Blog May 2020


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Posted On: May 28, 2020

Often termed the first rule of seamanship, Rule 5 of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) expressly requires that “[e]very vessel shall at all times maintain a proper lookout by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.” Here’s a practical perspective to assist the recreational boater.

All mariners must utilize sight, sound, and all available means to monitor the presence and location of other vessels to avoid risk of collision, stranding, and other hazards to navigation. Courts have interpreted this to include the power and speed of your vessel, other vessels, prevailing weather and sea conditions, visibility, traffic density, proximity of navigational hazards, as well as other allision (running into something stationary) and grounding risks.

For a recreational vessel owner or operator who takes to the seas alone, complying with the lookout rule is not exactly as cut-and-dried as one may think. If a skipper decides to act as his or her own lookout, there must be an unobstructed view from the steering station, and there should be no conditions that would require a posted lookout, such as restricted visibility or a crowded waterway.

Courts have made it clear that a boat owner cannot turn control of his boat over to someone who may lack experience or may be intoxicated. If the boat is being operated jointly and a passenger maintains some active responsibility for and control over certain aspects of navigation, there still must be a clear delineation of duties with the lookout obligation always being assigned and satisfied. They have also consistently refused to recognize an exception to the lookout rule on account of size alone. One court found that a 36-foot sailboat owner was partially at fault for failing to maintain a lookout when an oceangoing container ship collided with his sailboat.



Posted On: May 26, 2020

Photo of a Odyssey battery bank

One of the most important things you can do to maximize battery life is to install adequate capacity to meet your needs, without exceeding the optimal discharge level of the batteries.

If you're using flooded-cell batteries with removable cell caps, check the electrolyte level monthly, and top up the batteries with distilled water as needed. On any battery, make sure cable connections are tight and clean and free of corrosion. Once cleaned, a coating of corrosion inhibitor like Boeshield T-9 is a big help. This bit of maintenance ensures that you'll get the most amp hours out of the battery for powering up your boat, and that the most amp hours will get back into the battery when connected to a charger.

Once all the above has been accomplished, the bottom line for extending battery life boils down to proper battery-charging regimens tailored to the battery type and size.

The last few years have seen marine battery-charger technology improve dramatically.

State-of-the-art units can be programmed for up to three different onboard battery types, and some provide an intermediate fourth phase (most have three) of charging called "pre-float" to better transition the battery from what's called the absorption phase to the float phase, to maintain a 100-percent charge level while automatically adjusting voltage to ensure no overcharging. A good one will come with a temperature sensor for mounting on the battery for a more precisely controlled output based on battery temperature, a highly recommended feature.

Recommended battery chargers are available from Blue Sea, Charles Industries, ProMariner, Mastervolt, and Newmar.



Posted On: May 21, 2020

When buying a boat, let the seller make repairs. Rather than have a seller discount a boat because of needed repairs, have them fix it using a reputable repair service. It's almost always more expensive than you — or they — think.

Not all upgrades will increase the market value of the vessel. In many cases, what a boat owner thinks is an upgrade that will increase value is normal maintenance. For example, if a boat owner rewires his boat, that's not necessarily an upgrade that will increase value; it is maintenance that will keep the boat current with standards and safety concerns.

Coast Guard regulations don't cover most parts of a boat. Boats have to be built to U.S. Coast Guard standards, but those standards cover only a few things, such as fuel and electrical systems and marine heads. ABYC standards cover many more things. While boats don't have to be built to meet them, yours should be.

The 'lightly used' theory. If a boat has been sitting for two or three years, it almost always will need more work than you think. Boats and engines last longer when they're regularly used, and problems compound when they're idle for long stretches.

Sellers don't always have to disclose problems. Other than a known defect or condition that might render the boat or engine unsafe, there is no obligation for the seller to volunteer information the buyer does not ask for when buying a boat from a private party. Ask the seller if there has been any major damage repaired from collisions or sinking. Use buyer/seller forms and note what the seller says before you and they sign it.



Posted On: May 19, 2020


New boats may have older model outboard engines. If you're shopping for a new outboard-powered boat, the engine may not be the same model year as the boat. The U.S. Coast Guard has no model-year regulations for outboard engines, making it harder for you to determine the year in which they were built. In the mid-2000s, most engine manufacturers stopped designating model years for their outboard engines. Outboard manufacturers say that until they make a significant change to an engine, the year it was built is irrelevant. And while that's true, buyers are concerned they don't know if they're getting the newest technology. After discontinuing model years, engine manufacturers replaced the model-year designator on the engine's serial number with a code that signifies an "era" in which all engines are supposed to be the same, with similar upgrades. 

HINs don't lie. Check the Hull Identification Number (HIN) on any boat you consider buying (new or used) to make sure that the age of the boat is correct. The last two digits indicate the boat's model year.

Boat brokers are not regulated like real estate agents. Only Florida and California brokers have to be licensed, and only California requires an exam. Elsewhere, anyone can call him-or herself a broker. One way to increase your chances of finding a good broker is to look for a Certified Professional Yacht Broker (CPYB). These brokers are members of the Yacht Brokers Association of America (YBAA), have taken a comprehensive exam, have pledged to abide by a code of ethics.

How many horsepower? Engine horsepower is allowed to vary by as much as 10% either way. Disappointed or thrilled with your engine's performance? Your 200-hp outboard could be making 180 or 220 hp.

A hull warranty is just that — it covers only the hull. A hull warranty is usually defined as the fiberglass shell, including transom, stringers, and related structural reinforcements, which are below the hull-to-deck joint. That means the deck is typically not part of the warranty. Also, hull warranties often include limited coverage for blisters and none for gelcoat crazing.

Some warranties can be transferred. But not all of them. And even if they can be, there may be a cost or some hoops to jump through. If you buy a boat with a transferable warranty, call the company to find out how to transfer the warranty and call back a few weeks later to verify that it was actually done. You don't want to find out later there was a snag and you have no coverage.

Rust doesn't sleep — and isn't covered. Damage caused by corrosion is almost never covered under warranty — or by insurance.



Posted On: May 14, 2020

There is an accepted system of right of way, which must followed to maintain order while still being courteous and safety-minded. These are many rules but if you learn to stick to just a few, you should be covered in most recreational boating situations.

In the following, the “stand-on vessel” has the right of way, and the “give-way vessel” needs to accommodate the other.

  1. In a situation with two boats coming head on, if possible, both vessels turn to starboard and pass port to port. This way  there’s no guesswork about the intentions of the other captain and a collision can be avoided.
  2. A sailboat under sail has the right-of-way over a powerboat. If the sailboat is running with an engine, it’s considered a powerboat regardless if the sails are up.
  3. If you’re being overtaken, your responsibility is to maintain course and speed. If that scenario puts anyone in harm’s way, just slow down and let the other pass because the first job of any captain is to avoid a collision regardless of who has the right-of-way.
  4. If a vessel approaches you from the right, they’re the stand-on vessel.
  5. Human powered vessels (kayaks, SUPs, canoes, etc.) have the right-of-way over any other vessel including a sailboat.
  6. If another vessel is restricted in its ability to maneuver (due to its size, draft or any other reason) it’s the stand-on vessel and you should accommodate it.
  7. When two boats are under sail, the one on the starboard tack (wind coming over the starboard side of the deck) has the right of way over the one on the port tack. If both are on the same tack, the leeward (downwind) boat has the right of way.


Posted On: May 12, 2020

Is Boating a Safe Social Distancing Activity?

The answer is yes, but is a a little more complicated.

All the usual rules apply but:

  • You need to limit the people aboard to those family members you share your home with, period—no guests.
  • You should not raft up with other boats or pull up onto a beach close to another boat, as that could put you in close proximity with the occupants.
  • You have to be careful to maintain a safe distance from others when loading up at the marina or fueling the boat, etc.
  • After touching anything, even an item someone else may have touched, like a marina gate lock or a fuel pump, disinfect by washing your hands or using a hand sanitizer as soon as possible.

Finally, to maintain the highest level of safety pack your gear and supplies ahead of time and don’t plan to stop at a store on the way to the marina or launch ramp, as you usually might.



Posted On: May 07, 2020

Don't assume your guests know how to react to a dinghy.

5 Basics For Guest In Dinghies

1. Loading And Unloading

Don't assume everyone knows how to get in and out of a dinghy. You may be carrying children, older folks, or people who've just never done it. First, secure the dinghy painter to the mother ship. Next, when people are boarding, stress the importance of stepping down all the way into the floor of the dinghy, toward the middle, and sitting pronto; don't have them step on the inflatable tubes or on the gunwales of a rigid dink. Everyone's center of gravity should be kept low from the second they board; keep people seated underway.

2. Beach Landings

If beach landings are the only way to come ashore, explain beforehand what will happen. Time your ride to surf in with a wave, and pull the motor up before it grounds. Have your strongest passenger jump out first and pull the dink into shallow water, then everyone can hop out, grab a handhold, and pull the dinghy onto the beach quickly. Proper water footwear with straps is important.

3. Night Moves

Finding your boat in the dark can be a challenge. Ask everyone to keep the flashlights off to preserve your night vision until you get near the boat and are ready to tie up and unload. A solar garden light tied to a stanchion provides an inexpensive nighttime marker low on the mother ship at the height where people in a dinghy are usually looking. Also, battery-powered LED lights in various colors, such as blue, can be suspended from dodgers or towers and won't drain your onboard energy reserves. Make sure lights such as these don't conflict with lighting required by the Navigation Rules.

4. NavIGATION Lights

Most tenders require only a 360-degree white transom light when running at night. If your dinghy exceeds a speed of 7 knots or is more than 23 feet long, you’ll need red and green bow lights along with a white stern light.

5. Davit Dilemma

Although dealing with davits may be second nature to you, for guests, it's all new. If you ask ­others to help you raise or power the tender, caution them to keep fingers and long hair away from any blocks or pinch points that could cause injury. Wrap davit lines around a winch or cleat to help hold the dinghy's weight. Dinghies, especially with outboards, are heavy, and too often guests lose control of the line and drop the boat abruptly. Advise that both ends should be raised or lowered evenly and that the drain plug needs to be in before the boat goes in the water. It also must be taken out after the boat is up. If the boat were to fill with rain, the weight could be far too much for the davits. If the big boat has its exhaust aft above the waterline, turn the engine off before lowering the dink and filling it with hot water. Stress the importance of loosely tying the painter to the mother ship before unclipping the davit lines.



Posted On: May 05, 2020

4 Tips For A Safe & Healthy Time On The Water

1. When you think of first aid, cuts and bruises probably come to mind. But sunburn, heatstroke, and overexposure to the elements can pose serious health risks.

Dr. Anne Marie Lennon of The John's Hopkins Hospital says, "Overexposure to the sun puts you at real risk of skin cancer. Avoid sun damage by using the 'slip, slap, slop' approach. Slip on a long-sleeved top, slap a hat on your head, and slop on some sunscreen, which you reapply every couple of hours."

2. Before heading out, ask if any crew members have allergies to medications, including simple pain relievers. Some people may be allergic to the adhesive on bandages or the latex in gloves, or may have been told to avoid certain pain relievers for medical reasons. If someone on board has a life-threatening allergy, know where to locate and how to administer an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen), if required.

3. Make sure that more than one person knows how to operate the VHF radio to call for help in an emergency.

4. Keep the booze locked up until you're safely anchored for the night or tied up at the dock. Alcohol tends to dehydrate and make you more prone to seasickness. Plus, it could slow reactions that could lead to an accident.