Scott Marine Surveyor Blog

TAKING YOUR DOG ONBOARD?

Posted On: July 09, 2020

Taking your canine buddy on your boating adventures guarantees more fun for all.

BASED ON AN ARTICLE BY JESSICA STONE

With a little planning, you and your four-legged crew can have great fun on the water.

Here are six simple tips to help your pooch feel safe, comfortable, and happy on your boat.

  1. Dogs, like people, can get seasick. Hide a capsule of powdered ginger in a chunk of cheese to settle a queasy stomach. Doggy ginger snaps are an effective treat that help to prevent mal-de-mer while doubling as a reward for great behavior.
  2. If your dog swims in saltwater, take a moment to give her/him a freshwater rinse at the end of the day. Pay attention to The paws. Salt irritates the webbing between dogs' toes and may cause cracking or bleeding.
  3. Dogs are safer if they're wearing a life jacket onboard, and easier to rescue. Avoid the styles with only one or two straps, as they can be unstable and pinch or cut skin. Select a style with full coverage under the belly to provide greater protection, and increased buoyancy.
  4. To lift large or elderly dogs aboard, consider a Rappel Sling. Designed to lower rescue dogs into remote areas, these heavy-duty slings attach easily to hardware on your boat. They will reduce strain on your back, protect your pet, and can be used to lift other heavy items on board as well.
  5. Train your dog to poop on a square of Astroturf on deck. Always keep the grass in the same spot so she understands that this is an OK place. Add a grommet to a corner of the turf and thread a line through it for easy rinsing. Solid materials should be collected and disposed of properly ashore.
  6. You can save the work of toting dog chow down the dock each weekend by storing kibble on board in an airtight plastic box. Add several bay leaves to the dry food to deter bugs. Remove the leaves before feeding your pet.
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LEARNING THE LINGO OF BOATING

Posted On: July 07, 2020

Marine terminology may sound like old, archaic jargon to some, but there are good reasons why it's important to use the right words aboard a boat.

Let's start with the most important four terms.

The front of a boat is called the "bow," and the back is the "stern."

"Starboard" refers to what is the right side of the boat if you're facing the bow; "port" refers to what is the left side if you're facing the bow. (To remember this, note that "port" and "left" each have four letters.)

So why don't we just say front, back, left, and right?

The answer is that the starboard side is ALWAYS the starboard side, no matter which way you, or anyone else, is facing on board. This is important. Imagine that you're on a boat and the captain asks you to quickly put fenders over the right side. If you were facing one another, would that be your right or his? Or imagine it's getting dark, or heavy weather is upon you, and you can't see which way people are facing on the boat. Saying "It's to your left!" or "Look to the right!" would make no sense to anyone and would create confusion that could threaten the crew and boat. If someone yells, "Man overboard! Port side!" clear directions and the use of accurate terms could mean the difference between locating, or losing sight of, a victim.

"Gunwale" (pronounced GUNN-ell) is the edge of the boat where the hull meets the deck; the name is derived from the lip at the edge of the deck that at one time prevented cannons from sliding into the sea as the ship rolled. The toilet on a boat is called the "head," which gets its name from its traditional location in the head, or forepart, of the ship. Cabins and other compartments within the boat are divided from each other by "bulkheads" (walls), which are vertical partitions between the cabin "sole" (floor) and the underside of the deck that provide structural stability to the boat's design.

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7 TIPS FOR EASY OIL CHANGES

Posted On: July 01, 2020

7 Tips For Easier Oil Changes

  • Always warm the engine before changing the oil.
  • Use a closed oil-changing system whenever possible. It's simple to use, reduces the chance of spills, and makes it easier to transport used oil to a recycling facility.
  • When changing your engine's oil filter, wrap the filter with a thick cloth during removal to avoid burning your hands. Write the date and engine hours on the new filter to serve as a visual reminder of when the next oil change is due.
  • Use oil-absorbent pads and containers to prevent and contain accidental spills.
  • Temporarily disable automatic bilge pumps to prevent oil from accidentally being pumped overboard in the event of a spill.
  • Recycle used oil and filters.
  • Dispose of used absorbent pads and rags properly.


Always contain and dispose of waste fluids properly. Store waste fluids separately. Mixing fluids can make recycling impossible and create a veritable Hell's Broth that's even more toxic (and difficult) to dispose of. Your marina likely has a disposal or recycling program available for waste oil but may not have such a program for transmission fluid. There are other options; for instance, many automotive-parts stores maintain separate stations for recycling transmission fluid

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CHANGING YOUR OUTBOARD'S ENGINE OIL

Posted On: June 30, 2020

Make your routine fluid changes as painless as possible.

With any maintenance procedure, the easier it is to do, the more likely it is to get done. So rather than put off changing your engine oil or transmission fluid, take a few moments to master the procedure so you'll stop dreading it in the future. Such tasks are necessary, of course, to keep your systems running, but routine fluid changes can also provide opportunities to spot signs of potential problems, such as wear or contamination, before they can morph into catastrophic failure — and equally catastrophic repair bills.


Part of your oil-changing routine should be inspecting the old oil once it's drained. Oil that's milky in appearance is an indication that water, antifreeze, or fuel is present, which could mean anything from a blown gasket to a cracked block. Rub a little engine oil between your fingers. If it feels abrasive or has a burnt odor, be concerned about bearing wear, although it could also simply mean that the oil hasn't been changed in a while.


The specific steps for your outboard will be outlined in your manual, but the basic process is: Drain, Change, Replace, Fill.

  • Photo of removing or installing oil drain screw
    Photo of draining oil into catch pan

1. Drain the old. This Suzuki has a drain plug you can access easily. Other models will require an oil extractor that goes through the dipstick.

2. Pass the working end up through the overhand loop as shown.

  • Photo of removing lower cowl from Suzuki engine
    Photo of removing oil filter

3. Change the oil filter. On this engine, part of the cowling needs to come off to get at the oil filter.

4. Remove the old filter carefully to minimize spills.

  • Photo of installing a new oil filter
    Photo of adding new engine oil

5. Replace with a new filter. Lube the O-ring at the top with a bit of new oil. Replace the drain plug if you removed it.

6. Add new engine oil. The amount and type are specified in your manual. 

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GET THERE ON COURSE

Posted On: June 25, 2020

Here's an excerpt of a great past article from BoatUS.


A Low-Tech Necessity

Compasses, used on boats for centuries, work because a permanently magnetized needle always points to north, irrespective of the position of the boat. Many boaters think that, in these days of modern electronic-charting aids, compasses are no longer needed. Nothing could be further from the truth. A magnetic compass requires no electricity to operate, so it could be the one piece of navigational equipment that still operates on your boat when the proverbial you-know-what hits the fan.

As the boat turns, the compass continues to point at magnetic north, and the course is shown (relative to magnetic north) in reference to a line, which represents the boat's heading. A compass has what is known as the "card," divided into 360 degrees. Thus, if the card reads 90 degrees, you will be steering a course due east; 180, due south; and so on.

For a compass to work well, it has to be correctly installed and properly adjusted. Unfortunately, on a large number of boats, the compass has been installed incorrectly. And with the ever-increasing strain on dashboard real estate, the compass is often pushed out, literally. Electrical interference from chartplotters, radios, speakers, and other electronic aids may affect compasses if they are too close to each other, so an effort should be made to keep these as far away from the main steering compass as possible. A good minimum is 12 inches.

The skipper needs to be able to easily see the main steering compass. This usually means that it must be placed directly in front of the helm position with what is known as the lubber line — two pins or some type of marking — parallel to the centerline of the boat. The skipper merely glances down to see the course being steered.

When North Is Not North

In a perfect world, a compass would always point to true north, but there are factors that make this not so. Two errors have to be accounted for: variation and deviation. Magnetic north is not the same as true north, and this difference is written on the compass rose on the chart of the area you're cruising. This difference, in degrees, between true and magnetic, is known as variation, which must be compensated for when plotting a position.

A nautical chart has two compass roses, one inside the other. The outer one always points to true north, and the inner shows, in degrees and minutes, the variation in the area, either east or west of true north. Variation, which is caused by differences in Earth's structure, differs from area to area and changes by a very small amount each year. This is annotated on the chart inside the inner compass rose. For example, variation changes from about 16 degrees west in Maine to 6 degrees in Florida and 0 degrees in Louisiana.

The other compass error that must be accounted for is deviation. Deviation refers to errors in the compass itself that cannot be adjusted out. Factors that affect deviation include nearby boat electronics, electrical wiring, metal fittings, and radio equipment. Other things, such as the boat's engine, may also affect deviation. Anything magnetic (such as speakers) placed close by will surely increase deviation. To calculate the error in the compass, it must be "swung," whereby the boat is put on several known headings that are checked against the compass reading. This is typically done by lining up a set of transit marks and comparing the boat's course to the indicated reading. Any error is corrected by adjusting the built-in magnets on the compass, which are attached to compensator rods.

To keep track of compass deviation, you'll need a deviation card, which shows the difference in degrees between the compass reading and the actual course shown on the compass. Compasses that are professionally adjusted will be supplied with a card. But if you do the adjustments yourself, you need to make up your own card. Deviation should be no more than a few degrees on each heading, while variation could be quite a bit more, depending on location. Both deviation and variation (each of which may be added or subtracted) must either be accounted for when working out the plot on the chart or when communicating a compass course to steer to the helmsman.

No-Pressure Practice

Practice steering a compass course rather than following the chartplotter. It takes some getting used to, but when you need it, you'll know how to do it. You'll have more situational awareness and less strain on your eyes. On a sailboat, an added bonus is that steering by compass can keep you attuned to the wind. As the wind shifts, you may be able to harden up or crack off a few degrees, rather than trying to follow that line on the plotter. Novice helmsmen often complain that the compass is constantly moving, but it's worth remembering that the compass does not move. It's the boat that's moving!

A properly installed and adjusted compass is a valuable navigation tool. Buy the best one your budget will allow, and take good care of it. You'll be rewarded with years of service and accurate
navigation

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GETTING IT IN GEAR

Posted On: June 23, 2020

A quick review of shifting gears and smoothly working the controls and throttle.

Shifting gears and throttle control are two skills that, in conjunction with steering-wheel control, will dictate how well you handle your boat. If you drive a car, you're used to working the gears and using a gas pedal, so it's tempting to ask, how different can it really be? Well, if you've ever been to a busy dock area, especially on a windy day, you already know the answer. There are a variety of shift and throttle controls on boats; some have separate controls, some combine them. Here we'll use a control that combines both functions into a single lever.

Shifting gears is all about smoothly and decisively working the controls to avoid lurching or picking up too much speed. Sudden or excessive throttle adjustments can lead to loss of control and cause your boat to strike the dock or another boat, so your goal is to shift into gear without exceeding idle rpm. Remember, "slow is pro," and everything you need to do to properly control your boat can be done at idle speed. Shifting from neutral should be done decisively, but without exceeding idle throttle. If you shift too slowly, you'll probably hear the gears grind. If you shift too far and begin to throttle up too quickly, you'll make the boat lunge and give your passengers an unwelcome surprise (or worse, an unexpected swim).

If you're moving from forward to reverse (or reverse to forward), always allow for a pause in neutral, long enough to say "one-one-thousand," before shifting to the next gear. Shifting too quickly can cause the engine to stall or damage the transmission.

Practice makes perfect and one simple first step you can rehearse is to find the wheel and throttle by hand, without looking. This will help build muscle memory for the ergonomics of your boat. You should also pay close attention to the sound of the transmission as you shift gears, and the change in sound of the engine as you raise or lower the throttle. Watch how your boat responds to your shift and throttle movements, and feel where the throttle changes from forward to neutral to reverse.

In close quarters, staying in gear too long or using too much throttle results in more boat speed than necessary, which forces the driver to take corrective action, and can easily turn into a series of over-corrections. By using short applications of throttle, you should be able to maintain better control of your boat's motion, and give yourself time to maneuver. Short shifts buy you the time to decide what you need to do next.

Practice Low Speed Control

Engage forward gear at idle speed for one second only, then return to neutral to assess your situation.
Engage reverse gear at idle speed for two to three seconds only, then return to neutral to assess your situation. (Boats aren't as efficient in reverse as they are in forward; that's why you can be in gear for a slightly longer time.)
When in neutral, pause several seconds so that you can assess your situation before shifting into gear.
When in gear, do not raise the throttle; stay at idle rpm

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NEW TO BOATING?

Posted On: June 18, 2020

Remember to "Walk Before Your Run"

Ease into the boating lifestyle with short trips that don’t take you too far afield. You don’t need to start off with a long-distance cruise or an overnight camping trek right off the bat. Most people will be best off if they build up to bigger trips by starting with smaller, shorter ones that help build confidence.

You’ll quickly figure out what sorts of provisions and gear are best to keep on hand, how to respond to different situations that may arise out on the water, and how long the crew enjoys different activities before a change of pace is due. As any parent can probably guess, this is particularly important if you have kids.

Check the Weather

Pick your weather carefully. Although we’d all like to go boating each and every time the schedule allows, it is an activity that Mother Nature has a big impact on. If a stiff breeze or thunderstorms are in the forecast, it’s best to keep your powder dry and wait for a better window of opportunity.

Life Jackets for Everyone!

Pick out life jackets that are comfortable, not because they’re the cheapest option available. Again, this is particularly important if you have kids. Ill-fitting or poorly designed life jackets will grow less and less comfortable as the day wears on, and there are so many types and choices these days that it’s quite easy to find a comfy life jacket for anyone of any size or age.

Slow Down for Waves

This may sound a bit simplistic, but the truth of the matter is that after hopping over a few small waves, most new boaters leave the throttle open for larger and larger ones—right up until they hit the one so big that it hurts. Remember that wave impacts are often worse for the passengers than they are for the captain, who is more likely to see the wave coming and be prepared for the impact. So if you’re running the boat and you feel a thump, other people aboard may have felt a slam or a bang.

The solution is quite simple: pull back on the throttle, before the boat hits big waves.

Learn How to Adjust the Trim


When you get your boat up and running, play with the trim a bit to find the boat’s “sweet spot.” Many inexperienced boaters forget all about trimming, because the boat seems to be running just fine. And it may well be running just fine. Play with the trim, however, and you’ll almost always discover that it could be running even better. Trimming will change how the hull meets the waves, can affect speed and maneuverability, and can make the ride a lot more (or less) comfortable.

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SO YOU FELL IN LOVE WITH BOATING?

Posted On: June 16, 2020

Now that you have decided to embrace the boating lifestyle, you'll want to establish a budget so you can start building and prioritizing your wish list. That budget will likely be a key factor in the decision to buy a new or pre-owned boat. Either way, the considerations for size and type of boat will be the same.

When it comes to determining the right size for your boat, there are a number of factors to consider:

  • People: How many people will you regularly have on board? Will you host just your immediate family or will you bring extended family and friends?
  • Towing: If you are trailering your boat, keep in mind that the size of boat will directly impact the size of the vehicle needed to tow it.
  • Location: Think about where you’ll be using the boat. If you’re planning to boat on larger waterways, then a slightly larger boat with a deeper hull might make more sense. Smaller waterways or shallow water might require a smaller vessel.
  • Storage: If you are storing your boat at the marina, boat size will likely impact monthly storage costs. If you are storing it at your personal dock, what space constraints already exist? You’ll also want to talk to your dealer or marina manager about the potential need for winter storage
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