Monthly Archives: April 2011

Ocean Virgins

Richard Branson’s new space-sub will take explorers deeper than any submarine has gone before.

Sir Richard Branson is known for running Virgin Group – an empire of hundreds of companies, many of which you have heard of, including Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Galactic, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Megastores and Virgin Records. This week in Newport Beach, California, the British billionaire announced a plan to explore the deepest parts of the world’s oceans with the launch of a new venture called Virgin Oceanic.

When you read Richard’s blog post explaining why he is doing this, it makes you wonder why it has not already been done:

What if I were to tell you about a planet, inhabited by ‘intelligent’ beings that had, in the 21st Century, physically explored 0% of its deepest points and mapped only 3% of its oceans by unmanned craft, when 70% of that planet’s surface was made up of water. Then I tried to convince you that only 10% of the life forms inhabiting that unknown world, are known to those on the surface – you’d think I’d fallen asleep watching the latest sci-fi blockbuster! Then you discover that planet is Earth…

When he puts it like that, we really are ocean virgins. The following video shows an artist’s rendition of the Virgin sub in action, and you can learn more at

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Semi-Annual Safety Checklist

It’s that time again. Last month we published our Pre-Season Dewinterization checklist but after you have dewinterized and cleaned up your boat for the season you need to do the Semi-Annual Safety Check. The reason that we refer to it as semi-annual is that even when you have completed it in the spring, things seem to disappear over time. Just like all those mis-matched socks in your sock drawer.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

  • As part of your pre-departure inspection of PFDs check for wear or abrasion, weak or torn seams, secure straps and buckles. Some types of PFDs are equipped with inflation devices; check to be sure cartridges are secure and charged.

Fire Extinguishers

  • Do you have all required quantities and types of fire extinguishers?
  • Have they been checked within the past year?
  • Are serviceable units tagged by a licensed facility?
  • Are units accessible?
  • Is at least one accessible from the helm or cockpit?
  • Are you and your crew familiar with their operation?

Fuel System

  • Is the system properly grounded at the filter, tank, deck, pump, etc.?
  • Is the fuel tank free from rust or contamination?
  • No leaks from tank, hose or fittings.
  • Hoses U.S.C.G. approved and free of cracking or stiffness with adequate slack to account for vibration.
  • Is tank secured?
  • Fuel shut-off valve on tank and at engine.
  • Engine compartment and engine clean and free of oily rags or flammable materials.
  • Blower switch at remote location.
  • Is your fuel system protected from siphoning?

Safety Equipment

  • Lifelines or rails in good condition.
  • Stanchions or pulpit securely mounted.
  • Hardware tight and sealed at deck.
  • Grab rails secure and free of corrosion or snags that may catch your hands.
  • Non-skid surfaces free from accumulated dirt or excess wear.

Ground Tackle

  • At least two anchors on board.
  • Anchor and rode adequate for your boat and bottom conditions.
  • Tackle properly secured.
  • Length of chain at anchor.
  • Thimble on rode and safety wired shackles.
  • Chafing gear at chocks for extended stays or storm conditions.
  • Anchor stowed for quick accessibility.


  • Labeled and designated for marine use.
  • Properly ventilated to remove carbon-monoxide from cabin.
  • Retainers or rails for pots and pans while underway.
  • If built-in, properly insulated and free from combustible materials, CNG and LPG (propane).
  • Stored in separate compartment from boat’s interior and engine room.
  • Tightly secured shut-off valve at tank.
  • Proper labeling and cautions in place at tank location.
  • Hoses, lines and fittings of approved and inspected type.
  • Compartment is ventilated overboard and below level of tank base.

Electrical System

  • Wiring approved for marine applications.
  • System is neatly bundled and secured.
  • Protected against chafing and strain.
  • Adequate flex between bulkhead and engine connections.
  • Clear of exhaust system and bilge.
  • System is protected by circuit breakers or fuses.
  • Grounds to Zincs if required.
  • Wire terminals and connections sealed to prevent corrosion.

Bilge Pumps

  • Will pump(s) adequately remove water in emergency? Do you have a manual backup? Are bilges clean and free to circulate (clear limber holes)? Do you check bilges frequently and not rely on automatic pumps?

Corrosion Prevention

  • Through-hulls, props, shafts, bearings, rudder fittings, and exposed fastenings free of non-destructive corrosion.
  • Zincs are adequate to provide protection.
  • Through-hulls are properly bonded.
  • Inspect the steering cables, engine control linkage and cables, engine mounts and gear case for corrosion.
  • These items are properly lubricated or painted to prevent undue corrosion.


  • Strainers, intakes and exhaust or discharge fittings are free from restrictions such as barnacles, marine growth or debris.
  • Inspect sea valves for smooth operation.
  • Handles are attached to valves for quick closure.
  • Hoses are in good condition and free from cracking.
  • Double hose-clamps below the waterline.
  • Anti-siphon valve fitted to marine toilet.
  • Through-hull plugs are near fittings or attached to hose in case of emergency.


  • Stored in non-corrosive, liquid tight, ventilated containers.
  • Non-conductive covers are fitted over posts.
  • Batteries are well secured.

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Fueling Your Boat

It seems like much of the news in recent days has been the price of fuel. Well, the price is not the only thing you need to consider. As boating season begins to get into full swing we thought we should give another safety reminder concerning fueling your boat.

A fire on a boat is frightening and, often, fatal.  When fueling, chances of a fuel fire are heightened.  Gasoline fumes are highly flammable.  Here are some precautions:

  • Close all of the windows and doors before refueling.
  • Frequently check fuel lines and connections for leaks and worn spots.
  • Be sure all electrical devices are turned off, as well as the engine.
  • When gasoline passes through the hose, it generates static electricity.  If that ‘sparks’ with the fumes at the fuel tank fill point, an explosion can occur.  To dissipate the static electricity, keep the metal nozzle of the hose in contact with the metal part of the refueling opening.
  • Try not to spill any fuel during the process.
  • When fueling is complete, securely fasten the gas cap.
  • Open up all windows and doors to ventilate.
  • If you have inboard or inboard/outboard engines run the bilge blower.  Run the fan for at least five minutes.  (It’s a good idea to run this blower before ANY engine start, since even a small leak can produce lots of fumes.)

Use your nose!  If you smell gas, shut everything down and find the source.

Another fire hazard is cooking fires, either from propane tanks, stoves or grills.  Be sure all connections are tight.  Install a fire extinguisher close to the galley.

Boats less than 26’ must have at least one B-1 extinguisher.  Boats between 26’ and less than 40’ must have two B-1s or one B-2.  When buying your extinguishers buy the ones that have “ABC” printed on them.  They will put out combustible material and liquids (such as gasoline or grease), and electrical fires. The number indicates the capacity – II is larger than I.  As to how many and what size to buy, more and larger is the way to go.  Make sure your fire extinguishers are Coast Guard approved.

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Coast Guard Warns Boaters of Illegal Charter Boats

Coast Guard Sector Baltimore cautions passengers who pay to go fishing in the Chesapeake Bay during the 2011 fishing season to avoid boats that do not have licensed captains, and in some cases, have not been inspected by the Coast Guard.

According to Coast Guard investigators, the number of vessels reported to be illegally charging to carry people has increased over the last two years and is most frequent in the areas of Kent and Tilghman Islands, Rock Hall, Annapolis and the Potomac River in Charles County.

Illegal charter boats are uninspected vessels or are operated by a captain without a mariner’s license, or in some instances both. The operation of a charter vessel without the required vessel documents and operator license is a violation of federal law, and if caught, the operator could be subject to criminal or civil liability. The regulations are in place to help ensure the safety of passengers. When all regulations are met a Certificate of Inspection is given, showing that a vessel has met the Coast Guard safety standards in regard to fire extinguishing systems, vessel de-watering capabilities, life saving and navigation equipment requirements.

A boat a captain must also have a mariner’s license in order to legally operate a charter. Coast Guard issued mariner’s licenses show that the operator of a commercial vessel has met proficiency requirements in navigation, seamanship as well as steering and sailing rules. A paying passenger cannot be assured of the operator’s competency or the soundness of the vessel without a valid license and inspection certificate.

“While it might seem like a great deal, it’s important to remember that illegal charter boats can charge less because they do not have the added expense of complying with safety regulations,” said Cmdr. Kelly Post, Chief of Prevention at Sector Baltimore. “You get what you pay for, so beware of a deal that seems too good to be true.”

The Coast Guard advises the public to ask the boat’s captain to show them his or her original Coast Guard license. If the boat is carrying more than six passengers, it is required to be inspected by the Coast Guard, and the Certificate of Inspection should be displayed in an area accessible to passengers.

“What’s astonishing is the number of people who knowingly pay to fish aboard illegal vessels just to save a few dollars,” said Post. “People would expect a commercial airline to have a licensed pilot aboard and the plane to meet safety standards, so people should not be willing to put their lives, and the lives of their family and friends, at risk by going out on the water aboard illegal charter vessels. The Coast Guard is dedicated to reducing loss of life, injuries, and property damage that occur on U.S. waterways. We need the public’s help by refusing to go out on vessels unless the captain can produce his original Coast Guard license, and for inspected vessels, the Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection.”

If the public wants to verify a captain’s license or the inspected status of a vessel carrying more than six passengers, or to report an illegal charter operation, they can call Coast Guard Sector Baltimore, Monday through Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. at 410-576-2558.

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Can Your Smart Phone Make You a Better Boater? The Final Chapter

“Speed” – This satisfyingly simple application turns your iPhone into a speedometer. Large digits and no additional distracting information make it incredibly easy to use. Price: $0.99;



  “WindGuru WAP2” – Here’s a cool little app that gives you the current and forecasted wind speeds and directions world-wide, and works on most modern mobiles. It’s basic, useful, and simple. Price: Free;








“Windbouy” – This is another relatively simple app for iPhones, but it has a wealth of good weather data piped in directly from NOAA buoys. Wind speed and direction, air and water temperature, wave period and height, and atmospheric pressure are some of the things you can check out, with Windbuoy. Price: $3.99;

 There are thousand of other apps out there that could be useful to boaters. Actually, there are closer to 65,000 of them, if you take Google’s word for it.

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Can Your Smart Phone Make You a Better Boater? Part 5

   “Navionics Mobile” – Navionics plays hard in the app universe, with constant updates and comprehensive offerings — and they claim Mobile is now the world’s best-selling marine and lakes nav-app. It won the 2010 Innovation and Design award at the Marine Electronics and Trade Show, and was voted the Best Boating App by Laptop World magazine. Mobile turns iPhones, iPads, and Androids into mini but fully functional chartplotters. The latest version not only adds extra features such as wind forecasts, terrain overlays, panoramic pictures, and chartography updates, it also includes a unique “community layer” of data, which is user-generated. In other words, boaters can add to the database as they discover changes in the real world that aren’t reflected on the charts. A channel marker was moved by drifting ice? A sandbar shifted after a storm? A boat sunk in the middle of the channel? You can add info like this to the database and so can other boaters, making navigation safer for everyone. Mobile also includes the social networking aspects of cell-equipped lifestyles, adding the ability to share tracks, routes, and pictures on Facebook and Twitter. Price: Varies greatly depending on version and charts;

  “Pro Knot” – You feel like a buffoon when you try to tie a bowline? The fisherman’s knot has you flummoxed? Then check out this app for iPhones, which gives you step-by-step instructions with large illustrations, on how to tie over 30 different knots. There’s also an animated version available, which covers 17 knots. Price: $0.99 to $1.99 depending on the version;






  “SailSim” – You want to be the talk of the yacht club? Then you’ll have to start winning those races, and SailSim can help. You can use this sailing simulator while you’re on dry land, to discover how changes in boat heading, the set of the sails, centerboard, and boat speed relate to wind direction. As you turn your boat (just turn your smart phone), wind direction stays constant relative to the boat but the sails adjust and change shape as they would in real life. It’s available for both Apple and Android products. Price: $0.99;

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Can Your Smart Phone Make You a Better Boater? Part 4

“IGFA Mobile” – Here’s a recently introduced app that will let you discover in an instant if that world-record catch you just made really is a world record. The International Game Fish Association designed it so that anglers could check on the record status of any species of gamefish caught in the world, and it automatically updates new record catches every time your cell phone is turned on, so the info is never out of date. The app includes a listing of IGFA certified weigh stations so you can figure out the closest scales to check in your catch, and there’s also a trip-planning list and a complete listing of the IGFA rules. Price: $8.99;



 “iNAVX” – This relatively advanced nav-app takes advantage of NOAA raster chartography, but can also expand your charting options with the X-Traverse service ($10/year,, which allows you to wirelessly transfer charting data from your PC or Mac to your phone, and vice-versa. It’s compatible with Navionics Gold, HotMaps, and Fish’N’Chip charts, plus topography maps for the US and Canada. X-Traverse also brings social networking to boaters, as it enables you to upload or share data points and locations with Facebook updates. iNavX is for the icrowd only, at least for now, working on iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads. It essentially turns your smart phone into a smart chartplotter, and supports a multitude of real-time chartplotting functions (including speed, course, and bearing data, anchor alarm, track logging, etc.), gives you the ability to import and export waypoints and routes with Google Earth, and includes tides and currents data and GRIB weather forecasting. Price: $49.99;

“Marine Day Tides” – If you have an iPhone or iPad and don’t want to pay for one of the more comprehensive applications that include tidal data, this application is for you. It includes tidal data for over 5,000 locations world-wide, sunrise/sunset/moon phase information, and tidal graphs. Price: Free;

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Can Your Smart Phone Make You a Better Boater? Part 3

In our continuing series on smart phone apps, we bring you 3 more. As a reminder these are simply tools and should not be relied on to replace traditional navigation or communication equipment.

 “Everything Sailing” – One of the few helpful boating apps for Blackberries, this is essentially a reference “book” that covers topics ranging from rigging to racing to right-of-way. It’s a KISS app — there’s no animation or audio, and there aren’t even any illustrations. Download it into your phone, and you can check it out even when you’re out of cell range. Price: $0.99;



  “Flick Fishing” – We don’t usually consider games to be very helpful for real-world boaters but Flick Fishing is so much fun you and your kids will spend hours playing. It  has so many realistic variables in it, we think anglers might actually learn something while playing it on their iPhone. Target species, location, weather, light levels, lures choices, and other real-world fishing factors all have an effect on how successful your fishing “trip” is. Price: $0.99;



  “Friendmapper” – This one will come in handy for yacht club cruises, caravans, poker runs, and fishing friends that make trips en masse. This nifty little app lets you and up to 23 of your buddies track each other (as long as you have an activated iPhone, of course). Everyone in the crew appears on each other’s maps, with each position updated every 15 seconds. You can hide your position if you like (to keep that hot spot all to yourself, or to spare yourself the embarrassment of a grounding, for example), and can one-touch dial any of the friends appearing on your iPhone’s map. Price: $0.99;


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Can Your Smart Phone Make You a Better Boater? Part 2


In our continuing series on smart phone apps, we bring you 3 more. As a reminder these are simply tools and should not be relied on to replace traditional navigation or communication equipment.

“Boating Suite” – Perfect for long-distance cruisers, liveaboards, and boaters who like to know how much fuel is in the tanks — to the very gallon — this is a logging app that turns your iPhone into a digital filing cabinet with built-in spreadsheets. Logs included are trip, fuel, maintenance, expenses, shopping, and to-do; reports can be organized by date and/or information included. Price: $4.99;


“Clinometer” – This app will be of interest to sailors, when they want to know the exact angle at which their boat is heeling. Just go to the App Store and download Clinometer onto an iPhone or iPod Touch, and the screen turns into a clineometer that’s accurate to one degree. Price: $0.99; 


“EarthNC” – Here’s a relatively old way to turn your smartphone into a mini-chartplotter; it’s been around since the ancient days of 2007. EarthNC is a good basic, all-around marine application that includes marine charts, weather data, and real-time GPS tracking. Charts are a seamless version of NOAA’s raster-based chartography, and the app includes the complete NOAA library. The EarthNC database also includes marina, bridge, anchorage, and service listings, which are from the Marinalife, Cruisersnet, and Waterway Guide databases. The app can be used with most i-gizmos, and lately EarthNC introduced a version for the Android. Price: $24.99;


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Can Your Smart Phone Make You a Better Boater?

Back in January we introduced you to towing app developed by BoatUS.  Unless you have been living under a rock you should be aware that smart phones have many applications that can make your life easier.

Marine related apps  are popping up daily and in the next few days we will be introducing you to a few that I personally find fascinating. That said, do not rely solely on your smart phone for navigation and communications. You should continue to use your GPS along with actually hand charting using a recent and updated chart of the area and VHF radio for your primary communications. Cell/smart phones can and do fail but if you just like to play with apps we will be reporting on some of the latest.

“The BoatUS App” – BoatUS has come up with an app to make your life at sea both safer and easier, whether you carry an iPhone or an Android. The BoatUS App has three components: “Call For A Tow,” “Share Your Location,” and “BoatUS Directory.”

“Call For A Tow” is the best app feature you’ll hope you never have to use. If you break down on the water and need assistance, however, activate this app and our crew will have your critical information (including contact info, boat type and size, location, and whether you have a working VHF onboard), automatically. That can shorten the time it takes to get help, and eliminate the opportunity for errors.

“Share Your Location” will come in handy when there’s no emergency, but you want to let your friends know where you are. You want to call your buddy in to a hot fishing spot? Invite him or her to raft up for the evening? With our app you’ll be able to send a private text message or e-mail with your latitude, longitude, and a Google Maps link included. Plus, when you activate the app, your lat/long will be displayed at the top of the phone’s screen, so you’ll always know exactly where you are.

“The BoatUS Directory” will come in handy whenever you need to find out what services are available to members — getting a quote or filing a claim for BoatUS Insurance, contacting the BoatUS Foundation, or even checking the latest BoatUS news are all handy features. Cost: Free;

“Boat Ramps” – Trailer boaters, this one’s for you. It’s a free app for both i’s and ‘droids, from the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. It gives you the locations of and directions to more than 35,000 boat ramps nationwide. You can search by zip code, city, or current location. Price: Free;

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