Monthly Archives: April 2010

Dockside Do’s and Don’ts

Many times we simply get complacent at dockside and don’t use our common sense. Following are a few tips that you should adhere to to make dockside boating safer and more pleasant for you and your dockside neighbors.

ALWAYS neatly coil or flemish excess line both on the dock and onboard. This not only looks more professional but can prevent someone from tripping over a loose line and falling. Guess who would be at fault if it were your line they tripped over?

ALWAYS turn off all AC breakers on board, then turn off the breaker and disconnect the power cord from the dock first. You will see many people undo the power cord from the boat and then hand it to, or worse yet, carry it off the boat to the dock. One slip and they are in the drink with a live wire.

ALWAYS make sure you turn off all outside lights, instruments, and VHF radio. There is nothing more un-neighborly than a light shining on the boat in the next slip or the VHF blasting loudly while you are out for a late night at the local pub.

NEVER connect a dock water supply to the pressure side of the water system on your boat. Not even with a pressure-reducing valve. This is an invitation to sink your boat.  All you need is for one of those hose clamps to quit, or a flexible section to rupture and there is an unlimited supply of water to fill your boat. Far better to fill your water tank periodically using a hose and using the onboard water pressure pump to supply your requirements. Now if there is an accident, no more water can come on the boat than was already there and you can’t sink. Keeping your pressure pump working on a regular basis is also better for it. Nothing kills pumps quicker than being idle for long periods.

And while on the subject, NEVER have a water tank that overflows anywhere onboard. Plumb the overflow overboard or to a drain which always runs overboard because, sooner or later, you will go ashore and forget you left the hose filling the tank!

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

A New Toy You Must Have

Let’s say you were planning a trip. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to stay in touch with friends and relatives to let them know not only that you are okay but give them your exact position.  Whether it be a day offshore fishing or an extended cruise, would this capability be something you would enjoy having? Well now you can!

The SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger provides a vital line of communication with friends and family when you want it, and emergency assistance when you need it. Using 100% satellite technology, SPOT works virtually anywhere in the world, even where cell phones don’t – all with the push of a button.

Features and Enhancements:

  • Advanced GPS
  • GPS acquisition light
  • Custom message button
  • Enhanced antenna performance
  • Dedicated tracking button
  • Improved tracking performance
  • Safety covers over S.O.S. and Help buttons
  • Replaceable button covers
  • Illuminated buttons
  • Message sent indicator light

A few of the many features:

Check-in/OK: This feature allows you to let your friends and family know that all is OK with a pre-programmed message along with your GPS location. With a push of a button a message is sent via email or SMS to up to 10 pre-determined contacts and your waypoint is stored in your SPOT account for later reference. Your stored waypoints can be easily integrated into a SPOT Shared Page or SPOT Adventure account.

Help: In the event of a non-life threatening emergency, you can use this function to notify your personal contacts that you need assistance. Additional SPOT Assist services can be purchased and programmed to your Help button as well. When activated with SPOT Assist, the Help button will notify professional services either on the land or water. SPOT has partnered with national service providers to offer non-life threatening assistance.

SOS / 911: Use this function In the event of a life threatening or other critical emergency to notify emergency services of your GPS location and that you need assistance. The GEOS International Emergency Response Center alerts the appropriate agencies worldwide – for example contacting 9-1-1 responders in North America and 1-1-2 responders in Europe.

You may remember back on March 4, I wrote an article about Online Navigation Planning and Much More. This introduced an online Navigation Planning System presented by the Active Captain website. Well, the owners of the Active Captain are currently cruising back to Maine after an extended stay in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Somewhere along the way they installed the SPOT system and now you can track their progress online.

Every 10 minutes their progress is displayed on a Google Earth Map. To see their progress and see where they have been since they installed the system go to:

For more information on the SPOT GPS Messaging System go to their website.

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Operation Paddle Smart

Source USCG: A problem occurs when a kayak or canoe is found adrift no one onboard. In most cases, there is no way of determining whether or not an individual may be in distress. As a result the United States Coast Guard and other organizations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year engaged in search and rescue operations where there was no actual emergency.

While traditional recreational or commercial vessels carry hull registration numbers and a vessel name that allow for the owner to be identified, kayaks and other forms of paddle craft lack a means of identification that allow the owner to be contacted.

In an effort to counter this problem, the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadron have teamed up to launch Operation Paddle Smart, a campaign aimed to benefit the maritime community.

The goal of Operation Paddle Smart is to educate small craft owners on water safety and provide them with a waterproof sticker that could be beneficial to everyone involved, whether they’re kayaking or part of a search and rescue operation.

Each sticker provides room for the small craft owner to list his or her name, phone number and cell phone number in case their craft is found drifting. This can greatly assist in the initial investigation of a possible search and rescue case.

“This program will benefit boaters and emergency responders through improvised vessel identification,” said Coast Guard Admiral Gary Blore, Thirteenth Coast Guard District Commander. “A tremendous effort and thousands of dollars are expended each year searching for lost boaters. Our goal is to educate paddle-sport enthusiasts on their responsibilities, how to stay safe and help emergency responders in the event of an actual rescue situation.”

“The benefit comes from being able to identify a real emergency, said Jeff Seifried, a member of the Paddle Smart team. “If the Coast Guard isn’t using resources searching for someone who is not missing, it’s going to save a lot of time and money. We’re not putting the Coast Guard rescue crews at any risk and at the same time, it could ease a family’s anxiety to know there isn’t any emergency.”

The Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary and recreational boating specialists provide paddle smart safety messages and stickers at boating safety events, boating supply stores and partner agencies such as the United States Power Squadron.

Operation Paddle Smart could be the key to a safer and more enjoyable boating season. If paddle craft mariners use the stickers, mishaps such as searches for kayaks that are accidentially set adrift can be prevented.

According to the Coast Guard, the program is simple, beneficial and free. Team member Seifried explained benefits of the program, saying “I can’t come up with a reason why you wouldn’t want to use it. With a little bit of information you can help the Coast Guard find your property and save your life.”

This year Operation Paddle Smart will run from April 1 to November 1, and will once again be a focal point for boating and paddling organizations, retailers, and others to work together to promote paddlesport safety, as well as being an information source for all paddlers and small boaters.

As a reminder, paddlers on the waters of Massachusetts are required to wear a life jacket while underway through May 15; in Connecticut through May 30 and in Maine on the Saco River below the Hiram Dam through June.  

For more information on Operation Paddle Smart:

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Boating Etiquette When Underway

Boating, as a recreational sport, has been around for over 300 years. During this time many customs and traditions have been developed in order to help relieve the natural stress that comes with dealing with the elements. No matter how long you have been boating there is always that tense feeling when you are out there on your own. If this feeling ever goes away, you should probably take up golf. Whether underway, anchoring, mooring, docking at a marina or cruising with friends, don’t add to the stress of your boating neighbor by ignoring custom and tradition.
Obviously, the rules of the road are going to dictate how you operate your vessel underway in order to prevent collision. But what if no risk of collision exists, are you then free to do whatever you want when operating in the vicinity of other vessels? Above all, remember that you are responsible for you own wake and any damage done by it.

When overtaking a slower vessel in open water, do so with as much room as depth conditions allow and slow your speed, if necessary, to avoid rocking the other vessel. There is nothing worse than being below in a slow trawler or sail boat, cooking breakfast, and being suddenly overtaken in close quarters by a loud, wake-throwing, go-fast boater. Especially if the wake causes the hot bacon grease and coffee to be thrown around the galley.

It should be remembered that sometimes the boat being overtaken may need to slow its speed to accommodate the overtaking vessel. If you are proceeding at 8 knots, the passing boat can only slow to about 10 knots to still have enough speed difference to pass successfully. However, at that speed the overtaking vessel still throws an uncomfortable wake. You may need to slow to 4 knots to allow the overtaking vessel to pass at 6 knots which allows for a much smaller wake.

If you are overtaking a vessel under sail, if possible, overtake them well to leeward or pass astern in a crossing situation, so as not to block their wind.

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Anchoring and Mooring Etiquette

Be sure to enter an anchorage or mooring area at a slow speed. This is like moving into a new neighborhood. You want your neighbors to like you. Again, you don’t want to create a wake that would upset someone’s dinner or drink.

Remember that the first person in the anchorage has the right to determine the swing radius. Don’t get too close to other anchored boats. The wind can change and in a matter of minutes you can have fouled and tangled anchor lines, and hulls and dinghies banging against each other. I’ll never forget the commotion caused one night off the Bitter End in the BVI when a late-arriving boat anchored too close to another. The shifting wind at 0300 caused them to tangle with one another and soon there were two angry and burly boaters on deck, sans clothing, but armed with spotlights, shouting and cursing while blinding each other with the lights. Not a pretty sight! Speaking of spotlights, if you need to use one, make sure you don’t inadvertently blind your neighbor.

Before anchoring evaluate your intended behavior; the more music, people on board, children, pets and smoke from your barbecue that you intend to create, the further downwind you should be from your neighbors. Sound carries exceptionally well over water and many boaters retire early for an early departure. Respect their right to sleep in peace. Also, remember that any comment you make may be heard.

If you are using your dinghy at night to go to shore or visit others in the anchorage, do so using oars and not your outboard. How far could the shore be if you’re anchored in ten feet of water? Some boaters are friendly and like to socialize, while others are reflective and just want to be left alone. If you are rowing around the anchorage and see people on deck, you should be friendly but not intrusive unless, of course, encouraged. Tradition dictates that if you approach another vessel you should do so on the starboard side six to ten feet away. If you strike up a conversation and you recognize by the tenor of the strangers that they really aren’t interested, just move on out of their space.

Make sure you get permission before picking up a guest mooring. It may be reserved for another boater arriving later on or it may be unsuitable for your vessel.

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On Board Guest Etiquette

Whenever you invite guests aboard for the day, a weekend or an extended cruise, you should explain to them in advance what is expected of them, especially if they are not experienced boaters. If they are expected to perform duties onboard make sure they know this (and how to do it) before you give the order to swab the deck or handle lines. If you have special “rules” regarding behavior on your boat (smoking, drinking, etc.), let them know before they arrive.

Instruct your guests to bring a minimum of clothing appropriate for the climate in which you will be operating as well as your final destination. Make sure each guest has a good pair of non-skid deck shoes. If your plans are to go ashore for activities other than lying on the beach, make sure they bring something more appropriate than a swimsuit and thongs. Explain the problem of limited space on your boat and ask them to pack their gear in a duffel bag or other soft-sided and collapsible luggage.

If you are planning to visit foreign ports, be sure to let your guests know in advance what documents and ID they need to bring and make them aware of any local customs they should know about.

When quests arrive, assign a locker to each where they may stow their gear and make clear that everything should be kept in its assigned place. It could be dangerous or impair the operation of your boat to have clothing and other gear floating around loose.

Make sure your guests know that your times of departure are based on tide, current, weather conditions and time to make the next destination. You should explain that they should be onboard, have gear stowed and be ready to leave well before the departure time you have set.

Explain also that the time to rise and shine is based on the convenience of everyone aboard and the cruising plans for the day. You, as skipper, should be the first to rise and the others should follow shortly after. Make guests aware of the limited washing and toilet facilities on the boat and instruct them to be time considerate to others. Also instruct them thoroughly on the use of the marine head and the importance of water conservation when cruising between destinations. Make clear, also, when you announce in the evenings that it is time to retire everyone should do so.

Familiarize your guests with safety and emergency procedures before leaving the dock. Explain fueling procedures, docking and undocking plans, etc. Make sure someone onboard is able to take over for you and operate the VHF radio to ask for help should you become disabled.

By being up front, honest and direct with your guests everyone onboard will have a safe and more pleasurable trip.

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Marina Manners

When you stop for fuel, keep in mind that other boats may be waiting to get to the fuel dock. Do not leave your boat to pick up groceries or hang out in the bait shop. Tie up securely, follow proper fueling procedures, pay the bill and move away to another docking area or guest slip if you need to do other business ashore.

If you are already safely docked in the marina and there is no dockmaster or helper around to assist boaters as they dock and undock, it is courteous to assist others in your vicinity with their lines. This may sound like an oxymoron, but boating is like a fraternity of individuals. Everyone has a right to their space but everyone provides assistance whenever necessary.

Make sure to keep the area around your slip clear. Roll up and stow hoses, place power cords in such a manner as to not trip a passerby who is looking up at your new radar reflector. Keep buckets, mops, tackle, docking lines and other items stowed in their proper place, not strewn around on the dock. When finished with carts or other equipment at the marina intended for common use, be sure to put it back where it belongs so others have access.

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Want to learn to sail? Not this way!

On January 16th, 2010, three sailors, Australian Mitchell Westlake, along with Josée (Jade) Chabot and Lisa Hanlon of Canada, boarded Boguslaw (Bob) Norwid and his wife’s 46 foot steel yacht Columbia in Salinas, Ecuador, on a “training cruise.” The “trainees” paid $3,500 for what was supposed to be a 40 day ocean sailing course.

The sailboat and its crew were due to dock in Coquimbo around February 27, the same day a massive 8.8 earthquake struck Chile, triggering a tsunami. Family members became concerned that the boat had not arrived because of damage from the tsunami, and started a massive search campaign which included everything from the rescue resources of at least five nations and hundreds of South Pacific cruisers, to Jade’s new age friends trying to find the crew by “remote viewing” (the practice of gathering information about an unseen target using paranormal means).

The nature of sailing is such that timelines often get thrown out the window, and while this often concerns those waiting on shore, it is completely the norm for those accustomed to travel by sail. Although satellite and long range communications are available, not all yachts carry either sat-phone or HAM/SSB equipment, usually due to the cost. In this case, YachtPals learned that the overdue sailboat Columbia listed only a VHF (short range) radio on the boat, so we knew right away that, should they have been delayed far from shore, there would be no way for them to communicate with those on land.

Of course, this used to be a very common occurrence in sailing, but this is sometimes hard for landlubbers to wrap their heads around in this age of instant global communication. Also, the tsunami caused by the quake in Chile didn’t seem to present dangerous conditions to the yacht.  In fact, the advice most experts give is to head far out to sea before a Tsunami, because at sea, the force of the wave is almost unnoticeable. So, as the Columbia was already at sea, the likelihood of damage from a tsunami seemed unlikely.

35 days after their anticipated arrival, the sailboat Columbia arrived in Chile, ending a search that involved hundreds of boats over thousands of miles of open sea.

Continue reading at YachtPals.

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Estimating Time of Arrival

Learning the “Art of Navigation” is not difficult but there are several steps that must be learned along the way. After learning about latitude and longitude, distance, direction and reading a nautical chart, you will start putting these processes together to solve real-time problems. On piece of practical information you might want to use is estimating time of arrival.

Assume that you will leave your marina or boat ramp on a trip to a nearby restaurant for lunch.

  • You have made reservations at the restaurant for 1200.
  • The restaurant is 29 nautical miles from your marina.
  • You plan on a leisurely cruise at a speed of 12 kts.

What time must you leave your marina to arrive at the restaurant at your reservation time?

This is a simple Distance, Time, Speed question. The formulas to use for the calculations are made simple if you remember, and actually write in a corner of your chart, the following diagram.

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The “D” represents distance, “S” represents speed and “T” represents time. In order to solve a distance, speed, time problem you need two of the three values and then must solve for the third.

Using the diagram, cover the unknown value with your finger and what you have left is the formula to solve the problem.

In our problem we know the distance and the speed so we cover up the “T” and the resulting formula is “D” over “S” or “D” divided by “S”.

Using this formula, the first step is to calculate how long it will take you to get to the restaurant by cruising at 12 knots for 29 nautical miles.

29 / 12 = 2.42 hours

Note: This is not two hours and 42 minutes, it is 2 hours and 42 hundredths of an hour. We now have to convert this decimal to minutes by multiplying .42 X 60.

.42 X 60 = 25 minutes – So…our trip will take 2 hours and 25 minutes.

Now that we know how long the trip will take, we simply need to subtract that time from the time of our 1200 reservation.

1200 – 225 = 0935

1160 – 225 = 0935

Note: that in order to subtract we had to borrow an hour from the hours column. 1160 is the same as 1200. We must leave the marina or boat ramp at 0935 (9:35 am) in order to arrive at the restaurant by noon.

If you would like to learn more about Time, Distance, Speed calculations or other aspects of navigation, check out our Nautical Know How Coastal Navigation Course.

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New Maryland Law Requires Children Under 13 to Wear a Personal Flotation Device

Maryland’s Governor has signed a bill into law to strengthen protection of children on Maryland waterways. Under the new law, effective immediately, any child under the age of 13 is required to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) while aboard a vessel that is underway. The law will also require children under the age of 16 to possess a certificate of boating safety education before they can operate a vessel unless they are supervised by an adult or someone 16 or older who has a boating safety certificate, effective Oct. 1.

Formerly, any child under the age of seven had to wear a PFD on a recreational boat 21 feet or smaller, unless the boat is moored or anchored or the child is below deck in an enclosed cabin.

The State averages 12 boating related fatalities a year. In 2009, Maryland had 17 boating related fatalities;16 of the victims were not wearing PFDs.

“A life jacket is the single most important piece of safety equipment, but it doesn’t work unless you wear it,” said Natural Resources Police (NRP) Superintendent Colonel George Johnson. “This law will provide an added measure of safety for our children boating on Maryland waters. “

Raising the age requirement puts Maryland in line with federal regulations and 34 states, including Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Washington, DC. The federal regulations do not supersede the state, but the National Transportation Safety Board strongly encourages states to update their PFD requirements.

The legislation was supported by the U.S. Coast Guard, National Transportation Safety Board, Safe Kids USA, National Boating Federation, National Safe Boating Council, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and the Marine Retailers Association of America.

Existing Maryland law requires that anyone born on or after July 1, 1972 must have a Certificate of Boating Safety Education in order to operate a mechanically propelled vessel on Maryland waters. NRP offers both in-person and on-line boating safety courses to receive that certificate.

This information is provided as a public service of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

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