Blog April 2019


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Posted On: April 30, 2019

Dead Reckoning

Your on the water, but where am I?

Hey, Pirates never used chartplotters, and their depth finders were lead lines. But they found their way. Take a lesson from them. Bring along a ruler to use with your chart. Using the chartplotter or a GPS position from a cellphone, plot your position on the paper chart as you go along. To plot your course on paper, simply take the latitude and longitude coordinates from the GPS. Find the corresponding coordinates on the edges of the chart. Typically, the longitude coordinates are on the top and bottom edges, and latitude coordinates are on the left and right edges; some chart books have chart views arranged at other angles for space or clarity purposes. Using a straightedge, make a light pencil mark where the lines intersect.

After you've plotted three or four positions, wait 15 minutes or so, then turn off the chartplotter, paying close attention to the compass heading as you do so. Now try to keep track of your position without it. You may not know where you are at that moment, but you'll know where you were 15 minutes ago, and that'll be a pretty good clue. If you know this, you can "dead reckon," which comes from the phrase "deduced reckoning" and means steering by your compass while taking note of your speed and passing time to determine distance traveled. You'll likely find your way to where you want to go, or at least be close. You can also use landmarks, seamarks, and Aids to Navigation to verify and adjust your dead-reckoning position.

Unlocking the navigational clues scattered across your chart won't only add to your onboard fun — it will keep you safer should something knock out your electronics



Posted On: April 25, 2019


Docking makes boaters nervous. Throw a little wind and current in the mix, and you can find yourself overwhelmed with things to worry about. Your technique shouldn't be one of your worries. Coming alongside a dock or bulkhead can be accomplished in just four steps. But first, you need to know a few things about your boat.

I see the results of not docking appropriately all too often. So please, read this.

This procedure is for outboard- or sterndrive-powered boats. Hopefully you've had enough time at the helm to know how your boat pivots when you throw the wheel hard over in either direction. Many beginning boaters are surprised at how much the stern swings or slides out when they initiate a turn. If you're not familiar with your boat's tendencies, to get a feel, practice by approaching a buoy or crab pot marker as though it were the dock. Once you've got that down, choose which side you want to tie up, deploy fenders, and you're ready to make your approach. These instructions are for a portside tie.

Step 1: Line Up Your Approach

Steps 1 and 2
Slowly approach center of desired berth

When approaching the space on the dock where you want to come alongside, first judge wind and current. If the wind or current will be pushing you toward the dock, a shallow angle will help you keep control and not strike the dock with the bow of the boat. If the wind and/or current are conspiring to keep you off the dock, as so often seems to be the case, you'll need a steeper approach to carry enough momentum to get you into the dock. Start with a 30- to 45-degree angle as you learn what works best for your boat. Aim your bow toward the center of your landing point.

Step 2: Come In Slowly

There's an old saying, "Never approach a dock any faster than you're willing to hit it." Bump the boat in and out of gear to maintain slow progress toward your chosen spot. On twin-engine boats, use one engine at a time to creep in.

Step 3: Time Your Swing

Step 3
Wheel to starboard, engine in forward

When your bow is within, say, half a boat length, swing the wheel over hard to starboard (away from the dock). This is where knowing your boat becomes important, particularly regarding where it pivots. Turn too soon, and you won't end up parallel with the dock. Too late, and bang. With the wheel hard over, bump the engine into gear for an instant to kick the stern to port. This will also swing the bow away from the dock (to starboard) so you won't hit it.

Step 4: The Flourishing Finish

Step 4
Wheel to port, engine reversed

As the boat glides toward being parallel with the dock, swing the wheel all the way back to port, and kick the engine into reverse (on twins, use the engine farthest from the dock for maximum effect). This will simultaneously stop your headway and pull the stern of the boat to port and closer to the dock. When the boat has stopped moving forward, put it in neutral. The boat should continue side-slipping right up to the dock, allowing you to simply reach out and grab a
line or piling. 

Thanks to Michael Vatalaro, BoatUS Magazine's executive editor



Posted On: April 23, 2019

Understanding Land Breeze

Here's a great article by Captain Bob Figular for the Mariners Learning System about the often misunderstood land breezes.

The opposite of a sea breeze is a land breeze. While sea breezes occur during the day, land breezes occur at night. Despite the difference in times at which the land breezes and sea breezes occur, the reason for the land breeze’s formation is the same as the sea breeze, just the role of the ocean and land is reversed.

Land breezes can occur when the land’s nighttime temperature is less than the sea surface temperature. They are most common during the fall and winter seasons when water temperatures are still fairly warm and nights are cool. However, unlike the sea breeze, the land breeze is usually weaker.

At night, the land temperature falls to below that of the ocean and becomes less dense. Therefore it begins to rise. The rising air creates a weak low-pressure area due to a decrease in air mass at the surface. As the air-cools, it begins to collect resulting in an increase in pressure, creating a “high”.

These differences in pressures over the water, both at the surface and aloft are greater than the differences in pressures over land at the same elevations over the water. Therefore, as the atmosphere seeks to reestablish equal pressure both onshore and offshore, two high-pressure to low pressure airflows develop; the onshore flow aloft and surface offshore flow, called the land breeze.

Land breezes are weaker than sea breezes but not because of the difference in heating. Daytime heating and nighttime cooling occur at about the same rate so the potential for the both land and sea breezes to be the same strength exist.

But at night the cooling ground inhibits vertical motion that, in turn, weakens the land breeze circulation, Nighttime cooling also produces a shallower change in temperature so land breeze circulation is shallower, and terrain, vegetation, and buildings inhibit the flow of air from land to water.



Posted On: April 18, 2019

The Easter bunny is often considered a part of Easter because of the notable ability of bunnies to proliferate. However, there are roots back to the actual name of Easter. A goddess of fertility, Eostre, (who may have been one of the inspirations for the name Easter) is said to have been accompanied by a hare. Although many sources debate this connection. The tradition of the bunny was brought to the U.S. by German settlers to Pennsylvania.

Hot cross buns and other breads marked with an X to symbolize the cross are a tradition on many Easter tables. Different sweet breads are also used all over the world. Try these: Choreg (Armenia), Paska (Ukraine), Babka (Poland), Tsoureki (Greece). Also try a traditional Italian Easter Bread (shown above) with eggs baked right in. These bread are conspicuously risen breads which may also show a desire for Easter traditions to be different from Passover which includes unleavened breads.



Posted On: April 16, 2019

Sometimes it pays to meet the person you want to work on your boat.

Are they experienced? Do they cut corners? 

Don't let money be the only factor in guiding your choices.

Maybe You don’t need a valve job.

Sometimes not knowing who you are dealing with, can cost you. Usually, cheap is cheap for a reason.

Cheap mechanics aren’t always the bargain they appear to be. I had a customer who began to experience numerous, serious backfires not long after an oil change by a low-cost mobile mechanic. The same” bargain” mechanic then diagnosed “a valve problem” and quickly said it outside his skill set. We discovered the oil reservoir had been overfilled by about two quarts and was floating the lifters. A less than reputable guy would have taken it apart, found nothing, sent the cylinder heads out to be reworked, maybe even install a new set of lifters in it and handed the customer a $1,500 repair bill. He would probably think he had somehow fixed the problem, because he would have had to change the oil in the process.

 Poor performance does not automatically mean you need a tune-up or a new prop.

There are many overlooked contributors to poor performance. I look for simple answers first, like water in the bilge. Undiscovered water can seriously sap a boat’s ability to get onto plane or reach top speed. Another culprit can be bottom growth. An incorrect prop can seriously hinder a boat’s performance.  But many shops incorrectly diagnose a prop change when in reality the boat had grown heavier from the water, and bottom growth. Also the amount of equipment being stored on board can contribute. Multiple tune-ups are often thrown at engines that are simply tired and in need of a reconditioning



Posted On: April 11, 2019

Spring’s Here And the Annual Trek Of Getting Boats in the Water Has Begun

But Before you Rush In…..

Remember….Start Early.

Your preparations should start a couple days before you want to sail. You have made it through the winter months, but before you head to the water, prepare a few days in advance. Check by charging your boat’s batteries, idling the motor up to temperature, tightening hose clamps, checking for leaks, and changing the motor oil, oil filter, separators, and transmission fluids.

Pay Attention to your engine maintenance. Now is a good time to change those raw-water cooling impellers in the motor, drives and generators. Manufacturers typically recommend changing the impellers once every two to three years no matter the time in use. Rubber impellers deteriorate over time, regardless of their hours of operation and can dry, break or become weak, leading to pumping the improper amount of cooling water to the engine, which can cause a major meltdown.

Fuel may be great for cars, but when it sits in your boat over the winter it can dissipate, gel, and cause damage to fuel tanks, rubber lines and fuel systems. Top off your fuel tank with a good grade of fuel and use a high-quality fuel additive offered at your local marine parts distributor.

Take your time when launching your boat.  Prepare a checklist for what you need to do to keep your boat and crew safe before you launch. Check your vessel for all safety gear, including current fire extinguishers, install your drain plug, remove your trailer safety straps, run the bilge blower and inspect for leaks before you pull off of the trailer.



Posted On: April 09, 2019

Avoiding Dock Side Sinking

Did you Know ....

That more vessels sink at the dock while unattended than sink while underway and manned.  A common reason for this is when cockpit drains get clogged and the vessel takes on water from heavy rains or waves slapping over a low transom.  The added weight of this water lowers the vessel in the water until a through hull fitting or cut-out transom is forced under water.  Sea water then spills into the hull from the fitting or floods over the transom sinking the vessel. 

The average vessel's bilge pump system and battery capacity is not designed to deal with this amount of flooding, especially when unmanned.  The amount of flooding that occurs when a prop shaft falls out of a vessel, or from a lost sea cock, is substantial

The second most common source of sinking at the dock is snow and rain.  I had this happen to one of my clients’ boats because the self-bailing scuppers clogged from leaves. Rain followed, and followed, and followed—until they had a submarine. Also, many skippers believe that Bimini tops and canvas covers prevent water from entering the boat.  Wrong again. They slow it, but don’t stop it.  In the winter, stow them someplace dry and shrink wrap the boat.

So, more than 80 percent of the boats sink for two reasons—all of which adds up to checking the boat from time to time. Or paying the dock hand to, or your teenager who wants some extra spending money. But check it.

The best defense against a dock side sinking is to check on your vessel often, and ensure that cockpit drains are kept clear of debris.  In addition it is important to check and maintain all through hull fittings.  Plastic through hull fittings are notorious for degrading from UV exposure and snapping off at the slightest pressure.  If your plastic fittings leave a chalky residue when wiped with a finger, replace them now!  And take the opportunity to upgrade to a bronze fitting.  Hoses connected to above water through hull fittings should lead upwards if possible.  The higher the hose is lead above the waterline, the lower your vessel can be submerged without creating a back siphon. 

 Finally, if your vessel has a low transom (as found on many outboard powered vessels) be sure to dock it with the bow of the vessel pointing to any exposed stretch of water.  That way, storm waves will break on the bow rather than over the transom.



Posted On: April 04, 2019

Wakeboat Etiquette

Great article by Charles Fort about a growing concern.

Boats designed to make jumbo waves for riding can cause problems for other boaters and property owners. But there are steps you can take to minimize conflicts.

Wakeboat Etiquette Tips

  • Stay at least 150 feet away from structures or shore; ride the core, avoid the shore.
  • Minimize repetitive passes.
  • Drive a predicted path. In Arizona, boats must travel in a counterclockwise traffic flow.
  • Avoid close passes to other boats, and don't follow another boat too closely.
  • Don't impede traffic. Wakesurfers usually travel at 10 to 12 mph. Avoid wakesurfing in fairways and busy areas.
  • Look before you turn.
  • Refrain from tricks when near other boats.
  • Early morning times usually have less traffic.
  • Keep in mind that local boating laws and navigation rules still apply. Follow them and everyone will enjoy their time on the water we share.
  • Keep music at a responsible level; sound travels much farther than you think on the water, and loud music can ruin other boaters' peace and quiet.

In case you haven't seen these boats yet, wakeboats look a lot like ski boats and are designed to make very large wakes to make it possible to "surf" or wakeboard on almost any body of water. While they're typically much slower than, say, ski boats, they make wakes the size of much larger boats, and boatbuilders are constantly refining their products to make larger and better shaped waves using ballast tanks, wedges, and fins. The problem, of course, is that wakes don't just stop after the ride. While they may flatten a little over distance, most of the energy is dissipated when the waves reach shore, and wakeboats can cause large and confused wake patterns for other boaters.

Many municipalities now have regulations on how close wakeboats can be to a structure or shore (usually 100 to 200 feet), but the waves can still do damage even when they're made a long way away. Wakeboats are one of the fastest growing segments of the boating industry and as more of them are on the water and as more craft are wake-averse (small pontoon boats, stand-up paddleboards, sit-on kayaks, and so on) there's bound to be friction between those who want to surf on the lake and those who want to have a peaceful outing.

Better rules enforcement is one answer, though damage or injuries from a specific wake are often hard to prosecute without video evidence. As Massa says, "Smith Mountain Lake has 560 miles of shoreline and it's impossible for law enforcement to be everywhere." Some states such as Missouri have passed new laws that can hold the boat owner responsible for wake damage or injuries if the operator can't be identified. Other municipalities have gone so far as to pass ordinances that prohibit "artificially enhanced wake" on local waterways.