Monthly Archives: March 2012

Wireless Boating Safety Device


Autotether is a wireless tether device designed to shut off your boat should you fall overboard. Unlike traditional lanyard kill switches that requires the operator to be tethered to the boat, the AUTOTETHER™ is an unobtrusive wireless receiver that clips right into the emergency stop switch (kill switch).  The operator and/or passenger wears a wireless personal sensor that sends radio waves to the receiver.  When the sensor is submerged in water, the signal between the receiver and the sensor is instantly broken, because radio waves do not travel through water. AUTOTETHER™ wireless lanyard activates the emergency stop switch which stops the boat’s motor. For added safety, should the operator or a passenger notice a potential danger, he or she can push the red alert button AUTOTETHER™ on the sensor to sound an alarm and stop the boat.

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More deckspace and Stability in 12 Seconds

The Wider 42 Motor Yacht

Recently introduced at the Palm Beach International Boat Show is the Italian Wider 42 footer, with Wider being both an appropriate adjective and the master brand name.

The Wider works ingeniously in that you can activate mobile extensions either side of the hull, double the deck area and give the boat complete stability, all at the press of a button.

Wider was established in March 2010 based on a concept by Tilli Antonelli, the founder and former President of Pershing Yachts.

Based in Castelvecchio di Monte Porzio (PU), in Italy, Wider designs, constructs and markets open day-cruisers, in addition to ramping up for the production of its new Wider category of yacht. Models both smaller and larger than the 42 are planned, and the idea is patented.

Wider “aims to invent new formulas for travelling by sea, proposing bold, original solutions” and the new 42 footer, from well-known designer Fulvio De Simoni, is exactly that – an open yacht with automatic, patented and quite revolutuionary system.

The Wider 42’ debuted at the 2011 Cannes boat show and you can download a brochure here.

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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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Coast Guard Replacing Aids to Navigation Throughout Great Lakes

9th Coast Guard District NewsCLEVELAND — The 9thCoast Guard District has begun restoring seasonal Aids to Navigation (ATON) throughout the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, following the resumption of the shipping season.

Operation Spring Restore involves the verification and placement of more than 1,270 ATON, including lighted and unlighted buoys, with an expected completion date of May 28, 2012.

Roughly half of the aids throughout the Great Lakes region are taken out of service during the winter months during Operation Fall Retrieve in order to minimize damage caused by ice and inclement weather, and because of reduced vessel traffic.

The 9th District’s ATON system employs a simple arrangement of colors, shapes, numbers and light characteristics to mark navigable channels, waterways and nearby obstructions, allowing safe vessel passage through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway and facilitating safe and efficient maritime activity.

In the Great Lakes region, the Coast Guard manages 2,645 federal ATON.

To accomplish this essential mission, the 9th District utilizes six Coast Guard Cutters with ATON capabilities, five ATON teams and five small-boat stations that perform ATON duties. Lamplighters, a civilian group that manages ATON in northern Minnesota; the Canadian Coast Guard; and the St. Lawrence Seaway Corporation also assist.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary helps with verification of privately owned ATON in the region.

The aids restored during Operation Spring Restore include, but are not limited to:

  • Lighted structures
  • Beacons
  • Day markers
  • Range lights
  • Fog signals
  • Landmarks
  • Buoys (lighted and unlighted)

 All have a specific purpose and assist mariners in determining their locations, facilitating safe transit and avoiding danger.

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Preparing to Get Back on the Water

As you prepare for getting back on the water this boating season don’t forget to check that you have all required equipment onboard. Below is a list of U.S. Coast Guard required equipment.

EQUIPMENT Boats less than 16ft/4.9m 16 to less than 26 ft/7.9m 26 to less than 40 ft/12.2m 40 to not more than 65 ft/19.8m
Personal Flotation
One approved Type I, II, III or V (must be worn) PFD for each person on board or being towed on water skis, tubes, etc. One approved Type I, II or III PFD for each person on board or being towed on water skis, etc.; and one throwable Type IV device. ( A type V PFD may be used in lieu of any wearable PFD if approved for the activity in which the boat is being used. A TYPE V HYBRID MUST be worn to be legal.)
Check state laws for PFD wearing requirements for children and for certain water craft and sports. Federal Regulations mandate that states without child life jacket laws require that youths under 13 wear an approved PFD whenever a recreational boat is underway, unless below decks or in a closed cabin. States with existing regulations are not required to alter their status. Make sure you check your state regulations before getting underway with children onboard.
Bell, Whistle Every vessel less than 65.6 ft. (20 meters) in length must carry an efficient sound producing device. On Federally controlled waters, every vessel 65.6 ft. (20 meters) or larger in length must carry a whistle and a bell. They must be audible for 1 nautical mile.
Visual Distress Signals
(Coastal Waters, the Great Lakes &
U.S. owned boats on the high seas)
Required to carry approved visual distress signals for night-time use. Must carry approved visual distress signals for both daytime and night-time use.
Fire Extinguisher
(Must be Coast Guard approved)
One B-I type approved hand portable fire extinguisher. (Not required on outboard motorboats less than 26 ft in length if the construction of the motorboat is such that it does not permit the entrapment of explosive or flammable gases or vapors, and if fuel tanks are not permanently installed.) Two B-I type OR one B-II type approved portable fire extinguishers. Three B-I type OR one B-I type PLUS one B-II type approved portable fire extinguishers.
When a fixed fire extinguishing system is installed in machinery spaces it will replace one B-I portable fire extinguisher.
(Boats built
on or after
At least two ventilation ducts capable of efficiently ventilating every closed compartment that contains a gasoline engine and/or tank, except those having permanently installed tanks that vent outside of the boat and which contain no unprotected electrical devices. Engine compartments containing a gasoline engine with a cranking motor are additionally required to contain power operated exhaust blowers that can be controlled from the instrument panel.
(Boats built
At least two ventilation ducts fitted with cowls (or their equivalent) for the purpose of efficiently and properly ventilating the bilges of every closed engine and fuel tank compartment using gasoline as fuel or other fuels having a flash point of 110 degrees or less. Applies to boats constructed or decked over after April 25, 1940.
Back-fire Flame Arrestor One approved device on each carburetor of all gasoline engines installed after April 25, 1940, except outboard motors.
Note: Some states have requirements in addition to the federal requirements.
Check your state’s boating laws for additional requirements.

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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.

Recently, dangerously high winds may have sent seven boaters 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.  As soon as we left the marina, the wind picked up and white capped waves started to fill the boat,” said the boat operator. “As the water rose, the boat started tipping sideways.”

There was a small-craft advisory for the offshore waters. 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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Spring Time Boating Dangers – Thunderstorms

Spring is the time that boaters need to be especially aware of the weather conditions. You can get weather information from TV, radio or from one of the weather channels on your VHF radio. At certain times of the year, weather can change rapidly and you should continually keep a “weather eye” out in order to foresee changes which might be impending.

Certain signs you can look for indicate an approaching weather change:

  • Although weather changes generally come from the west, you should be observant of weather from all directions, so scan the sky with your weather eye, especially to the west.
  • A sudden drop in temperature and change in the wind often mean that a storm is near.
  • If you have a barometer on your boat, check it every two to three hours. A rapid drop in pressure means a storm is approaching.
  • Watch for cloud build up, especially rapid, vertically rising clouds. Be alert for the sound of thunder.
  • Watch for lightning and rough water. Remember that boats, particularly sailboats, are vulnerable to lightning if not grounded.

Thunderstorms form when warm, moist air rises, cools and condenses.  The thunderstorm develops in three stages:

  • The cumulus stage occurs as the warm moist air rises in a great vertical development. You will notice that the top of the cloud formation appears to “boil” as it rapidly rises.
  • The mature stage occurs when the cloud formation has reached its maximum height, sometimes 60,000 feet. At this point you will see the top in the shape of an anvil. This is being driven by winds aloft and the front of the anvil will point in the direction that the storm is moving. If you cannot see the anvil shape the storm is either coming toward you or going directly away.
  • The dissipation stage occurs as the cloud has released its precipitation and starts to go down. You will first observe a fuzzy, fibrous (called glaciated) top.  As the storm continues to dissipate you will see cirrus clouds streaking from the top.

One of the weather phenomena that you may find associated with a thunderstorm is wind sheer. Wind sheer is low mixed turbulence that occurs in front of a thunderstorm.

Thunderstorms contain thunder and lightning that can be used to determine the distance that the storm is from your current location and whether or not the storm is moving toward you or away from you. In order to make this estimate, count the seconds between the time you see the lightning and the time you hear the thunder. Divide this number by 6 and this will be the approximate distance in nautical miles that the storm is from your location. If the time between the flash of lighting and the clap of thunder were 12 seconds, the storm would be approximately 2 nautical miles away. This formula works because of the difference in the speed of light (when you see the lightning) and the speed of sound (when you hear the thunder). By using this calculation several times in a row you should be able to determine if the storm is coming toward you or going away. If it were coming toward you, obviously the seconds between the lightning and thunder would be decreasing. On the other hand, if the seconds between lightning and thunder were increasing, the storm would be moving away.

Thunder can only be heard for approximately 15 miles, so if you see lightning but hear no thunder the storm is more than 15 miles away.


  • First and foremost, make sure all aboard are wearing USCG approved PFDs.
  • Reduce speed and proceed with caution.
  • Close all hatches and ports.
  • Head for the nearest shore that is safe to approach and duck into the lee of land.
  • Put the bow into the wind and waves at about a 40 degree angle and watch for floating debris.
  • Pump out bilges and keep dry.
  • Change to a full fuel tank.
  • Secure loose items that could be tossed about.
  • Keep everyone low in the boat and near the centerline.
  • Minimize the danger of having your boat struck by lightning by seeking shelter in advance of a storm. If caught on open water during a thunderstorm, stay low in the middle of the boat.
  • If there is lightning, disconnect all electrical equipment. Stay as clear of metal objects as possible.

Be aware that thunderstorms can also include tornadoes and or waterspouts which are much more violent. A waterspout is a small, whirling storm over ocean or inland waters. Its chief characteristic is a funnel-shaped cloud. When fully developed, it extends from the surface of the water to the base of a cumulus cloud. The water in a waterspout is mostly confined to its lower portion.

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Boating – Spring Time Dangers – Fog

As I awoke this morning on the first day of Spring, in almost zero visibility, it reminded me that 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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Coast Guard Urges Boating Safety

The U.S. Coast Guard is warning boaters that despite the near-record high temperatures forecast for this weekend, water temperatures are “dangerously” low.

“Recreation on Great Lakes waterways never really ceases, with popular cold water and ice activities prevalent throughout the region,” said Capt. Steve Torpey, chief of response for the 9th Coast Guard District, in a release. “But, we’re expecting to start seeing a lot more people on the water as temperatures continue to rise.”

The Coast Guard responded to four calls in the eastern Great Lakes region this past week, and warned that in only 10 minutes, a person in cold water could lose use of their fingers, arms and legs.

As boaters begin to head out on the water, the Coast Guard recommends:

  • Wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Check and monitor the marine weather forecast before any trip out onto the lakes.
  • Notify family and friends where you are going and when you expect to be back—and stick to the plan. Be sure to notify them when plans change.
  • Never venture out alone. 
  • Carry all required and recommended safety gear, including visual distress signals, sound producing device, registered personal locator beacon and in a VHF-FM marine radio.
  • Boat sober. 

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10 Tips to Get Repairs Done Right

Courtesy BoatUS:

ALEXANDRIA, Va., — Many boaters and anglers work on their own boats, but there are times when professional help may be needed. With 30 years of experience dealing with marine service industry, the BoatUS Consumer Protection Bureau knows that most marine professionals do the job right. Every year, however, a handful of boat owners wind up coming to the Bureau’s Dispute Mediation program for help because of faulty repairs or disagreements with bills. Here are ten tips gleaned from mediating hundreds of cases over the years that will help ensure the job goes smoothly:

  1. A tight budget is OK: In today’s economy, a tight budget is expected – just make this clear before the job begins. The shop may be able to suggest ways to complete the project in stages. Always ask how much similar repairs have cost in the past and what kinds of problems are possible along the way.
  2. Write it up – or take your chances: Get a written estimate before work begins, and remember that it is based on an approximation of how much the job will cost. With boats, it’s not unusual to have unforeseen problems crop up later – so taking your frustrations out on your repairer won’t help. You can always ask the shop to obtain your authorization before proceeding with unforeseen repairs or when work goes beyond the estimated price.
  3. Ask for evidence: Ask to get back old or damaged parts.
  4. OK to second guess: If you’re not comfortable with the first estimate, get a second opinion from another mechanic or a marine surveyor.
  5. Follow a plan: Once you approve the estimate, a work order should be drawn up. Ask for a target completion date and write this into the work order.
  6. Keep everyone in the loop: Always be sure the actual mechanic working on your boat has a copy of your work order when the project begins.
  7. Get help with the big stuff: For complex repairs, it’s wise to consult with a marine surveyor and consider having the surveyor serve as a liaison with the repair shop. Ask around for a referral or check out the list of surveyors at
  8. The payment plan: Understand that when tackling large jobs, boat repair shops often require payments at various stages of completion. Be sure to verify that each stage has been completed before paying. If you cannot be on hand to check progress yourself, consider hiring a marine surveyor to make periodic checks.
  9. Don’t be hasty: If you are unhappy with the work, do not stop payment on your check after you pay your repair bill. This can be interpreted as intent to defraud the repair shop and put you in deep kimchi.
  10. Know when to walk: Understand that when asking for all of the things above, you may not get everything you want. On the other hand, walk away if you get the feeling a marine repairer isn’t interested in helping you with most of these basic protections that get the job done right. Reputable shops know the importance of customer service.

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