Blog August 2016


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Posted On: August 30, 2016

Flexible Illumination For Your Boat

Fumbling around in the boat at night with a flashlight in your mouth while trying to untangle a fishing rod in a locker or searching for that special lure box under the gunwale is certainly frustrating. Those little surface-mount courtesy lights aren't much better, lighting up a small area but leaving the rest of the locker a black hole of mystery. Consider, instead, installing flexible LED strip lighting. LED strip lights have come a long way over the years. The prices have come down to the point that they've become the lighting of choice for many anglers and recreational boaters looking for an inexpensive way, with long life and very low battery drain, to evenly light large areas of space.

Many anglers — who don't let their boating fun end when the sun goes down, need lighting. There are a good number of boaters who hit the water before daylight and return well after dark, so accessory interior lighting is an important part of the mariners'  tool set.

To see what’s involved in installing them, here’s an excerpt of an article in BoatUS from Bruce W. Smith

1. Joe Eckroth likes to test the LED strip lights before he starts the installation by touching the hot and ground leads to the boat's 12-volt battery. This boat is getting Cool White, but the LED strips can be ordered in a variety of colors depending on the boater's needs. White and blue are the most common colors.

2. The flexible strip lights are about 3/8-inch wide and fit snugly in the plastic track used to mount them to flat surfaces. Eckroth says the strips have a backing, which he advises to leave on for this type of installation.

Eckroth carefully presses the strip light into the T-H Marine plastic channel. The LEDs are encased in a soft, flexible clear resin, so they're water resistant.

3. If the strip is too long for the space, it can be easily trimmed using scissors or side cutters. Be sure to cut only at the designated spots along the strip, which are noted by scissor emblems (arrow) placed on the strip about every two inches.

4. Once the lights are cut to the desired length, Eckroth lays down a strip of the 3M double-sided tape on the back of the mounting channel. Then he carefully removes the backing to expose the sticky side.

5. Once the sticky tape is in place, the LED strip channel is lifted and stuck into position. Place the lights where the boater won't have to look directly at the LEDs; Eckroth says the ideal location is under a lip. This indirect lighting maximizes night vision while providing softer illumination.

6. Use sheathed marine-grade stranded tinned wire. In addition to other benefits, the sheath protects the wires as they pass over/around sharp edges.

7. Eckroth always uses shrink-type butt connectors for this type of light installation. The shrink-tube seals the connection from moisture. A heat gun handles the sealing part in seconds.

8. After removing the switch panel, Eckroth uses a spade adapter so both power and ground leads from the two locker lights can be connected to the same accessory light switch. There's very little amp draw with these lights, so it's perfectly acceptable to run both sets of lights from the same circuit.

9. The two-wire spade adapter slides onto the switch pole. Another way to wire the lights is to use a momentary-on door-type switch under the rod locker lid, so the light comes on only when the lid is opened.

We stood over the shoulder of Joe Eckroth, a veteran marine tech with 33 years of experience, as he installed a pair of six-foot T-H Marine LED Rope Lights in a 20-foot Smokercraft's two rod lockers for a customer who plans to use the boat for both night fishing and waterfowl hunting. The installation took less than an hour and didn't require a single hole drilled or any modifications to the boat: Eckroth used an existing accessory switch to control the lights and attached the LED strips to the underside lip of each locker with 3M automotive-style double-sided tape. He uses the same procedure when he does larger boats. We found that this type of light installation is easy enough that even a novice boater can handle it — and the end result is a wonderful and even light illuminating an otherwise dark or dimly lit space.




Posted On: August 25, 2016

What causes boats to capsize?

Our friends at BoatUS had a great article this month on the causes.

In a word, instability. Boats are inherently stable until something causes them to become unstable. And that something is weight — where it is and how much it is determines when a boat will tip over far enough to capsize or fill with water.

A capsize is defined as a boat rolling over onto its side or completely over; swamping typically means that a boat fills with water (often from capsizing) but remains floating. So to simplify, we'll use the term capsize from here on. As mentioned, boats capsize because they become unstable, but there are three main reasons for that instability: too much or unbalanced crew or equipment weight; leaking water, which also creates too much weight; and bad weather, which causes instability as a boat is rocked and filled with water.

We Hope It Floats

There is always a very real possibility of injury when passengers unintentionally go in the water with nothing to hold onto. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has addressed this by requiring monohull powerboats built after 1972 under 20 feet in length to float when filled with water. This is a good thing, because without it, most of the small boats in the study would have sunk out from under the crew, leaving nothing to hang onto while waiting for rescue. The bad news is that boats larger than 20 feet that don't have built-in flotation will eventually sink if capsized, and even smaller boats with flotation can still sink if grossly overloaded. (Note: Boats up to 26 feet built to the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) standards adopted by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) also have flotation). Inboard and sterndrive boats have less rigorous basic flotation requirements than outboard-powered boats. If your boat was built before 1972, it wasn't required to — and probably won't — have flotation at all.

Which Boats Are More Likely to Capsize?

Small boats are most likely to capsize. Almost 10 percent were 8-footers, mostly dinghies, and capsizes here often didn't cause much damage. But the biggest group, according to a BoatUS study were the 15-19 footers, representing 41 percent of all capsizes. These boats were typically fishing boats, often with large, hard-to-drain cockpits, sometimes out in poor weather, and were sometimes overloaded.

The next most common group are boats in the 20-24-foot range, representing a quarter of the total; half of those were outboard-powered 22-footers. Larger boats tend to be more stable and rarely capsize, though there were several boats over 38 feet that capsized.

Why They Capsize

Nearly all capsizes can be assigned one of three causes. The most common is too much or poorly distributed weight. Small boats are much more susceptible to an extra person or two or a couple of heavy coolers aboard than larger boats. Older boats especially may have gained weight over the years as more gear is stored aboard. On boats with cockpit drains, an extra beefy friend or a second cooler might be all it takes to make the water come back in through the drains, filling the boat. While most of these under-20 foot boats are required to have flotation, they also must have a capacity plate that states how much weight and how many people can safely be aboard. Pay attention to this number, and keep in mind that the number of seats in a boat is not always an indication of the number of people it can carry safely. Exceeding the capacity limits, even in calm water, is asking for trouble; and in many states, operators can be ticketed for it. All it takes is a stiff wind, a large wake, or an unbalanced load to flip over.

The bottom line is that loading too much cargo or too many passengers in one part of the boat can affect its stability, even if the total load is within the boat's maximum capacity. Weight needs to be evenly distributed, especially in smaller boats. One other thing worth mentioning is that capsizes can also be caused by modifications that affect the stability of the boat. Even a small tuna tower can severely change the center of gravity, especially on a smaller boat.

The second major cause of capsizing is leaks. Sometimes it's as simple as forgetting to put the drain plug in; other times it's leaking fittings. Water sloshing around in the bottom of the boat affects stability and waves or a wake can cause it to flip. Tying the drain plug to your boat key is a simple way to remember the plug. On the other hand, leaking fittings that can fill the boat with water are usually out of sight, often in livewells and bait boxes. Several claims were reported when an owner installed a livewell fitting using cheap PVC pipes and valves, and at least one livewell had no shut-off valve at all with no way to stop the ingress of water once it began leaking. Any fitting that penetrates the hull needs to be closeable and should be made from stainless steel, bronze, or Marelon. One more thing the claims revealed: Some livewells are plumbed in such a way that they'll flood the boat if the valve is left open while underway.

Many older outboard-powered boats have low transom cutouts that can cause the boat to flood simply by slowing down too quickly, especially with excess weight in the stern. Newer outboard boats have a well that reduces the risk.

Some boats have cockpits that drain into the bilge (generally considered a poor design), requiring the use of a bilge pump to even stay afloat. Bilge pumps are designed to remove nuisance water only, not to keep a boat from sinking. If your boat's cockpit drains into the bilge, be aware that if the bilge pump fails, your boat can fill with water and capsize or sink.

Weather is another major cause of capsizes, sometimes in concert with overloading. Small boats are easily overwhelmed by modest waves or even wake, especially if they've got a full load and sit low in the water. A sudden squall can flip even a larger boat. Check the weather forecast before you go out, and keep a weather eye on the sky. In most areas, NOAA broadcasts continuous weather via VHF radio. If you're within range, smartphone apps can show you detailed weather maps, including radar, which can indicate approaching storms. Weather changes quickly on the water, so at the first sign of bad weather, head back to the dock. If you're caught out in a squall, have your passengers stay low near the center of the boat to maintain stability.


Based on an article in BoatUS



Posted On: August 23, 2016

A float plan, is a pretty simple way to ensure the safety of everyone aboard your vessel, whether on a multi-day adventure or an afternoon outing. I know many of you will say its not necessary you aren’t going far and you will be where everyone can see you. But suppose you are on an ordinary getaway to your favorite destination; suddenly the fog rolls in, the engine dies, or the wind quits blowing. Or worse, your back goes out while you’re attempting to raise the anchor and you can’t move. You realize you have no cell phone reception. You are either literally or figuratively up the creek without a paddle. All those people who see you, won’t know you are in trouble; and no one will know where to look hours later.

 Whether temporarily stranded or in need of medical attention (when every second counts), you’ve increased the chances of a timely rescue because you shared your float plan with a family member, friend, or someone at the yacht club or marina. Once you fail to return at the time you assigned, the nautical wheels are set in motion to bring you back to port safe and sound.

A float plan may be as simple as a note saying, “I’m heading to Tranquil Cove today and expect to be back around 7:00 pm.” It can also be detailed — yet not very time consuming. There are templates available so you can fill in never-changing information including your boat type, length, color, and vessel name. Attach a photo of the boat and duplicate the semi-completed plan. Then you only have to jot down who’s aboard, the particular day’s destination, and an expected return time before handing it to a responsible person. Safety experts advise you not to leave the float plan on the dashboard of a car or a boatyard bulletin board, as someone with disreputable intentions will see how far away from home you’ll be and for how long.

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has a mobile app with a float plan component among its safety features. Personal information is stored on the phone but not transmitted unless the user chooses to send it, so authorities are neither tracking you nor logging your location unless a need arises.

Occasionally a boater will confess that he or she never bothers with a float plan. The usual excuse is that they only boat in popular local areas where they’d be spotted in case of an emergency and rescued immediately. That may sound reasonable, but does a boat bobbing on the hook in a cove convey outward signs of distress while the skipper’s down below feeling woozy or in pain?

“I don’t want to bother — I just want to hitch my boat to the trailer and go!” is another excuse. What would a loved one say to the authorities if they eventually suspected you might be in trouble but had no idea how to narrow down the search area? Without helpful information to narrow the search, precious time ticks away (and the weather or your predicament may worsen) while the USCG issues a non-specific “missing mariner” notice to all rescue crafts, boaters, and volunteers.

Once you grasp all the things that might happen because you kept your boating plans hush-hush, we’re betting you’ll  spill the beans every time you head out (don’t forget to give your land lookout a heads up when you return to shore after a fun and safe day).




Posted On: August 18, 2016

The Internet has opened the world up as a market for boat shoppers, and most boats sold that way are transportable. But no matter the boat's size, you're still facing the unsettling option of purchasing it without having seen it in person.

But there just happens to be an accredited group of experts around the country that can help. Marine surveyors have served as qualified eyes and ears in the boat-condition and boat-valuing business for years, and they're typically hired by a prospective buyer to assess the value and overall shape of a boat. Even if you have never hired the services of a surveyor, counting on your own experience in the past, if purchasing sight unseen, it’s a worthy consideration. I’m sure most buyers have paid to have a marine mechanic look over engines on boats they were considering buying, not trusting their own skills in that area.

So when faced with the dilemma of a long-distance shopping trip, search for a surveyor in the boat's listing area. From the locator listing provided at the website for the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS), select the state where your targeted boat-for-sale is situated, note the contact information for the surveyor based nearest the boat's location, and fire off an email or call.

Most marine surveyors will acknowledge that not only is business brisk in the small-boat-survey segment, but that like many of his peers in the profession, they offer consulting services precisely for off-site boat buyers who want a qualified "quick look" to determine whether a road trip — or a sight-unseen purchase — is justified. I must stress that the preliminary inspections are very basic and should not be confused with a traditional pre-purchase "condition and value" survey, which are very comprehensive.

Most preliminary inspections include a quick inspection of basic systems, the overall condition of the hull and deck, and operating the engine — equipped with water-muffs — while checking starting, shifting, steering, and cooling functions. More comprehensive checks can be done as desired.

Photos are an important part of what such a consultation should include, as well as a recommendation based on the client's expectations and how and where the boat will be used. Surveyors typically know the quirks of certain models and can help you avoid those that have a bad reputation. The prospective buyer should expect a six- to eight-page written report accompanied by photos of the boat illustrating the findings — positive and negative — as well as a summary of what the consultant thinks of the offering and how the purchase may or may not be worth pursuing based on its condition, price, and the purchaser's situation and expectation.



Posted On: August 11, 2016

IS A CELL PHONE ADEQUATE PROTECTION                            

You’re on your boat and you are in distress….

Cell phones are no substitute for modern GPS-equipped 406 EPIRBs or PLBs. They must be within range of a tower, often are not waterproof, and don't give a continuous signal that will be picked up by an RDF on a rescue vessel. However, if you have a signal, and the circumstances allow cell phone use, do it. A better alternative may be to use your properly connected, programmed, and registered VHF if in range, which will tell the Coast Guard who you are, and what boat you are on. Depending on the nature of your distress, the Coast Guard may have you shift communications to a cell phone, or activate your EPIRB or PLB, to assist in locating you and to be sure they don't lose contact if your cell phone or VHF dies or you lose the signal.

I recommend the EPIRB.

Thanks to a proven track record of high reliability, EPIRBs remain a top choice for sending out an emergency signal to SAR personnel today. Since EPIRBs interface with Cospas-Sarsat international SAR (search and rescue) satellites that calculate your position via GPS, triangulation, or a combination of the two, they are essentially unlimited in range. EPIRBs are also equipped with a strobe light for quick visual acquisition, can be activated either manually or automatically, are required to float and be completely waterproof, and can be mounted with hydrostatic releases.



Posted On: August 04, 2016

"Learning the ropes" has become a modern idiom, but it's rooted in the era of sailing ships when apprentices needed to be able to identify each one of the many ropes on board — for clarity, fast action, and safety. Today, ropes are often called "lines" on boats, and there are a few worth memorizing so you're ready to give or follow clear commands. When powerboats or sailboats come alongside a dock, you'll tie up using a "bow line," a "stern line," and a "midship line." All are attached to the boat using "cleats" — metal fittings shaped like two horns and fixed to the boat; lines are secured to them.

On sailboats, a "halyard" is a line used to hoist a sail up the mast; there's a mainsail halyard, for example, and a jib halyard. A "sheet" is a sail-control line that's normally controlled by wrapping it around a "winch"; a sheet holds the bottom part of a sail tight so it can use the wind to propel the boat. If you're asked to "sheet in the jib," it means the skipper would like you to turn the winch holding the jib sheet with the winch handle, and trim (pull in) the sail a bit more. If he or she asks you to "let the sail out," with the winch you'd ease the jib line out a few inches at a time until it's optimized.