Monthly Archives: November 2010

Letter: Giving Thanks After CO Poisoning

In a recent article of the Green Bay Press Gazette a Wisconsin couple wrote an open letter of thanks to all those that helped save their children. A portion of the article follows:

On Oct. 9, our four children suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning. We had been out boating on Green Bay and the kids were playing in the cabin of the boat. (We came to discover later that a cracked muffler was the cause). Amazingly, all four kids are doing great.

Thank you to all of the people of Sturgeon Bay who touched our lives that day: The U.S. Coast Guard, 911, the fishermen who helped land the boat, the fire fighters, the police officers, the paramedics who were waiting with oxygen when we arrived and took us by ambulance to the emergency room, the doctors and nurses at Door County Medical Center who treated the kids with utmost care and helped us to remain calm in the midst of it all and finally, for the helicopter crews that flew the kids to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Appleton so they could undergo hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatments.

During the winter months boaters who are still out their operating tend to spend more time in the cabin. In light of that I thought I should remind boaters of the dangers of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

A deadly gas produced when carbon-based fuels are burned causes carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless and tasteless gas. It enters the bloodstream through the lungs and displaces the oxygen. Exposure can cause nausea, headache, dizziness, mental confusion and even unconsciousness. The symptoms can be mistaken for seasickness or the flu. If someone displays these symptoms, place them in fresh air immediately.

Sources on your boat could include the engine, generators, cooking equipment, and heating appliances.

People are most commonly exposed by: :

  • repairing the boat’s engine (working near the engine compartment or engine while it is running);
  • exhaust from other boats docked or anchored;
  • slow or idle speeds while traveling downwind, which allows exhaust to accumulate in cabins, cockpits, or other enclosed areas.

A new and dangerous boating fad involves an individual holding on to the swim platform of a boat while a wake builds up, then letting go to surf the wave created by the boat. Termed “Teak Surfing”, this practice is a sure way to induce CO poisoning. NEVER swim near the stern of your boat with the engine(s) running.

To protect yourself, maintain and inspect the boat’s engine and exhaust system. Keep forward hatches open to provide air flow. Install a carbon monoxide detector. Be aware of other boats near you that may be running a generator or idling for long periods while docked. Their carbon monoxide can get into your boat too.

You might consider giving a CO detector as a stocking stuffer!

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Tar Balls In Gulf of Mexico Waters – Update

NOAA has closed 4,213 square miles of Gulf of Mexico federal waters off Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama to royal red shrimping. The precautionary measure was taken after a commercial shrimper, having hauled in his catch of the deep water shrimp, discovered tar balls in his net.

Fishing for royal red shrimp is conducted by pulling fishing nets across the bottom of the ocean floor. The tar balls found in the catch may have been entangled in the net as it was dragged along the seafloor.

Other fishing at shallower depths in this area has not turned up any tar balls and is thus not impacted by this closure. The fisherman who reported this catch had trawled for brown shrimp in shallow waters in a different portion of the area to be closed earlier in the day without seeing tar balls.

Following the report of tar balls, NOAA was in contact with shrimpers involved in royal red shrimping in this area. Only a handful of the approximately 250 permitted royal red shrimp fishermen are currently active in the fishery. The tar balls are being analyzed by the U.S. Coast Guard to determine if they are from the Deepwater Horizon/BP spill.

This decision was made in consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The closure became effective at 6 p.m. EST the day before Thanksgiving but does not apply to any state waters.

“We are taking this situation seriously. This fishery is the only trawl fishery that operates at the deep depths where the tar balls were found and we have not received reports of any other gear or fishery interactions with tar balls,” said Roy Crabtree, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service southeast region. “Our primary concerns are public safety and ensuring the integrity of the Gulf’s seafood supply.

Royal red shrimp are caught in Gulf waters deeper than 600 feet and are the only species targeted with trawls at these depths. The more common Gulf shrimp species are brown, white and pink shrimp and are caught in waters less than 300 feet deep. The agency has received no reports of tar balls from fishermen that target other species in that area. Fishing for other shellfish and finfish species within this area is still allowed.

These waters were closed to all commercial and recreational fishing earlier this summer because of the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill and were reopened to all fishing on November 15, 2010 after hundreds of seafood specimens sampled from the area, including royal red shrimp, passed both sensory and chemical testing. Additionally, no oil was observed in the area for a period of 30 days prior to the reopening.

NOAA and FDA are continuing to work together to sample seafood from inside and outside the closure, and are continuing market-based sampling of seafood processing plants and dockside sampling. NOAA is also sending vessels to the area to re-sample for royal red shrimp. The agency will reopen this area after determining there is no seafood safety concern. NOAA will conduct extensive sampling in the area, subjecting specimens to sensory and chemical analysis, including the recently approved chemical test for dispersants, in accordance with the rigorous re-opening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the FDA and the Gulf states.

An area covering 1,041 square miles immediately surrounding the Deepwater Horizon wellhead still remains closed to all commercial and recreational fishing. The fishing area closure was first instituted on May 2, 2010 at which time it covered about 3 percent (6,817 square miles) of Gulf waters around the wellhead. As oil continued to spill from the wellhead, the area grew in size, peaking at 37 percent (88,522 square miles) of Gulf waters on June 2, 2010.

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You’ve Put the Boat Away for the Season: Now What?

Suggestions on How Boaters Can Idle Away Their Winter Months

Across much of America, boaters, sailors and anglers have put away the boat for the season.  With spring a long way away, what will keep boaters’ passion for water alive all winter long? Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) has these suggestions:

1. Make frequent visits to your boat club or marina: Hey, they aren’t expecting you, right? Gosh, who knows what goes on during the sleepy winter months, but you are about to find out. While you are at it, check up on your boat and make sure the family of raccoons living in the cuddy has everything they need.

2. Take care of your boating spouse: Spend a good amount on a gift for your boating spouse and give it to him or her now. This way, the moment they start to complain that you are spending way too much money over the winter on “toys” for the boat, you can smartly respond that you did think of them first.

3. Drive your family crazy: All that nautical knowledge you’ve accumulated over the years isn’t going to be passed down to future generations without a little help. Start by referring to everything in the house by its nautical name, and announce the time by ringing a large brass bell. Carry on the great musical traditions of the sea by learning a few sea chanties (great for company, too!). This is also a great time to pick up that boatswain’s pipe you’ve been meaning to play with – the kids will appreciate being summoned to breakfast with a cheerful “all hands” call. At least when spring does finally roll around, they’ll all be excited to get you out of the house for some boating fun!

4. Start an ice-out contest: To engage your local community and do some good, start a charity fundraiser that centers around correctly guessing when the local waterway will be free of ice come springtime. Please note that the practice of using elected officials to stand on the ice to monitor and advise of the exact time ice-out occurs is no longer acceptable.

5. Practice your safety-at-sea: No one will object to donning their life jacket on the boat after they get used to wearing them all winter long from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed. Impromptu abandon ship drills are easy to do with the family sedan, and if you’ve got a cat and a bathtub, you’ve got all the makings of a realistic man overboard scenario. Remember: disaster strikes when you least expect it, like in the middle of the night, when everyone else is sleeping peacefully!

6. Make a list of boating stuff you want for Christmas gifts: And share it now with family members so they get the point that the items listed are the only ones you will be expecting under the Christmas tree. For heaven’s sake, aren’t you tired of getting pajamas – again?

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Quick Tips to Ponder Part 9 – Wake Crossing

Another email question:

Wake crossing: When the lake begins to get more and more crowded over the course of the day, the water gets choppier and choppier. Is there a good method of crossing wakes without having to greatly drop speed? The only thing I’ve seen is to turn my direction to be almost parallel to the wake. This seems to be fine, but in tighter situations, this isn’t always an option. Slowing down works, but this doesn’t seem very feasible or enjoyable to the skier, if we are pulling a water skier. Will the jumping across wakes harm the boat hull, or will it be only uncomfortable to the occupants of the boat?

Depending on the size of the wake you are crossing, you may be forced to slow your speed to keep from pounding the bow of the boat or even leaving the water entirely. Both can do damage to the boat and/or your engine. The best way to handle wakes, if traffic allows, is as follows:

  • If you are approaching a wake caused by a boat coming in the opposite direction, approach with your bow at approximately a 45 degree angle to the oncoming wake. This will allow the bow to move up and over with a little roll and lessen the bow pounding. If the wake is large, you will need to slow your speed to keep from falling off the top of the oncoming wake.
  • If the vessel making the wake has passed you (going the same direction you are going) and if traffic allows, turn so that your stern is at a 45 degree angle to the approaching wake. This lets the wake roll under the stern and pick it up while keeping the motor in the water.
  • Keep an eye on your skier when making any of these maneuvers.

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Quick Tips to Ponder Part 8 – Tilt and Trim

Yet another follower has emailed requesting an explanation of tilt and trim.

Tilt/Trim: I understand the basic principle of these functions, but I am not familiar with when/how to use them. For example, I usually start off with tilt fully lowered. Then, after I gain speed to my desired cruising velocity, I’m not sure what will happen if I pull the tilt up. I notice my bow pull up sometimes. And, I cannot tell what trim is doing whatsoever. Please explain basic operating functions of these features.

trimneutral.gif (3995 bytes)The trim on outboards and inboard/outboards is used to balance the boat in various conditions. As you mention, you should start with the motor in the vertical, 90 degree angle, to the water’s surface. Once you are “on plane” you can adjust the trim down or up to balance or flatten the boat. Trimming will help compensate for different conditions, weight distribution, etc.

By trimming “down”, which puts the lower unit closer to the transom, the stern will be pushed up and the bow will plow. On the other hand, if you trim “up”, meaning that the lower unit is further from the transom, the stern is pushed down and the bow is pushed up.

In smooth water with the bow trimmed “up” slightly, you may get a little more speed. In rough water you may get a slightly smoother ride with the bow trimmed down slightly. Simply put, tilt is what the outboard/outboard-inboard does. Trim is the effect that it has on the boat. Trim is the horizontal adjustment of the boat which makes the bow and stern move up and down.

See also:

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Quick Tips to Ponder Part 7 – Mooring

Gridded mooring fieldWe get many emails from fellow boaters with questions on all aspects of boating. One such question concerned the process of mooring.

“This is the first year that I will have to moor my boat off shore in a lake. Can you tell me how this is done and what to watch out for? My boat is a 25′ power boat.”

Many things depend on how you are going to get to your boat on the mooring. If there is a launch that simply drops you off, that eliminates one variable. If, however, you have a dinghy to reach the mooring, is the dinghy left there while you boat, or do you pull it behind you? The most important thing to remember when using a dinghy is not to get the dinghy painter (line) fowled in the prop of the boat.

Departing from and retrieving a mooring is much like anchoring. When departing, make sure your engine is warmed thoroughly and check other boats around you. All the boats should be pointing into the wind and/or current, whichever is greater. Make sure when you drop the mooring that you have sufficient room to get under way and establish steering control before you are blown or pushed into other boats.

Plan your departure path prior to dropping the mooring. Pull forward, into the wind or current, slowly until the mooring line is slack. I am assuming that the mooring line has a float on it so when dropped it is easy to pick up. If not, you should rig one. Once you are in a position to drop the mooring line, do so and back slowly, make your turn to a path that will lead out of the mooring area and slowly motor away.

When picking up a mooring, look at the other boats first. This will tell you the direction of wind or current, whichever is stronger. Approach slowly into the wind or current and shift to neutral when close enough to pick up the mooring line. (Don’t overshoot the mark and get the mooring line fouled in the prop.) Once the mooring line is retrieved, simply attach it securely to the bow and let the wind or current set the boat back on the mooring line.

You can find additional information on moorings and mooring procedures in Chapman Piloting and Small Boat Handling, the boater’s bible.

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Quick Tips to Ponder Part 6 – The Matter of Tonnage

When is Weight Not Weight?

Tonnage in boats and large vessels or ships has several meanings depending on what the term is referring to. It can at times be weight and at times be volume. The origin of the word in its maritime sense was the tun, a large cask in which wine was transported. The measurement of an old sailing ship was in tunnage, or the number of tuns of wine that could be carried. Following are the most commonly used definitions:

Gross tonnage is based on a vessels volume and represents the total enclosed space or internal capacity for transporting cargo. A gross ton represents 100 cubic feet.

Net tonnage is gross tonnage less the volume of spaces that will not hold cargo. In pleasure boats these spaces would be the engine compartment, helm station, etc. Net tonnage is also called registered tonnage. In order to document a vessel with the USCG it has to be a minimum of 5 net tons.

Displacement tonnage deals with weight in long tons which equal 2,240 pounds each. This is the actual weight of the boat. This can be calculated by finding the total volume of the boat below the waterline expressed in cubic feet. Divide this number by 35. (35 cubic feet of seawater weighs one long ton)

Deadweight tonnage is to displacement tonnage what net tonnage is to gross tonnage. Deadweight tonnage represents a boats cargo capacity in weight or long tons.

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Quick Tips to Ponder Part 5 – Is It a Good Knot or Not

bowlinesm.jpg (2331 bytes)Knots must earn their worth aboard your boat. In order to be worth their salt they must:

  • Hold fast under all conditions
  • Come apart easily when you want them to

You must do your part with respect to knots. You should be able to tie them as automatically as you do your shoe laces. The reason that you don’t have to think about tying your shoes is something called “muscle memory”. The muscles in your fingers have been flexed in the same manner so often that your brain doesn’t have to send individual signals to all the muscles involved. The memory appears to actually lie in the muscles themselves.

Knots obviously introduce kinks into a line that can diminish its strength. Some knots introduce tighter kinks than others. A three-strand line that has been tied with a knot that causes a tight kink can lose up to 30 percent of its strength. This loss of strength can cause a line to part more quickly under strain.

The reduction of line strength varies with the knot. Some examples follow:

  • Anchor bend: 24 percent
  • Round turn and two half hitches: 30 – 35 percent
  • Timber hitch: 30 – 35 percent
  • Bowline: 40 percent
  • Sheet bend: 45 percent
  • Reef knot: 55 percent

See also: Marlinespike for Recreational Boaters

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Quick Tips to Ponder Part 4 – Navigation

Estimating Distance Off

In clear weather, one can distinguish the shapes of tall houses, trees, lighthouses, etc. from about 8 miles offshore. The distance to the horizon however can be quite small. if, in a small boat, your eye is 5 feet above the water level, the distance to the horizon is only 2.5 miles away. Although the distance can be more accurately estimated using the formula

1.17 times the square root of your height of eye = Distance to the horizon in nautical miles

Some rules of thumb you can use are as follows:

  • A light-colored beach can be seen at approximately 4 miles offshore from the deck of a typical small boat.
  • Individual windows in buildings can be distinguished by day or night at about 2 miles off.
  • A large buoy is visible at 2 miles.
  • A small buoy is visible at 1.5 miles but color and shape will not be clear.
  • The shape of a small buoy can be distinguished at about 1 mile.
  • The color of a large buoy can be distinguished at about 1 mile.
  • A person is seen as a moving black dot without limbs at 1 mile.
  • Movement of a person’s legs or arms can be distinguished at about 400 yards.
  • Faces can be seen, but not necessarily recognizable, at 250 to 300 yards.

Pencil Radar

It is possible to use something as simple as a pencil to determine approximate distance off. In order to use pencil radar:

  • Locate an object that can be seen onshore which is shown on your chart with a charted height.
  • Hold a pencil up at arm’s length and site the top of the object with the tip of the pencil with one eye.
  • Switch eyes.
  • You should estimate the horizontal distance (HD) that the tip appears to have jumped relative to the known height of the object. For example, if you are spotting the top of a spire on a mountain (as shown on your chart at 600 feet), when you shift eyes the pencil appears to shift twice the horizontal distance as the height, you would have an estimated horizontal distance of 1200 feet.
  • Now you simply use the formula D (Distance Off in feet) = HD (in feet) X 10. In our example, if the spire was 600 feet and the horizontal distance (HD) is 1200 feet, the distance off the spire = 1200′ X 10 = 12,000′ or 2 approximately miles.

Navigating By Eye

When navigating in areas with uncharted coral reefs it is a good idea to wait until the sun is high and behind you – from 10AM to 4PM. (This is why charter companies encourage you to anchor no later than 4PM.) Height above deck is an advantage to the spotter and vision can be improved with polarized sunglasses. Calm, grey days are the most difficult when trying to look deep into the water. As a rule of thumb in reading the water:

  • Dark blue tones mean deep water, 20 fathoms or more.
  • The blue becomes lighter with decreasing depth, and the turquoise (green-blue) is a warning of shoaling. it is the color of the coral sand covering a flat expanse of reef with 4-6 feet of water coverage.
  • Dark brown indicates coral heads.
  • Brown or yellow indicates reefs with a depth of 3 or 4 feet over them.
  • Green-brown means a grassy bottom.
  • White means very shallow water.

Piloting Using Echoes

As kids we all thought that echoes were fun and interesting but did you know you could use them in piloting? Note the time in seconds from a signal to the return echo from a cliff, iceberg, wharf, or moored freighter. Every second’s delay indicates a distance off of 1 cable, or 200 yards. Every 10 second’s delay indicates a distance off of 1 mile.

This rule could be useful in fog some day. A blank pistol shot produces a sharp echo, but the ship’s bell or horn will work as well. Even a loud hailer works in close quarters. The Rule of Thumb at work here is that sound travels about 1 mile in 5 seconds.

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Quick Tips to Ponder Part 3 – Varnish

When to Touch Up Varnish

The look of your brightwork says a lot about the pride of ownership that a boater has for his/her boat. A rule of thumb that you can use to tell if you need a touch up or a major overhaul of your brightwork is as follows:

Use a mild, soapy solution to wash thoroughly and get rid of all the grit and grime that has collected. (Hopefully, you do this more than once a season.) Rinse thoroughly with fresh water and dry. Take a towel and wet it thoroughly (make sure it is dripping). Drag the towel across the varnished surface. If the water that the towel leaves behind beads up the varnish is still in good condition. However, if the water that is left sheets or lies in flat streaks, you should plan on a light sanding and applying a couple of coats.

When A Varnish Touch Up Is Too Little Too Late

The only thing worse than going to the dentist is scraping varnish down to bare wood, sanding smooth and starting the arduous task of rebuilding 8 to 10 coats that will give you that “mirror” finish.

You can only patch the small abrasions and scratches so long until, ultimately, moisture has crept under the varnish and into the wood. This saturation of fresh and salt water will show up as dark patches under the still shiny finish. You will also notice lighter patches as the hot sun has glared down and has started to separate the varnish from the wood because of the moisture or perhaps the impact of dropping something on the varnish. It is at this point that you have no choice but to restore the integrity of the surface of your brightwork by scraping it down and starting anew.

Use the following as a step-by-step process to get brilliant brightwork consistently.

  1. I like to use a heatgun and scraper to remove the old varnish. This seems to go faster than sanding alone. In tight spaces you may have to just use sandpaper and lots of elbow grease. You should practice on a spare or out of sight piece to make sure you can control the scraper. Be careful not to make gouges in the wood.
  2. Once the varnish has been removed, sand the wood smooth using finer and finer grits of sandpaper. You may want to start with 80 grit to get all the rough areas and work up to 400 for that “babies bottom” smoothness.
  3. Before starting to apply varnish, make sure all sanding dust has been removed. Use a tack cloth dampened with a thinner that is recommended for the varnish you have selected. I lean toward varnishes with a high U/V rating. They tend to hold up longer in the sun.
  4. Stop! Don’t shake that varnish can, this is not paint. Shaking or even stirring will introduce bubbles which will show up on your brightwork. Most likely you don’t need to mix the varnish but if you feel obligated to make it move around the can while you watch, just swirl it slowly.
  5. Always filter the varnish by pouring from the can through a fine filter, or nylon stocking, into a small, clean container before applying each coat.
  6. For the first coat, thin the varnish with the compatible thinner 50/50. This will act as a sealer coat. Subsequent coats may be thinned if necessary to provide a good flowing viscosity.
  7. You may use a “real brush” or the disposable throw away foam brushes. Just make sure each is thoroughly clean and, if using a real brush, pull to remove any loose bristles or they will end up in your varnish work.
  8. Let the varnish flow on and only try to cover a small area at a time. Look for brush bristles, bubbles and holidays (spots that you missed) as you proceed.
  9. Make sure that each coat is completely dry before attempting to add another. Lightly sand with 400 grit paper between each coat.
  10. Repeat until you have 8 to 10 coats and that “mirror” finish that will be the envy of all at the marina.

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