Blog April 2016

HOW TO USE A MARINE RADIO

Posted On: April 28, 2016

The following steps and procedures are the same for either mounted or portable marine radios:

  • Check the radio setting: Be certain the marine radio is set on the proper frequency and band width. While on a vessel underway you are required to keep a listening watch on 2182 kHz or channel 16.
  • Squelch control: Squelch control blocks out weak signals. Adjust the squelch control until the noise (static) can be heard, then adjust it slightly in the opposite direction until the noise stops. Setting the squelch control adjusts the receiver so only signals strong enough to pass the level selected will be heard and reduces the amount of static noise on the speaker.
  • Do not interrupt others: Before beginning a transmission, listen for a few seconds to avoid interrupting other communications that are already in progress.
  • Microphone placement: Keep the microphone about 1 to 2 inches from lips. When transmitting, shield the microphone by keeping head and body between noise generating sources (such as engine noise, wind, etc.) and the microphone.
  • Know what to say: Before keying the transmitter, know how to say what is going to be said. Keep all transmissions short and to the point. Never “chit-chat” or make unnecessary transmissions on any frequency.
  • Speaking: Speak clearly, concisely, and in a normal tone of voice, maintaining a natural speaking rhythm.
  • Proper prowords: Use proper prowords, ending each transmission with “over” and the last with “out.” Never say “over and out.”
  • Prowords for pauses: In cases where a pause for a few seconds between transmissions is necessary, use the proword “wait.” If the pause is to be longer than a few seconds, use prowords “wait, out.” Do not use “wait one” or “stand by.”
  • Messages are not private: Remember, voice transmissions may be heard by anyone with a radio or scanner.
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REPAIRING OR REPLACING

Posted On: April 26, 2016

This article addresses the age old quandry, When Should I replace it or Can I fix It? The key take away is not all things affect the structural integrity, No matter how aesthetically pleasing, safety need to take the lead.

By Austin Frye for Boating Times

Have you ever walked down the docks and caught a glimpse of that one boat in complete disrepair that looks held together mainly by duct tape? While there is a place and a time for utilizing duct tape and other quick fixes, there comes a time when you must fix a boat the right way. Aesthetics are a matter of personal choice — it’s no big deal if you’re OK with buffer trails in your boat or a tear in your mooring cover (despite the elements getting underneath). However, jerry-rigging is not OK when it comes to a vessel’s structural and electrical integrity as well as its power and other mechanical issues. First, safety is a concern and second, electrical or mechanical issues left unattended can lead to major headaches down the road.

 

I’ve compiled a short list of items that can rip, tear, break, or fail on board your vessel. (This list doesn’t cover everything, but gives you a general idea.) These will be fine with a quick patch if that’s all you’re inclined to do:

 

    Vinyl tears

    Bimini enclosure tears

    Isinglass yellowing or tears

    Mooring cover tears

    Fiberglass voids

 

The following must be repaired properly or replaced:

 

    Ripped or exposed wiring

    Deck soft spots

    Engine malfunctions

    Cracked thru-hull fittings

    Malfunctioning bilge pump or float switches

    Seacock failures

 

As I stated earlier, restitching a small tear in your canvas or patching a ripped section of vinyl doesn’t jeopardize anything, but a faulty seacock or non-working bilge pump may lead to a sinking. You have to know the difference and be ready to spend money as necessary.

 

For example, last summer I spent a weekend working on a large sport-fishing vessel, bringing it from Montauk to her homeport in Jones Inlet. Before any long run — or any run for that matter — the engine room is checked to be sure that nothing is leaking, all levels are where they should be, and nothing seems out of place. During that weekend, I advised the owner that while underway, the cabin had an excessive diesel smell and the transom on the starboard side collected more soot than usual; it was chalked up to dirty fuel.

 

So on Monday morning we embarked during our best weather window and headed for home, experiencing morning rain and six-foot seas until we hit the inlet and surfed our way back to the dock. After thoroughly cleaning the boat and again removing an excessive amount of soot on the transom, I opened the door to the engine room to let it cool down as I always do after a long run. After popping my head into the engine room, I found the room was completely black with soot!

 

An investigation found that the riser on the port engine had a small hole, which caused both the soot on the transom and the diesel smell in the cabin. The assault on the vessel by the heavy seas on the way home likely made the hole progressively worse, blowing soot throughout the entire engine room but predominately on the starboard side, where it in turn blew out through the vent and onto the transom.

 

There was no longer any debate — it was time to repair the boat correctly. It started with team members going through the entire engine room, using a steam cleaner to remove all the soot from every surface, nut, bolt, and crevice (it took several passes through the engine room to make sure it was free and clear). After that thorough cleaning, the insurance adjusters assessed the damage and though only the basics of the repair were covered, the vessel’s owner went above and beyond. In addition to replacing the riser and hose clamps associated with it, the owner had the mechanic go through the motor, replacing anything that may have been iffy while the engine was under the knife. This proactive approach sought to avoid future problems, including the need to replace the engine prematurely.

 

This was a prime instance of when it pays to repair and not patch. Sure, the owner could have duct taped that hole and not replaced anything that insurance wouldn’t cover, but the smart move was to fix it properly before it caused further financial issues. The boat now runs phenomenally well; both engines reach the proper RPM’s. There is no longer a diesel smell in the cabin and the transom no longer becomes thick with soot. Along with financial concerns, everyone on board is now safer — if left unattended, the riser could have come completely off and the boat would have pulled in sea water, and there was a risk of breathing potentially toxic fumes.

 

Most boaters I know have an arsenal of assorted duct tape colors. If you can live with the look, be my guest and tape everything. Everything, that is, that doesn’t affect the structural integrity of the boat or cause harm to yourself or others.

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NAVIGATING OPEN BRIDGES

Posted On: April 21, 2016

If you've never navigated a draw- or swing bridge, at first you may feel a little intimidated by the process. But don't worry. There are certain procedures you'll need to follow to make the process go smoothly. Here's an article by Tom Neale which highlights how to safely navigate them.

Getting through a drawbridge safely requires good communication, knowledge of the bridge features, and a little courtesy.

You'll Need A Few Basics:

Consult guidebooks, if you have them onboard, for the name of the bridge and to see whether the bridge operates "on request" or by schedule. Check the USCG Local Notices to Mariners for temporary changes. Also check the chart for the bridge's vertical clearance. This number will be for "mean high water." The tide can be higher than this due to moon phase, winds, and other factors. Also construction projects may reduce vertical clearance. A Tide Table for the area will be helpful. Know the vertical clearance required by your boat, including masthead attachments. Tide boards at or near the fenders often state the bridge's vertical clearance at the present tide stage. The bridge does not have to open if you can get through by lowering your removable items such as antennas and outriggers. Requesting an unnecessary opening can result in penalties.

Plan Ahead:

Before you approach, take note of special navigation issues near the bridge such as strong current (particularly if it will be pushing you under the bridge), construction, unusual traffic (such as a boat ramp on the other side), or large vessel traffic with right of way. As you approach, SLOW DOWN, even if you can pass under the bridge without it opening. Check for speed-limit signs; kids swimming; people kayaking, fishing, or paddle boarding; small boats in trouble; and things that may be hanging down from the bridge where you must pass under.

Signal Your Intent:

Know the bridge's name before you hail the tender on the VHF. In some stretches of the ICW, there will be several bridges within VHF range.

In advance of your arrival at the bridge (often you should call well before), alert the bridge operator that you need an opening. Try to make contact on the VHF channel designated for bridge use in your area (usually 13 or 9). You may need to tell the bridge operator your location or type of boat so he can pick you out. Give enough notice so that he or she has time to let the traffic clear, and to operate the bridge. Even if the bridge has scheduled openings, you should still call and advise the operator that you're standing by for his next opening. If you're part of a group of boats coming through, it'll help to advise him, but every boat in the group should also call and make the request.

 If the bridge operator doesn't answer your call, assume he hasn't heard you. Continue trying to make contact; it's their duty to respond, for the safety of all. Most bridges have phones and some numbers are listed in guidebooks. If necessary, call. If all else fails, you can use a horn to sound one prolonged blast followed within three seconds with one short blast. The bridge tender should acknowledge with the same signal. If he responds with five short blasts, there's a problem. You should respond with five short blasts to indicate your understanding that you cannot proceed.

Listen To The Tender:

If you're able to make contact by VHF or phone, the bridge tender may have special instructions or warnings for you. If you have questions, ask. They probably can't give navigational advice, but can help by telling you about boats on the other side you can't see. Keep a VHF tuned to the bridge channel until you're clear.

Beware Of Traffic:

Beware of the operating restrictions of other boats. A boat on the other side of the bridge that's coming through with a current pushing it toward the bridge should normally be given right of way to come through first, because it may have maneuverability issues. So should a tug and barge, regardless of current. For many scheduled openings, there's boat-traffic congestion as boats wait. Try to stand back out of the way and communicate with other boats on VHF as needed. If you're aboard a sailboat, douse your sail and use your engine at the bridge.

Wait For It:

The bridge tender should signal, usually with one long and one short blast, that he's opening. Don't proceed until you see that his opening is completed. Some bridges have red and green lights that show when you can go through. Look on the other side for other boats coming through that may be in your way. Advise the bridge tender when you're clear. Be aware that some boaters may not know what to do and therefore cause problems. Five short horn blasts, from a boat or the bridge, should be used to signal emergencies or dangerous situations.

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MARINE SURVEY BASICS

Posted On: April 14, 2016

The Basics

 Not all surveys are the same, but they generally begin by describing the boat overall. This part of the survey lists the year, make, model, hull identification number (HIN), and the basic specs of the boat, such as length, beam, and weight.

It should also explain the scope of the survey, which describes the limitations. For example, it may say that hard-to-access areas were not inspected, that electronics were only powered up and not tested, or that engines were not part of the survey. From there, the survey goes into meatier stuff. It will document the condition of structural components, such as hull and deck, running gear, bulkheads, and engine beds. Things like the fuel, plumbing, and electrical systems are inspected and discussed with respect to relevant standards; living spaces are inspected; and safety items are noted, such as the existence — or the lack — of carbon-monoxide alarms and fire extinguishers.

A good survey is more than just an inventory of the boat's equipment. The surveyor will comment on each section of the inspected boat. Finally, near the end of the survey are the recommendations, arguably the most important part.

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SOME SURVEY TIPS

Posted On: April 12, 2016

Tips To Get More From A Marine Survey

 

1. If buying a boat, don't rely on an old survey that may not give a current representation of the boat. Insurance underwriters will normally not accept a survey older than six months.

 2. Attend the survey and take the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about your new boat. Most surveyors are happy to talk about what they're finding and what needs to be done to correct any problems. Just don’t be a nuisance, after all, time is money.

3. Don't select a surveyor on price alone; find one that has experience on your type of boat and one with whom you feel comfortable.

4. Boats don't pass or fail a survey. The buyer determines if the boat is acceptable or not, and the insurance company will list what must be done in order to provide coverage.

5. Even a brand-new boat will almost certainly have some recommendations from the surveyor, though most of them should be addressable through the builder's warranty.

 6. Surveys include an approximate current fair-market value for use by lenders and insurance companies. This can serve as a price negotiation tool.

 7. A survey is a useful guide for planning upgrades and repairs and allows you to prioritize your budget.

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HOW OFTEN SHOULD I WASH MY BOAT

Posted On: April 07, 2016

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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WHAT LIGHTNING PROTECTION SYSTEMS DO

Posted On: April 05, 2016

A lightning-protection system is not designed to prevent a lightning strike, but rather to provide a safe discharge path for the lightning. This is the only viable solution for lightning protection (short of going back to wooden ships, kerosene lamps, and sextants). The technology to prevent lightning strikes does not yet exist.

Lightning-protection systems actually function by acting as the "best" short circuit between the cloud and the water, one designed to lead the lightning harmlessly to ground. The system accomplishes this in two ways: by attracting lightning away from more destructive pathways between cloud and ground, and by sending the charge around, instead of through, what it is protecting.

Surge-protective devices (SPD) or transient voltage surge suppressors (TVSS) should be installed on all equipment that's mission critical, expensive, difficult to replace, and/or prone to lightning damage.

TVSSs are the most exciting development in the field of lightning protection FOR ELECTRONICS.

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