Blog April 2020

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BOAT HANDLING TIPS

Posted On: April 30, 2020


Running with following sea requires a skill set very different from those required with other angles of attack.

And, some might say, even a greater degree of care. You must, while keeping lookout all around as you would normally, also keep a watch astern for the oncoming following sea. Often you'll need to throttle up or down to keep the boat in a safe position relative to the sea and to avoid potentially disastrous consequences as it reaches the trough and encounters the next wave. For example, in high seas you don't want to fall over the crest and drop bow first into the trough. If this happens, the bow may dig into the next wave or the boat may slide down, beginning to turn sideways and flipping. If the bow digs down into the sea as it meets the next wave, this could cause catastrophic flooding or cause the boat to lip either to the side or stern over bow or somewhere in between. Usually these things are more likely to occur when you're running too fast for the conditions, but they can also occur, given the right circumstances, at relatively slow speeds.

It's commonly understood that we should avoid running or even drifting with seas on the beam.

But unfortunately, there are occasions when we need to do this, at least for a short while. If the seas are breaking or very big for the boat, you should figure some other way to handle the situation and not run with seas on the beam. But if it's critically necessary to run for a while with a beam sea, watch the seas very carefully and be prepared to turn into a wave that looks like it's going to break or be large enough to upset the boat's stability. On some boats, you can dampen the rolling and help with stabilization by the way you steer. Turning slightly into or out of the wave, at just the right time and just the right degree, can help keep the boat on a more even keel. Like so much of boat handling, this requires a lot of practice and familiarity with your boat and its characteristics. Learn, but not at the expense of capsizing.

Don't travel in limited visibility unless you really need to.

Know what you're doing, have appropriate navigational tools for the conditions, have all of your nav and instrument lights working, know the territory well, travel slow, and keep careful watch for others traveling. This could include boats traveling unlit at high speed and possibly with impaired operators.

Never run the boat while impaired.

Have at least one other person to help who is also not impaired. While there are many very good general principles and concepts about small-boat handling (and handling of any boat), there are so many variables that it's difficult to cast anything into cement. Variables can include different types of boats, different types of boat conditions, different types of power configurations, different sea conditions, different weather conditions, different degrees of visibility, different sets of operator knowledge and skills, and much more. So don't take anything I've said here as gospel, and realized that I've hardly scratched the surface as to skills that you need to safely handle a small boat.


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HANDLING A SMALL BOAT

Posted On: April 28, 2020


Keep the boat well trimmed.

When under way, the bow shouldn't be down. More and more we're seeing people running boats with the bow down. Not only does running bow down promote waves flooding in over the bow; it also makes the boat less stable as it runs and more difficult to steer. One thing that may be contributing to this is the proliferation of bow riders. These may have a tendency to influence some folks to put too much weight forward. To make matters worse, some bow riders can be like a big spoon, just scooping water in when the waves come. But we can't just blame this on the type of boat. The folks aboard, or at least the skipper, also need to know what they're doing.

A powerboat should normally not be heeling (unless temporarily and slightly when making a turn).

Often we see them moving along with the weight of people, coolers, tanks, or other items to one side, causing an artificial list. This increases the likelihood of capsize should something happen unexpectedly that further contributes to destabilization of the boat; and it also makes the boat more difficult to steer.

It isn't necessarily best to meet waves bow on.

Often this results in the wave coming aboard suddenly as a large volume of water. This will depend on your boat, the speed you're running (which should normally be relatively slow if you're encountering waves), and the boat's buoyancy and other characteristics. Generally, it's best to take incoming sea to the port or starboard side just aft of the bow rather than dead on. This allows that broader and hopefully more buoyant hull section to meet the rising water, and it's far forward of taking it on the beam, which could flip you. Also, if you take it dead on the bow, you're more likely to have that narrow bow, which is designed to cut through the water, cut through the wave and not rise as much as is needed, allowing the wave to board you. Exactly how far aft of the prow you take a wave will depend on all the variables and will even change with such conditions as wave height and boat type and loading. But as you grow accustomed to your boat, you should get a good feel for this.

Pay attention to seas astern.

A surprising number of small boats (and also quite a few larger ones) are swamped when a sea comes over the stern. Normally, the top of the stern is lower that the top of the sides in other areas around the boat. This is made more so by a cutout for an outboard. Also, it's often open to the cockpit or interior of the boat, unlike the bow area, which may have at least a small deck or covering to help deflect waves from coming down inside the boat. One common cause of getting swamped, as you might expect, is overloading astern. It's natural to move people and other weight back there because it's wider and seemingly more stable.

Another common cause of getting swamped from the stern is slowing down too quickly, particularly with an outboard. The following wake catches up with your boat and floods over the stern cutout. Normally, the boat should be able to handle this, but if this is coincidentally coupled with a naturally occurring following sea and with too much loading astern, the boat could suddenly take on so much water that it becomes unstable and possibly sinks.

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SERVICE CONTRACTS

Posted On: April 23, 2020

Service contracts, regardless of what they're called, aren't warranties. A warranty is a guarantee, usually in writing, by a seller or manufacturer, stating that it will stand behind its product in a specific way for a specific period of time. Although companies are not required to warrant their products, federal warranty law creates specific legal obligations when warranties exist. These obligations help consumers in a big way if a product is defective or if the manufacturer doesn't live up to its obligations.

Take, for example, a marine engine that breaks down due to a faulty water pump. If the engine is under the factory warranty, the manufacturer will replace the pump and cover damages caused by overheating. Say the manufacturer got a bad batch of pumps and the replacement fails for the same reason — or even a third failure occurs — a reputable manufacturer will take care of it, along with the attendant damage.

Suppose, however, that the first water-pump failure occurs after the factory warranty has expired and only the extended service contract is in effect. Water pumps usually are covered components, so the contract will handle repairs. But, damage due to overheating, regardless of cause, may be excluded from the policy. The manufacturer is unlikely to step in, even in the case of a pump that's known to be faulty, as the failure didn't occur on its watch.

Service-contract companies are obligated only to provide the services described in their contracts. Many contracts have maximum pay-out limits for the total number of claims against the contract or even for repeat failures of the same component. Limits are often based on the value of the covered product, in this case, the marine engine. Service-contract underwriters can cancel contracts when paid claims exceed the value of the engine. On the other hand, warranty law allows manufacturers to make a "reasonable number" of repair attempts before they're obligated to provide a replacement or refund. Before you buy a service contract, ask to see the actual contract, not the sales literature. The exclusions sections are often a lot longer than the "Items Covered" sections. Also, service contracts will not cover engine breakdowns resulting from shoddy workmanship, even by its authorized service centers.

Finally, as service contracts are essentially insurance policies, they fall under insurance regulations in many states.

However, not all states view them as such, so consumers may have little recourse if claims aren't handled equitably or if the company underwriting the contract folds.

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SUFFOLK COUNTY NY DELAYS MARINAS OPENING

Posted On: April 21, 2020

UPDATE

In a statement released by the governors' offices Saturday, they said the marinas and other facilities would be allowed to open "as long as strict social distancing and sanitization protocols are followed."

The statement said that chartered watercraft services or rentals will not be allowed, and restaurant activity at these sites must be limited to takeout or delivery only, under restrictions already in place in the three states.

"Throughout this pandemic, we've worked closely with our friends in neighboring states to implement a uniform regional approach to reducing the spread of the virus," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. "Aligning our polices in this area is another example of that strong partnership, and will help ensure there is no confusion or 'state shopping' when it comes to marinas and boatyards." 

“We’ve committed to working with our regional partners throughout this crisis to align our policies when and where appropriate,” said New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. “A unified approach is the most effective way to alleviate confusion for the residents of our states during the ongoing public health emergency.”

IN CASE YOU MISSED THIS:

Suffolk County Parks Department announced last Wednesday that no boats can be placed into county marinas before at least May 1, due to the corona-virus pandemic.

The delayed season opening date is subject to change, the parks department said.

An emailed notice that went out to owners of county slips read in part "Suffolk County Parks is closely coordinating with the county and state's emergency preparedness and response efforts. This was not an easy decision but a decision made to ensure the safety of the public and our staff."

The departments asks anyone with concerns to email them at SCParks@suffolkcountyny.gov.

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MORE MARINE SURVEY TIPS

Posted On: April 16, 2020

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.

Relationships Are Important

Surveyors want to build solid relationships, because their reputations are at stake. There's a saying experienced surveyors tell newbies: You're only as good as your last survey. Marine surveyors are often independent businesses and want you to call them first when you buy your next boat and also to recommend them to friends and family. If you have a problem with a survey (or a surveyor) don't hesitate to bring it up

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SOME TIPS FROM A MARINE SURVEYOR

Posted On: April 14, 2020

A 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!

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.

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DETECTING GAS VAPORS

Posted On: April 09, 2020

If your boat has a gasoline fuel tank mounted below decks, you should have a vapor detector.

Also known as "fume sniffers," vapor detectors monitor for flammable gases such as gasoline fumes.

Vapor detectors are mounted in the engine-space bilge, just above the slosh height of bilge water, with the sensor away from the hottest parts of the engine, such as manifolds. Vapor detectors are almost always hard-wired to the boat's 12-volt DC system. Usually, the unit has a control head mounted at the helm that will sound when dangerous fumes are detected in the bilge. The wire that connects the sensor to the head unit typically can't be cut because the manufacturer has calibrated its length.

Some vapor detectors can turn on the bilge blower when they detect a buildup, a smart option. The blower, of course, must be ignition-protected. Look for an alarm that is UL 2034 listed.

Vapor alarms should be tested monthly using the manufacturer's procedure. You can also test the sensor using a butane lighter by depressing the lever lightly to release a small amount of butane gas next to the sensor.

Replace vapor detectors after no more than five years, or right away if they become submerged.

If the alarm sounds at the fuel dock, it may mean that a large quantity of spilled gas is in the bilge; it should be dealt with by pros. Make sure everyone is off the boat (as they should be while refueling) and call 911.

Don't operate anything electrical, including the blower; it won't eliminate spilled gas. If it sounds while you're underway, call for help on a handheld VHF (less chance of sparking than an installed one) or a cellphone.

BASED ON AN ARTICLE IN BOATUS

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DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH JUICE?

Posted On: April 07, 2020


According to Jeff Dziedzic, who operates TowBoatUS Mystic out of Mystic, Connecticut, engine failures are a large percentage of tows, but other mechanical parts fail, too, leaving boaters stranded.

Dead Battery

Batteries have a shelf life, though it can vary by years depending on how they're treated.

Dziedzic says that many times calls for dead batteries come from boaters who are trying to get a little more time out of a fading battery. "Some boaters know their battery is weak but just haven't gotten around to replacing it," he says.

"Sometimes batteries die because boaters leave on the radios (stereos and VHFs) or maybe a baitwell aerator, which take a lot of power over time." Dziedzic recommends checking your battery (charge level, electrolyte level, connections) once a month.

Don't take the chance that it will die right when you need it.

If it's getting weak, replace it. Nearly all batteries are marked with their manufacture date or warranty start date, and wet-cell batteries typically last five years or fewer on a boat. If you're prone to dead batteries, it might be a good idea to take along a small jump pack.

BASED ON INTERVIEW IN BOATUS

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