Posted On: May 24, 2019

Memorial Day History

Memorial Day began sometime after the Civil War with both formal and informal ceremonies at graves and ceremonies for the soldiers who had fallen in battle.  Many places claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866, including Waterloo, New York and both Macon and Columbus, Georgia.  On May 5, 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a Union veterans organization, established Decoration Day, May 30, as a time for the nation to decorate the dead with flowers.  Arlington National Cemetery held the first large observance later that year.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held throughout the country on May 30.  Over time, the Army and Navy adopted policies for proper observances, and state legislatures passed proclamations designating the day.  After World War I the day was expanded to honor those who died in all American wars, and in 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday to be celebrated on the last Monday in May.



Posted On: May 20, 2019

Consequential Damage

This part of your boat insurance can be vital.

Hurricanes head the list of total claims payouts over the five-year period.

But hurricane activity varies greatly from year to year, and in 2009 and 2010, hurricanes didn't make it into the Top 10 at all. Take hurricanes out, and sinking tops the list. Keeping the water out is a constant battle. Half of all sinkings that occur at the dock happen when some small part below the waterline gives up the fight. The most common culprits include stuffing boxes, outdrive bellows, hoses or hose clamps, and sea strainers. But those parts most often fail due to what insurers call "wear, tear, and corrosion," meaning that the part succumbed to general aging and deterioration.

Most insurers exclude losses from "wear, tear, and corrosion," so they won't pay for the failed stuffing box. But what about your boat that's now sitting on the bottom? Some policies won't cover that, either, because they exclude any "consequential" damage that results from wear, tear, and corrosion. Others will cover the resulting damage as long as it falls into very specific categories, most often fire or sinking.

The most generous policies would cover your boat that just sank, plus the other losses likely to result from a failed part: fire, explosion, collision, dismasting, and grounding/stranding.



Posted On: May 17, 2019


A byproduct of boatbuilding is the release of Volatile Organic Compounds, better known as VOCs. These organic compounds easily evaporate into the air (hence they're "volatile") and are regulated at many  levels, including federal air-quality standards and indoor air standards. If you grew up using oil-based paints in your house and remember when water-based latex paints began to be used, you were witnessing a move away from solvents and the VOCs they contained. There are many sources of VOCs in industrial applications, but you're probably very familiar with the resins used to make fiberglass boats and the paint and finishes used on boats. Bottom paint, in particular, is going through a revolution right now, with the introduction of water-based paints.

Solving The Solvent Issue

Remember the last time you painted your boat's bottom?  It's a messy, uncomfortable process for many of us, but with new, water-based anti-fouling paints, such as Hydrocoat from Pettit and Micron Optima from Interlux, you've gone from a paint that could eat through a roller to ones that clean up with soap and water. These low-odor paints feature dramatically lower VOCs, often a reduction of more than 50 percent, compared with paints with traditional solvents, so you can even paint indoors in some circumstances. It should be noted these are still multi-season ablative paints. Once dried, they are no different than traditional paints. In fact, you can apply them right over your old paint.

By switching to using water as a solvent, instead of harsher (and regulated) solvents, bottom-paint manufacturers are preserving your ability to continue to paint your own hull.

Closed Molding Is The New Black

In the not-so-distant future, closed-molding techniques, like vacuum bagging, will be the standard across the boatbuilding industry, at least for builders of any significant volume. Some VOCs cause smog and other serious problems. Therefore they are regulated at the federal level. But poor air quality isn't equally distributed across the country. If you live in the Northeast, your air is already subject to strict scrutiny. Ditto California, or in parts of Texas. But eventually, the gradual tightening of regulations regarding toxins will impact the whole country.

"There will come a day where every drop of resin a builder brings into the plant will need to be accounted for, whether it goes into a boat or is spilled on the floor," says Peter Frederiksen of Viking Yachts. The New Jersey-based builder of sportfish yachts vacuum-bags just about every hull already, even their 92-footer (left). And while the prep for vacuum bagging — the time required to lay up the materials that will go into the hull, seal the mold under plastic, run the hoses, hook up the manifolds, and attach vacuum pumps — seems quite involved, there are a lot of benefits. First, the plant has less odor and harmful chemicals in the air. Second, the precise metering of resin means the right amount is always used throughout. Not too much, which adds unnecessary weight, nor too little, which can make the hull brittle. And the vacuum pressure virtually eliminates voids, those hidden places where no resin flows into the fiberglass. These things mean a better boat. Plus, of course, allowing the resin to set under seal prevents those VOCs from escaping.



Posted On: May 13, 2019

Too much confidence can get you in trouble.

Here's an article I read from April's Boaters. 

I Learned About Boating From This: A Hard-Won Lesson of Tide and Current

An experienced boatman reflects on the perils of overconfidence and a failure to keep a weather eye.

By Bill Schlatter

I have been boating on the south shore of Long Island, New York, for 25 years. But, back in 1992, I was still a novice. And on a calm Sunday afternoon, I made a novice blunder that could have been tragic.

Six months of boating experience coupled with the completion of a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary boating safety course gave me the confidence I needed to head out into the ocean with a friend. NOAA weather radio informed us there were 3-foot seas — certainly, my boat could handle that! It was a 1987 25-foot Renken cabin cruiser with a 200 hp sterndrive.

Nearing the Jones Inlet, I was a bit perplexed to see a few smaller boats just inside the inlet, but no boats heading out. We slowly threaded past the smaller boats and cruised toward the inlet mouth. I felt comforted that some of the smaller boats followed as we headed out. Soon, as ­expected, we began hitting some swells. The swells were predictable, smooth and fun, and we continued heading south toward the open sea.

Hazy conditions made the horizon difficult to discern, making it tough to see the 4-, 5- and then 6-foot swells that were quickly upon us. The ride was a lot less fun now, and I found myself intently focused on the water directly in front of the boat. A few seconds later, my friend asked, “What’s that?” as he pointed forward. White water! Large, roiling, angry waves were directly ahead.

I had a limited number of swells to traverse before hitting the enraged seas, so I prepared to turn around. Looking aft, I noticed only the sterns of the other boats. The 6-footers were less organized now, tossing around my 25-footer like a toy. I needed to turn around now, but I couldn’t find a wave that I felt safe pivoting on.

The white, roiling seas were two swells away when I had no choice but to turn hard after a crest passed. The next 10 seconds were an eternity. The underpowered ­Renken came about, but it didn’t have enough power to climb the back side of the wave. Stuck in the trough at full throttle, it was all I could do to keep the boat straight. As the swell behind lifted our stern, an image of my Coast Guard Auxiliary instructor teaching about pitchpoling popped into my mind. My heart raced, and I prayed and loudly encouraged my little V-8 to give us the power to climb the crest. Luckily, we barely crested the top and were able to ride that wave in. The angry white water never caught up to us.

My friend and I gained instant respect for Mother Nature. We learned to be more prepared for future boating situations. For example, we now understand the impact of tides on an inlet — in Jones Inlet that day, the tide rushing out exacerbated the effect of the swells ­moving in. Furthermore, in 1992 we had little technology at our disposal. Today, with sophisticated marine electronics, it’s much easier to prepare for Mother Nature. There is just no excuse for being uninformed.

Finally, the underpowered Renken has been replaced with a twin-engine Formula. Never again will I attempt to coax a boat with too little motor through conditions it cannot match.



Posted On: May 10, 2019

Do I Need GPS?

By Capt. Scott Manning

An experienced skipper thinks that no matter which fishfinder you choose, it should really have GPS and 2-D sonar.

Fishfinder mounted on helm

One morning I headed my boat downstream on a short 4-mile run to my fishing destination. About a mile into the trip, the fog rolled in so heavy I could no longer see. No amount of training, no spotlight, or any device I had on my trailer-sized boat could assist in increasing my visibility. Literally, I couldn't see the bank, the water in front of me, or more important, any oncoming boats or water hazards.

I stopped my boat and immediately turned my fishfinder on GPS mode. This allowed me to see exactly where I was, where navigable markers were located, what the water depth was, and how close to the bank my boat was traveling. I was able to maneuver to a safe location until the fog dissipated. I then continued to my destination at a safe speed while appreciating today's modern technology.

An essential part of any boat is electronics, which are used in locating fish, determining GPS coordinates, and numerous other applications. In today's market, boaters are overwhelmed with many brands and types of fishfinders.

Boating and fishing have embraced 21st-century technology, turning the art of finding fish into modern-day science. These powerful tools allow the resources to check depth, structure, fish locations, speed, and temperature. Humminbird, Lowrance, Raymarine, and Garmin are the main producers of fishing electronics, and all have their pros and cons. Prices range from as little as $150.

The biggest mistake is to purchase a fishfinder without GPS. GPS stands for Global Positioning System and receives signals from government satellites to determine your exact location. GPS not only allows you to track your course and create mapping of favorite fishing spots, structure, and water hazards, it could also save your life.

Most GPS units come with pre-installed maps. To obtain more detailed and updated GPS data, however, invest in a Lakemaster or Navionics SD card. Also, GPS gives latitude/longitude coordinates that can be added to your float plan or pinpoint your location in case of an emergency. Venturing out too far in the sea or large bodies of water can spell disaster if you get lost and can't find your way back to shore. GPS tracking adds an extra layer of security by tracking your route and recalling the location of your boat.

GPS offers endless possibilities for recreational and angling boaters. Modern GPS technology has the ability to network with radar, sonar, trolling motor, and autopilot systems. GPS will give you more confidence to explore and make the most of your time on the water.

I use a Humminbird Onix with side imaging. This is the top-of-line unit that comes with GPS, 2-D CHIRP sonar, down imaging, and side imaging. The capability to uncover structure and cover with these units is incredible. Whichever unit you choose, make sure it has GPS and 2-D sonar.

A fishfinder is an essential part of any boat and an excellent investment. The higher-end models can be expensive, but the added benefits outweigh the additional cost, provide additional safety features, and maintain value



Posted On: May 06, 2019

Marking Anchor Chain

Story By Tim Murphy

Here's how to make quick work of setting the right scope every time you anchor.

"The cries of the leadsman began to rise out of the distance, and were gruffly repeated by the word-passers on the hurricane deck. ‘M-a-r-k three! ... M-a-r-k three! ... Quarter-less three! ... Half twain! ... Quarter twain! ... M-a-r-k twain!'"

On today's boats, electronic depth sounders have largely replaced leadsmen calling out the depth in fathoms, as related in Mark Twain's 1883 "Life on the Mississippi." But for anchoring, a traditional technology is still the best trick. That technology? Simply marking your boat's anchor rode at regular intervals.

Scope It Out

Successful anchoring heavily depends on scope: the ratio of anchor rode to water depth. A good baseline is to put out 5 feet of anchor rode for every foot of water depth. We'd call that a scope of 5-to-1.

Water depth for anchoring is calculated from the seafloor to the anchor roller or chock at the top of the bow, which is usually several feet more than the depth sounder's reading. More is always better, as a rule of thumb, providing there's room to allow for the boat to swing.

For a quick lunch stop in benign conditions, including a good-holding bottom, you can perhaps use a little less scope, say 3-to-1, if you're keeping watch. In rough conditions or for times you'll be away from the boat, you need more scope: perhaps 7-to-1, assuming the anchorage provides ample room for your boat to swing, considering shallow water, obstructions, and other boats. Many anchor-dragging incidents are caused by putting out too little scope, which doesn't allow the anchor chain and rode the best angle for digging in and staying in.

Mark It Up

Marking your rode is a quick way to see in real time just how much scope you're putting out. A typical marking system uses three colors three times each, first with one color used once, twice, then three times for each selected length, then the next color, etc. The colors may be from paint or dye, common on chain, or they may be made using ribbon or line, more common on rope. Voyagers Hal and Margaret Roth used ribbon (1-inch wide by 12-inches long in red, white, and blue) at increments of 5 fathoms, or 30 feet. This number works best for most boaters, as you'd almost always put out at least 30 feet of rode, even in shallow waters, so it's a good place to start your marks.

In the Canary Islands, I watched a transatlantic crew spray paint their chain with yellow, blue, and red marks at similar intervals. However, if you plan to regalvanize your anchor chain at some point, painted marks may make cleaning, or "pickling," the chain before regalvanizing more difficult.

Still another technique is to unlay colored three-strand line, then braid the strand through five or 10 links of chain at regular intervals. You can even use large colored zip ties, leaving the tails intact. If you're not into doing it yourself, chandleries sell color-coded markers in green, red, yellow for less than $6. These are marked with numerals for depth at 30-foot intervals.

No matter which method you choose, if you use a windlass, make sure your system passes over the gypsy.



Posted On: May 06, 2019

Leaving your boat in a slip doesn't have to leave your brain tied in knots — here's how.

Tying up at a dock is one of those techniques that's most elegant when it's done simply. The trick is to get the fewest number of docklines serving the greatest number of functions. And doing that means paying attention to three things: Strong points, a good hitch, and the right combination of lines.

"Notice anything different?" the skipper bellowed. The houseboat's rail — we'd tied our stern line to it — was now just a mangled pretzel of aluminum, thoroughly separated from the rest of the boat. The boat's builder had secured the rail to the deck with nothing but short self-tapping screws. The lesson: Make sure all your lines are tied to a strong point — both on the boat and on the dock. Usually this is a cleat, but a strong point may be a ring or an eye; it may be a bollard or a bitt; it may be a piling. The important thing is that whatever you tie off to needs to be stronger than the loads coming from the docklines. A good cleat or other strong point will be bolted through the hull or decking, with robust fasteners finished off with a nut, fender washer, and backing plate on the underside to spread the load. The lifting or towing eyes on a runabout are good strong points.

The Cleat Hitch

Walk down any dock, and you're bound to see a bad cleat hitch — either a tangled mess of excessive line or a series of insufficient loops that will slip apart under strain. Among charter fleets, the number of dinghies lost to bad cleat hitches is beyond counting.

Photo of tying a cleat hitch step 1
Photo of tying a cleat hitch step 2
Photo of tying a cleat hitch step 3
Photoof tying a cleat hitch step 4

The trick to a good cleat hitch is to keep it simple: Three turns around the cleat's horns; no more, no less. Pass the line once completely around the cleat's base (under the horns); next, make a figure-8 over the two horns; finally, turn the line under itself to make a half hitch.

Often you'll see people layer on the turns, crossing and recrossing the cleat. Extra turns provide no extra holding strength. None. What's worse, they may make it more difficult to untie if things start moving fast.

Docklines — Tying Up Alongside

Docklines limit a boat's motion. That motion can be either in a fore-and-aft direction or a transverse direction — or a combination of the two. The key is to identify the fewest number of docklines that will limit the boat's motion in every direction. Breast lines (lines that come off the boat at a right angle to it) limit how much the boat can move toward or away from the dock. Springlines (lines that run at a shallow angle along some portion of the length of the boat) limit how much the boat can move forward or backward. Bow lines and stern lines (lines from the bow forward to the dock or from the stern aft to the dock) may do some of each.

Docklines illustration with all possible lines
A glossary of all possible lines.

Figure A shows virtually all the possible docklines you could use — but hopefully not all at once! Docklines are named according to this convention: [direction from boat] [position on boat] [line's function]. So, a "forward quarter spring" is a line that runs forward to the dock from the cleat at the boat's stern quarter; it prevents the boat from moving astern. An "after spring" is a dockline that leads aft; it limits the boat's forward motion.

Docklines illustration using a few lines as possible
But when tying up the goal is to use only the ones needed to safely secure the boat.

For a short stop alongside a dock, you should be able to tie up with just three lines (Figure B). Breast lines have a disadvantage in places with tidal ranges or even wakes from passing boats: being so short, they limit a boat's vertical motion. Even stepping on the gunwale to get out of a small boat may strain a breast line. The best combination of docklines is typically at least one springline, plus a bow line and a stern line. If you run the bow line forward and the springline aft, you'll limit the boat's motion in both directions yet still allow for some motion up and down. Likewise, run the stern line aft from the side of the boat farthest from the dock. This will limit both transverse and forward motion. Place good fenders between the boat and the dock, then tension up the lines. For heavier weather and longer stays, add a second springline in the opposite direction of the first.

Docklines illustration tying up with only 4 lines

Docklines — Tying Up In A Slip

Tying up in a slip typically works best with four docklines: two bow lines, and two stern lines (Figure C). As for leaving room for the water to move up and down, the same caveats still apply. Try to avoid breast lines. Instead, run your bow lines forward a bit and cross your stern lines. This way, all the lines are working together to limit motion forward, aft, and side to side. If your boat is over 35 feet or you expect lots of wind or current, add a set of spring lines.



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.