Monthly Archives: January 2010

Relieve Cabin Fever with a Good Read This Winter

Now that the holidays are over and it’s too cold to enjoy boating to its full extent, why not keep your boating skills sharp through reading and re-education.

For some heavy reading, the consummate compendium on boating and seamanship is “Chapman Piloting,” the 66th edition published by Hearst Marine Books. This comprehensive resource is recommended by both the U.S. Power Squadron and the USCG Auxiliary as a reference.

“Chapman Piloting” covers all the basic topics of boating and seamanship (weather, handling, docking, anchoring, knots, etc.), a broad review of related information, and the etiquette of proper boating, including flag display and dockside behavior.

I would recommend this publication to any boater, new or experienced, who is interested in pursuing the details of boating and seamanship. It makes a complete library almost by itself.

Chapman Piloting : Seamanship & Small Boat Handling (66th Edition)
by Elbert S. Maloney, Charles Frederic Chapman, Published by Hearst Books, Reviewed by: Dr. Steve Batson
You can order Chapman Piloting from right now

If you have been following the BoatSafe Blog, you know that I have published a couple of articles warning of the dangers of relying solely on GPS as your primary navigation source. Why not use the winter to learn or relearn additional navigation skills, to get you from one place to another without depending on GPS?

The Nautical Know How navigation course is a combination of a printed text/workbook for home study, sample and real time chart work, online animated demonstrations and testing, and email instructor assistance.

Topics covered in the course include:

  • Introduction to Navigation
  • Understanding Latitude & Longitude
  • Reading the Nautical Chart
  • Finding Latitude, Longitude & Distance
  • Finding Direction
  • Distance, Speed & Time Calculations
  • Getting to Know Your Magnetic Compass
  • Dead Reckoning
  • Two & Three Bearing Fixes
  • Running Fixes
  • Finding Set & Drift
  • Estimated Position
  • Finding Course to Steer
  • Finding Relative Bearings
  • Tide and Current Calculations
  • Publications: Coast Pilot, Light List, Local Notice to Mariners
  • Publication Excerpts
  • Putting It All Together
  • Final Exam

For additional information and to order the course go to:

If you’re more in a philosophical mood you might want to check out the following:

First You Have to Row a Little Boat : Reflections on Life & Living
by Richard Bode
cover Jon Ayers sends the following review:

It’s really a book about life, in which the author relates what he learned through his experiences with small boats while growing up on the south shore of Long Island, and how those experiences guided him later in life.

In a questionnaire sent three years ago to all owners of Nonsuch yachts, which generated some 300 responses, this book was mentioned as a favorite more than any other.
It’s what I would call a ‘dear’ book, in that there is no single overpowering message, but when you finish it, you realize that you have thought a great deal about your own life. You can order this book from

If your boat sports an outboard motor you might want to read: The Outboard Boater’s Handbook : Advanced Seamanship and Practical Skills by David R. Getchell , Sr. (Editor)
The Outboard Boater's Handbook: Advanced Seamanship and Practical SkillsOwners of larger boats have their bibles, but, until now, outboard boaters have been neglected. This comprehensive manual shows you how to go places and do things you never thought possible in a small outboard motorboat. Covers all the popular types – and some alternative craft – as well as methods that might change your entire boating outlook.
Topics include

  • judging a boat’s potential based on design and construction
  • how to upgrade an older boat
  • how to handle a little boat in big seas, surf or shallow water
  • how to navigate
  • how to read the weather
  • how to head upriver or offshore
  • how to trailer your boat
  • how to manage and equip it for camp cruising
  • how to care for boat and motor

You can order The Outboard Boater’s Handbook from

When a Loose Cannon Flogs a Dead Horse There's the Devil to Pay: Seafaring Words in Everyday SpeechWhen a Loose Cannon Flogs a Dead Horse There’s the Devil to Pay : Seafaring Words in Everyday Speech

by Olivia A. Isil, Paperback, Published by Intl Marine Pub

Ever wondered about the origin of big-wig, flogging a dead horse, mind your P’s and Q’s, or three sheets to the wind? These commonly used colloquialisms all have nautical backgrounds and entertaining histories. This collection of more than 250 of these fascinating words and phrases also includes yarns, legends, superstitions, weather lore, poetry, rhymes, songs, and more.

You can order When a Loose Canon Flogs a Dead Horse from

For other books recommended by visit:

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Filed under Boat Maintenance, Boat Operation, Boating Safety, Navigation

Grouper Fishing Ban Hits The Florida Keys Economy

KEY WEST, Fla. (UPI) A temporary ban on grouper fishing will bring economic hardship onto the Florida Keys during its peak tourism season, fishermen say.

The four-month ban went into effect Jan. 1 and is meant to protect the grouper fishery, which wildlife officials say has been over-fished and is now in danger. But Keys commercial fishermen and charter boat captains who take tourists on grouper expeditions say the ban will be economically devastating, The Miami Herald reported Sunday.

“This couldn’t come at a worse time,” Key West charter boat owner Andy Griffiths told the newspaper. “My business already is off 80 percent because of the economy.”

“It’s a bitter choice between sustaining the fishery or sustaining someone’s livelihood,” added Andy McDonald, the wholesale manager at the Islamorada Fish Co. “But if you don’t sustain the fishery, there will be no livelihood.”

The Herald said the ban bars commercial and recreational fishermen from keeping shallow-water grouper such as gag, black, red and yellow fin — caught in federal and state Atlantic Ocean waters from North Carolina to Key West. It comes as the fishing industry is already reportedly reeling because of low demand and low prices for their spiny lobster and stone crab products.


Filed under Boating News, Fishing News, The Boating Environment

The DUKW Then and Today

The DUKW (popularly pronounced “duck”) is a six-wheel-drive amphibious truck that was designed by General Motors Corporation during World War II for transporting goods and troops over land and water and for use approaching and crossing beaches in amphibious attacks.

The designation of DUKW is not a military acronym, the name comes from the model naming terminology used by GMC; the D indicates a vehicle designed in 1942, the U meant “utility (amphibious)”, the K indicated all-wheel drive and the W indicated two powered rear axles.

Although technically a misnomer, DUKWs are often referred to as duck boats. Another popular nickname was old magoo or simply magoo. Though the origin of this term is unknown, it probably refers to the odd shape of the vehicle.

Developed by the National Defense Research Committee and the Office of Scientific Research and Development, it was initially rejected by the armed services. When a United States Coast Guard patrol craft ran aground on a sandbar near Provincetown, Massachusetts, an experimental DUKW happened to be in the area for a demonstration. Winds up to 60 knots, rain, and heavy surf prevented conventional craft from rescuing the seven stranded Coast Guardsmen, but the DUKW had no trouble, and the military opposition melted. The DUKW would later prove its seaworthiness by crossing the English Channel.

The DUKW was the first vehicle to allow the driver to vary the tire pressure from inside the cab. The tires could be fully inflated for hard surfaces such as roads and less inflated for softer surfaces, especially beach sand. This added to the DUKW’s great versatility as an amphibious vehicle. This feature is now standard on many military vehicles.

Splashdown in Philadelphia

DUKWs are still in use, as well as purpose-built amphibious tour buses, primarily as tourist transport in harbor and river cities, including but not limited to: Seattle; Philadelphia; Cincinnati; Pittsburgh; Chattanooga; Nashville; Boston; Branson, Missouri; Grapevine, Texas; Saugatuck, Michigan; Liverpool; London; Dublin, Ireland; Rotorua, New Zealand; Belgian coast (Blankenberge, Koksijde) ; The Netherlands; Singapore; Washington, D.C.; Stone Mountain Park, Atlanta, Georgia; and Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.

The first “duck tour” company was started in 1946 by Mel Flath in Milwaukee, WI. He moved his tour to Wisconsin Dells shortly thereafter. His company has changed ownership since, but is still in operation under the name Original Wisconsin Ducks. His family continues to operate a duck company called the Dells Army Ducks in the Wisconsin Dells Area. One well-established tour operator in the United States is Ride the Ducks. However, the vehicles used are not Army Surplus DUKWs, as used by many other companies, but are rather designed and built from the ground up by Ride The Ducks.

For info on Ride the Ducks Philadelphia go to:


Filed under Boat Operation, Boating News, The Boating Environment

Connecticut accepting applications for maritime pilots

Connecticut Department of Transportation is soliciting applications from qualified mariners interested in receiving a marine pilot license from the State of Connecticut to work on the Connecticut side of the Joint Rotation of Pilots. Applications will be accepted at the Department until close of business Wednesday, February 10, 2010.  Check here for details.

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Maryland Boaters

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources says boating and other recreational uses of the upper Potomac River should be avoided because of heavy rains that have led to hazardous river levels.

The department says recreational activity should also be avoided on creeks and streams feeding the main stem of the upper Potomac from Cumberland to Little Falls.

The DNR says the decision is based on information from the National Weather Service and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. The advisory is in effect through Wednesday, when it will be updated if necessary.

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Coast Guard urges duck hunters to ‘plan on not drowning’

Hunter in a boat.The U.S. Coast Guard has issued a safety advisory to migratory bird hunters on the inland and coastal waters of the Northeast.

Nationally, the Coast Guard has rescued nearly 20 hunters in the last month. Five hunters died because they fell overboard or their boat capsized.

According to Al Johnson, recreational boating specialist for the First Coast Guard District, which has headquarters in Boston, “Here in the Northeast, we’ve had seven duck hunters capsize and fortunately all survived,” “With various hunting seasons open through mid-February, we want hunters to know, if you’re on the water, it is essential to be prepared. People don’t plan on drowning, but you can easily plan on not drowning.”

Be prepared for cold-water immersion. Wear a dry suit or a full-length wet suit, plus a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Water that is 40 degrees or colder will immediately incapacitate most people.

Also have a signal kit readily available. That includes a mirror, flares, whistle, light, a VHF radio, cell phone and, most importantly, a float plan left with a responsible person who knows whom to call if you fail to return as scheduled.

Life jackets must be worn on Massachusetts and Connecticut waters through mid-May, and in Maine on the Saco River between the Hiram Dam and the ocean through the first of June. Life jackets are required for all boaters and paddlers in New York on all vessels shorter than 21 feet through the first of May.

A boater or paddler who hasn’t taken an approved boater education course can do that during the winter. Courses are available through the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons or with state, private or Internet providers.

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Lake Level Alert Notifications

TypepadI continue to be amazed by the amount of information that can be found on the Internet. A fairly new site,, is a lake level monitoring service that alerts you via email when water levels for your lake become too high or too low. is a FREE service for anyone to use.

After registering with (LLA), you will be able to create one or multiple low water and high water level alerts for your lake.

When LLA detects that the water level for your lake has either risen or fallen to the level you set for one of your alerts, LLA sends you a lake alert email that notifies you of the current lake level conditions and instructs you on what action to take.

LLA currently monitors lake levels for 84 U.S lakes in 18 States. If you do not see your lake listed, you can contact them and let them know. They will add your lake if at all possible.

You can create an unlimited number of alerts. Many users set a range of incremental alerts to warn them in advance at various times that they need to move their docks in or out,  a sort of “stair step” approach to their alerts in both directions.

The alert title is a brief and meaningful description of what the alert is warning you about. The alert title displays in the subject line of the email you receive for the alert. For example, if you create an alert that is designed to tell you when your dock is about to become grounded due to low water levels, you might create a title that reads Move the Dock Out! which clearly indicates to you what the alert email is about and what to do. A secondary benefit gained from the alert title is that you know the alert email is NOT spam by simple recognition of your unique title.

A watermark represents the water level that your lake can rise or fall to before an alert email is sent to you. Each alert that you create has its own watermarks. Always set your watermark control to levels that give you ample time to correct an issue before a problem occurs due to rising or falling lake levels. For instance, if your dock becomes grounded when the level for your lake is at 650 feet MSL, set your lake level watermark to warn you when the lake is at or below 652 feet. Doing so will give you a 2 foot water level buffer to get to the lake and move your dock out.

MSL stands for “Mean Sea Level” meaning the average sea level between high tide and low tide. MSL is used as a standard level (starting point) from which other levels around the world are measured. Lake levels are measured in this way. A report that a lake is at a level of 660 feet MSL means that the lake water surface level is 660 feet higher than sea level at a given moment in time.

For more information or to sign up for this FREE service go to:

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Filed under Boat Maintenance, Boating Safety, Lake Boating, The Boating Environment