Blog September 2018


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Posted On: September 27, 2018

Here's an article from Chris Edmonston published awhile ago but still very topical.

Even experienced boaters can benefit from these four smart tips to improve their steering control.

Many boaters, myself included, were taught to use the engine as the primary way to overcome the environment, to power through adverse situations. This way of thinking will sooner or later break your boat, or get someone hurt. A competent operator should be able to handle their boat in close quarters using wind and current, and be able to safely come alongside, back their boat, turn in a narrow space, and certainly dock their boat. That's the kind of training that boaters receive by attending a hands-on boating course taught by U.S. Sailing, the Power Squadrons, the National Safe Boating Council, and local boating schools across the country.

There are four basic skills taught by instructors certified by the National Safe Boating Council; in this article we'll focus on the first one, steering-wheel control. In upcoming issues, we'll focus on three other important skills.

Steering Wheel Control

Over-steering and over-correcting are common problems. We must know whether the wheel is straight or turned and, if turned, which direction and how far. There isn't room for guessing and making corrections if the boat doesn't turn the direction anticipated.

The Difference Between Steering A Car and Steering A Boat

  • Illustration of the turn radius of a carIllustration of the turn radius of a boat

When a car turns, the rear wheel tracks inside the turn, while when a boat turns, the stern tracks outside the turn, exactly the opposite of what we experience in our cars. Note how the stern could easily strike the dock if the operator isn't aware of the tendency of the stern to track outside the turn.

We're all used to driving a car. How much different can steering-wheel control be on a boat? Well, hugely different, in reality, and it can get you in trouble if you don't recognize the distinction. Cars steer from the front while boats steer from the stern. Boats pivot, cars don't. When you steer a car, the front tires turn the front of the car, and the rest of the car follows. Take a corner too tightly and the inside rear wheel hits the curb. When you steer a boat, the rudder, outdrive, or outboard swivels at the stern and directs the thrust in a way that pushes the stern in the opposite direction. Because of this, when taking a corner in a boat, your boat needs room on the OUTSIDE of a turn — the exact opposite of a car. This difference isn't too noticeable on open water, but critical in close quarters.

Effects Of Wind Or Current At Low Speed

  • Illustration of the effects of wind on boat courseIllustration of the effects of current on boat course

Wind tends to push the bow of the boat off course. Current tends to drag the stern off course.

Two forces steer a boat while moving forward (making headway) — the wash or thrust from the spinning prop, and the rudder effect of the drive or rudder slicing through the water. When making headway in forward gear, prop wash and rudder effect work together. Shifting into neutral subtracts prop wash, but the boat's headway through the water allows the drive or rudder to keep working, so some steering control is retained. The same holds true in reverse gear (sternway). The faster the boat moves through the water, the greater the steering force of rudder effect. When operating at slow speed, your boat will handle better when the prop is turning. So, timing is important when you're trying to steer and shift gears at the same time. Shift too soon or turn the wheel too late (or vice versa) and control may be lost.

Talk The Walk

Another factor that affects how your boat moves through the water is "prop walk," a sideway force at the stern caused by the spin of the prop. Direction of the walk is dependent on which way the prop spins. The spin gives the boat a tendency to turn slightly, instead of going straight — and may cause your boat to lean one way or another at high speed. Prop walk is more noticeable in reverse than in forward gear, and more pronounced on inboard vessels. Viewed from behind, a right-hand prop spins clockwise in forward gear, and a left-hand prop spins counterclockwise. When a right-hand prop is in forward gear, it will "walk" the boat to starboard; in reverse gear, it will walk the boat to port. Likewise, a left-hand prop in forward gear will walk the boat to port, and walk it to starboard in reverse gear.

How To Tell If You're Moving ...

  • Illustration of static reference pointIllustration of moving reference point

Look through a nearby fixed object at the background. If the background is moving, so are you.

Prop walk can be put to good use when docking. When possible, it's an advantage to approach the dock on the side where the planned maneuver will walk the stern to the dock. If you can't do this, you'll need to take that into account and adjust how much you steer. But before you take a boat into tight quarters, make sure you've gotten a working understanding of the following techniques.

Centering The Wheel

Start by figuring out the range of the wheel, which is how many times it takes to turn the wheel from hard-to-port to hard-to-starboard. Turn the wheel all the way to one side or the other, then turn hard the other way, counting the number of turns it takes. Divide the number of turns in half and remember that number. So if it takes six turns to get from one side to the other, three turns should center your wheel from either side. It's very important to know when your wheel is centered, especially with inboard or sterndrive boats where you can't see the drives. It's also a handy practice if you're asked to take the helm on an unfamiliar boat.

Steer A Straight Course

Now that you know how to center the wheel, the next technique is steering straight. Looking at the wakes of many boats, you'll often see a serpentine path, because people are over-steering. To practice:

  • Center the wheel.
  • Shift into forward gear at idle speed.
  • Aim for a distant object, watching the bow.
  • When the bow drifts to one side, make quick, short pulses with the wheel in the opposite direction then re-center the wheel.

Many people tend to over-correct when steering and, instead of staying on course, drift too far in the other direction because they hold the turn too long. The key is to use short corrections, and when the boat initially begins to turn in the desired direction, re-center the wheel. As you practice steering straight, you can continually find new objects to use as a target and see how the boat behaves differently at different speeds.

Setting The Wheel

Make sure the wheel is in the desired direction and position BEFORE shifting into forward or reverse gear. This helps reduce your turning radius, making your turn more efficient — useful when operating in close quarters, where you might not have the ability to turn without properly setting the wheel. For many boats, you should be able to do a 180-degree turn in little more than a boat length if you set the wheel, and do so in conjunction with proper gear shifting. 



Posted On: September 25, 2018

As we head into the fall boating season, closer attention to cold weather boating safety guidelines is a must. With the cooler weather comes colder waters!

Here’s some tips from our friends at the US Coast Guard.

When the weather changes so should the type of lifejackets boaters use such as a flotation coat or deck suit-style designed to keep the boater afloat and insulated without using energy.  If a person were to fall overboard in cold water, hypothermia sets in and their chances of survival decrease drastically…and quickly! Bringing extra layers of clothing and weather appropriate outerwear is crucial. Depending where you live temperatures can average in the 50’s throughout October and November. Make sure when you head out on your Fall boating adventure you are prepared for sudden drops in temperature or approaching storms.

A safety check of your vessel ensures that it is outfitted with the proper safety gear and is in good operating condition before getting underway.

The following is a list of safety tips all boaters should adhere to before leaving the dock:

  • Carry a VHF-FM marine radio. Cell phones often lose signal and run out of batteries after a day on the water. They are helpful, but not reliable for emergencies.
  • Register your EPIRB. Response time is the key to survival. The sooner help arrives, the better the chances for survival. Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBS) provide the fastest and most accurate way the Coast Guard has of locating and rescuing persons in distress.
  • Have a Vessel Safety Check. It’s a great way of learning about problems that might put boaters in violation of state or federal laws, or create danger for boaters and passengers on the water. Best of all, it’s free!  Both the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons have certified vessel examiners who will perform a free Vessel Safety Check (“VSC”) at your boat, at a time of mutual convenience. There is no charge, and no consequences if you don’t pass. Our goal is simply to help make boating as safe as possible for you, your family and your friends, through education.

Before getting underway let friends and family know where and their expected return time.  These planned actions ahead of starting the motor, hoisting the sail, or paddling the vessel are critical to ensuring a safe boating excursion or rescue if the need arises



Posted On: September 20, 2018


Just because the temperatures change, and the leaves are turning color, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your time on the water.  

The Boat Owners Association of the United States offers these five tips for fall water safety :

  1. Dress for the water, not the weather: Bring extra layers and rain gear. Fast-moving storms can bring sudden temperature drops, and dropping water temperatures can turn a spill overboard into a dangerous situation.
  2. Tell a friend: Let a family member or friend know where you’re going and what time you expect to return. For longer boating trips, make sure to provide a more detailed, written itinerary. And no matter how long you’re gone, always check in upon your return.
  3. Check the weather: Frigid water temperatures can make an unexpected squall twice as dangerous. Stay up-to-date on the latest weather patterns and bring your boat in if the clouds begin to gather.
  4. Always check the boat: Inspect the bilge pump, engine, communications equipment and safety gear to ensure all are in good shape and ready to go before you head out — even for a short trip.
  5. Leave the drinks at home: Alcohol can quickly drain your body of heat, bringing on hypothermia’s deadly effects much sooner when compared to warmer months.


Posted On: September 18, 2018

For those affected by these wild storms, some safety tips .....

Generator Safety Tips

  • Use proper care. Proper ventilation is critical to reducing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator’s engine exhaust. Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a common, serious danger that can cause death if generators are used improperly; this is particularly true when the fuel is not burned completely.
  • Placement is key. Never use generators indoors or outside near windows, vents, or air intakes that could allow CO to come indoors.
  • Keep other items clear. Maintain plenty of air flow space around the generator.
  • Pay attention. Get fresh air immediately if you begin to feel sick, dizzy or light-headed or experience flu-like symptoms.
  • Buy CO detector. Because CO is invisible and odorless, it makes sense to buy a CO detector (similar to or sometimes combined in a smoke detector) to warn of rising CO levels.
  • “Ground” your generator. Carefully follow all instructions on properly “grounding” the generator.
  • Keep the generator dry. Short circuits may occur in wet conditions, which can cause a generator fire. If needed, place the generator under an open canopy–type structure.
  • Be prepared. Always keep a fully charged fire extinguisher nearby.
  • Leave it to the professionals. To avoid electric shock or electrocution, do not try to fix or otherwise work on a generator.
  • Organize your cords. Keep cords out of the way to avoid injury, but keep them in plain view to keep track of cord damage (such as fraying or cuts) that could cause a fire.
  • Do not “back feed” power. Do not plug the generator into a wall outlet. Back feeding will put you and others, including utility line workers, at serious risk because the utility transformer can increase low voltage from the generator to thousands of volts.
  • Know local laws. Some states have laws making the generator owner responsible for taking steps to make sure that the generator’s electricity cannot feed back into power lines; additionally, owners of commercial, industrial, or residential generators must notify the local utility of their locations.
  • Don’t touch. It’s hot. The exterior portions of a generator, even if operated for only a short period of time, can become hot. Avoid touching the generator without protective gear and keep debris clear to avoid a fire.


Posted On: September 13, 2018

A Boater's Guide to Hurricane Preparation

I came upon this the other day, and with hurricane season making its present felt, thought it a good read.

f you boat anywhere down the East Coast or the along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, it’s not a matter of if you get a hurricane, it’s a matter of when, you’ll have to deal with some direct or indirect affects associated with a hurricane. Now that the hard reality is out there, there are some things to keep in mind that can help you keep yourself safe and protect your property.

Stay Informed

One of the reasons people get into boating is to get away from the constant bustle of today’s overly connected world. But if you live an area that’s exposed to hurricanes, you need to find a reliable and fast way to get the latest forecasts. Of all the things you can do to keep safe when you’re in the path of a hurricane, advance warning is, by far, the most effective.

Get Out Of The Way

For most recreational powerboats, many times the best solution is to pull the vessel and head inland. This reduces the impact of the initial storm surge and the accompanying rain and wind. The sooner the better on this because there will be lots of your boating brethren who either don’t or can’t move their boats in advance. Those folks will be the ones jammed onto the back roads and highways when mandatory evacuation orders are issued.

Batten Down The Hatches

For those boats that can’t be moved, it’s time to go old-school and batten down those hatches. That phrase has survived modern times because it precisely describes what you need to do in a crisis situation. First, remove anything that’s not permanently part of the boat. That means cushions, toasters, life jackets, curtain rods and anything else that would fall off if the boat gets sideways. Leave them aboard and you not only risk losing them for good, but you could create dangerous projectiles for anyone or anything still hanging around during the worst parts of the storm. Use plenty of extra fenders, used tires or anything else that will absorb impact and lash them to the boat. Quadruple your normal line usage, springing to any and all potential contact points. Check that all hatches and portholes are secure and detach or cover windscreens. It also wouldn’t hurt to drop an anchor fore and aft and make sure they’re well set.

Don’t Try To "Ride" It Out

There seems to be some absolutely crazy theory floating around out there that you and your boat might be better off away from your marina, riding out the storm in open water. That is a misguided and misinformed idea. Yes, you are technically out of the way of more flying debris and your boat won’t be lashed to a "fixed" object like a dock when the indescribable physics of a hurricane are set in motion. Here’s the rub: YOU will be unnecessarily in harm’s way. There is NOTHING tough about riding out a furious storm on the water. Boats become a part of our lifestyles and identities, but they can ALWAYS be replaced.



Posted On: September 11, 2018

On the seventeenth anniversary of September 11, 2001, we are reminded of the ripple-effects of that fateful day. As a nation we continue to honor the victims of 9/11 and the ultimate sacrifice of so many service men and women in the wars since.   

Today is a day to reflect on the pain we have sustained as a nation, and to honor the victims who came from all walks of life.

NYPD Officer Moira Smith, a 13-year NYPD veteran and mother who gave her life while calmly and swiftly evacuating survivors.

Tariq Amanullah, a Pakistani-American and financial executive who worked on the 88th floor of the South Tower and who had successfully led a Great Muslim Day of Adventure at his community’s Six Flags just days before.

Mark Bingham, a 31-year-old CEO of a San Francisco PR firm and openly gay man, one of the United Flight 93 passengers who is believed to have attempted to retake the cockpit from the terrorists. 

Twenty-three-year-old Mohammad Salman Hamdani, a Muslim NYPD cadet, who ran towards the towers to help, laying down his life in the process. 

The 2,983 victims of the terror attacks of September 11th included Americans like Moira, Tariq, Mark, and Mohammad, from every corner of the country and every walk of life. While these victims’ families will always carry their loss, their stories will live on as a reminder of what it means to be American.

Evil knocked us down that morning. But the stories of hope and heroism that emerged from the carnage are a testament to our national resilience, a signature of the American spirit. We immediately began to rebuild, strengthened by goodness and rooted in solidarity.

Former Marine Dave Karnes left his civilian job in Connecticut on 9/11, put his uniform back on, and headed towards New York to work alongside first responders. He later went to his reserve center and reenlisted, and would serve two tours in Iraq. Many others like him stepped up to serve, whether in the military, the State Department, or in nonprofits.

But as we mourned in the days following 9/11—in the grocery store, on the school bus, at football games—we also walked with unease, the comfort of our daily routines assaulted. And for some, it brought out bitterness and hate.  

The first revenge attack after 9/11 came a mere four days later. At the Arizona gas station he owned and operated, Balbir Sigh Sodhi was shot by an angry assailant. Balbir Sigh Sodhi was a hardworking Indian Immigrant and a Sikh, whose religious tradition and peaceful manner was rooted in his embrace of all people, regardless of background.

Years later, some of that hatred and misguided fear still festers. And in recent months, it’s been emboldened. In February a Kansas man threw ethnic slurs at two Indian engineers in a local bar, and then shot them. Last month in Charlottesville, xenophobic bigotry was on full display as white nationalists marched with Nazi and Confederate paraphernalia.

We cannot allow it. We must remember what the hours after 9/11 taught us about who we are. We are One America. We are a nation of helpers and doers. We do not cower in the face of threats; we stand strong to our values. We keep serving and striving toward the more perfect realization of our ideals.



Posted On: September 06, 2018

Boating Can Be A Drudge Sometimes!

Old sailors often used the current by "drudging" into harbor when there was no wind. They drifted in but kept the bow into the current by dragging the anchor from the bow on a very short scope. Provided the boat moved slower than the current, there was enough water flow over the rudder to maintain limited steerage. Modern sailors do the same thing, although some use a big bight of chain as a drag weight instead of an anchor.

Even modern ships can drudge. In small harbors, where the channel is not wide enough to turn around, they often need a tug to tow them out backward. But in windy weather, they can lower their bower anchor on a short scope so it drags along the bottom to resist any tendency to get swept sideways.

This technique influenced an old friend of mine who had a large lump of pig iron on a line that he used to stop his bow blowing off when he reversed into his tight marina berth. His old long-keeled boat didn't like going backward at the best of times, and turning a corner in a crosswind made it all a bit hairy. So his wife simply dropped the weight in up forward as he swung the boat back into her berth, and it worked like a charm



Posted On: September 04, 2018

Estimating Distance Off

By Dick Everitt for USBOAT

Got a tape measure and a piece of string? You can use them to find out how far away you are from, say, a lighthouse.

Distance off by vertical sextant angle is an old navigation technique used for keeping a safe distance from an object of known height, such as a lighthouse, the height of which is shown on a chart. With modern GPS, there's no longer need to know how to calculate this, but it's a fun trick to show the kids, and it's a useful backup if you're ever forced to use basic navigation techniques. But as many of us don't carry a sextant, or a set of tables, we can copy what the ancients had been doing for centuries before the sextant was invented. They simply exploited their knowledge that the ratio of 60:1 is equal to an angle of 1 degree. To find this distance, simply measure the angle of the center of the light above sea level and look up the "distance off" in a set of tables, such as those found in a nautical almanac, or use a simple calculation (below). The center of the light itself, not the height of the top of the tower, is used because that's the height marked on the chart. Usually we can forget any tidal height allowance, as less tide will put us farther off in safer water.

In its simplest form, you'll use something that measures 60 units from your eye attached to a vertical ruler marked in the same units. (Using a metric rule to do this exercise makes your math calculation simpler because you can work in whole numbers instead of fractions.)

Hold a piece of string 60 cm (about 2 feet) in front of your eye. (I find a loop of string of the correct length around my neck more comfortable than holding a knot in my teeth.) Sight across the ruler and measure the height of the center of the light above sea level, in millimeters. Then use the formula below.

It's a rough-and-ready technique, but one day it might save you being set in too close to a nasty reef or rocks.