Scott Marine Surveyor Blog


Posted On: June 20, 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 Boating Times and thought it would be a good topic to re-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: June 18, 2019


No one can detail everything but here's a fairly comprehensive guide of steps to take if you get in an accident on the water.

Reporting a boating accident is not just the right thing to do, it is a requirement. Make sure you know the right procedures for reporting a boating accident.


While no one wants to think about having a boating accident, it does occur. The requirements for reporting an accident vary from state to state, but there are some basic rules of thumb that can help you figure out whether you have had an accident that should be reported. If you have, not reporting a boating accident is a criminal offense.


Some Guidelines for Reporting a Boating Accident

Once a boating accident has occurred, it is the responsibility of the boat operator to file a report on the incident. A written report must be made to the state agency that covers boating, the U.S. Coast Guard, or both, depending on the situation. If a passenger died within 24 hours after the accident or if someone involved in the accident required medical assistance beyond first aid, the report must be filed within 48 hours. If there was only damage to the boat and/or other property, the report must be filed within 10 days of the accident. Not filing a report is a crime.

What Information is Required?

A number of specific details are required when filling out a Boating Accident Report (BAR), including the name of the boat operator and where the accident occurred. Detailed information about the boat and information on all passengers, reported losses including injuries, loss of life, and property damages must be gathered to put on the report.. In addition, a summary of the incident is required, including date, time, place, people involved, and a description of the accident

Who is Responsible?

Reporting a boating accident begins the process of finding out who is legally responsible and therefore liable for the damages caused by the accident. In some cases, no one is at fault. In others, however, this is not the case. A person is responsible for the accident if they acted negligently. This is usually judged by whether or not they behaved as a reasonable boater would have in similar circumstances. If they did not follow all safety rules and precautions, then a jury may find them liable.

Penalties for Boating Accidents

 If a person is judged liable for a boating accident, they may have civil liability, criminal liability, or both. The liable party may be sued for medical expenses, wrongful death, property damages, or other losses. In addition, the state can bring criminal charges if the boater was boating under the influence (BUI). The operator may also be criminally liable if he or she was operating the boat recklessly or with gross negligence. These charges can result in large fines and/or jail time if the boater is convicted.

Boating Accident Attorneys

If you have been involved in a boating accident, it is a good idea to consult a boating accident attorney. These attorneys are personal injury attorneys who specialize in boating accidents and maritime law. They can advise on how to determine compensation for damages or losses. It is best to avoid making statements or signing anything related to an accident, particularly admissions of guilt, until after consulting a qualified attorney. This helps to protect your legal rights



Posted On: June 13, 2019

Dangerous Gases

If you are on a boat, you are exposed to potential danger...

Carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream though the lungs by breathing in this dangerous gas. Exposure in a well ventilated environment is generally not a problem. Brief exposure in a more confined environment can cause sickness and prolonged exposure to higher concentrations can kill you. Since symptoms of carbon monoxide mimic seasickness or alcohol intoxication it is sometimes overlooked as nothing serious and those affected never receive the medical attention they need.

Tip: Maintain fresh air circulation throughout the boat at all times and maintain your vessel to assure peak engine performance. An improperly tuned engine is more likely to produce elevated levels of CO.

To avoid CO you should know the areas of where CO can accumulate such as inadequately ventilated canvas enclosures and engine compartments. If you are tied to a dock be certain exhaust ports aren’t blocked which can force exhaust back into the boat and if you are rafted to another boat be certain exhaust from one boat doesn’t enter the other.

Beware of Carbon Monoxide

  • Make sure you know where all exhaust outlets are and they are not blocked
  • Confirm that water flows from the exhaust outlet when motors or generators are running
  • Educate all passengers about the symptoms of CO poisoning and where CO may accumulate
  • Test the operation of each CO detector for proper functioning by pressing the test button
  • Open hatches or canvas enclosures if CO accumulation is suspected
  • When rafted to another boat be certain that exhaust flows freely into open air
  • Avoid swim platforms or swimming around or near a boat when the engine is running
  • Periodically examine the exhaust fixtures on your boat to be certain of proper performance
  • Always maintain your boat to peak performance to reduce the risk of CO production



Posted On: June 11, 2019

You’ve been sailing awhile and in what you thought were familiar waters, when, you hear that terrible sound.

Here’s a great article by William C. Winslow, the Division 5 – Staff Officer Public Affairs, First District Southern Region, for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the all-volunteer, non-military arm of the Coast Guard, teaching boating safety education and conducting search and rescue operations

Crunch! You have just run aground. You feel embarrassed to do so in view of your family and friends, and your ego is dinged.

Welcome to the club — you’re not really a true boater until you have experienced a scraping. What distinguishes an old salt from a newbie is what you do to minimize your bad luck, and how you get unstuck when you’re in too-thin water.

Skippers’ errors turn into trouble when they ignore signs of danger or indulge in risky navigational behavior such as not paying attention to where they are headed.  So how to keep the captain alert?

  1. A depth finder should be standard equipment on all but the smallest craft. The depth finder should be set so an alarm rings if the water drops to a predetermined depth (be generous with that setting by allowing an extra three to four feet). Even the smallest runabout should have a boat hook or even an oar to gauge the water’s depth.
  1. Have paper charts aboard. They provide the big picture of bottom conditions in far more detail than electronic ones often do and help the helmsperson plot a course around potential hazards.
  1. Know the sea conditions for your boating day. When is high and low tide? How strong is the wind and where are the currents and locations of known rip tides? Make use of all information known before you set out and use electronics and available apps to monitor any changing conditions during your cruise.
  1. Know the environment you’ll be boating in by checking the slope of tidal sand bars. If they slope gradually, they will likely continue quite a way under water. If you spot birds wading out some distance from shore, conclude that they are in shallow water. Risking a shortcut over a sandbar may work one day, but subtle changes in tide, wind, and/or waves might spell disaster during another trip.

What if you have been cautious and you still got hung up? The kind of bottom you hit and how fast you were going play key roles in whether you’ll successfully free your vessel quickly with the loss of little more than a bit of bottom paint.

At the first sound of grounding you should cut your engine to avoid plowing in deeper. Then the skipper or a knowledgeable crewmember should check to see if the vessel has been holed. Even a two-inch gash can let a lot water in. Plug that hole with anything you have, including clothes, rags, towels, life jackets, and sails.

A soft landing indicates you’re in sand or mud, but look over your railing to confirm: If you’re sitting in mud or sand, you may have some wiggle room. Retracing your route makes sense here — until you scraped, you were in clear water, so backing out may be all that’s needed. If that doesn’t work, try turning around 180 degrees. You just might be able to bull your way through because your engine is more powerful in forward than reverse (first make a quick choice as to whether deeper water is to port or starboard). If your boat is a small open runabout with a draft of no more than a foot or so, another way to get free is to have everybody get into the water and push the craft back into deeper water.

Rocks confront you with a different challenge as they are unforgiving. Moving forward or back may do serious damage to the keel; once on a rock, always on a rock until the tide changes.

There are a number of other options for the level-headed skipper to consider. If the tide is coming in, you can float off, but put out an anchor to hold the boat in place so the wind or current doesn’t push your vessel into deeper danger. If the tide is ebbing, you will be spending up to eight hours immobilized while facing an increasing list. As this could flood the boat, it’s time to call for a professional tow. Though you hope you’ll never need it, it’s smart to buy unlimited towing at the beginning of each season.



Posted On: June 06, 2019

The relationship between the wind and the waves is very important to boat to skippers. So important  that a completely new classification system was designed as a guideline incorporating both wind speed and the wave conditions most readily found at those speeds. This system, called the Beaufort Scale, was developed in 1805 by Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort of the British Navy. It is a guideline for what can be expected in certain conditions and a weather classification system. It assumes open ocean conditions with unlimited fetch.


Wind Speed


Sea Conditions





Smooth, like a mirror.



1 - 3 knots

Light Air

Small ripples, like fish scales.

1/4' - 1/2'


4 - 6 knots

Light Breeze

Short, small pronounced wavelettes with no crests.

1/4' - 1/2'


7 - 10 knots

Gentle Breeze

Large wavelettes with some crests.



11 - 16 knots

Moderate Breeze

Increasingly larger small waves, some white caps and light foam.



17 - 21 knots

Fresh Breeze

Moderate lengthening waves, with many white caps and some light spray.



22 - 27 knots

Strong Breeze

Large waves, extensive white caps with some spray.



28 - 33 knots

Near Gale

Heaps of waves, with some breakers whose foam is blown downwind in streaks.



34 - 40 knots


Moderately high waves of increasing length and edges of crests breaking into spindrift (heavy spray). Foam is blown downwind in well-marked streaks.



41 - 47 knots

Strong Gale

High wind with dense foam streaks and some crests rolling over.Spray reduces visibility.



48 - 55 knots


Very high waves with long, overlapping crests.
The sea looks white, visibility is greatly reduced and waves tumble with force.



56 - 63 knots

Violent Storm

Exceptionally high waves that may obscure medium size ships. All wave edges are blown into froth and the sea is
covered with patches of foam.



64 - 71 knots


The air is filled with foam and spray, and the sea is completely white.


Aside from just wind speed, temperature is also a factor in creating waves. Warm air (which rises) moving over water has a less acute angle of attack on the surface than does cool air (which sinks). A cold front moving across open water will create much steeper waves and hence create breakers sooner than a warm front moving at the same speed.

Also, a change in wind direction over existing waves can create confusion and hence larger waves. If a wind has been blowing northeast over an open body of water for three days and suddenly switches to northwest over that same body of water, new wavelettes will form within the existing system of waves. The energy of both systems will multiply to create larger waves.

When a wave system meets a current flow one of two things can happen. If the wind and current are both going the same direction, it tends to smooth out the waves, creating long swells. If the current and wind are moving in contradicting directions, it will create much steeper and more aggressive waves.


So, what does all this mean? Why is it important to know how waves are made? Well... You can determine several things from waves.

One of the things you can tell based on waves, is boat speed. This assumes that your vessel is a displacement ship, like a keelboat, and not a planing one like a speedboat. When sailing a displacement vessel, the boat is constantly displacing a large chunk of water as it moves along. The heavier the boat, the deeper the trough it carves through the water. Now, along with the physics of waves we discussed above, we can add that the faster a wave travels, the longer it is. As a boat's speed increases, the number of waves that it pulls along the hull decreases until the boat is actually trapped between the crest and trough of a single wave that it has created itself moving through the water.



Posted On: June 04, 2019

All to often, I hear stories about boat buyers, or sellers for that matter, getting scammed. here's a few red flags that should make you suspicious.

Any one of these red flags should be enough to make you very cautious — more than one or two should be enough to make you slam on the brakes:

  • An offer to send a cashier's check for more than the purchase price, and a request that you send the difference back to pay for shipping — almost always by instant electronic money transfer, such as Western Union, which can't be reversed once the money is picked up. Sometimes scammers will have imaginative reasons to need to have a return of excess money, such as they just got a settlement and they want to send you the check and ask you to return a portion. Ironically, this tends to foster confidence — surely you'd trust someone who trusts you enough to return some of their money. This is the brightest of red flags and always signals a scam. Never agree to send excess money back to a buyer.
  • The buyer's lack of interest in inspecting the boat, verifying paperwork (often not even mentioning it), or negotiating price, even on expensive boats. Scammers are busy and usually have multiple scams going on. They don't have time to negotiate back and forth, and often forget which person they're dealing with. If a buyer isn't interested in title, registration, or a survey, and makes a full-price sight-unseen offer, stop.
  • Buyers, banks, and shippers from multiple geographic areas. If a buyer says he is from Connecticut, and his check is drawn on a bank in Texas, and the shipper is in Florida. The check may be a forgery. The Internet makes buying across the country easy, but scammers often work together in separate areas to better hide from authorities.
  • Communication via odd-sounding email addresses. Scammers prefer emails, though many will now use text and even phone calls. Emails, especially those with foreign domains (such as .ru) make hiding identities easier. But now, scammers often buy "burners" — prepaid untraceable phones — for calls and texting. These phone are bought with cash and then tossed after a few scams.
  • Demanding fast payment. Scammers may say that the shipping company will be in town soon, and you need to pay them right away or the deal's off. Ironically, some scammers will negotiate the amount for you to send back to them (anything they can get is a success), even if they won't negotiate the boat price. Their only goal is to get some of your money before you become suspicious. If you're not comfortable, it's OK to delay the sale. Dragging your feet might save you a bundle.


Posted On: May 30, 2019

Great article for BoatUS By Tim Murphy
Illustrations By Joe Comeau

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

Close-up photo of a cleat hitch

Simple and neat, and tied to a cleat. A proper cleat hitch goes a long way toward tying up quickly and easily.

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: May 28, 2019

Great article to help you estimate distance.

By Dick Everitt

Got a tape measure and a piece of string? You can use them to find out how far away you are from, say, a lighthouse.

Measuring distance off

In this example, I know from my chart that the height of the center of the light is 100 feet above sea level. So holding a vertical ruler 60 cm from my eye, I measure from the center of the light to sea level, which is 20 mm. Using the formula below, I multiply that by 10 for a total of 200. Then I divide 100 (the height of the light) by 200, which equals 0.5. That means I'm about half a mile from the light.

Distance off by vertical sextant angle is an old navigation technique used for keeping a safe distance from an object of known height, such as a lighthouse, the height of which is shown on a chart. With modern GPS, there's no longer need to know how to calculate this, but it's a fun trick to show the kids, and it's a useful backup if you're ever forced to use basic navigation techniques. But as many of us don't carry a sextant, or a set of tables, we can copy what the ancients had been doing for centuries before the sextant was invented. They simply exploited their knowledge that the ratio of 60:1 is equal to an angle of 1 degree. To find this distance, simply measure the angle of the center of the light above sea level and look up the "distance off" in a set of tables, such as those found in a nautical almanac, or use a simple calculation (below). The center of the light itself, not the height of the top of the tower, is used because that's the height marked on the chart. Usually we can forget any tidal height allowance, as less tide will put us farther off in safer water.

In its simplest form, you'll use something that measures 60 units from your eye attached to a vertical ruler marked in the same units. (Using a metric rule to do this exercise makes your math calculation simpler because you can work in whole numbers instead of fractions.)

Hold a piece of string 60 cm (about 2 feet) in front of your eye. (I find a loop of string of the correct length around my neck more comfortable than holding a knot in my teeth.) Sight across the ruler and measure the height of the center of the light above sea level, in millimeters. Then use the formula below.


It's a rough-and-ready technique, but one day it might save you being set in too close to a nasty reef or rocks.