Blog September 2019

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DO YOU SPEAK BOATING?

Posted On: September 30, 2019

Boating is seemingly filled with undecipherable abbreviations.

While most of these can be welcoming, landlubber friends can get lost in the often confusing and opaque jargon.

The boaters coded talk can be exclusionary, or it might just jeopardize a passenger’s safety.

For example, if the captain instructs everyone to “put on a PFD” so the boat can leave the dock, he’s concerned about safety. PFD stands for personal flotation device and it’s simpler to just tell everyone to wear a life jacket.

If the captain or a crew member yells “MOB!” the cry is meant to kick everyone aboard into action. However, those not in the know won’t move until they know it means man overboard.

If you do fall overboard in chilly waters, it’s best to have learned the HELP position. That’s a heat escape lessening posture meant to conserve body heat.

If you’re heading for adventure on a kayak or SUP (stand-up paddleboard), wear a PLB to increase your chance of rescue if things go awry. It’s a personal locator beacon that sends a radio signal as to the wearer’s exact location.

Does your boat have an EPIRB? This stands for emergency position indicating radio beacon, another safety device that activates as soon as it is immersed in water. If the boat sinks without an opportunity to make a VHF (very high frequency) radio call, the EPIRB notifies emergency services by providing GPS (global positioning system) data that pinpoints your location on the planet by triangulating your position via satellites in space.

Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a GPS radio beacon that shows up on digital charts, detailing what a vessel is and where it is headed. In fog or at night, you will be able to tell whether a RADAR (radio detection and ranging) signal is a buoy or a tanker using AIS. While we’re at it, there’s also SONAR, which stands for sound navigation and ranging.

See the letters NDZ on a chart? That’s a no discharge zone where no sewage from your boat can be released into the waters. Everything must stay in your MSD (marine sanitation device) until it can be legally pumped out.

IALA is the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities. They specify what each navigation mark should look like, the meanings of colors of lights and shapes, and how each light should flash. By following these, you can triangulate your position using a hand compass and not, for example, hit a wreck guarded by a warning buoy.

Boaters say RRR as shorthand for red right return(ing). It’s our way to remember which side of the boat red navigation lights should be on when coming into the harbor from open waters.

If invited onto a RIB, you’ll be on a rigid inflatable boat. It’s a motor boat with a fiberglass hull and inflatable rims. What about an invite to ride on a PWC? It better be a two-seater, as it’s a personal watercraft (aka jet ski).

Should a tall ship with the abbreviation SSV before its name sail by, you’ll know it’s a sail school vessel.

Never be afraid to say to a boater, “I’m unfamiliar with that term.” On the whole, we’ll happily explain what we’re talking about. However, don’t ask what BOAT stands for, unless you’re prepared for at least two different answers. One is “break out another thousand,” but another is my favorite — “best of all times!”

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NAVIGATING BRIDGES SAFELY

Posted On: September 27, 2019

At some point in your travels here and there by boat, you may have to request a bridge opening.

Here's how to do it right.

Whether you have to deal with bridges only occasionally or every day, you'll probably have to deal with them at least sometimes. If your boat has very little air draft, you may think there's not much to worry about. But there may be, and the issue of whether you're too tall to get under is only one of many. Here's what to expect when your way is blocked by spans of steel and cement with eighteen-wheelers flying overhead.

Obviously, you must avoid bridge pilings and the structure surrounding bridges. But you must also deal with eddies around them, which may affect your steering. Sailboats have particular issues because the wind may change, causing temporary calms or shifts. It is usually imprudent, and often illegal, to use sails to go through a bridge – unless that's your only means of propulsion. The pilings may obstruct vision, which is important regarding oncoming traffic, but also for avoiding small boats that often hang out around the pilings to fish.

Usually boats must funnel through a particular span of a bridge, which may require opening. Special right-of-way considerations may come into play. For example, if a boat is heading with the current, other boats heading into the current should normally let the boat being pushed come through first. Smaller nimble boats should generally stay out of the way of a large boat with more limited maneuverability. An outboard skiff darting around the bow of a ponderously moving tug and barge may be obscured from view of the pilothouse. This is true anytime, but particularly in areas of restricted maneuverability around a bridge. And what boater can possibly think his engine can never fail at just the wrong time?

Requested Vs. Scheduled

Many bridges must open to let taller boats through. Sometimes these bridges open on request if given proper signal, but many bridges only open at scheduled times. Always signal the bridge for an opening. Signals include horn blasts (usually a long and a short), but most boats call the bridge tender on the VHF. Bridges stand by on channel 9 or 13, depending on location. Call the bridge by its name (e.g., North Landing Bridge, Barefoot Landing Bridge, Seventeenth Street Causeway Bridge). Otherwise the wrong bridge may think you need an opening. Names of bridges and proper VHF channels are best found in updated guidebooks, where you will also find local rules and customs. Be aware that some bridge names may change. For many years, tugs going through the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW) swing bridge south of Little River Inlet, South Carolina, called it, melodically, the “Little River Swing” (pronounced “swang.”) Now the bridge is named the “Captain Archie Neil ‘Poo’ McLauchlin Swing Bridge” after a well-known local legend. The captain may be sitting in his favorite establishment watching as you go by.

It’s often difficult to plan ahead for scheduled bridge openings because typically the current will change in the channel ahead. This is particularly true in areas where inlets or creeks run to larger bodies of water, such as the ocean. A creek may produce current, speeding you along, but as you pass its intersection, the current turns against you. People who simply plug distance to run into a chartplotter are often fooled.

Communication Is Key

Even if the boat ahead of you has requested an opening, you also should request one so that the bridge tender knows how many boats are coming through. We’ve known bridges to close on boats that haven’t properly notified the operator. Often, when the bridge is in the open position, the bridge tender has limited visibility. Going through in a single file line is usually best because boats on the other side may also be coming through and space is limited.

Sometimes a bridge tender will instruct pleasure boats to wait for a tug and barge or other vessels because of that vessel’s special needs or space limitation. Pay attention. Keep a VHF tuned to the bridge’s operating channel well before you approach the bridge, as well as during the transit, because there may be special issues such as a malfunctioning bridge, a fire/rescue vehicle approaching on the highway, or other problems. If you know in advance, you can slow down and come through when the situation has cleared.

Into The Melee

When you reach a bridge, there may well be a crowd of boating traffic. If the bridge opens only on a schedule or is otherwise restricted (such as bridge work or emergency highway traffic), it is critically important to take into consideration the special maneuvering needs of other boats (including your own) when you’re waiting in a crowd. Try to stay clear. For example, often a sailboat will have little control when backing or require a wide turning radius. Large vessels may have very little maneuverability in tight quarters. Often a tug with a barge must simply keep coming, unable to dodge around smaller boats.

Some vessels may have huge windage issues that make steering and positioning very difficult, especially if the wind is blowing across the channel or toward the bridge. Others, such as deep draft vessels, may be susceptible to strong currents pushing them toward the bridge and may need to face away from the bridge into the current or wind until the opening. Then it will have to turn, and there might not be room to do so within its turning radius. And just as boats have different handling characteristics, skippers have different skill levels. We’ve passed through many bridges over the years, and my favorite tactic is to remain at the end of the line to hopefully avoid trouble. Don’t hang too far back, though, because the bridge tender has an obligation to get the highway traffic moving when he can.

To make matters worse, some bridges are situated poorly from a boat operator’s perspective. The Wappoo Creek Bridge just south of Charleston, for example, spans a narrow channel that doglegs. The current is immense, and a large boat coming through on a fair tide may have trouble making the turn. And this bridge usually operates on a schedule. Check the charts to get the “lay of the land” long before you approach a bridge.

Based on an article in boatus

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GALVANIC ISOLATORS

Posted On: September 23, 2019


Often overlooked, this piece of equipment is critical in the fight against corrosion.

Although not as capable as an isolation transformer, the galvanic isolator can go a long way toward extending sacrificial anode service life and mitigating corrosion, at much lower cost and nearly insignificant weight compared to the transformer. If your boat is plugged into shore power on a regular basis, you need a galvanic isolator installed in your shore power system.

How Galvanic Isolators Work

Remember that the galvanic isolator needs to be able to fulfill multiple roles in your boat's AC shore power system. Eliminating one of the components that make up a galvanic cell is one of its functions. But because it is installed in series with the green grounding conductor in your boat's AC shore power system, it must also ensure that electrical continuity is always maintained in that wire.

For that reason, the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) has some strict guidelines in its standard addressing galvanic isolators. The isolators must be rated for system amperage, usually 30 or 50 amps. They must be hard wired into the system without the use of any friction type connections and meet a series of design specifications to ensure that they can never inadvertently open circuit, effectively eliminating the all-important safety ground for your boat. The newest designs incorporate technology that can identify these units as "fail safe." Simply put, this designation ensures that even after something as significant as a lightning strike, the galvanic isolator will maintain continuity of the safety ground on board your boat. It may not continue to protect your underwater metals, but the safety ground will be intact, one reason why a galvanic isolator should be regularly checked for proper function.

Where And How To Install A Galvanic Isolator

The galvanic isolator is installed in the green grounding conductor in your shore power system. It works by introducing a low DC voltage in that conductor. Because galvanic voltages and currents run below that level, the net effect is that galvanic current flow is stopped, effectively isolating your boat from your neighbors on the dock, at least galvanically. Because the green wire's primary role is to act as a fault-carrying conductor in the event of a shore power equipment fault, the electronics used to block the galvanic current have no impact on AC current flow when there may be a fault.

If your boat is plugged into a dock regularly, you need a galvanic isolator (or an isolation transformer). If you have an older boat with an isolator installed, you should have a marine electrician test it to ensure that it is functioning properly and that it meets current standards that apply. Early isolators had inherent shortcomings that can make them unsafe. The problem is that you won’t have any idea whether it is functioning without testing the unit properly. If in doubt, get a qualified marine technician to test it or consider replacing with a new fail-safe unit.

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A STRATEGY MAY HELP YOU GET THAT BOAT

Posted On: September 20, 2019

To Convince Your Spouse or significant other, you need a little strategy.

All the boat shows are about to begin, and while the weather is great, take them with you and show them you want a boat.

You want a boat real bad. You don’t want to rely on your buddy anymore to go out.  

But, for some unexplained reason, your spouse or partner isn’t in the same boat. (ouch!)

Fear not....

You know you are going to hear “We can’t afford it.” “We don’t have the time.” “I don’t like to fish.”

Heck, You’ve probably answered the questions yourself and ten others they haven’t even asked yet. The pressure is on, and you haven’t started the real conversation.

Try this, You know what would help you relax? A boat.

The reasons why you should get a boat are endless. So, before you start working on your  conversion,  keep these four important facts in mind:

·         Boating is family-friendly. “It’s not about me—it’s about quality family or us time.”

·         Boating is affordable. “If we can afford to go to (insert location here), we can easily afford a payment.”

·         Boating reduces stress.(  Yours, mine, ours)

·         Boating is fun. “Have you ever heard anyone complain about having to go for a cruise?”

And if that doesn’t convince them, take them out on a boat.

Let the water and wind do the talking for you. It’s hard to argue when the sun is shining on your face and the gentle lapping of the waves surrounds you.

If you aren’t a great skipper yet, have someone who is drive.

Good Luck!!

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OPERATE,NAVIGATE,AND COMMUNICATE

Posted On: September 16, 2019

These three simple statements should guide you when you are out on the water.

Operate 

Your number one job is to operate your boat responsibly!!

Nothing should distract you from that. I understand how difficult it can be at times. You are out for a great day of fishing with your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend, Your spouse is going on and on you for a new car to get the kids to soccer practice or your boyfriend/girlfriend won’t leave you alone about the tickets for the upcoming concert. A big fish has just hit your  line and your thoughts go to catching it.

Are you still thinking about your boat?

 You get the idea. Remember, stay focused.

You still are responsible for the safety of the boat and everyone on board.

Navigate

You must, at all times, know where you are and where you are going.

 And by that I mean something more accurate than just knowing the name of the body of water you are on or proudly telling your guests; "That’s America over there". At least sharpen your skills to the point that you can proclaim with some certainty "That’s Miami, (I think)".

Communicate

Always, .always,  always …..

Whenever you are in doubt, communicate!

Don’t worry that you will sound stupid asking someone what the clearance of that bridge is up ahead?

 Think about how stupid you will look when the mast of your boat is in the cockpit with you. Not sure what the intentions of that tug and tow heading directly at you are?

ASK!

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WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES

Posted On: September 13, 2019


The past few months, we have had more than our fair share of lightning.

Looking back, our friends at Boating magazine had an excellent article on “Surviving Lightning Strikes While Boating.”

We thought a lot of it was worth sharing, so we’ve excerpted the article here.

Powerful, dangerous, highly unpredictable — all are common descriptions of lightning. A direct strike that results only in ringing ears and a few roasted electronics would be considered lucky. Unlucky would be through-hulls blown out, a sunk boat or worse — possibly serious injury or death. While the odds of a boat being struck by lightning are only about one out of 1,000 boats in any given year, the dire consequences of a strike call for some techniques and strategies to avoid disaster:

Timing

A strategy of boating only on sunny, cloudless days may work well in places like Idaho and California, but that would mean almost never using the boat in places such as Florida, Louisiana and much of New England where storms boil up and move in quickly on hot summer days. Boaters should track VHF, Internet and television weather reports and make responsible decisions about whether to go boating depending on the likelihood of storms. Short-term forecasts can actually be fairly good at predicting bigger storms, but small, localized storms might not be reported. This is when knowing how to read the weather yourself can come in handy.

Lightning strikes typically occur in the afternoon. A towering buildup of puffy, cotton-white clouds that rise to the customary flat “anvil” top is a good indication to clear the water and seek shelter — or move out of the storm’s path if possible. That’s if the storm is at least somewhat off in the distance (most storms are about 15 miles in diameter and can build to dangerous levels in fewer than 30 minutes). If lightning and thunder are present, just count the seconds between the lightning and corresponding thunder and then divide by 5 — this will provide a rough estimate of how many miles away the storm is.

A storm that builds directly overhead might be less obvious until those pretty white clouds that were providing some nice shade moments ago turn a threatening hue of gray as rain dumps on you and the wind starts to howl or, worse yet, boom with thunder and lightning that are right on top of each other. Now is the time for a mad dash to the dock and shelter if close by. Like the National Weather Service says: “When thunder roars, go indoors!” If out on open water or too far from shore and shelter, it’s time to hunker down and ride it out.

Caught

Even though getting caught in a storm is not always avoidable, there’s still plenty that boaters can do to minimize the chance of a strike and lessen injury and damage if there is a strike.
We all learn in grade school that lightning seeks the highest point, and on the water that’s the top of the boat — typically a mast, antenna, Bimini top, fishing rod in a vertical rod holder or even the tallest person in an open boat. If possible, find a protected area out of the wind and drop anchor. If the boat has an enclosed cabin, people should be directed to go inside and stay well away from metal objects, electrical outlets and appliances (it’s a good idea to don life jackets too). Side flashes can jump from metal objects to other objects — even bodies — as they seek a path to water. Lowering antennas, towers, fishing rods and outriggers is also advised, unless they’re part of a designated lightning-protection system. Some boaters also like to disconnect the connections and power leads to their antennas and other electronics, which are often damaged or destroyed during a strike or near strike.

Under no circumstances should the VHF radio be used during an electrical storm unless it’s an emergency (handhelds are OK). Also, be careful not to grab two metal objects, like a metal steering wheel and metal railing — that can be a deadly spot to be if there’s a strike. Some boaters opt to steer with a wooden spoon and keep their other hand in a pocket if forced to man the helm during a storm, while others like to wear rubber gloves for insulation.

An open boat like a runabout is the most dangerous to human life, since you are the highest point and most likely to get hit if the boat is struck. If shore is out of reach, the advice is to drop anchor, remove all metal jewelry, put on life jackets and get low in the center of the boat. Definitely stay out of the water and stow the fishing rods. If all goes well, the storm will blow past or rain itself out in 20 to 30 minutes. It’s best to wait at least 30 minutes until after the last clap of thunder to resume activities.

Hit

Knowing what to do in a storm and having the best lightning-protection system installed on the boat is by no means a guarantee that lightning won’t strike. The immediate checklist for a direct hit is very short:

1. Check for unconscious or injured persons first. If they’re moving and breathing, they’ll likely be OK. Immediately begin CPR on unconscious victims if a pulse and/or breathing is absent — there’s no danger of being shocked by someone just struck by lightning.

2. In the meantime, have someone check the bilges for water. It’s rare, but lightning can blow out a transducer or through-hull — or even just blow a hole in the boat. Plug the hole, get the bilge pumps running, work the bail bucket or whatever it takes to stay afloat. An emergency call on the VHF is warranted if the situation is dire. If the radio is toast, break out the flare kit.

If there are no injuries and no holes or major leaks below, just continue to wait it out. Once the danger has passed, check the operation of the engine and all electronics. Even a near strike can fry electronics and an engine’s electronic control unit, cutting off navigation, communication and even propulsion. Some boaters stash charged handheld VHF and GPS units and a spare engine ECU in the microwave or a tin box for this very reason. These makeshift Faraday cages have saved equipment.

Obvious damage will need to be assessed and set right. Even those lucky enough to come away completely unscathed with no apparent damage should have a professional survey done just to be sure. Minor damage to through-hulls can result in slow leaks, and all manner of electrical wackiness can emerge — sometimes much later.

Last thing, It’s best to catch these issues right away and get that information to insurance folks for coverage.

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SURVIVING THE STORM

Posted On: September 09, 2019


It is estimated that as many as 50% of boats damaged during hurricanes could be saved by using better docklines: lines that were longer, larger, arranged better, and/or protected against chafing.

If you decide to leave your boat at a dock, you'll need to devise a docking plan that is liable to be far different than your normal docking arrangement. By the time preparations are completed, your boat should resemble a spider suspended in the center of a large web. This web will allow the boat to rise on the surge, be bounced around by the storm, and still remain in position.

Take a look at your boat slip and its relation to the rest of the harbor. For most boats you'll want to arrange the bow toward open water or, lacking that, toward the least protected direction. This reduces windage. Next, look for trees, pilings, and dock cleats-anything sturdy-that could be used for securing docklines. With most docking arrangements, lines will have to be fairly taut if the boat is going to be kept away from pilings. The key to your docking arrangement is to use long lines, the longer the better, to accommodate the surge. (A good rule of thumb: storm docklines should be at least as long as the boat itself.) You will probably want to use other boat owners' pilings (and vice versa), which calls for a great deal of planning and cooperation with slip neighbors and marina management.

Lines should also be a larger diameter to resist chafe and excessive stretching. On most boats you should use 1/2" line for boats up to 25', 5/8" line for boats 25' to 34', and 3/4" to 1" lines for larger boats. Chafe protectors (see "Critical Points") must be on any portion of the line that could be chafed by chocks, pulpits, pilings, etc.

To secure lines to hard-to-reach outer pilings, put the eye on the piling so that lines can be adjusted from the boat. For other lines, put the eye on the boat to allow for final adjustment from the dock.

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PREPARATION IS KEY

Posted On: September 06, 2019


How To Prepare For Wind

By definition,  hurricanes and tropical storms have winds of at least 39 mph (which is when storms get a name) while hurricanes start at 74 mph and have been recorded at more than 150 mph. What's not always understood is that as the speed of the wind doubles, its force quadruples. In other words, the damage wind does increases much faster than its speed. This illustrates the importance of reducing your boat's windage — the area your boat presents to the wind — by removing as much rigging, canvas, and deck gear as possible. Whether your boat is stored ashore or stays in its slip, the less stuff the wind is able to push around, the safer your boat will be. Biminis are sure to get shredded in a strong storm, so take off the fabric and the frames. Strip off outriggers, antennas, running rigging, booms, life rings, and dinghies. Remove cowling ventilators and seal the openings. Furled headsails have a surprising amount of windage and are one of the first things damaged by wind, so they must be taken down. Not only can they shake your rig apart when they unfurl (and no matter how well you secure them, in a big storm they probably will), they can cause damage to your neighbor's boat as well. Mainsails are bulky and should be removed also.

How To Prepare For Rain

Rainfall of six to 12 inches in 24 hours is common during a hurricane, and as much as two feet can fall in a day. Cockpit scuppers can be overwhelmed by such torrents, and even boats stored ashore can suffer damage if rainwater overflows into the cabin. Boats stored in the water can be sunk when rainwater backs up in the cockpit and the weight forces deck drains underwater, causing them to backflow.

Make certain cockpit drains are free-running. If your boat is staying in the water, remove heavy items from the stern area, such as anchors, extra fuel tanks, and kicker motors, so that the cockpit scuppers are higher above the water. Close all but cockpit drain seacocks and plug the engine's exhaust port. Use masking or duct tape to seal around hatches, ports, and lockers to keep water from getting below. Seal exposed electronics. Make sure the bilge pump and switch work, and that the battery is topped up; shore power is not likely to remain on throughout the storm. Keep in mind that the ability of the pump and battery to remove water is usually greatly overestimated. Small boats should be covered if possible.

How To Prepare For Waves

Hurricanes  and Tropical storms build up surprisingly large waves quickly, even in relatively small harbors, bays, and lakes. The longer the distance over which the wind can build up waves, the bigger the waves. Waves make boats bounce in their slips, displacing fenders and increasing strain on docklines.

Photo of a swamped powerboat tied to the dock

Exposure to waves can pound a boat against the dock. Small boats should be trailered inland.

Double up on docklines and make sure all are well-protected from chafe. While fenders and fender boards won't compensate for poor docking arrangements, if the boat is well-secured, they may offer some additional protection, especially if they are heavy duty. Smaller boats can be overwhelmed, especially if they are stern-to to the waves. The bow is strongest and least likely to be overcome by water and



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