Blog April 2019


Posted On: April 29, 2019

Use A Handheld VHF Radio

By Lenny Rudow

A handheld VHF radio is a lifeline to the outside world — and today's units are better than ever before.

Tailer-boaters face a unique set of circumstances.

They have the flexibility to go to distant places and launch into new, unexplored waters. Often this can be in remote areas or in places that are sparsely populated. As a result, cell service may be spotty.

Even if it's not, you should never rely on a cellphone for emergency communications.

In fact, no matter where you do your boating, the VHF radio is a primary tool for getting help.

If your boat is large enough, you probably have a fixed-mount VHF. But you should still have a handheld in your emergency bag. Not only does it serve as a backup; it also allows you to take your most important communications device with you when you jump on someone else's boat or abandon yours.

If your boat doesn't have a fixed-mount unit, carrying a handheld is a no-brainer. And whether you don't have a handheld VHF or have one that's more than five years old, the time to start shopping for a new one is right now.

We've seen some significant design improvements recently, and today's models are far better than those made just a few short years ago.



Posted On: April 26, 2019

How To Keep Your Boat Looking Beautiful

Ever wonder how all those big yachts keep their shine and beauty? Can we possibly reach this perfection, too? How a boat looks depends on how much energy or money goes toward maintaining the appearance. In the case of superyachts, it helps that they have large crews who must be kept busy every day.

 But following some of the practices from superyachts can keep your boat looking its best for years.

Cover That Fender

Keep your fenders wrapped in terry cloth to protect the hull from abrasion and dirty docks.

Hose That Hull and treat with Vinegar

Hose down the hull carefully. Then jump into the dinghy and wipe it with vinegar to remove saltwater spots on the glossy finish. Dark-colored hulls tend to show the salt more, requiring frequent vinegar treatment.

Keep Stainless Stain-Less

Wipe stainless steel and chromed bronze fittings with a chamois cloth often. Make polishing and waxing these metals routine. Some metal-polishing products already include wax compounds.

Cover Up What You Can

External varnished bright work should be protected from UV damage by Sunbrella covers. Take them off to impress guests. Sunbrella covers should also protect stowed tenders, dinghies, outboard motors, barbecues, and other accessories.

Protect Upholstery

Use covers that can take wear and tear and food stains. If your boat's in the yard, or you're having a mechanic aboard, cover decking and internal floorboards with tough plastic sheets with a nonskid pattern, sacrificial rugs, or carpeting.

Drop A Hint

To protect varnished floorboards from daily wear, put large baskets by the companionway so visitors get the hint and take their footwear off at the dock or at anchor.

An Alkaline Shine

To keep engine rooms and engine spaces impressively clean, apply light acid or any alkaline teak cleaner to aluminum diamond-patterned plate floorboards. If possible, take the pieces outside for this work, where they can be rinsed off easily.

 Nice And Neat

Anti-chafe leatherwork on the loops of docklines looks seamanlike and protects the lines.

 Good Luck, if you put the work in, everyone will notice.

Based on an article written by Tom Zydler, who spent three decades as a professional yacht captain navigating high latitude destinations



Posted On: April 22, 2019

When there's  a fire on board it gets bad quickly. Burn Tests reveal that in each fire, you'd have three or four minutes — to make a VHF radio mayday call, locate and use extinguishers, don life jackets, and prepare to abandon ship — before likely being forced overboard.


Having a working VHF with digital selective calling is critical. DSC messages provide coordinates, so anyone aboard can summon help and give rescuers your location by pressing the radio's red distress button. A waterproof handheld VHF with DSC is a smart idea as well, because in the event of a fire, an installed VHF will probably lose its power source quickly or be inaccessible.

Fire Drill

Do your guests know how to use the radio? The location of the fire extinguishers? Do they wear or keep life jackets close by? Do they know how to shut off the electrical system quickly? A five-minute guest briefing improves fire safety.

Water Drill

Beyond flotation and waterproof handheld VHFs, personal locator beacons, flares, and other signaling tools provide a lifeline from the water.

Fire Extinguishers

How many do you carry? Are they accessible in seconds? Are they rated ABC for all fires? Having several ABC tri-class extinguishers that go beyond the minimum U.S. Coast Guard requirements could save you and your boat.

Built-In Support

An engine-compartment fire-suppression system or, at minimum, an installed engine fire port into which you can discharge fire extinguishers can both contribute to the quick extinguishing of a fire, or at least buy you time in your fight against an engine-room fire.


Follow these four steps when using a fire extinguishers: Pull the safety pin. Aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire. Squeeze the handle. Sweep the hose from side to side while discharging.

Life Jackets

Many boaters bury them among the gear, then waste precious time locating them in an emergency. Regulations say that if jackets are not worn on board, they must be readily accessible.

Exit Route

Can you get out of the boat if the exit is blocked by fire? Carpet, headliner, cushions, curtains, and other flammables ignite when introduced to an open flame.

The Power Of Prevention

Are your electrical and fuel systems maintained to American Boat & Yacht Council ( standards? Electrical faults are the No. 1 cause of boat fires. What's the condition of your fuel lines? If they're 10 years old or emit a gas smell from a rag rubbed down their length, replace them.


How many minutes should you wait to start the engine after filling up at the fuel dock? Answer: At least four, with the blower on and windows and doors/hatches open for the entire time. End the four-minute period with a sniff test. 




Posted On: April 19, 2019

The Easter Bunny & the Tale of the Eggs

From the name to the bunny, it's all German. The name Easter was first appropriated by the Christian calendar. First it was the pagan festival Ostara, celebrated on the vernal equinox, around March 21 in the Northern hemisphere. Ostara was named for the pagan goddess of spring, Eostre. According to legend, she once saved a bird whose wings had frozen during the winter by turning it into a rabbit. Because the rabbit had once been a bird, it could lay eggs. And so it became the Easter Bunny.

The bunny as a symbol for Easter is first mentioned in writings in 16th century Germany. The first edible Easter bunnies, made of pastry and sugar, were also produced in Germany in the early 1800s. Around that time, children made nests of grass and settled them in their parents' spring gardens for the Easter Bunny to fill during the night with brightly decorated eggs.

Pennsylvania Dutch settlers brought the Easter bunny to America in the 1700s. Their children, who used their hats or bonnets to make their nests, believed that if they were well behaved, the "Oschter Haws" (literally Easter Hare) would fill their upturned headgear with colored eggs.

The Easter egg hunt remains as much a tradition in German towns and cities as it is on the White House lawn in Washington, D.C. Children race to find the Bunny's colorful eggs across the world every year.



Posted On: April 15, 2019

Play Your Part — 'Clean, Drain, Dry'

It's a fact of AIS life that eradication of species already here, in most cases, is virtually impossible.

Thus, "Clean, Drain, Dry" is the unified battle cry to combat the spread  of invasive species. It works quite well in most cases.

Following some simple steps, a boater can make sure through boat care, that they can minimize the likelihood of transporting these species.

Boaters moving between waterways should rinse their boats and all equipment with freshwater and remove any vegetation or visible species. If hot water is available, even better. Drain all water from the boat and any bait- or livewells. Leave the drain plug out during transport. And allow the boat to dry between leaving one water body and launching in another when possible.

Following these steps should prevent the spread of species to your favorites place and will make launching at places with inspection stations go more smoothly and who doesn't want that.

Different states and water bodies have varying inspection protocols to verify that boats are invasive-free before launching. These range from self-inspection areas and volunteer-run ramp inspections to roadside inspection stations staffed by law enforcement. The level of inspection program varies depending on budgets, amount of access points, and the perceived threat of the invasive species. If invasive species or standing water is found on a boat at an inspection station, this often triggers decontamination.

Decontamination treats a boat to kill and remove any invasive species that are present. One of the challenges with decontamination is, depending on the infrastructure available and the species present, methods can vary. This can leave boaters and other law enforcement leery. Where it's available, hot water can be very effective at killing juvenile zebra mussels, and high-pressure water can remove attached mussels from boat hulls. But hot water and pressure washers are not available in all areas, especially remote locations



Posted On: April 12, 2019

Never Too Old For Education

By 2030, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates one in five Americans will be 65 or older. The baby boomers driving this trend are well-known for their determination to sail off into the setting sun, figuratively, and in this case, literally, but there are some hurdles — physical and mental — to be overcome.

People 60 or older typically need more than twice as much light to see under dim conditions as a 20-year-old. Past age 50, high-frequency sounds can drop, and more time is needed to react to stimuli.

"Senior Boaters of America" has developed a detailed PowerPoint presentation that used a problem/solution format covering everything from lack of hearing, loss of dim-light vision, general organization and memory loss, and how the loss of body strength and balance are due mostly to inactivity, not aging. Most attendees had a low level of awareness around these issues, which can be chalked up to human denial.

"Your lifestyle slows down but it's such a slow progression, you don't notice it," he said. "And I think that's a shock to most people."

Gillespie and Veit found inspiration and distilled information for the class from a recent publication, The Book for Senior Boaters, by James Thomas Eastman, a former Coast Guardsman who grew up boating on the Great Lakes and now spends his winters in Florida. He uses his extensive experience and interviews with senior boaters to identify the issues of aging and boating, and presents recommendations for staying safe on the water.

Veit lays out two choices for those entering their golden age of boating. They can ignore the conditions of aging and hope for the best, or they can be proactive. "We can adjust our boating habits, implement common-sense changes, and look at the way we boat through a wake-up call mentality, which will reduce the high-risk safety issues for you, those aboard your boat, and the boating public.



Posted On: April 08, 2019

Coming Alongside A Dock

Too fast and OOOOH......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.

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: April 05, 2019

Gasoline Vapor Detectors

If your boat has a gasoline fuel tank mounted below decks, you should have a vapor detector. Also known as "fume sniffers," vapor detectors monitor for flammable gases such as gasoline fumes.

>Vapor detectors are mounted in the engine-space bilge, just above the slosh height of bilge water, with the sensor away from the hottest parts of the engine, such as manifolds. Vapor detectors are almost always hard-wired to the boat's 12-volt DC system. Usually, the unit has a control head mounted at the helm that will sound when dangerous fumes are detected in the bilge. The wire that connects the sensor to the head unit typically can't be cut because the manufacturer has calibrated its length.

Some vapor detectors can turn on the bilge blower when they detect a buildup, a smart option. The blower, of course, must be ignition-protected. Look for an alarm that is UL 2034 listed.

Vapor alarms should be tested monthly using the manufacturer's procedure. You can also test the sensor using a butane lighter by depressing the lever lightly to release a small amount of butane gas next to the sensor.

Replace vapor detectors after no more than five years, or right away if they become submerged.

If the alarm sounds at the fuel dock, it may mean that a large quantity of spilled gas is in the bilge; it should be dealt with by pros. Make sure everyone is off the boat (as they should be while refueling) and call 911. Don't operate anything electrical, including the blower; it won't eliminate spilled gas. If it sounds while you're underway, call for help on a handheld VHF (less chance of sparking than an installed one) or a cellphone.