Monthly Archives: March 2010

Boating – Spring Time Dangers – Fog

Fast approaching fog

Spring presents some additional challenges to the boating environment. As the water and air start to warm at different rates and the temperatures still can’t make up their mind if it is Spring or still Winter, there is a good possibility that fog will form. Fog is directly related to dew point. Dew point is that point at which the air at its current temperature can hold no more moisture. Remember that warmer air can hold more moisture that cooler air. If you lower the temperature of the air you reach the dew point and fog is created.

Fog is the primary cause of reduced visibility, but haze, heavy rain and snow all present problems for mariners. Boating in these conditions presents two hazards, navigational errors and collisions. The possibility of colliding with another boat, aids to navigation, or even land requires a strict lookout(s).

Preventing all of these dangers begins with reducing your speed. The old saying, “Be able to stop in half the distance of visibility” doesn’t appear in the Navigation Rules, but it is very good advice; remember slower is better!

A sailboat with an auxiliary engine, if under sail in fog, should have her engine available for immediate use, but you’ll be better able to listen for fog signals and other helpful sounds if you leave the engine off until it’s needed.

Fog signals must be sounded, the time interval in the Navigation Rules is the minimum required.

Vessel Required Sound Signal
Power-driven vessl making way one prolonged blast every two minutes
Power-driven vessel not making way (stopped) two prolonged blast every two minutes with a one second interval between them
Sailing Vessel, vessel not under command, vessel restricted in ability to maneuver, vessel constrained by draft, vessel engaged in fishing and a vessel towing or pushing another vessel. one prolonged blast followed by two short blasts every two minutes

Despite your best planning, you may be unable to avoid fog while boating. If you find yourself navigating in the fog, follow the guidelines below. If you find yourself in a life threatening situation, call the Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16.

  • After everyone onboard has donned their PFDs, assign all people aboard to be a lookout. Maintaining a proper lookout is required by the Coast Guard Navigation Rules. All eyes and ears aboard should be looking for other boats, their wake, buoys and debris while listening for engines or other clues that signal another boat is near you.
  • Slow down to a safe speed, if you can’t see the bow, that speed might be idle speed. The Coast Guard International and Inland Navigation Rules state that a vessel must proceed at a safe speed to avoid collision.
  • Use a sound signal of some sort, which is required safety equipment by the U.S. Coast Guard, to signal your position every two minutes. You can use a bell, a loud hailer, a foghorn, or some other approved means for producing sound.
  • Listen! Stop the motor periodically to listen to your surroundings. Sometimes in the fog, this may be your only way to avoid colliding with something. Listen for other boats, fog horns and other sounds from aids to navigation.
  • Utilize your navigation equipment if you have it. Hopefully you have at minimum a GPS and a navigation chart to get your bearings. Preferrably, your boat will be outfitted with a RADAR so that you can see approaching objects.
  • If you become disoriented, STOP! Do not keep going if you are unsure of your location, position and direction. Again, proper navigation gear will help you keep your bearings.

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Boating – Spring Time Dangers – Wind

Spring time brings on some special challenges to boaters. In addition to hazards which occur with melting ice, the dramatic differences in water temperature and land temperature can create high wind conditions on and around bodies of water.

Dangerously high winds may have sent seven boaters in Titusville, Florida on a wild ride. Their boat capsized, and a Good Samaritan helped pull them out for an amazing rescue. There were no injuries.

The boaters say the wind was a major factor because the swells were too much for their boat to handle. “The waters were just way too rough out there. We went out there we had a family reunion going on. As soon as we turned the corner, the wind picked up and just overcapped my boat,” said David Lietz, the boat operator. “Once the water filled in, the boat started tipping sideways.”

There was a small-craft advisory for the offshore waters Saturday. Weather Experts said the winds may have been as much as 40 mph when the boat capsized.

You should never leave the dock without first checking the local weather forecast. Checking the weather prior to leaving the dock is just as important in planning your trip as checking for fuel and required equipment. Special attention to weather and weather indicators can make the difference in a pleasant day on the water and potential disaster.

As Skipper, it is your sole responsibility to determine when to cancel or alter your trip.

The following table represents the National Weather Service Storm Advisories used to warn boaters of potential hazards.

National Weather Service Storm  Advisories
Small Craft Advisory
Winds up to 38 mph
Gale  Warning
38-54 mph
Storm Warning
Up to 73 mph
Hurricane Warning
Winds over 74 mph
One triangular orange flag 2 triangular orange flags 1 rectangular flag with a black square in the middle 2 rectangular flags with black squares in the middle
red light over white light white light over red light 2 red lights, one over the other red light over white light over red light

SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY: An advisory issued by coastal and Great Lakes Weather Forecast Offices for areas included in the Coastal Waters Forecast or Nearshore Marine Forecast. Thresholds governing the issuance of small craft advisories are specific to geographic areas. A Small Craft Advisory may also be issued when sea or lake ice exists that could be hazardous to small boats. Any vessel that may be adversely affected by Small Craft Advisory criteria should be considered a small craft. That could include boats as big as 65 feet. Other considerations include the experience of the vessel operator, and the type, overall size, and sea worthiness of the vessel.

GALE WARNING: To indicate winds within the range of 38 to 54 MPH are forecast for the area.

STORM WARNING: To indicate winds up to 73 mph. However, if the winds are associated with a tropical cyclone (hurricane), the STORM WARNING indicates that winds within the range 55-73 MPH are forecast.

HURRICANE WARNING: Issued only in connection with a tropical cyclone (hurricane) to indicate that winds 74 MPH and above are forecast for the area.

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Rogue wave video.

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It’s a boat, it’s a car . . . it’s a WaterCar

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Five Reasons Boats Sink at the Dock in the Spring

Every spring, shortly after being launched and commissioned for the season, boats sink while safely tied up at the dock, turning what should be a good time of the year into a disaster.

According to BoatU.S. Marine Insurance claim files, for every boat that sinks underway, four boats sink in their slips. There are two reasons for this discrepancy. One reason is whenever a boat leaves the dock, someone is aboard, which leaves open the possibility that the leak will be discovered and the problem corrected before it sinks the boat. And, reason # 2, boats tend to spend a majority of their time at the dock.

The best defense against a dockside sinking? Visit your boat at least twice a season, inspect any fittings above or below the waterline that could be letting water into the boat. All too often, owners rely on bilge pumps to bail them out when they can’t visit their boats. The pump fails and the boat sinks. If you can’t visit your boat regularly, consider using a buddy system with other boat owners to watch each other’s boats.

BoatU.S., marine insurance claims also show important accident trends or lessons to learn. A study of the claims has identified the top five reasons for springtime sinking.

Top Five Reasons Why Boats Sink in the Springtime:

  1. Missing or damaged hose clamps: These clamps are often removed in the fall to winterize the engine, and then forgotten about in the spring when the boat is launched. Tight spaces in engine compartments make it difficult to see some unsecured or deteriorated clamps.
  2. Unsecured engine hoses: Over the winter, freezing water can lift hoses off seacocks (valves).
  3. Spring rains: Combine heavy rains with leaking ports, deck hatches, cracked or improperly caulked fittings, chain plates and even scuppers clogged by leaves and your boat could be on the bottom soon.
  4. Broken sea strainer: Glass, plastic and even bronze strainer bowls can be cracked or bent over the winter if not properly winterized, allowing water to trickle in when the seawater intake seacock is in the open position.
  5. Leaking stuffing box: If equipped, a steady drip from an improperly adjusted stuffing box (the “packing” around the prop shaft) has been known to swamp a boat.

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Woman Is the Youngest to Cross an Ocean Alone

From the New York Times:Katie Spotz completed her mission Sunday, becoming the youngest person to row an entire ocean solo, and the first American to row a boat without help from mainland to mainland. After 70 days 5 hours 22 minutes in the Atlantic, Spotz, 22, arrived Sunday in Georgetown, Guyana, in South America.

“You’re in a situation that you can’t escape, so you really have to dig deep,” said Spotz, who left Jan. 3 from Dakar, Senegal, on the west coast of Africa.

Her 2,817-mile journey raised more than $70,000 for the Blue Planet Run Foundation, which finances drinking water projects around the world.

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What is Dragon Boating?

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