Blog June 2018

CHOOSE THE RIGHT SURVEY

Posted On: June 28, 2018


Get The Right Survey

There are three main types of surveys done on a boat you're considering buying, and each requires a specialized professional to do them well.

  • A condition and valuation survey (C&V) covers the hull and structures as well as the boat's systems. This type of thorough survey is usually required for insurance and financing, and is sometimes referred to as a pre-purchase survey. Whether your insurance company or lender requires it or not, you should always get one before buying. A proper C&V survey requires the boat to be hauled so the hull and underwater gear can be inspected. A good hull surveyor inspects a boat top to bottom, fore and aft. They'll look at the hull and deck and determine by sounding with a hammer and moisture meter whether there are voids or delamination, and they can identify places in the core that may eventually rot and become soft (and expensive to repair) before they're detectable by a buyer. A surveyor checks the condition of AC and DC electrical systems, plumbing and through-hulls, deck hardware, propane and fuel systems, steering and controls, and safety equipment. A proper marine survey will be an in-depth written report that evaluates the boat according to U.S. Coast Guard regulations, as well as American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards. A knowledgeable surveyor will also know if a specific make has a history of major problems.
  • Engine surveys cover the operation and condition of propulsion and generator engines. Typically, they include inspection of controls, electrical, cooling, and exhaust systems, as well as engine mounts. Compression, engine, and exhaust temperatures are also checked, and engine surveys typically include tests of oil samples, too. But how do you know if you need one? Alison Mazon, a surveyor in Portland, Oregon, is one of a handful of hull surveyors who also do engine surveys. "An engine survey is warranted for particularly expensive or complex engines, and those with obvious lack of maintenance," says Mazon. "Many larger engines built since about 2006 have computers that can be read by trained personnel with the right equipment. A quick scan for computer faults may be a sign a more detailed analysis is needed."
  • A rigging survey looks at the condition of a sailboat's mast and boom and associated rigging. Inspections are made of attachment points, welds, standing and running rigging, and the mast step. Rigging surveyors either go up the mast or inspect the rig when it's off the boat. Whether a rigging survey is needed depends on the age, prior use of the rig, and its intended purpose. Red flags that would signal the need for a rigging survey include a rig more than 10 years old, frayed stays, cracked swages, weeping chainplates, and turnbuckles that are bottomed out. The rig also needs to be surveyed if the boat will be used offshore or heavily raced.
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WARNING SIGNS

Posted On: June 26, 2018


Ultraviolet Danger

Plastic thru-hull fitting

Photo: Mark Corke

Some boats use plastic thru-hull fittings above the waterline. Although this may be fine when the boat is new, sunlight can break these down over time until they become brittle. This drain fitting is only a few inches above the waterline and is already starting to crumble. If this fails, water could easily enter the boat causing it to sink. Check thru-hulls regularly, and if they are at all suspect they should be replaced.

Gel (Re)coat

Gelcoat repair

Photo: Mark Corke

This boat was up for sale, and the "repair" to the gelcoat on the topsides of the boat obviously raised a red flag when the surveyor looked at it. This kind of ham-fisted repair calls into question other things, such as proper engine maintenance. Although the damage here was largely cosmetic, it's worth spending the money to get repairs done properly by a pro who knows what he or she is doing.

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GASSING UP? PAY ATTENTION

Posted On: June 21, 2018

Here's an example of why you should always be present while your boat is refueled at a marina. In one case, the attendant — a teenager — stuck the pump nozzle into a trailer boat's fish-rod holder, pulled the trigger, and pumped more than 100 gallons into the bilge. The fire department responded immediately and averted a catastrophe. The boat itself wasn't as lucky; the gasoline found its way into the foam core and was declared a total loss.

It's not just fish-rod holders that have been involved in people's dangerous mistakes. Most larger boats have three deck fills: water, waste, and fuel (diesel or gas), any one of which has become confused with another. Gasoline has been pumped into diesel fills, and diesel has been pumped into gasoline fills. Both have been pumped into waste and water tanks, as well as the aforementioned fish-rod holders (and bilges).

To prevent confusion, deck fills should be clearly marked: "Gas" (or "Diesel"), "Water," and "Waste." But the best defense against mistakenly shoving a nozzle into the wrong hole is for you to handle the nozzle. If the job must be done by an attendant, look over his or her shoulder to make sure the nozzle is going into the fuel tank.

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CHOOSING THE RIGHT REPAIR FACILITY

Posted On: June 19, 2018

Choosing The Right Repair Facility

Based on an article by Charles Fort for BoatUS

Your local boatyard and marina want your unwavering customer loyalty. Here's how to pick a professional outfit that delivers all the service you expect.

No matter how well we maintain our boats, from time to time they need repairs and servicing, which means that if you don't already have one, eventually you're going to need to find a good, reliable shop. A top-flight shop can make your boating life much easier and less stressful, but how do you find one?

First Impressions Are Important

Good shop: A clean and organized facility reveals a lot. A shop that looks orderly and neat shows that management and employees care about their workplace as well as about details, which ­usually leads to caring about their customers.

Bad shop: A messy shop floor or waiting area doesn't always mean sloppy work. But if workers can't keep the service counter organized, how can you be sure they keep their parts ordering or invoices accurate? A bunch of boats randomly scattered and left uncovered in the parking lot isn't a good sign, either.

Communication Is Critical

Good shop: A good facility will answer the phone, return promised calls, and be willing to address your concerns and explain something you might not understand. Boat repairs can be complicated, so when a problem crops up, a good facility will call you before proceeding. And the employees will be professional and polite, and welcome your concerns.

Bad shop: There's nothing worse than an unanswered phone — unless it's an unreturned call. Shops that don't call back may simply be booked up and busy doing good work, but they also may be stalling for time or avoiding the fact that they haven't even begun your job. If you can't get hold of the shop before you bring your boat in, you may have problems getting questions answered or someone to address a problem later. If you bring in your outboard for a simple tune-up, it's better to hear right away that they've found a problem with the fuel system rather then later, when you come to pick it up.

Training + Certifications = Better Service

Good shop: Facilities that have factory-trained technicians demonstrate that management is serious about quality. If you have a MerCruiser engine, you can expect better repairs from a tech who has been to MerCruiser training. Ask the shop if workers are trained on the type of engine or boat you're bringing in for repair. The American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) certifies technicians to make repairs to ABYC standards. ABYC Master Technicians have completed courses and know how to apply thos standards. A business that is proud of its technicians will often display their pictures in the shop or on its website along with their credentials. Training costs money, and well-trained techs demand better wages, so expect to pay a little more.

Bad shop: There are plenty of talented technicians who've learned on the job. But with complicated electronic controls and a constant stream of new products, training is not optional. Especially if you have an engine that's under warranty, ask for a factory-trained tech for maintenance.

Follow The Paper Trail

Good shop: When you drop off your boat, expect an accurate work order (the initial paperwork describing what's wrong) with a realistic estimate. The nature of boats means that sometimes repairs on one thing will reveal further problems somewhere else. An estimate is just that, but a good shop will have realistic knowledge of how long most repairs take. When completed, a repair job includes a comprehensive invoice (final bill) detailing all labor, parts, and miscellaneous charges.

Bad shop: BoatUS Consumer Protection has seen many complaints with work orders that say nothing more than "fix engine." Such an open-ended work order is bound to end up with a repair that's more complicated and an invoice that's more expensive then you expect. When it's time for the invoice, a shop that simply says "engine fixed" leaves owners wondering what the repair was and if it even took place. Beware of a shop that demands upfront payment or only takes cash — it may not be around for long.

Warranty Work

Good shop: A repair facility that's proud of its work will stand behind it with a written warranty. Three to six months is a reasonable time to ensure the repair worked; more is better. Parts and labor are often covered by different warranties, which should be made clear on the invoice.

Bad shop: "Don't worry. We'll take care of any problems" is not a warranty. The legal adage, "If it's not in writing, it didn't happen" applies here. Without a written warranty, a verbal assurance means the warranty — if there is one — is whatever the shop wants.

Do An Online Search

Good shop: Internet reviews make it easier to find shops that do quality work. Online review sites such as Yelp and Google can be helpful in choosing a repair facility. But look carefully — a single dissatisfied customer can carpet the internet with negative reviews. Look also at the reviewers' names. Real names carry more weight than fastboatguy98. Shops with several good reviews that go back a few years are a better bet.

 

A certified Clean Marina can be another sign of a "good shop." If these marinas are taking care of the environment, chances are they will also take good care of you.

Anyone can throw up a website, and many shops do just that with whichever volunteer is willing to step up. But a shop that goes the extra mile by including short articles or blogs about relevant topics, as well as matters such as hours, emergency numbers, and specials — and keeps it up to date — shows it understands what people expect today. An online mission statement is a plus, too. When there's a problem, you can sometimes make progress by asking if the manager of the shop is following its published mission statement.

Bad shop: If an online search returns a barrage of complaints from several different sources, there's usually a reason. Most people are not shy about giving their opinions online, especially when they're negative. Keep in mind, though, that reviews typically have an unlimited life span, so if the negative ones are old and new ones are glowing, it may be a sign of new (better) ownership or management.

A missing website doesn't automatically mean bad service — it could just be a busy shop. But it could also be a sign of a very new shop or ownership that's not current or comfortable enough with technology — not something you want for your complicated electronics.

Consumer-Protection Alert

You might assume that when your boat or engine is in the dealer's shop for routine maintenance or repair, your technician will automatically check for any service bulletins or recalls issued. The truth is that the shop probably will not check for this information automatically. Ask the shop specifically to check the computer system for bulletins or recalls that may affect your boat. Keep in mind that the cost involved in correcting a safety recall issued by the manufacturer or the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is usually absorbed by the manufacturer. But any costs associated with a service bulletin are usually the boat owner's responsibility.

You can also check the USCG database for recalls yourself. They're posted on the USCG website.

 

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FLAG DAY

Posted On: June 14, 2018

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress replaced the British symbols of the Grand Union flag with a new design featuring 13 white stars in a circle on a field of blue and 13 red and white stripes – one for each state. Although it is not certain, this flag may have been made by the Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross, who was an official flag maker for the Pennsylvania Navy. The number of stars increased as the new states entered the Union, but the number of stripes stopped at 15 and was later returned to 13.

In June 1886 Bernard Cigrand made his first public proposal for the annual observance of the birth of the flag when he wrote an article titled “The Fourteenth of June” in the old Chicago Argus newspaper. Cigrand’s effort to ensure national observance of Flag Day finally came when President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for a nationwide observance of the event on June 14, 1916. However, Flag Day did not become official until August 1949, when President Harry Truman signed the legislation and proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day. In 1966, Congress also requested that the President issue annually a proclamation designating the week in which June 14 occurs as National Flag Week.

The President is requested to issue each year a proclamation to: call on government officials in the USA to display the flag of the United States on all government buildings on Flag Day; and to urge US residents to observe Flag Day as the anniversary of the adoption on June 14, 1777, by the Continental Congress of the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States.

Symbols

The American flag, also nicknamed as “Old Glory” or “star-spangled banner”, has changed designs over the centuries. It consists of 13 equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton bearing 50 small, white, five-pointed stars. Each of the 50 stars represents one of the 50 states in the United States and the 13 stripes represent the original 13 colonies that became the first states in the Union.

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WHO NEEDS AIS?

Posted On: June 12, 2018

Do You Really Need AIS?

Here's a great article by Lenny Rudow on AIS.

The automatic identification system is a must-have on some boats, a nice option for others, and expensive overkill on the rest. Does it belong on your boat?

Attention, anglers: A perk of having AIS aboard is the ability to know where commercial fishing vessels are — before you even leave the dock.

Any mariner who's been around for a couple of decades understands just how radically marine electronics have changed the way we use and navigate our boats. GPS/chartplotters have had the most substantial impact. But there have been other important advancements, such as the addition of digital selective calling, or DSC, to VHF radios, greatly enhanced radar functionality, vastly improved digital cartography, plus the development of satellite messengers. All of these electronic advancements have two things in common: They improve safety at sea and are widely used by recreational boaters.

Automatic identification systems, known as AIS, can also significantly enhance safety. But even though AIS has been in use for well over a decade, it hasn't gained quite the same broad acceptance as these other advancements. The usual barriers — cost and complexity — may explain why. But that doesn't answer the question of whether or not you and I should put AIS on our boats. We're going to try to fix that right now.

First, What Is AIS?

AIS works via a combination of GPS, VHF radio, and an AIS transponder. The transponder broadcasts a ship's information, such as speed and heading (information gathered by GPS, of course), the ship's name, port of origin, size and draft, and more, over VHF frequencies 161.975 megahertz and 162.025 MHz. This information is updated constantly and can be viewed by any other ship or boat equipped with a designated AIS unit, as well as on any computer or smartphone linked to the internet. It should be noted, however, that third-party-produced websites and apps aren't always accurate and should be considered supplements to navigation, as opposed to something to be relied upon.

 

Vessels are required to obtain an MMSI number before using Class A or B AIS units. Go to BoatUS.com/MMSI to register.

AIS is further broken down into two classes: A and B. Class A units are more powerful and put out 12 watts versus 2 watts for Class B, which means (assuming antenna height is sufficient) that Class A transmissions have a range of 20 to 30 miles as opposed to the 5- or 6-mile range of Class B units. Class A AIS also has a dedicated display and broadcasts its updates more often, at every two to 10 seconds while underway and every three minutes while at anchor. Class B units transmit approximately every 30 seconds while underway and every six minutes while at anchor.

Class B units, on the other hand, enjoy the usual advantage of simpler, less-powerful products — they cost less. In fact, they cost about half as much as a Class A AIS and are usually priced in the $1,000 range. An even less-expensive option for recreational mariners is an AIS receiver. This doesn't broadcast information about your boat, but it does allow you to tap into the data being broadcast by everyone else.

Data Download

AIS became mandatory on many commercial cargo and passenger vessels during the push to enhance security after 9/11. In the last couple of years, the rules were expanded to include mandatory AIS use on most commercial vessels 65 feet and larger. And while you're still not required to have AIS gear on your recreational boat, its advantages are numerous.

Basic AIS functionality is built into some modern VHF radios, like this Icom M506.

Safety, once again, is the main attraction. With AIS aboard, you'll know which commercial vessels are around the next bend of the river. You'll know the course of a ship that might appear to be getting a little too close for comfort. You'll know if someone's nearby in case you need to call for assistance, and you'll even know the name and type of the ship you need to hail. At the same time, the captains of those vessels will be aware of your presence, unless you have only passive AIS (an AIS receiver). It puts you "on their radar," whether your boat would normally show up on their radar or not.

The latest safety advancement in AIS is the development of AIS MOB (man overboard) or PAIS (Personal AIS) devices. These are small units that generally attach to a life vest or life raft and transmit a MOB notification with GPS coordinates over the AIS system. Anyone in the water is electronically visible to any AIS-equipped boat within approximately 4 miles.

There are also some side benefits to having access to AIS data, whether it's via a transponder on your boat or an app on your smartphone. Anglers who like to target species that gather around commercial fishing boats, like scallopers or trawlers, for example, can identify and locate those boats before leaving the dock. Cruisers traveling in tandem or in a group can keep each other in sight, even when blocked from view by a mountain, fog, or squall. And AIS can help you keep tabs on commercial services, like fuel-delivery barges.

But the question remains: Do you need AIS? The answer for most recreational boaters is maybe. No, you don't have to have AIS, just like most boaters aren't required to have radar or an EPIRB. Heck, many recreational boaters ply inland lakes, bays, and rivers in areas where commercial traffic isn't too much of an issue in the first place. But will harnessing AIS still prove useful? In all likelihood, yes. Taking advantage of it in its most basic form can be as simple as downloading an app or visiting a website.

Boaters who range a bit farther afield could reach a different conclusion. For long-distance cruisers, the safety advantages of AIS make it a strong consideration. Getting AIS is also a no-brainer for people who regularly boat or sail through heavily congested areas or busy harbors. The same goes for those of us who do any boating at night or in the fog, when moving lights and distant sounds can be quite deceiving.

One thing is for sure: With AIS aboard, your boat will become a safer boat. And as any mariner who's been around for a while can tell you, that puts it on par with all the other major electronic enhancements of the past few decades

 

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THINGS A MARINE SURVEYOR WANTS YOU TO KNOW

Posted On: June 07, 2018

Things A Marine Surveyor Wants You To Know

If you've never had a marine survey before, here are some things to help make the experience better.

It's not hard to make a surveyor smile. All it takes is a little prep work on your behalf. (Photo: Mark Corke)

Over the years, you have heard the importance of getting a marine survey on a boat you're considering buying, and for good reason. For many people, a boat may be the second biggest purchase they make, after a house, and there's a lot at stake financially.

Many insurance companies and banks require a Condition and Valuation survey in order to provide coverage or financing. But if you've never had a boat surveyed you might be wondering what to expect when you do need one.

Here’s an article from BoatUS Magazine associate editor and accredited marine surveyor Mark Corke.


Do Your Research Ahead Of Time

 

Make sure that any surveyor you use is SAMS or NAMS accredited.

Decide what sort of boat you want and need. Have a look at a few models, then narrow down the list to one or two before you engage a surveyor. A surveyor has looked at hundreds or thousands of boats during his career and can offer advice on many boats, but he does not know which boat will suit you. One of my clients, after having me check out several boats, eventually asked me if I thought he should buy a power or sailboat! You'll need to have your choices much narrower than that. The last thing a surveyor wants to do is tell you what kind of boat is best for you.

It's Not Just About The Cost

 

Surveyors make copious notes and take lots of pictures, which will form the basis of the written report. (Photo: Mark Corke)

Don't choose a surveyor on price alone. Of course you need to know up front what the cost of the survey will be, but it could be a case of "if you don't pay now, you'll pay later." That bargain-basement-price survey could cost you in the long run should the surveyor miss some important fault on the boat.

If problems are caught before inking the deal, you have the option of renegotiating the price or getting faults corrected before you take delivery of the boat. While there is no guarantee that you will get more from a more expensive surveyor, as in all things, you typically get what you pay for. Prices are generally around $20 to $22 per foot, but if you're quoted $12 per foot you need to ask yourself why.

Surveyors often get concerned when a client asks for a cheap survey because "it's only for insurance." Most surveyors are professionals and want you to be happy with your boat and ensure your safety on the water. In return, you want him or her to spot any deficiencies with the boat. Surveyors need to be able to stand behind their work (possibly even in the courtroom), and doing a "light" survey doesn't help anyone. Most surveyors have a set fee based on the size and type of boat, the type of survey, travel costs, and so on.

By all means ask how much the surveyor charges, but don't wait until the day of the survey and then try to start negotiating the fee. You have the right to back out of the purchase up until your contract acceptance deadline, which is often at least several days after the survey date. If you change your mind about the boat after the survey is done, the surveyor still has to be paid. Most surveyors expect payment on the day the service is completed. Surveyors typically won't send out the completed survey report until they get paid. It's the surveyor's version of "no cash, no splash."

The Surveyor Works For You Only

You'll be paying the bill, so it's important that you understand that the surveyor reports only to you. He doesn't share his findings with anyone else unless you specifically request it. If you have a broker acting as your buyer's agent, then you may ask that the surveyor send a copy of the survey to the agent as it makes your broker's job easier if he's asking for things to be addressed. Keep in mind that a survey is only good for a specific time because it's really a snapshot of what the boat was like on a specific day. Old surveys should not be relied upon.

Make Sure The Boat Is Prepared

If you are asking a surveyor to come to your boat to perform an insurance survey, make sure that the surveyor has access. Don't expect him or her to empty out lockers of heavy anchors, bags of sails, and boxes of spare parts. The surveyor needs to look at the mechanical parts of the boat, and it causes delays to have to move tons of stuff out of the way. If in doubt, ask the surveyor what he needs before he arrives. He won't expect everything to be off the boat, but he will appreciate reasonable access. One client asked me to survey his 33-foot sailboat, but it turned out that the entire contents of a small apartment seemed to have been crammed aboard. If that wasn't bad enough, the boat also had a Great Dane aboard!

The condition of hoses and rigging are just a couple of things that the surveyor will check. (Photo: Mark Corke)

Don't Get In The Surveyor's Way

Most surveyors like it when the buyer is at the survey. They can answer questions and point out things of interest on the boat that may not find their way into the survey report. That being said, it makes the job slower if you hover. Allow the surveyor to do his job — you'll get a complete written report about everything he sees.

A Sea Trial Is Not A Boat Ride

The purpose of a sea trial is to check the boat's systems, engines, generators, electronics, and other parts that cannot be inspected while the boat is not under commission or is "on the hard." The surveyor will need to pay close attention to the engines, helm, and systems, and how the boat handles. To get the most from a sea trial, leave the kids, dog, and Aunt Kate at home. They can get a ride on the boat later, assuming you buy it. Too many folks on the boat makes it difficult for the surveyor to do the job properly.

Surveyors Are Happy To Talk Things Over With You

Most surveyors are only too happy to talk to you about the survey process, especially if this is your first time employing a surveyor. They will also answer questions after the survey, so don't be scared to call them up if you see something in a survey report that you don't understand. Surveyors are on boats every day, but owners and buyers may not always understand some of the technical terms.

 

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UNTANGLING YOUR PROPELLER

Posted On: June 05, 2018

Great article about getting freed when you get tangled!!


Three Ways To Untangle A Boat Propeller

By Tom Neale

If your engine stops suddenly, you may have run over a line. Here are three ways to get out of it.

Propeller tangled in crab pot

Don't let an unexpected encounter with a crab pot ruin your day. (Photo: Scott Croft)

I don't know which I hate more: getting a line wrapped around my prop or trying to figure out what to say to the crabber or lobsterman when he comes up alongside. But you may be able to save the day before you're busted. There are three ways to untangle your prop and get underway again. Whichever one you use, always stop the engine first and take the key out of the ignition.

The Wet Way

Under ideal conditions, including calm seas, no wakes, clear warm water, and having someone aboard who's fit enough and skilled enough to do it, someone can dive under the boat and cut the mess loose. (Keep a mask and flippers aboard for this purpose. Never do this alone.) If the line is nylon or polypropylene and if your running gear continued spinning after the entanglement, some of the line may have "melted" together, requiring it be cut free.

A knife with sharp serrated blade works best for this. If you dive, check the cutless bearing and any shaft seal to be sure none of the line worked inside it; this could cut the sealing material. But in less-than-ideal conditions, try clearing the line from the boat without getting into the water.

The Short-Reach Option

If you have an outboard or sterndrive, tilt the engine or drive up and try to clear the line directly if someone else is aboard to watch. If you can't reach the line from the boat, try untangling it with a boat hook. If that doesn't do the trick, try taping a sharp knife to the boat hook to get enough reach to cut the line. Any line that's left could do damage, so clear all line before restarting the engine.

The Inboard Option

If you have an inboard engine and can't get into the water, start by finding the free end of the line. Sometimes this will be on the surface with a float on it, and sometimes you'll see it trailing off underwater. Fish it out with a boat hook, and post a person on the stern to hold and keep tension on it. Be sure the ignition is off and that the engine can't start. Have someone go below and hand-turn the shaft of the entrapped prop. This may or may not be easy, but usually it can be done.

The person on the stern should tell the person turning the prop whether the line is getting shorter or longer. If it's getting shorter, turn the shaft in the opposite direction as the person above deck pulls in the line. Hopefully, you'll unwind it and soon be free.

If the line won't completely unwind but seems to reverse direction as the shaft is turned, experiment while keeping tension on the line, reversing the turn of the shaft. Sometimes turning the shaft one way, then the other, is necessary to free a kink. Gauge your overall progress by noting whether the line is shortening or lengthening. If you can safely reach the prop with your boat hook, you may be able to "fiddle" with it from the deck to free up snags or kinks.

If that doesn't work, a knife attached to the boat hook should allow you to cut away the majority of the line. You may be able to completely clear it from your gear or at least from whatever it's attached to at the bottom of the sea, so that you're able to get back to the dock. However, if you run the engine to get home while there's line still on your prop or shaft, you risk having it cut into the cutless bearing or shaft seal. Judge if that's a risk you're willing to take or whether it's preferable to call for a tow

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