Scott Marine Surveyor Blog

DOCKSIDE SINKING CAN BE AVOIDED

Posted On: April 15, 2021

You are finally in the water, and looking forward to the season ahead. Don't forget to take a few steps to ensure success.

That more vessels sink at the dock while unattended than sink while underway and manned.  A common reason for this is when cockpit drains get clogged and the vessel takes on water from heavy rains or waves slapping over a low transom.  The added weight of this water lowers the vessel in the water until a through hull fitting or cut-out transom is forced under water.  Sea water then spills into the hull from the fitting or floods over the transom sinking the vessel. 

The average vessel's bilge pump system and battery capacity is not designed to deal with this amount of flooding, especially when unmanned.  The amount of flooding that occurs when a prop shaft falls out of a vessel, or from a lost sea cock, is substantial

The second most common source of sinking at the dock is snow and rain.  I had this happen to one of my clients’ boats because the self-bailing scuppers clogged from leaves. Rain followed, and followed, and followed—until they had a submarine. Also, many skippers believe that Bimini tops and canvas covers prevent water from entering the boat.  Wrong again. They slow it, but don’t stop it.  In the winter, stow them someplace dry and shrink wrap the boat.

So, more than 80 percent of the boats sink for two reasons—all of which adds up to checking the boat from time to time. Or paying the dock hand to, or your teenager who wants some extra spending money. But check it.

The best defense against a dock side sinking is to check on your vessel often, and ensure that cockpit drains are kept clear of debris.  In addition it is important to check and maintain all through hull fittings.  Plastic through hull fittings are notorious for degrading from UV exposure and snapping off at the slightest pressure.  If your plastic fittings leave a chalky residue when wiped with a finger, replace them now!  And take the opportunity to upgrade to a bronze fitting.  Hoses connected to above water through hull fittings should lead upwards if possible.  The higher the hose is lead above the waterline, the lower your vessel can be submerged without creating a back siphon. 

 Finally, if your vessel has a low transom (as found on many outboard powered vessels) be sure to dock it with the bow of the vessel pointing to any exposed stretch of water.  That way, storm waves will break on the bow rather than over the transom.

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HOW OFTEN SHOULD I WASH MY BOAT?

Posted On: April 13, 2021

Wash Your Boat

I get asked this more than you think I should.

The first and simplest task in caring for your boat is to wash it regularly. If you boat in saltwater, rinse your boat thoroughly with fresh water after every outing to remove salt residue. Salt will not only corrode metal, fasteners and other hardware, left too long on your gelcoat, It can mar that as well. Use a long-handle, soft-bristle boat brush and some quality soap. Marine boatwash is best and is formulated for gelcoat. Car wash soap is next best and some boaters use laundry soap in a pinch.

If you don’t go out, and just sit in the marina for a week, wash the boat. If you boat in fresh water, wash the boat. General rule of thumb, every time you go out, wash your boat. If you don’t go out, wash the boat at least once a week.

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THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE WIND AND THE WAVES

Posted On: April 08, 2021


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.

Force

Wind Speed

Description

Sea Conditions

Waves

0

0

Calm

Smooth, like a mirror.

0

1

1 - 3 knots

Light Air

Small ripples, like fish scales.

1/4' - 1/2'

2

4 - 6 knots

Light Breeze

Short, small pronounced wavelettes with no crests.

1/4' - 1/2'

3

7 - 10 knots

Gentle Breeze

Large wavelettes with some crests.

2'

4

11 - 16 knots

Moderate Breeze

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

4'

5

17 - 21 knots

Fresh Breeze

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

6'

6

22 - 27 knots

Strong Breeze

Large waves, extensive white caps with some spray.

10'

7

28 - 33 knots

Near Gale

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

14'

8

34 - 40 knots

Gale

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

18'

9

41 - 47 knots

Strong Gale

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

23'

10

48 - 55 knots

Storm

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

29'

11

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.

37'

12

64 - 71 knots

Hurricane

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

45'

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.

MAKING SENSE OF THIS

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.

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QUICK THINKING KEY IN A FIRE SITUATION

Posted On: April 06, 2021

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

DSC

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

Fire Drill

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

Water Drill

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

Fire Extinguishers

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

Built-In Support

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

PASS

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

Life Jackets

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

Exit Route

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

The Power Of Prevention

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

Refueling

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

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USING THE BOAT LAUNCH CORRECTLY

Posted On: April 01, 2021


Your goal is to be as efficient as possible when it’s your turn to actually back down and launch. With that in mind park in a designated staging area, or out of the way or traffic, to prepare your boat and do the following:

  • Visit the pay station and take care of a launching fee if one is required.
  • Install the boat drain plug.
  • Check that the key is in the ignition. This would be a good time to bump the key into the “start” position just to make sure you don’t have a dead battery.
  • Load all your gear into the boat—fishing tackle, coolers, tubes, skis, etc.
  • Attach fenders to the dock side of the boat.
  • Remove the transom tie-down straps and the outboard motor brace if you use one.
  • Attach dock lines to the bow and stern cleats.
  • Unplug the trailer lights from the tow vehicle to keep cold water from damaging the hot bulbs

5 Tips for Good Boat Ramp Etiquette

  1. Always complete all prep work first in the staging area—out of the way of ramp where other boaters are launching.
  2. Launch quickly and efficiently; have others in your crew assist you to make the process easier, if possible.
  3. As soon as the boat is off the trailer, pull back up the ramp and park in a designated spot.
  4. When retrieving your boat, use a courtesy dock or tie up away from the launch area until your trailer is in place.
  5. Load the boat onto the trailer, secure the winch at the bow and the safety chain; then proceed to the staging area to finish unloading and securing your trailer.
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BOATING ETIQUETTE- RULES TO LIVE BY

Posted On: March 30, 2021

Rules of the Road

Rules of the road are the accepted system of right of way, which you must follow to be courteous and safety-minded. These rules are numerous and detailed but if you learn just a few, you should be covered in most recreational boating situations. In the following, the “stand-on vessel” has the right of way, and the “give-way vessel” needs to accommodate the other.

  1. In a situation with two boats coming head on, if possible, both vessels turn to starboard and pass port to port. That way, there’s no guesswork about the intentions of the other captain and a collision is avoided.
  2. A sailboat under sail has the right-of-way over a powerboat. If the sailboat is running with an engine, it’s considered a powerboat regardless if the sails are up.
  3. If you’re being overtaken, your responsibility is to maintain course and speed. If that scenario puts anyone in harm’s way, just slow down and let the other pass because the first job of any captain is to avoid a collision regardless of who has the right-of-way.
  4. If a vessel approaches you from the right, they’re the stand-on vessel.
  5. Human powered vessels (kayaks, SUPs, canoes, etc.) have the right-of-way over any other vessel including a sailboat.
  6. If another vessel is restricted in its ability to maneuver (due to its size, draft or any other reason) it’s the stand-on vessel and you should accommodate it.
  7. When two boats are under sail, the one on the starboard tack (wind coming over the starboard side of the deck) has the right of way over the one on the port tack. If both are on the same tack, the leeward (downwind) boat has the right of way.
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NEW REGULATION KICKS IN APRIL 01

Posted On: March 25, 2021

Many small powerboat operators leave the lanyard to the engine cutoff switch dangling uselessly unattached to the skipper. A new law, effective April 1, 2021, should go a long way to remedying that safety hazard.

Engine cutoff device wear requirements for recreational boat operators are part of the January 1, 2021, passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, which included a U.S. Coast Guard Re authorization. These devices, commonly referred to as engine cutoff switches (ECOS) are designed to prevent a boat-strike injury if an operator is accidentally ejected overboard while underway.

Engine cutoff devices can be located at the helm of the boat or on the tiller or body of an outboard engine, and typically connect a boat’s operator to the cutoff switch with a lanyard. Some new ECOS devices eliminate the lanyard and rely on wireless proximity devices to shut down an engine if the operator goes overboard. Use of these wireless devices, an electronic "fob" worn by the operator that turn off the engine when submerged in water, are also acceptable under the new rule.

Section 8316 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 requires a vessel operator to use ECOS on certain vessels less than 26 feet when traveling on plane or above displacement speed.

Exceptions to the ECOS requirement include if the main helm of the vessel is in an enclosed cabin or the vessel is not operating on plane or at displacement speed. Low-speed activities such as trolling or docking do not require use of an ECOS. The vessel operator is also exempt if the boat's motor produces less than 115 pounds of static thrust — or about the size of a 3-hp engine.

The new rule applies to all navigable waterways. Current federal law preempts states from enacting or enforcing a law on a subject that is different from a federal law on the same subject. States also cannot enforce federal law.

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PROP ISSUES?

Posted On: March 23, 2021

If your engine can’t get to within 100 to 200 rpm of rated wide-open throttle (WOT), you probably have a prop issue, assuming your engine runs fine and minimal growth on the hull. Most props can have the pitch adjusted at a prop shop, which can save you from having to buy a new one. A general rule of thumb is that a 1-inch pitch change will result in a 175 to 225 rpm change at WOT.

Does Your Engine Over-Rev While The Boat Seems Slow?

If your prop has too little pitch, the engine can rev past its red line, which is like driving your car on the interstate in second gear. Continuous running over WOT will soon damage an engine. A prop shop can add more pitch or recommend a new prop. Notice that having either too little or too much pitch can cause engine damage. So why didn’t your boat come with the right prop in the first place?

It's possible it did, but the prop could have been changed later. Also, a boatbuilder doesn't know how or where you will be using your boat, so he or she often uses a compromise prop. Running your boat at high-altitude lakes, for example, requires a different prop than one that will be used at sea level. A boat used to pull skiers or one that is loaded down with weekend gear will require a different prop than a boat used for zooming a couple of fishermen out to a fishing spot.

Which material is best for a prop? A lot depends on where you do your boating. If your chances of hitting a submerged object are low, an aluminum prop is an all-around inexpensive choice. Aluminum props come standard from most boat and engine manufacturers, but they're less rugged than stainless-steel props. The latter are less likely to be damaged but are more expensive to repair.

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