Blog March 2022

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WARRANTIES & SERVICE CONTRACTS

Posted On: March 29, 2022


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.

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IT'S TIME TO INSPECT

Posted On: March 22, 2022


Complete Your Pre-Launch Inspection and Maintenance

To help ensure a smooth, safe start to the boating season, have a certified technician or mechanic perform the recommended maintenance on your vessel. Whether or not you get a professional tune-up, be sure to complete the following checklist before leaving the dock:

  • Inspect all of the safety equipment on board, including fire extinguishers, flares, personal flotation devices and first-aid kits, and repair, recharge and restock them as necessary.
  • Check all lights on your boat to make sure they are in place and operating properly.
  • Open the engine compartment to check for excess water in the bilge.
  • Check for any electrical issues, such as loose, disconnected or corroded conductors.
  • Check that the battery is properly secured to the vessel.
  • Check the fuel tank for leaks, and ensure there is proper ventilation.
  • Check the fuel filters to make sure no water is present.
  • Fill your tank with the freshest, highest-quality fuel available.
  • Change and check the oil level before starting the boat for the first time.
  • If you will be towing your vessel to its launch point, you will also need to properly inspect and maintain your trailer prior to your first outing.

Get In, On and Out of the Water Safely

Once all tasks on your pre-launch checklist are complete, you can start your engine and get out on the water. It is important on your first, and every trip of the season, to:

  • Follow safe launching practices.
  • Monitor the engine temperature to make sure it is not overheating.
  • Monitor the cooling system to make sure it is operating correctly.
  • Ensure you and your passengers know and follow safe boating practices.

Remember: Every Vessel is Unique

The work required to get your boat water-ready will depend on, whether it is used in fresh or salt water, its size, manufacturer, model, and the state in which it is registered. Be sure to get the information you need, then develop and follow the right spring ritual to help ensure every trip of the boating season is safe and fun for all.

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TIME TO HIT THE LIST

Posted On: March 15, 2022

The first few warm days return and you got that itching spring fever to uncover the boat and get her wet for the first time. There is nothing worse than being gathered at the dock with a boat-load of people and you turn the key and nothing happens. It is likely this will happen if you do not take the time to de-winterize your boat.

Do an inspection before setting out on the first trip of the season.

Here’s a pre-launch checklist to get your boat ready for the boating season.

Oil Check

If you did not change the engine oil when you put the boat up for the season, now is the time to do it. Make sure you change the oil filter also. Check the oil in the outdrive.

Battery Inspection

Reattach the cables. Make sure the terminals are not corroded. If so, wipe them clean. If your battery takes water, fill it up. A dry battery is a bad battery. With a battery tester, check the volts and amps. If it is charged and still won’t start, it may be time to buy a new battery.

Cooling System

Hopefully you drained the cooling system if you live in a cold winter climate to prevent freezing. If so, fill 'er back up. Rinse out the strainer and check the hoses for cracks.

Fuel System

You also should have topped off the tank with gas to prevent any moisture and condensation forming in the tank and diluting the gas. Change the fuel filter. Make sure the fuel line is attached and not cracked. In the winter these hoses can become dry and brittle

Distributor

Take the distributor cap off and clean it out. Corrosion could have occurred during the winter. Make sure all connections are restored.

Belts

Tighten the belts if needed. You should only be able to push the belt slightly down. If the belts do not fit snugly in their pulley grooves, they may be worn and in need of replacement. Belts that are not tight will wear faster because they will likely begin to slip. The alternator belt usually wears faster than the others. A sign of a worn belt is black soot somewhere in the vicinity of the pulley.

 Things That Should Not Be Ignored

  • Change the spark plugs
  • Lubricate the engine with WD-40
  • Check all hoses
  • Check power steering/cables
  • Test the bilge pump
  • Replace the drain plug
  • Check rudder and shafts
  • Inspect the prop
  • Test the horn
  • Test the VHF radio
  • Check the trim
  • Inspect personal flotation devices
  • Check the fire extinguisher expiration date
  • Make sure the anchor in on board

*** The above de-winterizing tips are only a list of suggested things to do your boat that I've collected over the years. Each boat may vary as to what needs to be done to de-winterize it. As always, for complete instructions please see your boat's owners manual or consult your boat mechanic.

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BEAM SEAS

Posted On: March 08, 2022

Today we look at Beam Seas


In a beam sea, the vessel is broadside to oncoming waves. These waves strike the craft's sides and cause it to roll from side to side. The effect of a beam sea depends on the vessel: its width, how top-heavy it is, its free-board, and hull design. Beam seas cause two problems. First, the rolling motion is very uncomfortable for passengers and crew. Second, when wave height equals or exceeds boat width, there's a very real danger of capsizing. In my 21-foot patrol boat, I avoid taking the sea on the beam any time the waves are higher than four to five feet.

Even though an experienced helmsman can operate a large boat in a moderate beam sea, successful maneuvering requires constant attention. The operator must watch for big waves and turn to meet them on the forward quarter. At this point it's a good idea to get the seas off your beam by using the zigzag-tacking maneuver described in the last section. When you tack in a head sea, you angle into the wind, taking the sea first on one side of the bow and then the other. When you tack in a beam sea, you angle first into the wind and then angle away from the wind.

First take the seas on your bow quarter, then change course approximately 90 degrees to take the seas on your stern quarter, but beware, there are special risks and steps to take when the seas are on your quarter, as we'll discuss below. In most cases you should make the tacks as long as possible and be extra vigilant when the seas are on the stern quarter. A combination of slowing and turning to meet the waves at an angle will reduce your risk of capsizing. Tacking is a slow way to get where you're going, but it's more comfortable and safer than being hammered on the beam.

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SPRING BOATING WILL BE UPON US SOON

Posted On: March 08, 2022

The spring boating season will kick off soon. Before it does, make sure you and your boat are ready. Advance preparation will help to ensure you’ll squeeze every ounce of fun out of the upcoming boating season. This handy checklist  explains what to take care of now so you can sail right into spring!

    1. Vessel Preparation and Maintenance. What exactly this step should entail will depend on the type and size of your boat. At minimum, though, have your engine and all other critical parts and mechanical systems evaluated by a professional and have all fluids changed or topped off.
    2. Navigation and Safety Equipment. Your navigation lights are critical to your safety on the water. Make sure they’re operational and that you have replacement bulbs on board. Check that your emergency equipment like radios and fire extinguishers are in place and in good condition.
    3. Trailer Maintenance. Check the condition of your trailer tires and ensure they’re properly inflated. Also check all lights, signals, and safety chains.
    4. Trip Preparation. Nothing puts a damper on boating fun like procrastinating to plan your trip and discovering that your intended destination has no available boat slips. The time to plan and book reservations is now!
    5. Additional Tips. The more experienced you are as a boater, the more you learn about the little things you can do to set yourself up for a successful season. As you discover these gems of wisdom (ie: playing cards help pass the time during a long journey, packing detergent and a roll of quarters is a time saver for the laundromats in port), write them down and keep a running list. Refer to that list and add to it from year to year.
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HEAD SEAS

Posted On: March 01, 2022

A skipper must be prepared to manage the boat in all sea conditions — head seas, beam seas, and following seas. Each has its own characteristics and dangers. Each requires different operational maneuvers and techniques.

Today we will look at Head Seas

Head Seas

When you're taking the waves on your bow, you're running into a head sea. This usually poses little danger to the average powerboat. However, open-bow boats (referred to by lake-patrol rangers as "water scoops") are at greater risk than closed-bow boats. Most small, open-bow or low-freeboard boats should not be operated in heavy weather on large bodies of water at all. Larger vessels have a bow designed to meet waves. With an experienced skipper, they can safely handle moderate to severe conditions so long as the boat is trimmed (leveled) properly and operated at an appropriate speed. When trimming the boat, pay attention to the center of gravity, at the bow, the stern, the trim, and list. Here's how:

Trim the boat so it's flat:

A bow trimmed too low will cause the boat to plow through the water and plunge into and under oncoming waves, giving everyone a wet ride while taking on dangerous amounts of water. A bow trimmed too high may provide a drier ride, but the boat will pound and be very uncomfortable. The stern, already a vulnerable area, will be even lower in the water than normal. Engine trim should be adjusted so the props don't cavitate as the boat pitches, rolls, or makes sharp maneuvers through breaking waves. Generally, this means the outboard or outdrives should be in the full down position. Prevent list: Canting from side to side, or listing, reduces stability and is very dangerous. Vessels equipped with adjustable trim tabs or planes and engine trim provide the operator with options for improving the boat's ride and performance in heavy seas. As a general rule, trim tabs should be set so the vessel rides as level as possible.

Lower center of gravity:

Passengers and heavy objects should be moved to the center of the vessel to lower the center of gravity and increase stability. Gas cans, ice chests, and heavy gear need to be secured to prevent loose items from tumbling about and causing injury. In heavy weather, there's enough to worry about without dodging flying gas cans. Even a well-trimmed boat can get into trouble if it isn't operated at a proper speed for the conditions. Almost everyone tries to go too fast. Pounding is hard on the vessel and crew and should be avoided. One boat I saw that had been operated on a choppy day for only a few hours by an inexperienced Park Service employee looked as if it had been in combat. Pounding through waves had stripped screws and loosened the cabin bulkhead; the dash was held in place only by the instrument wiring. Heavy-weather boating is displacement boating. Don't even think about getting up on plane. Never go fast enough to fly through the wave crests or cause the props to clear the water. Too much speed can result in the bow plunging under waves as the vessel pitches over the crest into a trough. I've seen good, seaworthy boats flooded or sunk because the operator didn't slow down and let the bow rise with each wave. The bigger the chop, the slower the speed. Operating in head seas requires constant tending of the helm and throttle to allow the boat to ride up and down with each wave. Slow down and angle into and through each crest, then resume course and speed up. If your prop comes out of the water as you pitch over a crest, throttle back to avoid racing the engine. In choppy seas over four feet, you will just barely make headway when meeting the seas on your bow.

One of my worst experiences with a head sea occurred one winter day when I was dispatched to rescue a sinking vessel in the main body of the lake. I headed out of a protected cove into the largest combers I'd ever seen (a comber is a large wave that has reached its peak and broken into foam). As each successive wave struck, it buried the forward half of the boat in swirling, foaming water. In those conditions, I could not continue meeting the waves head on. Instead, I began tacking into the seas, zigzagging to take the waves on the bow quarters. Taking the waves at an angle converts some of the severe pitching motion to rolling motion, giving a more comfortable ride at a slightly faster speed. To tack in a head sea, select a course that meets the seas at an angle of about 45 degrees. After traveling in one direction for a while, change direction 90 degrees to take the seas at roughly 45 degrees from the other side. How long you stay on one course before changing direction to the other angle is a judgment call. Because turning in high seas presents some risk and requires an alert, skillful operator, travel as far as you can in one direction before changing course.

The Art Of "Heave To"

There can come a point when the seas grow so large that it's no longer safe to try to make headway. When this happens, you can "heave to." Head into the waves, reduce speed while maintaining steerage-way, and hold your position. Heaving to under power allows you to wait for the storm to pass while taking the seas from a relatively safe direction. This survival technique will reduce pitching and reduce or eliminate rolling, the motion that frequently causes seasickness. As one wit put it, "Heave to or your crew will heave, too!"

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