Scott Marine Surveyor Blog

AUXILIARY COAST GUARD HAD HUMBLING BEGINNINGS

Posted On: November 14, 2019

With Veterans Day recently passed, it reminded me of how a ragtag armada of everyday boating heroes kept World War II from America's coastline and became what we know today as the modern U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. Here's the story by Troy Gilbert.

From sailors to fishermen to power-boaters, ordinary citizens rose and volunteered themselves and their boats on every coastline of the U.S. becoming an integral defense force for the nation.

During a hot summer night in June 1942, the German submarine U-166 took aim at a U.S. Coast Guard patrol vessel escorting the passenger ship SS Robert E. Lee about 25 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Within an hour, the passenger ship would join the 56 other ships sunk off the northern Gulf Coast during World War II. Nearly 100 lives were lost on the SS Robert E. Lee, and the Coast Guard escort ship would claim the only sinking of a German submarine off the southern U.S. coastline.

In July 2014, the man who discovered the wreck of the Titanic, Robert Ballard, and a team of scientists aboard his exploration vessel Nautilus conducted a research expedition to study the long-term effects of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In the process, they documented many of these stricken World War II vessels, and a lost chapter in American maritime history emerged. Using remotely operated underwater vehicles equipped with high-definition cameras, many of these never-before-seen wrecks, some resting more than 5,000 feet deep, finally came in from the shadows and illuminated the straits in which the United States found itself during the early stages of the war. It was a situation that led to recreational boaters charging onto the frontlines to defend the country.

In 1941 after six U-boats managed to sink 41 ships in the targeted waters of the East Coast and the Florida Straits, a second, larger operation code-named Drumbeat was launched by the German navy, the Kriegsmarine. At the time, many U.S. citizens were still ignoring the calls for coastal blackouts by the government, which meant that the freighters and tankers that moved along the shores at night were conveniently silhouetted for the German navy. Taking advantage of that, an armada of 22 U-boats approached the U.S. coastline and the attacks were constant. In March 1942 alone, 70 American ships were lost to the U-boats on the U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast, in what the Nazis terrifyingly referred to as the "American hunting season." This ongoing attack was kept largely secret from the American people by the U.S. government, which didn't want to admit how thinly stretched and outclassed the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard were at this stage of the war — this despite several of the tankers exploding and burning for hours in plain view of port cities and their populations.

Finally, after many of the vital fuel ships supplying the Northeast were sunk, the oil and gas industry informed the U.S. War Department that the burgeoning war economy would grind to a halt from a lack of fuel in only nine months. There were 19 U-boats operating daily along the coastline; the U.S. government was under pressure, and at something of a loss, to counter the serious threat. At the time, the U.S. Navy was still ramping up the building of new warships, while the existing vessels were occupied with convoy patrols to England and with fending off the Japanese in the Pacific.

That was the critical moment when a surprising ragtag fleet of recreational boaters, the owners of schooners and powerboats, stepped forward. Immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor, a small group of skippers offered up their personal boats for anti-submarine operations along the American coastlines, and these "coastal picket forces," made up entirely of civilian volunteers, eventually laid the groundwork for what became the modern-day Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Ernest Hemingway and the crew on board his 38-foot fishing boat, Pilar, were the most famous examples of this citizen force; Hemingway patrolled the Florida Straits in search of German U-boats while armed with only grenades and Thompson submachine guns. While Hemingway's actions certainly added to his legacy, he also gave a symbolic face to the thousands of American yachtsmen and yachtswomen volunteering their time and vessels to defend the coastline of the United States and the vital supply lines through the Caribbean.

By August 1941, it was reported that nearly every yacht club along the East Coast had banded together to form a flotilla. This civilian navy fleet was a true sampling of the boating traditions around the country, from yacht owners in the Northeast to shrimpers in the local flotilla toured the area on a 24-hour basis, enduring storms and the blazing heat of summer. Off the coast of Louisiana, a convoy of 126 shrimp boats had crew members on constant watch for submarines while continuing to bring in their hauls of Gulf shrimp.

The flotillas also became vital in rescuing seamen from torpedoed vessels, freeing up the Coast Guard to actively hunt marauding U-boats. In one instance, when a Mexican tanker lay engulfed in flames and rapidly sinking just off the beaches of Miami, hundreds of citizens watching in horror witnessed the local flotilla "drive their little boats right into the flames" to retrieve survivors.

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WHY YOU NEED A SURVEY

Posted On: November 12, 2019


Why Get A Survey

It's easy to fall in love with an appealing sheer line, shimmering gelcoat, and gleaming teak, but DON’T let your heart guide you; you need an objective marine survey to avoid buying with rose-colored sunglasses on.

A marine survey is an independent evaluation of a boat's condition and value, performed by a qualified inspector who has no stake in the outcome. In fact, even experienced surveyors will usually hire a fellow professional to do the survey on a boat they're considering, to keep emotion out of the equation. Many boats sit unused and get minimal maintenance. When these boats begin to be sold, a professional evaluation, devoid of the excitement of boat-buying, is even more critical. Here's what a good survey provides:

  • The condition of the boat and its equipment: A marine survey gives a snapshot of the condition of the boat's visible components and accessible structures at the time of the inspection. A survey provides a list of deficiencies as well as needed repairs and focuses on safety. Deficiencies in a survey can be used to renegotiate the sales price or scrap the deal altogether if needed repairs are too expensive or complicated.
  • The value of the boat: Surveyors use pricing guides along with their vast experience in valuing boats. A seller or broker may think a boat has a specific worth, but until a survey is performed, those figures are only guesses. Banks and insurance companies use the survey value to determine loan and insurance hull value amounts. This is also a great tool for price negotiations and can easily pay for the cost of the survey.
  • A budget for repairs and maintenance: Nearly any boat will have some defects and deficiencies; knowing what they are beforehand makes it easier to know how much to budget for the future. Surveys typically provide a list of recommended, prioritized repairs. The most important ones are critical to safety and usually your insurance company will require them to be completed. The rest are things that can be done as you find time and money.


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HAULING YOUR BOAT OUT THIS FALL?

Posted On: November 07, 2019


For many, an annual haulout marks the end of the boating season.

Lifting Your Baby Out of The Water

On the actual day of the haul, plan to be there if you can. You'll be able to take a look at just how fouled the bottom is before it's pressure washed and you'll get an idea of how your antifouling paint is working. Most yards do this immediately after the boat is hauled so the fouling doesn't set like concrete. "We always pressure wash a boat as soon as it comes out of the water," Leszynski says. "We have a waste-recovery system, and this ensures any bottom paint, dirt, or other contaminants are contained. Pressure washing is included in the fee for hauling, and we won't move a boat into the yard until it has been washed."

It's normal for the owner to drive the boat into the travel hoist pit unless you have made alternative arrangements. Have plenty of fenders on both sides of the boat to protect the topsides should you be blown sideways. Listen carefully to instructions given to you by the yard staff operating the hoist who will have done this maneuver many times before. You probably won't need docklines because the boat will be going right into the slings, but check with the lift operator. Larger sailboats may have to back in to the pit and even have the backstay removed so the rigging will clear the hoist. The staff won't lift a boat with you or the crew aboard so they'll tell you when to get off and anything else they need you to do before vacating the boat. Don't forget to shut off the engines, air conditioners and other equipment before the boat is hoisted.

All tanks should be as empty as possible, and while it may not be practical to drain fuel tanks, it is relatively easy to drain water and waste tanks. Full tanks add significant weight to the boat, and empty tanks will put less strain on the boat's structure when it is sitting in an unnatural element on land.

Before the boat is hauled out of the water, tell the travel hoist operator about any underwater appendages, such as fin stabilizers or pod drives, transducers, speed wheels and other things not easily seen when the boat is in the water that could be damaged by the travel hoist slings. "We are familiar with most boat designs", says Leszynski, "but it is helpful if owners mention things that may be special about their particular boat".

On The Hard

If your boat is being lifted for anything more than an hour or so, often called a "short haul," it is likely that it will be placed on blocks in the yard and supported with jackstands. If this is the case, tell the yard about any relevant structural features of your boat. Some downeast powerboats, for example, have hollow keels aft, which could potentially suffer damage if the boat is improperly blocked and supported. In cases like this, blocks should probably run lengthwise rather than athwartships to provide adequate support.

As a general rule, the workers in the yard have much experience moving and blocking boats, so it's best to leave it up to them as to how they do it. By all means watch, but don't interfere unless you see something that is wrong or unsafe; if you see a problem, bring it up with the yard manager.

Once the boat is settled into her spot, inspect the jackstands. Ensure they have chains between them to prevent them from spreading, which could cause the boat to fall over. Be sure that the attachment points of the chain to the jackstands are secure. Sometimes the slits in the metal of the frame into which the chain links sit are torn or bent from use, which could result in slipping or failure. If a stand is severely rusted, ask to have it replaced.

Also check the ground beneath the jackstands. If the stands are resting on, for example, sandy or loose soil, and especially if there's a slope, this may present a problem in heavy rains. The majority of jackstands will have three or four legs and unless they are on a solid surface, they should have sturdy plywood pads or other good support placed underneath to distribute the weight over a larger surface area, preventing them from sinking into the ground. If you see any problems, discuss them with management as soon as possible.

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THE WATER IS GETTING COLDER NOW

Posted On: November 05, 2019


GETTING THOSE LAST FEW DAYS ON THE WATER .….

 

Sometimes those occasional warm autumn days can be deceiving, because the water temperature can be frigid. Taking some simple steps can turn a worst-case scenario of a swamped or capsized boat into the best-case scenario for surviving cold-water immersion. To reduce the risk, make sure to not overload your boat, avoid those situations that put you at risk of going overboard and make sure everyone is wearing a life jacket.


Understanding the critical phases of cold-water immersion and knowing some basic techniques to delay hypothermia’s onset greatly increase your chances of survival. Cold shock is an initial deep and sudden gasp, followed by hyperventilation, which has been shown to increase breathing by 600 to 1,000 percent. Keeping your airway clear and wearing a life jacket greatly reduce the risk of drowning. Try not to panic, and concentrate on your breathing. Cold shock will normally pass in one minute.


Over the next 10 minutes, you will lose the effective use of your extremities. Concentrate on self-rescue; if that’s not possible, keep your airway clear and wait for rescue. Remain calm and don’t try to swim. Loss of body heat can be 10 times faster through the movements associated with swimming.

Hypothermia means that a person is losing body heat faster than he can produce it; but even in icy water it may take approximately an hour before a person becomes unconscious. (To learn more about surviving cold-water immersion, visit coldwaterbootcamp.com.) If you cannot get out of the water and help is not immediately available, draw your knees to your chest and wrap your arms across your chest (hugging your life jacket) in the Heat Escape Lessening Posture (H.E.L.P.), protecting the critical areas of heat loss. If others are in the water with you, huddle together with your arms around each other, both to conserve body heat and create a larger target to spot in the water.


Don’t Boat Alone Especially in the Fall and Winter

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PUMPKINS & HALLOWEEN

Posted On: October 31, 2019

Pumpkins and Halloween
The origin of Halloween dates back at least 3,000 years to the Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced "sow-ain"). The festival was held starting at sundown on October 31st and lasted until sundown on November 1st. It was similar to the modern practice of the New Years celebration.

On this magical night, glowing jack-o-lanterns, carved from turnips or gourds, were set on porches and in windows to welcome deceased loved ones, but also to act as protection against malevolent spirits. Burning lumps of coal were used inside as a source of light, later to be replaced by candles.

Samhain was not the name of a "Lord of the Dead", no historical evidence has ever been found to back this up, it was simply the name of the festival and meant "Summer's End". It was believed that the souls of the dead were closest to this world and was the best time to contact them to say good bye or ask for assistance. It was also a celebration of the harvest. It is still treated as such today by those who practice Wicca or other nature based religions. It has absolutely nothing to do with satan, who was a creation of the Christian church.

When European settlers, particularly the Irish, arrived in America they found the native pumpkin to be larger, easier to carve and seemed the perfect choice for jack-o-lanterns. Halloween didn't really catch on big in this country until the late 1800's and has been celebrated in many ways ever since!

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WITCHES, WARLOCKS, & HALLOWEEN

Posted On: October 29, 2019

Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog”

“Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing”

“For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and babble”

“Double, double, toil and trouble, Fire burn, and caldron bubble”
William Shakespeare


Witches and Warlocks have had a long history with Halloween. Legends tell of witches gathering twice a year when the seasons changed, on April 30 – the eve of May Day and the other was on the eve of October 31 – All Hallow’s Eve.

 

The witches would gather on these nights, arriving on broomsticks, to celebrate a party hosted by the devil. Superstitions told of witches casting spells on unsuspecting people, transform themselves into different forms and causing other magical mischief.

 

It was said that to meet a witch you had to put your clothes on wrong side out and you had to walk backwards on Halloween night. Then at midnight you would see a witch.

 


When the early settlers came to America, they brought along their belief in witches. In American the legends of witches spread and mixed with the beliefs of others, the Native Americans – who also believed in witches, and then later with the black magic beliefs of the African slaves.

 

The black cat has long been associated with witches. Many superstitions have evolved about cats. It was believed that witches could change into cats. Some people also believed that cats were the spirits of the dead.

 

One of the best known superstitions is that of the black cat. If a black cat was to cross your path you would have to turn around and go back because many people believe if you continued bad luck would strike you.

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WORDS THAT CAN SAVE LIVES

Posted On: October 24, 2019

Emergency Procedure Words

There are three emergency procedure words that carry extra importance when you're communicating by radio. In order of decreasing severity, they are mayday, pan-pan, and sécurité.

Emergency Words

WordDerivationMeaningWhen To UseComment
MAYDAYFrom the French "m'aidez," which means "help me"A vessel and/or crew is in grave and imminent dangerLife-threatening medical emergency; possibility of losing the boatUse for imminent danger only
PAN-PANFrom the French "panne," which means "broken"A vessel requires urgent assistanceSerious mechanical breakdown; urgent but not life-threatening medical issuesBecause it handles such a wide range of difficulties, details can be added to the transmission: "Pan-pan, pan-pan, pan-pan, this is the vessel Surprise requesting medical advice, over."
SÉCURITÉFrench for "safety"Important safety information followsInformation that could be important to another vessel's safetyCovers a wide range of issues: hazards to navigation, pyrotechnic demonstrations, Coast Guard Marine Safety Broadcasts, large vessel traffic alerts"

Through the use of these words, you will alert all mariners to the seriousness of your transmission, and to the possibility that they might be involved in lending assistance. All three are anglicized versions of French words, and each is repeated three times in succession so that those who hear the transmission understand that they're hearing an actual call for help and not a discussion of another vessel's distress call. (See additional comments on mayday relay below.)

When you hear a transmission that uses one of the three emergency words, what action should you take? A lot depends on your proximity to the vessel or incident in question. It also depends on your ability to respond and give assistance. If you hear a mayday and you are the most appropriate vessel to respond, you are legally and morally required to lend assistance, if you can do so without endangering your crew or vessel.

Common VHF Channels And Their Uses

While VHF radios may have anywhere from 55 to 80 channels, there are relatively few that can be used by recreational boaters. This table lists the most common ones, but because VHF channel use is somewhat geographically specific, a few channels may be different in your home waters. The VHF channels used in Canada and Internationally may have different frequencies and different functions than those used in the U.S.

ChannelSimplex/Duplex*Purpose
*A simplex channel transmits and receives on the same frequency. Duplex channels use different frequencies for transmitting and receiving.
16SimplexInternational distress, safety, and hailing. Monitoring required while underway.
6SimplexIntership safety. Frequently used by towing companies.
22ASimplexU.S. Coast Guard working channel. Referred to as "22 Alpha." Maritime Safety Information Broadcasts are announced on Channel 16, then broadcast on 22A.
21A, 23ASimplexU.S. Coast Guard only. In rare instances, the Coast Guard may ask you to communicate with them on these channels.
9SimplexBoater calling (commercial and noncommercial). Recommended for hailing another vessel (to reduce traffic on Channel 16). Many radios can monitor 16, 9, and a working channel.
13SimplexIntership navigation safety. Ships are required to monitor Channel 13 when at sea. Effective if you are trying to contact a specific vessel in your area, especially if there is risk of collision. Transmissions are limited to 1W to reduce interference.
14SimplexPort operations. In areas with Vessel Traffic Service (VTS), this is the channel they use to communicate with large ship traffic. Can be very helpful for tracking vessels.
24-28, 84-87DuplexPort operations. In areas with Vessel Traffic Service (VTS), this is the channel they use to communicate with large ship traffic. Can be very helpful for tracking vessels.
68, 69, 71, 78ASimplexFor noncommercial communications with other vessels or shore stations. Traffic must be concise. Commonly used by race committees, along with Channel 72.
72SimplexSimilar to previous channels but only for ship-to-ship. No land-based stations can use channel 72.
70SimplexDigital only; used by DSC functions on the radio.
WX 1-9SimplexNOAA weather channels. Local weather is usually on WX1-WX4.

Mayday Relay

If you're the only person to hear a mayday call from another vessel, you may have to act as a relay to rebroadcast vital information to the Coast Guard or other rescue agencies. In that case, use the words "mayday relay." This tells other vessels and stations that you're not the one in trouble, but aware of a vessel in trouble.

Finally, nothing is more frustrating than hearing a mayday call, then having another vessel break in with low-priority traffic. If this happens, the vessel in distress can remind them to keep the channel open (assuming they've taken a Safety at Sea seminar or have read Chapman Piloting & Seamanship) by saying Silence Mayday (pronounced "seelonce mayday"). At the end of the emergency, the transmission Silence Fini (pronounced "seelonce feenee") tells other mariners that normal communications can resume. The French pronunciation helps differentiate these words from the normal stream of radio traffic, but it's certainly no time to worry about perfecting your accent.

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VHF RADIO RADIO IS STILL THE BEST IN AN EMERGENCY

Posted On: October 22, 2019


Here"s a recent article by Chuck Hawley/US Sailing

Being able to communicate with other boaters and rescue agencies makes having a VHF a necessity no matter how small your boat.

Your VHF radio should be your go-to communications in an emergency. The U.S. Coast Guard has a huge network of towers to listen in on distress calls and when you make a call, every other nearby boater with a radio on can also hear you, which increases your chance of getting help. Knowing a little about your VHF and how to make the call can help when you really need it.

Fixed-Mount VHF Radios

Arguably one of the most cost-effective safety items you can have on any boat, a fixed-mount VHF allows you to communicate with a wide range of people and organizations: the U.S. Coast Guard, commercial ships, the Rescue 21 network, bridge tenders, TowBoatUS, race committees, and countless others stations. And its full potential is realized when units with Digital Selective Calling, or DSC, are connected to an operational GPS receiver (or have one internally). While all radios sold in the U.S. over the last decade are equipped with DSC, many operators (the U.S. Coast Guard says about 85 percent) either have not connected their radios to their GPS, nor registered for an MMSI (Marine Mobile Service Identity) number. This is vital for the full functionality of the Rescue 21 system.

Fixed-mount VHF radios are only as good as their antenna systems (a combination of the antenna, coaxial cable, and connections). Antennas should be mounted as high as possible: on the masthead of a sailboat or on the flybridge of a powerboat. Because VHF signals travel more or less in a straight line, a higher antenna will allow a VHF signal to reach more distant stations due to the Earth's curvature.

The Invaluable Phonetic Alphabet

To make sure you're clearly understood, especially when using the VHF radio, words often need to be spelled out using what's known as the phonetic alphabet. On a radio transmission, static can produce mistakes. For instance, over the past couple of years, a popular boat name, according to our BoatUS records, has been Blew By You. In audio communications, this can be mistaken for Blue Bayou. Learn the phonetic alphabet by heart so that you can easily spell out names and words quickly, especially in emergency situations. BoatUS spelled out is Bravo Oscar Alpha Tango Uniform Sierra.

A    AlphaG    GolfM    MikeS    SierraY    Yankee
B    BravoH    HotelN    NovemberT    TangoZ    Zulu
C    CharlieI    IndiaO    OscarU    Uniform 
D    DeltaJ    JulietP    PapaV    Victor 
E    EchoK    KiloQ    QuebecW    Whiskey 
F    FoxtrotL    LimaR    RomeoX    X-ray
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