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PREPAREDNESS IS KEY

Posted On: August 30, 2022

It's almost Sept. 01, and that means the storm season will be kicking up.

When you boat anywhere down the East Coast or the along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, it’s not a matter of if you get a hurricane, it’s a matter of when, you’ll have to deal with some direct or indirect affects associated with a hurricane. Now that the hard reality is out there, there are some things to keep in mind that can help you keep yourself safe and protect your property.

Stay Informed

One of the reasons people get into boating is to get away from the constant bustle of today’s overly connected world. But if you live an area that’s exposed to hurricanes, you need to find a reliable and fast way to get the latest forecasts. Of all the things you can do to keep safe when you’re in the path of a hurricane, advance warning is, by far, the most effective.

Get Out Of The Way

For most recreational powerboats, many times the best solution is to pull the vessel and head inland. This reduces the impact of the initial storm surge and the accompanying rain and wind. The sooner the better on this because there will be lots of your boating brethren who either don’t or can’t move their boats in advance. Those folks will be the ones jammed onto the back roads and highways when mandatory evacuation orders are issued.

Batten Down The Hatches

For those boats that can’t be moved, it’s time to go old-school and batten down those hatches. That phrase has survived modern times because it precisely describes what you need to do in a crisis situation. First, remove anything that’s not permanently part of the boat. That means cushions, toasters, life jackets, curtain rods and anything else that would fall off if the boat gets sideways. Leave them aboard and you not only risk losing them for good, but you could create dangerous projectiles for anyone or anything still hanging around during the worst parts of the storm. Use plenty of extra fenders, used tires or anything else that will absorb impact and lash them to the boat. Quadruple your normal line usage, springing to any and all potential contact points. Check that all hatches and portholes are secure and detach or cover windscreens. It also wouldn’t hurt to drop an anchor fore and aft and make sure they’re well set.

Don’t Try To "Ride" It Out

There seems to be some absolutely crazy theory floating around out there that you and your boat might be better off away from your marina, riding out the storm in open water. That is a misguided and misinformed idea. Yes, you are technically out of the way of more flying debris and your boat won’t be lashed to a "fixed" object like a dock when the indescribable physics of a hurricane are set in motion. Here’s the rub: YOU will be unnecessarily in harm’s way. There is NOTHING tough about riding out a furious storm on the water. Boats become a part of our lifestyles and identities, but they can ALWAYS be replaced.

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MARINE CAULK TIPS

Posted On: August 23, 2022


Applying Marine Caulk

 

With a little knowledge, you can easily apply marine caulk or sealant.

Sooner or later the need to apply caulk, sealant or adhesive arises in every boater’s life.

Here are some tips for making the job go easier.

1. Reef the Seam
Remove the existing bead of caulking with a reefing tool or reefing hook, either bought or made. I have used an old-fashioned can opener or a shop-made tool created by heating the shaft of an old screwdriver and then bending it at a right angle in a vice. Fein MultiMaster and Dremel also offer seam-reefing accessories.

2. Remove Residue
To ensure a good bond and seal, use a solvent to remove any residual skin of the old sealant. Lacquer thinner or mineral spirits work for most polysulfide and silicone sealants. Adhesive sealants may require specialty products: Check product labels. Wear protective gear when working with solvents and be mindful of fire hazards.

3. Mask Borders
Apply masking tape 1/8 inch to either side of the seam to be caulked. For rounded corners, “overmask” at a right angle, and then use a jar cap or other guide with a utility knife to carefully cut out the radius. Masking takes time, but using tape ensures easier cleanup.

4. Cut the Tip
Too many DIY boaters cut off the caulking nozzle tip wrong. It’s important to examine the tip and cut it at the point that is just a wee bit narrower than the width you need. Also, cut the tip at about 45 degrees. The actual hole should be an oval, the narrow dimension of which is just narrower than the seam or bead.

5. Push, Don’t Pull
In most cases, a neater result can be achieved by pushing the caulking gun while applying the caulk. Press just hard enough so that the speed at which you are pushing doesn’t exceed the rate of caulk being delivered from the tip. Ideally, there should be a slight “hill” or “ball” of caulk just in front of the tip as you move it along. Practice on scrap if you haven’t done much caulking.

6. Tooling Time
The time to tool — that is: fix, neaten or modify — the bead of caulk you applied is the time it takes the caulk to begin to skin over and will vary by brand and type and environmental conditions. Swipe the bead with a gloved finger dipped in water to smooth the bead. Wipe fingers clean between swipes. Be sure to peel the masking tape before skin-over also.

Caulking dries and cracks and should be renewed periodically around bilge and fuel tank hatches, ports, windows and the hull-to-deck joint.

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STORM READINESS IS THE KEY

Posted On: August 16, 2022


Don't look now but we are half way through August and the storm season in the Atlantic. We have been lucky so far, but don't get caught by surprise. Proper preparation will make the next storm a little easy to deal with.

PREPARE FOR THE STORM BEFORE IT HITS

Last week we may dodged a bullet. While some of you may have experienced some damage, the key to being safe is in the preparation. That means having a well-thought-out plan long before a hurricane warning is posted. To be successful, your hurricane plan needs to address the where, when, who, and what of hurricane preparation.

Where Will You Store The Boat?

As with real estate, three things matter most: location, location, location. Your boat's chances of surviving a hurricane undamaged are highest if it's where the worst of the storm isn't. When it's practical and safe, moving your boat out of the way is the best strategy. If your boat is trailer-able, take it inland and to high ground; if not, you or a captain can relocate it by water. When hurricanes threaten the Northeast, hundreds of coastal and offshore boats migrate north to Maine or up the Connecticut and Hudson rivers.

But if your boat is farther south, the lack of precision in forecasting makes relocating the boat by water a risky proposition. You may end up moving it into the storm's path or, worse, finding yourself offshore in the middle of a hurricane. If getting the boat out of the way of the storm isn't safe or practical, more than 30 years of research of claims show that boats on the land suffer relatively less damage than those in the water. When the boat is left at a mooring, at anchor, or tied to a dock and something goes wrong, it's more likely to end up sinking or aground than if it had been ashore. That can be extremely costly. In addition to losing your boat, there could be expenses for cleaning up any spilled fuel and removing the wreckage that results. Unless your marina docks have been engineered and built to withstand hurricane-force winds and the accompanying surge, WE recommend hauling the boat and securing it on the hard.

Whether you haul the boat or leave it in the water, your most obvious option is to leave it wherever it is. But the place where you normally keep your boat may be a disastrous one in a hurricane. Here are the key factors to consider when assessing how well a particular location might protect your boat in a tropical storm.

Surge

Most people think wind poses the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane. In fact, storm surge poses at least as much danger. Superstorm Sandy's wind speeds were below hurricane force when it made landfall in New Jersey, but its surge damaged or destroyed an estimated 65,000 recreational boats. In Hurricane Katrina in 2005, some 1,500 people lost their lives, and many of those deaths occurred directly or indirectly as a result of storm surge. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has created an experimental website where you can zoom in on your locale to see what the maximum surge height above ground level would be in a direct hit by a Category 1 through Category 5 hurricane. You can use that data to assess whether the piling heights on floating docks are high enough to keep the finger piers from being lifted off the pilings and to gauge how high storm surge could be in the hard-stand area. While you're at it, if you live in a coastal area, you might want to see how your house would fare. Google "ArcGIS Storm Surge" to find the website.

Fetch

When wind blows across open water, it generates waves. Breaking waves have a tremendous amount of power; they regularly destroy massive concrete structures at the water's edge. The height of the waves depends upon wind strength, duration, water depth, and the exposed distance (called the fetch). Hurricane-force winds blowing across half a mile (the fetch) of open water 25 feet deep can generate waves of 2.5 feet and more in height. Increase that distance to 10 miles, and waves will grow to a minimum of 6 feet high. Wind direction is determined by which part of the hurricane passes over your location, so when putting together your hurricane plan, assume that you could get wind from any direction. If your marina is exposed to open water, or protected from open water only by a breakwall, it's vulnerable to wave damage, especially if there's also a surge risk. In Sandy, the combination of surge and waves lifted boats stored on the hard off their jackstands and carried them inland, sometimes for miles.

Flooding

Hurricanes can bring rains of 6 to 12 inches in 24 hours, which can overwhelm the cockpit drainage of boats in the water, causing them to sink; the rainfall can also find its way through any fitting or hatch that isn't completely watertight, flooding the boat. If your marina is located in a low-lying area or near a river, floodwaters can combine with surge to further increase the maximum water height above ground level. Take that into account when considering piling heights or the height of the hard stand above sea level.

Wind

Hills or manmade structures that are able to withstand hurricane-force winds will break the power of the wind and reduce the risk of wind damage. Conversely, if the place where you keep your boat is surrounded by buildings not built to hurricane standards — boatyard sheds, for example — there likely will be a lot of shrapnel in the air as those buildings are shredded by the wind.

If you determine that your boat's normal location is unlikely to provide adequate protection in a hurricane, pursue other options. You may be able to contract with a nearby marina to haul your boat when a hurricane warning is issued, or you could take it to a nearby canal or hurricane hole and secure it. If your boat is normally on a lift and is trailer-able, you should plan on getting the boat to a ramp, putting it on the trailer, and securing it inland. If the boat's not trailer-able, your best option may be to take it off the lift and secure it several feet from the dock with a combination of lines to the dock, lines to shore, and anchors.

Don't wait for a hurricane warning, which is issued when tropical storm-force winds (39 mph) or higher are expected within 36 hours (with hurricane-force winds expected to follow some time after). By the time you get word, finish work, and get to your boat, you'll be lucky to have 24 hours before the winds start blowing. If the warning comes on a week night, you may have less than 12 hours. If your plan calls for moving the boat, that won't be nearly enough time. Even if that's not your plan, marina personnel will be preoccupied with hauling and preparing boats, hardware stores and boat shops will be overrun, and roads will be clogged with people leaving the area.

At the latest, you should start your preparations when a hurricane watch is issued, which happens 48 hours in advance of the predicted start of tropical storm-force winds, even though tropical storm-force winds in your area are only probable. Depending on what your plan is, take steps that will reduce preparation time if and when a warning is issued. That might mean making sure the trailer is ready to roll and getting the boat on it if it's stored on a lift or at a marina, doubling all the lines if you're leaving the boat in the water, or stripping all the canvas off the boat.

If you need to move the boat, or if your preparations could take several days, you may have to start even earlier. Keeping track of any storm that's active in the Atlantic Basin can give you several more days of warning and will mean that a watch issued in your area will never come as a surprise.

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THE RIGHT GRIP ON THE WHEEL

Posted On: August 02, 2022



Steering Wheel Control

Over-steering and over-correcting are common problems. We must know whether the wheel is straight or turned and, if turned, which direction and how far. There isn't room for guessing and making corrections if the boat doesn't turn the direction anticipated.

The Difference Between Steering A Car and Steering A Boat

  • Illustration of the turn radius of a carIllustration of the turn radius of a boat

When a car turns, the rear wheel tracks inside the turn, while when a boat turns, the stern tracks outside the turn, exactly the opposite of what we experience in our cars. Note how the stern could easily strike the dock if the operator isn't aware of the tendency of the stern to track outside the turn.

We're all used to driving a car. How much different can steering-wheel control be on a boat? Well, hugely different, in reality, and it can get you in trouble if you don't recognize the distinction. Cars steer from the front while boats steer from the stern. Boats pivot, cars don't. When you steer a car, the front tires turn the front of the car, and the rest of the car follows. Take a corner too tightly and the inside rear wheel hits the curb. When you steer a boat, the rudder, outdrive, or outboard swivels at the stern and directs the thrust in a way that pushes the stern in the opposite direction. Because of this, when taking a corner in a boat, your boat needs room on the OUTSIDE of a turn — the exact opposite of a car. This difference isn't too noticeable on open water, but critical in close quarters.

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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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