Blog July 2019


Posted On: July 29, 2019

Tips For A Safe & Healthy Time On The Water

1. When you think of first aid, cuts and bruises probably come to mind. But sunburn, heatstroke, and overexposure to the elements can pose serious health risks.

 Overexposure to the sun puts you at real risk of skin cancer. Avoid sun damage by using the 'slip, slap, slop' approach. Slip on a long-sleeved top, slap a hat on your head, and slop on some sunscreen, which you reapply every couple of hours.

2. Before heading out, ask if any crew members have allergies to medications, including simple pain relievers. Some people may be allergic to the adhesive on bandages or the latex in gloves, or may have been told to avoid certain pain relievers for medical reasons. If someone on board has a life-threatening allergy, know where to locate and how to administer an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen), if required.

3. Make sure that more than one person knows how to operate the VHF radio to call for help in an emergency.

4. Keep the booze locked up until you're safely anchored for the night or tied up at the dock. Alcohol tends to dehydrate and make you more prone to seasickness. Plus, it could slow reactions that could lead to an accident.



Posted On: July 26, 2019

The ABCs Of Fire

As with all battles, you have to learn about your enemy before you can fight them safely and effectively. The type of material that's burning classifies fires. Class A fires are fueled by combustible, solid materials such as wood, paper, cloth, and plastics. Class B fires involve flammable liquids and gasses (gasoline, diesel, varnishes, etc.), while Class C fires are powered by energized electrical circuits or equipment. Think of Class A fires as solids, Class B fires as liquids, and Class C fires as electrical.

Fire extinguishers are rated by the class of fire their extinguishing agent is effective against. A Type C extinguisher is for use on electrical fires only, for example, while a Type ABC multipurpose extinguisher can be used against all three classes. It's important to match the type of extinguishing agent with the class of fire you're up against. Water is effective against a Class A fire, but spraying it at a frying pan of burning oil (a Class B fire) can spread flames throughout the galley, while using it against a Class C fire could result in shock or electrocution. Your best all-around choices are multipurpose extinguishers that are effective against all classes of fires. They take the guesswork out of which fire extinguisher to use (saving time when every second counts).

Fire Extinguisher Checks & Placement

Fire extinguisher Portable fire extinguishers should be inspected regularly for problems such as corrosion, loss of pressure and damaged mounting brackets. (Photo: Jack Schachner)

Be sure you have the correct number of USCG-approved extinguishers on board, and more is always better. They should be within quick reach and conspicuous. Portable extinguishers should be located near the galley, the engine compartment, and all living spaces. As a marine surveyor, I often see that boats have enough extinguishers, but they are not located in strategic places, for instance all belowdecks where a galley fire could prevent access from the helm. Mount an additional unit at the helm or in the cockpit where it's available to the vessel's operator the second a fire is discovered.

The portable dry chemical extinguishers so popular with boaters (due to both their effectiveness and relatively cheap cost) should be considered disposable; I recommend replacing them every six years. Check your extinguisher's gauge monthly to verify that your extinguisher is still full. Put old units to good use by allowing family and crew to practice putting out a fake fire ashore. Everyone on board should know how to safely use a fire extinguisher before the need arises.

Safety Planning & Fire Prevention

Many fires start in the engine room, typically from electrical malfunctions, followed by fuel leaks, and overheating. The galley is another likely spot (due to cooking mishaps and the like), although to a lesser extent than is popularly thought. Develop a fire action plan, and share it with your crew.

  • Post, in prominent locations, diagrams of your vessel showing the location of all portable extinguishers as well as the controls for permanently mounted units (such as those in the engine room).
  • Provide primary and alternate escape routes for all spaces (particularly sleeping areas).
  • Make sure you and your crew know the location of shutoff valves and switches for electrical, fuel, and LPG or CNG systems.

When planning emergency action items and escape routes, physically walk through them to confirm they actually work. If your evening meal goes up in smoke, can you reach the remote solenoid shutoff for the stove LPG system without having to reach over the flames? Is that forward cabin hatch actually large enough to fit through in the event of a fire? Can it be opened with the dinghy stored on deck? These are the type of questions you want to ask before staking your life on the answer.

Review your boat's fire safety plan with guests prior to getting underway, and hold fire drills regularly to ensure everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency. Post simple instructions and provide training on operation of VHF radios and how to determine vessel location (reading coordinates from a chartplotter, for example). Explain how to use your fire extinguishers.



Posted On: July 22, 2019

Visual Distress Signals: Please Say You See Me!

For many boaters, buying flares is an expense and an exercise we endure every three years or so without much thought. We know we need to carry visual distress signals, and we might even remember that there are both daytime and nighttime signals, but after that, it's hard to parse the differences. And while the need is unavoidable, your choices have expanded recently. So it's worth taking a moment to consider the type of boating you do and if there are better options than adding to your growing collection of expired flares — or, alternatively, if the minimum requirement of three flares, and the few minutes of signal time they represent, will serve you well in an emergency. Maybe you'd prefer additional signaling power.

Distress-Signals Test

We took a look at both USCG-approved and SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) internationally approved pyrotechnic flares and a variety of electronic devices ranging from lasers to an assortment of LED devices. Only one of the lights tested meets carriage requirements, meaning it's an adequate substitute for flares during a safety inspection when combined with an orange distress flag for daytime use. To be clear, this means the others would be carried aboard strictly because you felt they upped your chances of being rescued, rather than to meet the standards of the law. Remember, the law sets a minimum standard; whether or not that's adequate for you really depends on your boating habits.

We stationed our team of observers on a beach, and our test-boat captain positioned the boat at one-, three-, and five-mile distances from the beach. The night for our test was clear, with a full moon, and there were onshore lights in the background, behind the test boat — the most challenging setup for detecting distress signals in calm conditions. The distress signals were then activated in a random sequence, and our observers were asked to rate them on relative visibility, ability to attract attention, and confidence that what was observed was a call for help. The devices fell into three categories: flares, LEDs, and lasers. As expected, flares as a category dominated the tests, ranking consistently higher than other categories by our viewers. But the green Greatland Laser also performed nearly as well. The LED devices didn't fare well, lacking the intensity to stand out on a full-moon night against the backscatter of a distant shore.

The effectiveness of a distress signal comes down to whether or not an observer — who may be tired, careless, or untrained — can see and understand that the light is a signal. A distress signal must be big enough and bright enough for someone who may be miles away to positively identify and locate the source. So it's no surprise that the brightest and most intense flares, the SOLAS-approved or their equivalents, did so well. They're around 30 times brighter than a standard Coast Guard-approved flare. If this was simply a question of the best flares money could buy, it'd be simple. But what if you don't need that level of performance? Or what if the brief duration (most flares last less than 120 seconds) gives you pause? There are pros and cons in each category.

Pyrotechnic Devices

Flares have been around for more than 100 years, largely because they just plain work as a distress signal. Observers commented that they subconsciously recognized fire as a danger, especially when it appears where we know it isn't supposed to be. We know there's a problem when we see fire on the water.


  • Easy to recognize as a distress signal.
  • Easy to use.
  • Very bright, SOLAS flares and their equivalents ranked in the top three spots at each distance tested.


  • All the flares emitted sparks, which can damage your boat or burn you. Our testers used welding gloves to hold the flares, and even with that, the heat from the flares made them almost too hot to hold.
  • Flares expire 42 months after manufacture, for good reason; flares become unstable over time and aren't as reliable.
  • The legal requirement calls for three flares, totaling no more than a few minutes of signaling (60 seconds minimum per flare, though some burn for two minutes or so)
  • The chemicals in flares are hazardous waste.

LED Devices

Light Emitting Diode devices are relatively new to the scene, and as the technology continues to evolve, prices are dropping rapidly. LEDs are durable and long-lasting, so more devices are expected to come on the market in the next few years.


  • Highest effective intensity of any electronic light available.
  • Easy to set a particular color, length of flash, or flash pattern.
  • With appropriate power, can work for days, rather than minutes.
  • Far safer to handle than pyrotechnic flares.


  • Can be hard to distinguish from background lights.
  • Not as bright as pyrotechnic flares. The best-performing light consistently ranked as less visible than the control, a USCG-approved, red Orion handheld flare.
  • With no expiration date, batteries need to be checked regularly.
  • People might not know a signal from an LED device is a call for help.
  • Doesn't have the range of visibility that pyrotechnic devices have. At five miles, the performance dropped off considerably.


Lasers have been on the scene longer than LED lights but haven't caught on as an alternative to flares. These devices are not like "light sabers" you'd see in the movies. Although under the right conditions, you can see the beam of light, especially with a green laser. The green Greatland flare was very popular with observers, especially at longer distances. Unlike laser pointers, which should never be aimed at aircraft (or other boats, for that matter) as they temporarily blind the operator, the flares tested emit light in a fan pattern, so the greater the distance from the viewer, the wider the fan. This pattern also protects the eyes of your potential rescuer, as the light isn't a focused beam that could burn your retina. The observer simply sees a green flashing light.


  • Green laser is very visible at night, and the farther away it is, the wider its beam becomes. Always ranked in the top three by our observers, it led the field at three miles and practically tied for the top spot at five miles.
  • Far safer than pyrotechnic flares.
  • Compact, and designed to last for five hours of continuous use.


  • Lasers are directional, so you must aim them at a potential rescuer, which means you need some idea where help might be coming from before they can be of much use.
  • The green color is more expensive than the red, but it was also easier to see. The red version ranked just under the USCG-approved red Orion handheld in all tests.
  • While legal for use in rescue situations and deemed "eye safe," pilots are taught to fly away from lasers.

Visual distress test performance



Posted On: July 19, 2019


Unlike any other law enforcement arm, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) may board your boat at their discretion — they need no search warrant, no provocation, and no reason other than ensuring your boat is in full compliance with all applicable federal laws and regulations.

I read this article in the July Boating Times and thought it would be a good topic to explore.

Do you know what to do and say if you see a USCG vessel in the vicinity and hear their voice on VHF channel 16 (or across the water) hailing your vessel and ordering you to bring your boat to a full stop?

You have been stopped by highly trained federal officers who will soon impress you with their professionalism. Before they even step off their vessel onto yours, the very first question they will ask you is, “Without reaching for them or touching them, do you have any weapons on board?” Subtly but powerfully, the tone is set:  “I am polite. I am professional. And I mean business.” Let’s assume (and hope) that the answer to that question is “no” since an affirmative answer sets up a scenario outside the scope of this article.

Once your boat is boarded, the officers will be seeking compliance with regulations, starting with those applicable to all boat sizes:

  • Your actual registration needs to be aboard and current. If you just have a copy, that’s a problem, but if you have no registration, you have a much bigger problem.
  • The Hull Identification Number needs to be the same on your registration and on your boat (embossed into the transom, low on the starboard side). If they don’t match, you’ve got a lot of explaining to do.
  • The registration numbers must be at least three inches, appear as a contrasting color to your hull, and be the most forward of any numbering or lettering on the boat.
  • If you have a Marine Sanitation Device (aka head or toilet), it must conform to regulations. As Long Island is a “No Discharge Zone,” an over-board, through-hull holding tank must be in the locked/closed position and the key must be under the control of the captain (no exceptions unless it can be seized closed or the handle can be removed in the closed position).


Posted On: July 15, 2019

What Type of Coverage Does a Commercial Boat Need?

Although many types of coverage are provided by a commercial boat insurance policy, there are two primary or basic coverages that should always be considered:

  • Liability coverage: Often called protection and indemnity coverage, it provides coverage for legal obligations to third parties. Your legal liability typically arises from bodily injury, loss of life, or damage to another's vessel or other property as a result of operation of your vessel. The liability coverage is also available for defense costs if an action is brought against you or your business.
  • Hull coverage: This part of a commercial boat policy pays for physical damage to your vessel and is best purchased on an all-risk basis, which means that if the cause of the loss is not excluded under the policy, it will be covered. The coverage will provide protection for the hull, attached equipment, and unattached equipment and belongings. It's important to note, however, that the owner is responsible for maintaining the vessel, which means normal wear and tear is typically excluded.

Along with the basic coverages available for your commercial boat insurance, there are additional coverages that should be considered as well:

  • Vessel disposal and pollution liability: Typically, when a vessel sinks offshore or in a waterway, the owner is responsible for removing or disposing of the wreckage, especially if there are any materials aboard that may be considered hazardous. You and your business may also be held responsible for clean-up expenses that result from oil pollution or contamination. This coverage provides liability to pay for these expenses up to the limits you select when purchasing the policy.
  • Medical payments coverage: Owners should also consider an appropriate amount of medical payments coverage that will pay for medical expenses for third parties who are injured on your vessel, whether you are found liable or not. This coverage pays on a per person basis rather than per accident. You should also determine whether this coverage is available for persons boarding or leaving the vessel and for water-skiers if needed.
  • Maritime coverage: This is a type of employer’s liability protection for the vessel owner for injury to the crew of any commercial boat. It responds to liabilities imposed by the “Jones Act,” the federal law that applies the common law of the seas to ship owners.
  • Uninsured boater coverage: Liability coverage is not mandatory for some commercial vessels and most personal ones. This means that you and your passengers are at risk for injury expenses resulting from an accident with an uninsured boater. By selecting uninsured boater coverage on your commercial boat insurance, you can make a claim for your own injuries or those of your passengers against your own insurance policy.




Posted On: July 12, 2019

Hose Clamps

Good quality hose clamps last much longer than cheap ones. Look for clamps that are 100 percent stainless steel, including the screw. The best ones are non perforated rather than slotted. Clamps that are embossed rather than perforated are much stronger and longer lasting. It's tempting to think that stainless steel does not rust, but it does, especially when in contact with deoxygenated water, such as that found trapped between a clamp and the hose it is holding.

Use the best marine-grade 316 stainless steel hose clamps. Replace any that are even slightly rusted, and double-clamp critical hoses. Band-type clamps are the best choice for exhaust hoses as they are wider and are tightened with a bolt rather than a screw.

Tip: You can perform a quick check of hose clamps with a magnet. Quality hose clamps will be nonmagnetic. Cheaper hose clamps may have a regular mild steel screw and should be rejected, even if the remainder of the clamp is made from stainless. 



Posted On: July 08, 2019

Boat hoses

There is no such thing as an all-purpose hose on a boat. No single hose type can withstand engine exhaust, bring freshwater to the galley, safely transport gasoline to the carburetor, drain the cockpit, and flush the head. Using the wrong hose can cause problems that range from an inconvenient mess to a burning boat. This handy run-down will help you identify one type of hose from another and assist in choosing the right hose for the job at hand. We'll start with a visual guide to common marine hoses, then go into more detail about each type.

1. Exhaust hose. Able to withstand temperatures to around 250 F, an exhaust hose is often reinforced with wire, which may be stainless, or other special reinforcement. Other, more expensive silicone hoses are capable of sustaining much higher temperatures.

2. Hot and cold PEX potable water pipe. Many modern boats use PEX tubing for hot and cold plumbing. PEX is available in three distinct grades: A, B, and C. Although all are perfectly acceptable for potable water, Grade A is the most flexible and easiest to run in the tight confines of a boat. Fittings are easy to connect to the pipe, although you may need special tools. PEX is not the only option for potable water, however (see 6).

3. Sanitation hose. Often white, with a smooth bore to prevent trapping waste that could lead to odors, sanitation hose has an expected lifespan of approximately 10 years.

4. Corrugated bilge pump hose. This cheap hose is often supplied with bilge pumps. While easy to run, cut, and bend, its ridged internal structure restricts flow, making it a poor choice.

5. Smooth-bore bilge pump hose. Although four times the price of corrugated types, smooth-bore bilge pump hose offers up to 30 percent greater efficiency.

6. Potable water hose. Potable water hose comes in both reinforced and non-reinforced types. They're easy to tell apart as the reinforced hose will have strong synthetic cord strands visible. This one is clear but opaque is generally a better choice for potable water because there is less chance of algae growing inside.

7. Fuel hose. Fuel hose must be marked as such and will be stamped A1, A2, B1, or B2. Older hoses are incompatible with fuel containing ethanol, so if yours is older than about 10 years, it's most likely due for replacement anyway.

8. Thru-hull hose. For any connections to thru-hulls, reinforced hose is the only way to go. A cheap hose may fail and sink your boat.



Posted On: July 05, 2019

Getting Your Boat In Gear

 I watched all afternoon this weekend, as boater after boater, struggled to navigate a crowded marina restaurant, Some simple gear control could have eased the burden. So here's an article by Chris Edmonston on working the controls.

A quick review of shifting gears and smoothly working the controls and throttle.

Shifting gears and throttle control are two skills that, in conjunction with steering-wheel control, will dictate how well you handle your boat. If you drive a car, you're used to working the gears and using a gas pedal, so it's tempting to ask, how different can it really be? Well, if you've ever been to a busy dock area, especially on a windy day, you already know the answer. There are a variety of shift and throttle controls on boats; some have separate controls, some combine them. Here we'll use a control that combines both functions into a single lever.

Shifting gears is all about smoothly and decisively working the controls to avoid lurching or picking up too much speed. Sudden or excessive throttle adjustments can lead to loss of control and cause your boat to strike the dock or another boat, so your goal is to shift into gear without exceeding idle rpm. Remember, "slow is pro," and everything you need to do to properly control your boat can be done at idle speed. Shifting from neutral should be done decisively, but without exceeding idle throttle. If you shift too slowly, you'll probably hear the gears grind. If you shift too far and begin to throttle up too quickly, you'll make the boat lunge and give your passengers an unwelcome surprise (or worse, an unexpected swim).

If you're moving from forward to reverse (or reverse to forward), always allow for a pause in neutral, long enough to say "one-one-thousand," before shifting to the next gear. Shifting too quickly can cause the engine to stall or damage the transmission.

Practice makes perfect and one simple first step you can rehearse is to find the wheel and throttle by hand, without looking. This will help build muscle memory for the ergonomics of your boat. You should also pay close attention to the sound of the transmission as you shift gears, and the change in sound of the engine as you raise or lower the throttle. Watch how your boat responds to your shift and throttle movements, and feel where the throttle changes from forward to neutral to reverse.

In close quarters, staying in gear too long or using too much throttle results in more boat speed than necessary, which forces the driver to take corrective action, and can easily turn into a series of over-corrections. By using short applications of throttle, you should be able to maintain better control of your boat's motion, and give yourself time to maneuver. Short shifts buy you the time to decide what you need to do next.

Practice Low Speed Control

Engage forward gear at idle speed for one second only, then return to neutral to assess your situation.
Engage reverse gear at idle speed for two to three seconds only, then return to neutral to assess your situation. (Boats aren't as efficient in reverse as they are in forward; that's why you can be in gear for a slightly longer time.)
When in neutral, pause several seconds so that you can assess your situation before shifting into gear.
When in gear, do not raise the throttle; stay at idle rpm