Blog July 2022

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FILE FLOAT PLAN

Posted On: July 26, 2022

Every year I repeat this, because it is amazing how many people ignore it. 

A float plan, is a pretty simple way to ensure the safety of everyone aboard your vessel, whether on a multi-day adventure or an afternoon outing. I know many of you will say its not necessary you aren’t going far and you will be where everyone can see you. But suppose you are on an ordinary getaway to your favorite destination; suddenly the fog rolls in, the engine dies, or the wind quits blowing. Or worse, your back goes out while you’re attempting to raise the anchor and you can’t move. You realize you have no cell phone reception. You are either literally or figuratively up the creek without a paddle. All those people who see you, won’t know you are in trouble; and no one will know where to look hours later.

 Whether temporarily stranded or in need of medical attention (when every second counts), you’ve increased the chances of a timely rescue because you shared your float plan with a family member, friend, or someone at the yacht club or marina. Once you fail to return at the time you assigned, the nautical wheels are set in motion to bring you back to port safe and sound.

A float plan may be as simple as a note saying, “I’m heading to Tranquil Cove today and expect to be back around 7:00 pm.” It can also be detailed — yet not very time consuming. There are templates available so you can fill in never-changing information including your boat type, length, color, and vessel name. Attach a photo of the boat and duplicate the semi-completed plan. Then you only have to jot down who’s aboard, the particular day’s destination, and an expected return time before handing it to a responsible person. Safety experts advise you not to leave the float plan on the dashboard of a car or a boatyard bulletin board, as someone with disreputable intentions will see how far away from home you’ll be and for how long.

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has a mobile app with a float plan component among its safety features. Personal information is stored on the phone but not transmitted unless the user chooses to send it, so authorities are neither tracking you nor logging your location unless a need arises.

Occasionally a boater will confess that he or she never bothers with a float plan. The usual excuse is that they only boat in popular local areas where they’d be spotted in case of an emergency and rescued immediately. That may sound reasonable, but does a boat bobbing on the hook in a cove convey outward signs of distress while the skipper’s down below feeling woozy or in pain?

“I don’t want to bother — I just want to hitch my boat to the trailer and go!” is another excuse. What would a loved one say to the authorities if they eventually suspected you might be in trouble but had no idea how to narrow down the search area? Without helpful information to narrow the search, precious time ticks away (and the weather or your predicament may worsen) while the USCG issues a non-specific “missing mariner” notice to all rescue crafts, boaters, and volunteers.

Once you grasp all the things that might happen because you kept your boating plans hush-hush, we’re betting you’ll  spill the beans every time you head out (don’t forget to give your land lookout a heads up when you return to shore after a fun and safe day).

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DO YOU HAVE BO? (BOAT ODOR)

Posted On: July 19, 2022

You would be surprised how many times this comes up.

Yes, really!!

 Do you detect a smell when you are on your boat? Face it….


 DOES YOUR BOAT HAVE.......BO ? (Boat Odor)

More often than not, if you do, It’s most likely coming from the bilge.

 The bilge collects everything dropped, dripped, and spilled on the boat.  If your boat’s bilge has been neglected, pouring bilge cleaner in and closing the hatch may not fully resolve the issue.

 

THE SOUTION?

 You’ll need to roll up your sleeves, remove all the debris, and then scrub the bilge.  Rinse THOROUGHLY with hot water, and if necessary, repeat the process until the inside of the bilge is thoroughly clean.

 There are no shortage of environmentally safe products that are good at degreasing and eliminating odors. Cleaning the bilge is important, but if done routinely, it should become an easily accomplished and quick fix.

 If elbow grease and the proper products don’t eliminate the odor, I recommend checking the vent hose from the holding tank. If it is compromised or if the fitting needs to be tightened, it’s a quick fix.  Should the odor become markedly stronger and fouler, after the holding tank is pumped out, you may need to replace the hose from the holding tank to the outside pumpout fitting (this is a common issue for older boats).

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THUNDERSTORM SAFETY

Posted On: July 12, 2022



 Stay Safe in a Thunderstorm

We all learn in grade school that lightning seeks the highest point, and on the water that’s the top of the boat — typically a mast, antenna, Bimini top, fishing rod in a vertical rod holder or even the tallest person in an open boat. If possible, find a protected area out of the wind and drop anchor. If the boat has an enclosed cabin, people should be directed to go inside and stay well away from metal objects, electrical outlets and appliances (it’s a good idea to don life jackets too). Side flashes can jump from metal objects to other objects — even bodies — as they seek a path to water.

Under no circumstances should the VHF radio be used during an electrical storm unless it’s an emergency (handhelds are OK). Also, be careful not to grab two metal objects, like a metal steering wheel and metal railing — that can be a deadly spot to be if there’s a strike. Some boaters opt to steer with a wooden spoon and keep their other hand in a pocket if forced to man the helm during a storm, while others like to wear rubber gloves for insulation.

Protection
A conventional lightning-protection system consists of an air terminal (lightning rod) above the boat connected to a thick wire run down to an underwater metal ground plate attached to the hull — large metal objects like tanks, engines and rails are also connected. New studies suggest multiple terminals and multiple ground paths work better.

An open boat like a runabout is the most dangerous to human life during lightning storms, since you are the highest point and most likely to get hit if the boat is struck. If shore is out of reach, the advice is to drop anchor, remove all metal jewelry, put on life jackets and get low in the center of the boat. Definitely stay out of the water and stow the fishing rods.

If all goes well, the storm will blow past or rain itself out in 20 to 30 minutes. It’s best to wait at least 30 minutes until after the last clap of thunder to resume activities.

 

There’s a Zap For That
A smartphone ­coupled with real-time National ­Oceanic and ­Atmospheric ­Administration (NOAA) lightning tracking ­information can make a powerful tool for ­avoiding storms. Some apps will even notify you if there is a strike near any of your ­designated areas. Do an Internet search for ­“lightning app NOAA” — there are a number of iPhone and Android apps available. A little early warning could give you just the time you need to make it back to shore and seek shelter.

Hit!
Knowing what to do in a storm and having the best lightning-protection system installed on the boat is by no means a guarantee that lightning won’t strike.

The immediate checklist for a direct hit is very short:

  1. Check for unconscious or injured persons first. If they’re moving and breathing, they’ll likely be OK. Immediately begin CPR on unconscious victims if a pulse and/or breathing is absent — there’s no danger of being shocked by someone just struck by lightning.
  2. In the meantime, have someone check the bilges for water. It’s rare, but lightning can blow out a transducer or through-hull — or even just blow a hole in the boat. Plug the hole, get the bilge pumps running, work the bail bucket — whatever it takes to stay afloat. An emergency call on the VHF is warranted if the situation is dire. If the radio is toast, break out the flare kit.


Lightning seeks the highest point, and on the water that's the top of the boat.

If there are no injuries and no holes or major leaks below, just continue to wait it out. Once the danger has passed, check the operation of the engine and all electronics. Even a near strike can fry electronics and an engine’s electronic control unit, cutting off navigation, communication and even propulsion. Some boaters stash charged handheld VHF and GPS units and a spare engine ECU in the microwave or a tin box for this very reason. These makeshift Faraday cages have saved equipment.

Obvious damage will need to be assessed and set right. Even those lucky enough to come away completely unscathed after lighting storms, with no apparent damage should have a professional survey done just to be sure. Minor damage to through-hulls can result in slow leaks, and all manner of electrical wackiness can emerge — sometimes much later. It’s best to catch these issues right away and get that information to the insurance folks for coverage.

 

Is Just a Ground Plate Enough?
An immersed 1-square-foot ground plate with hard edges creates a low-resistance path for lightning current to flow through (instead of through the boat or its crew!). But expert Dr. Ewen Thomson) believes multiple rods and near-water electrodes provide better protection.

Take it from a luxury trawler owner who sustained more than $1 million in damage from a strike: “Boat insurance turns out to be the best investment we have made in the past 10 years!” he said. “We will never again grumble about writing a check for an insurance premium.”

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ASK THE EXPERTS

Posted On: July 05, 2022

Q: Marine surveys are a waste of money for smaller boats, aren't they?

A: A professional "condition and valuation" marine survey (typically costing around $15 to $20 per foot) can often pay for itself. It provides a list of deficiencies as well as needed repairs, focusing on safety. Deficiencies can be used to renegotiate the sales price or scrap the deal altogether if the repairs are too expensive or complicated. Without a survey, you may overpay or be faced with unexpected and expensive repair bills. For most people, a boat worth more than a couple thousand dollars is a candidate for a marine survey.

Q: Cheaper auto-engine parts work just as well on a boat, right?

A: Not so fast! Substituting certain automobile parts in your boat's engine can be dangerous. Inboard and stern drive engines are housed in an enclosed space, unlike car engines, which are exposed to air. A small spark can set off gas fumes that build up in a boat's bilge. Boat-engine parts, such as starters and alternators, are designed to be spark-proof or "ignition protected," while automotive parts aren't.

Q: My boat has a capacity plate. Does that mean the U.S. Coast Guard certified that my boat is safe?

A: Neither the U.S. Coast Guard nor any other federal agency certifies boats. Only a few federal laws govern boat-building, including flotation requirements for powerboats under 20 feet, passenger- and weight-capacity labels, and fuel-system safety. Manufacturers self-certify that their boats meet these legal standards. The Coast Guard does, however, have a factory-visit program that audits boat builders periodically for spot checks and tests a few dozen boats for flotation compliance every year.

Q: My boat has flotation, so it can't sink, right?

A: Only mono-hull powerboats 20-feet long and smaller and built after 1972 are required to have integral flotation designed to keep it from sinking, even when swamped. The U.S. Coast Guard requires these boats to be able to remain afloat and, in most cases, upright when filled with water. Sailboats aren't required to have flotation, and inboard/outboard boats have less-stringent requirements than outboard boats. Some manufacturers, such as Grady-White, install flotation in all of their boats, regardless of size.

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