprise is a 38-foot yawl with a blue hull and a tan deck." [Description of vessel.]

"We are taking on water, and we cannot find the leak. We request immediate assistance." [Nature of the emergency.]

"There are six crew on board. We have a life raft, EPIRB, and life jackets." [Number of crew and information on safety equipment.]

"This is the vessel Surprise standing by on Channel 16." [Complete the call and let potential responders know that you are standing by.] 



Posted On: February 01, 2019

A Low-Tech Necessity

Compasses, used on boats for centuries, work because a permanently magnetized needle always points to north, irrespective of the position of the boat. Many boaters think that, in these days of modern electronic-charting aids, compasses are no longer needed. Nothing could be further from the truth. A magnetic compass requires no electricity to operate, so it could be the one piece of navigational equipment that still operates on your boat when the proverbial you-know-what hits the fan.

As the boat turns, the compass continues to point at magnetic north, and the course is shown (relative to magnetic north) in reference to a line, which represents the boat's heading. A compass has what is known as the "card," divided into 360 degrees. Thus, if the card reads 90 degrees, you will be steering a course due east; 180, due south; and so on.

Compass mounted on sailboat's helm

This compass at the helm of a sailing boat is well placed for visibility by the helmsman. (Photo: Mark Corke)

For a compass to work well, it has to be correctly installed and properly adjusted. Unfortunately, on a large number of boats, the compass has been installed incorrectly. And with the ever-increasing strain on dashboard real estate, the compass is often pushed out, literally. Electrical interference from chartplotters, radios, speakers, and other electronic aids may affect compasses if they are too close to each other, so an effort should be made to keep these as far away from the main steering compass as possible. A good minimum is 12 inches.

The skipper needs to be able to easily see the main steering compass. This usually means that it must be placed directly in front of the helm position with what is known as the lubber line — two pins or some type of marking — parallel to the centerline of the boat. The skipper merely glances down to see the course being steered.

When North Is Not North

In a perfect world, a compass would always point to true north, but there are factors that make this not so. Two errors have to be accounted for: variation and deviation. Magnetic north is not the same as true north, and this difference is written on the compass rose on the chart of the area you're cruising. This difference, in degrees, between true and magnetic, is known as variation, which must be compensated for when plotting a position.

A nautical chart has two compass roses, one inside the other. The outer one always points to true north, and the inner shows, in degrees and minutes, the variation in the area, either east or west of true north. Variation, which is caused by differences in Earth's structure, differs from area to area and changes by a very small amount each year. This is annotated on the chart inside the inner compass rose. For example, variation changes from about 16 degrees west in Maine to 6 degrees in Florida and 0 degrees in Louisiana.

The other compass error that must be accounted for is deviation. Deviation refers to errors in the compass itself that cannot be adjusted out. Factors that affect deviation include nearby boat electronics, electrical wiring, metal fittings, and radio equipment. Other things, such as the boat's engine, may also affect deviation. Anything magnetic (such as speakers) placed close by will surely increase deviation. To calculate the error in the compass, it must be "swung," whereby the boat is put on several known headings that are checked against the compass reading. This is typically done by lining up a set of transit marks and comparing the boat's course to the indicated reading. Any error is corrected by adjusting the built-in magnets on the compass, which are attached to compensator rods.

To keep track of compass deviation, you'll need a deviation card, which shows the difference in degrees between the compass reading and the actual course shown on the compass. Compasses that are professionally adjusted will be supplied with a card. But if you do the adjustments yourself, you need to make up your own card. Deviation should be no more than a few degrees on each heading, while variation could be quite a bit more, depending on location. Both deviation and variation (each of which may be added or subtracted) must either be accounted for when working out the plot on the chart or when communicating a compass course to steer to the helmsman.