Monthly Archives: April 2013

Dockside Do’s and Don’ts

Boat in a marinaMany 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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Why Do So Many Boats Sink in the Spring?

We recently published a pre-season check list to assist in dewinterizing our boat for the upcoming boating season. According to BoatUS insurance division there are five things that are often overlooked that can result in you boats first trip being one that isn’t on the water but under the water.

The Top Five Reasons Why Boats Sink in the Springtime:

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

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Understanding The Danger of Propeller Strikes

Female passenger on powerboat watching male tubingAs “boating season” and the thoughts of getting out on the water start to increace. I thought it appropriate to to remind all boaters of the danger of propeller strikes.

Did you know?

  • A typical three-blade propeller running at 3,200 rpm can inflict 160 impacts in one second.
  • A typical recreational propeller can travel from head to toe on an average person in less than one tenth of a second.
  • Most propeller accidents CAN be prevented!

What Can You Do?

  1. Wear your engine cut-off switch lanyard and your life jacket at ALL times. If the lanyard is removed from the switch, the engine will shut off.
  2. Assign a passenger to keep watch around the propeller area of your boat when people are in the water.
  3. Consider purchasing propeller safety devices for your boat.

Safety Tips

  • Before starting your engine, walk to the stern and look in the water to make certain there is no one near your propeller (people near the propeller may not be visible from the helm).
  • Never allow passengers to board or exit your boat from the water when engine(s) are running – even at idle and in neutral your propeller may continue to spin.
  • Educate passengers about the location and danger of the propeller(s).
  • Call attention to and discuss any propeller waning labels around your boat.
  • Be especially alert when operating in congested areas and never enter swimming zones.
  • Take extra precautions near boats that are towing skiers or tubers.
  • Never permit passengers to ride on the bow, gunwale, transom, seat backs, or other locations where they might fall overboard.
  • Children should be watched carefully while onboard.
  • Establish clear rules for swim platform use, boarding ladders, and seating (if possible, passengers should remain seated at all times).
  • If someone falls overboard, STOP! Then slowly turn the boat around, and keep the person in sight as you approach. Assign a passenger to continuously monitor the person in ;the water. Turn your engine off FIRST and then bring the person to safety.
  • NEVER reverse your boat to pick someone up out of the water. If necessary, go around again.

Safety Devices

A variety of safety devices are available to help prevent propeller strikes:

  • Wireless cut off switches
  • Propeller guards
  • Ringed propellers
  • Propulsion alternatives (jet drive)
  • Interlocks
  • Sensors
  • Anti-feedback steering

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Super-Fast 22-foot HeliCat Coming to Newport Show

HeliCatThis year’s Newport Boat Show, April 18-21, will feature the debut of a truly unique vessel: the HeliCat. This new 22-foot high-speed catamaran can travel 20-30 mph in conditions as rough as whitecap waves while getting an astonishing 5 mpg fuel economy: a feat that is not possible in other boats.            

It is built as a two-seater, fore and aft like a motorcycle, and it gives that same open-air feeling of exhilaration. But there’s no road traffic to maneuver around when you’re driving a HeliCat.              

“The boat rides like it’s on a rail,” said Sandy Williamson, owner of HeliCat LLC. “It can turn sharp at very high speeds — and is very fun.”            

Those who need a fast, safe and dependable form of water transportation will appreciate the HeliCat’s low maintenance requirements and excellent fuel economy, Williamson said. And with watertight compartments and foam floatation in each hull, the boat is described as virtually unsinkable.            

It weighs less than 2,500 pounds and can be towed by almost any car, with an aluminum trailer that was specifically built for the HeliCat.            

While the prototypes were from Argentina, new HeliCats will be built by Sunbacker Fiberglass in Monroe, Wash.            

Not only are they fun to ride, if you have a business to promote, the HeliCat just might be an ideal way to do it, Williamson said. “You can wrap it with your company contact info, logo and photos for eye-catching and fun advertising, both on and off the water.”

For more details, visit — and to see the HeliCat for yourself, visit the Newport Boat Show.

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Spring is here, Coast Guard urges Safe Boating

1st Coast Guard District News
BOSTON — In light of spring temperatures, the Coast Guard emphasizes safety for recreational boaters and paddlers planning to venture out on the inland and coastal waters of the Northeast this spring.

The rescues of two kayakers on Sunday by Coast Guard crews and additional first responders serve as reminders that boating season in the Northeast is just around the corner and all boaters should practice maritime safety measures while out on the water.

“The warmer weather can create a false sense of security,” said Walt Taylor, Recreational Boating Safety Manager for the 1st Coast Guard District. “Though the air is warm, the water is still very cold, and in the event of a capsize hypothermia can quickly set in.”

Some safe boating tips to remember are:

  • Dress for the water temperature. Though the air may be warm, the water is still cold. Wet suits and dry suits offer protection against hyperthermia in the event of a capsize or immersion in the water.
  • Check all required safety equipment to be sure it is in good working order. The Coast Guard Auxiliary provides free vessel safety exams. Contact your nearest flotilla for more information.
  • File a float plan before getting underway.
  • Be sure to have U.S. Coast Guard approved lifejackets aboard. All boaters and paddlers are encouraged to wear their lifejackets while underway.

More information can be found at the Coast Guard Boating Safety Resource Center.

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Boater’s Spring Commissioning Tips for Saving Fuel

Boats at fuel dockWith gas prices forecast to remain high here are six tips on spring commissioning that can be done now to save you money on fuel all summer long:

Lighten the load is one of easiest no-cost things to save on fuel. Clear out all of that junk that’s been stored aboard the boat over winter.

Get a tune-up: An annual tune-up is a must if you’re truly serious about saving fuel.

Check the prop: Props with little dings should be taken to a repair shop now. This is also the time to ensure you are happy with your prop’s performance – have a discussion with your marina or local prop shop to ensure you still have the right prop installed based on your current boating needs.

Paint the bottom: For boats docked in salt or brackish water, keeping the fuel-robbing “green gunk” growth from adhering to your boat’s hull can save a lot of fuel. But you’ll need to ensure the vessel has a new coat of bottom paint put on, making it difficult for anything to grow on the hull bottom.

Check the trim tabs: Unbalanced boats chew up the fuel. During spring commissioning, ensure that trim tabs function properly. Check the reservoir for leaks.

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Semi-Annual Safety Checklist

Twice a year we recommend going through our checklist to insure you boat is in great shape. It is a good idea to do this when you bring it out and get it ready for the season and prior to winterizing your boat for the winter again .

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

  • Check for wear or abrasion, weak or torn seams, secure straps and buckles. For the PFDs onboard for children, try to assess whether they will still fit in the spring. Perhaps a new PFD would be a great Christmas gift. 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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Pre-Season Checklist – Dewinterizing Your Boat for the Season

Spring is here and it is time to start thinking about dewinterizing your boat for the season. Even if you live in an area where the “boating season” doesn’t begin with the start of spring, your “season” will be here before you know it.

Because there are so many variables depending on the size and type of boat you have, we have categorized this list for your convenience.  In order to assure a safe and uneventful season make sure that you go through the list below and make a note of any discrepancies that need attention.

Applicable To All Large Boat Small Boat Sail Boat
Deck Fittings
Required Equipment
Below Decks
Electrical System
Inboard Engine(s)
Head System
Water System
Outboard Motor(s)
Mast & Rigging


  • Do a general cleaning of hull, deck and topsides using a mild detergent
  • Make sure drains and scuppers are clear
  • Put on a good coat of wax
  • Clean and polish metal with a good metal polish
  • Clean teak and oil
  • Clean windows and hatches
  • Clean canvas, bimini and dodger
  • Clean interior including bilges
  • Check spare parts and tools and replace as necessary
  • Make sure registration is current and onboard
  • Check and replace wiper blades if necessary


  • Check for hull abrasions, scratches, gouges, etc. and repair
  • Check and replace zincs
  • Check for blisters and refinish is necessary
  • Check rub rails
  • Check swim platform and/or ladder
  • Inspect and test trim tabs
  • Check shaft, cutlass bearing, strut and prop
  • Check rudder and fittings
  • Touch up or replace antifouling paint


  • Check stanchion, pulpits and lifelines for integrity
  • Check ground tackle, lines, fenders, etc.
  • Check chainplates and cleats
  • Check hull/deck joint
  • Check deck, windows, and port lights for leaks
  • Inspect anchor windlass and lubricate
  • Clean and grease winches
  • Check and lubricate blocks, pad eyes, etc.
  • Check dinghy, and life raft


  • Check, test and lubricate seacocks
  • Check condition of hoses and clamps
  • Make sure below waterline hoses are double clamped
  • Check bilges pumps for automatic and manual operation
  • Check for oil in bilges
  • Check limber holes and make sure they are clear of debris
  • Lubricate stuffing boxes, shaft and rudder logs


  • Check battery water level
  • Check/recharge batteries
  • Check terminals for corrosion, clean and lubricate
  • Check bonding system
  • Inspect all wiring for wear and chafe
  • Test all gauges for operability
  • Check shore power and charger
  • Check for spare fuses
  • Check all lighting fixtures (including navigation lights) and make sure you have spare bulbs
  • Check all electronics for proper operation
  • Inspect antennas


  • Sound signaling device
  • Check distress signals and expiration date
  • Check Pfds
  • Inspect life rings and cushions
  • Check fire extinguishers and recharge if necessary
  • Check and adjust compass
  • Check navigation lights
  • Check charts and replace as necessary
  • Check radar reflector
  • Check and replace first aid supplies
  • Check bailer and hand pump


  • Change oil & filters – have spare onboard
  • Check and change fuel filters – have spares onboard
  • Check and change engine zincs
  • Check cooling system change coolant as necessary – have extra onboard
  • Record engine maintenance log, especially date & hours of last oil changes
  • Check belts for tension
  • Check transmission fluid
  • Check and clean backfire flame arrestor
  • Check impeller
  • Check and clean water strainer
  • Check bilge blower
  • Empty water separator filters


  • Checked for smooth operation – lubricate and clean as necessary
  • If equipped with treatment system, have chemicals on hand
  • Y-valve operation checked, valve labeled & secured


  • Flush water tank
  • Check water system and pump for leaks and proper operation
  • Check hot water tank working on both AC and engines
  • Check for tank cap keys on board
  • Check and clean shower sump pump screens


  • Fill propane tank, check electric & manual valves, check storage box vent to make sure it is clear
  • Check refrigerator, clean and freshen, operate on AC and DC
  • Clean stove, check that all burners and oven are working
  • Check microwave, if fitted
  • Replace spark plugs
  • Check plug wires for wear
  • Check prop for nicks and bends
  • Change/fill gear lube
  • Inspect fuel lines, primer bulb and tank for leaks
  • Lubricate and spray moveable parts


  • Check for current registration
  • Check rollers and pads
  • Check and lubricate wheel bearings
  • Clean and lubricate winch
  • Lubricate tongue jack and wheel
  • Test lights and electrical connections
  • Check tire pressure and condition
  • Check brakes (if equipped)
  • Check safety chains
  • Check tongue lock


  • Check general condition
  • Look for wear and chafing
  • Check battens and batten pockets
  • Check all sail attachments
  • Inspect bolt rope


  • Check mast and spreaders for corrosion or damage
  • Inspect spreader boots and shrouds
  • Inspect rivets and screw connections for corrosion
  • Check reefing points and reefing gear
  • Clean sail track
  • Check rigging, turnbuckles and clevis pins for wear and corrosion
  • Inspect stays for fraying and “fish hooks”
  • Check forestay and backstay connections
  • Check masthead fitting and pulleys
  • Check and lubricate roller furling
  • Check halyards and consider replacing or swapping end for end
  • Tape turnbuckles, cotter pins, and spreaders

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Man Overboard!… and Back Again!

Contributed by: Mike Baron, U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Division

Being prepared, moving fast and having the right equipment are key to safe rescues.

In 2011, there were 359 recorded accidents involving a “person in the water” (PIW) or a man overboard (MOB) — an extremely dangerous situation for rescuers and the individual in the water. Knowing what to do and when are essential to maximizing safety and survival.

Raise the Alarm and Keep the Person in Sight
The first person to notice someone overboard should point to the individual, shout “Man overboard!” (followed by “port side” or “starboard side”) and then keep pointing until the person is rescued.

If there is a marine GPS on board, hit the MOB button, which will help you maneuver back to the point of loss. If you’re close enough, throw a buoyant object toward the swimmer to help mark the position and help him stay afloat. But it’s vital that someone keep spotting and pointing at the individual, who may move or be swept to another location.

Contact the Coast Guard, If Appropriate
If the situation could be life threatening, and especially if you lose sight of the person, call for help immediately using your marine VHF radio. Announce “mayday” three times, followed by “man overboard” and give your location, boat description and a description of the victim. Do this three times. You can always make contact again if the rescue is successful and the person is uninjured.

Take Action in the Proper Order: Reach, Throw, Row and Go
Ensure that as you return to the person, the stern and propeller are away from him — keep the victim inside the turning radius of the boat. Never back up to return to the person overboard.

If the person is alert and within an arm’s length, REACH for the victim and pull him toward the boat. After making sure you are wearing a life jacket and have secure footing, extend a pole, paddle, shirt or other object toward the swimmer. If you must use your arm, lie prone on the deck and hang on to a strong point with your other arm — and have another passenger hold your belt or legs, if possible.

If you’re too far to reach the person, THROW something buoyant for him to hold on to, even if he’s wearing a life jacket. It could be a cushion, an extra life jacket or even an empty cooler — anything that could be a location marker and provide extra support for the person in need of retrieval.

If the person is too distant for a throw, ROW — or maneuver — the vessel to him. Always approach the individual from the boat operator’s side, so the MOB remains in view. As you get close, turn off the engine to avoid a propeller strike, toss a buoyant object and help him back aboard.

Only as a last resort should someone GO to a person in the water. If the MOB is unconscious, injured or unable to get aboard without help, and a strong swimmer — ideally someone trained in water rescue — can assist, then a water rescue may be attempted. The rescuer must wear a life jacket and take another buoyant object to keep between himself and the person in the water.

Getting Back on Board
Bringing the person aboard via a boarding ladder, the swim platform or the lowest point on the boat is preferable. On many boats, the best way to retrieve a person is with a good boarding ladder. It should stand off the hull for toe clearance (unlike a rope ladder), and it should be strong, easy to place, firmly attached, long enough for a victim to climb easily and have good handgrips.

To help bring the person aboard, use a lifting strap, a rope with a large loop that can go under the MOB’s arms or two people placing a hand under the MOB’s armpits who can carefully pull him aboard.

Seek medical attention if necessary. The individual may have unseen injuries, may have taken in water or could have hypothermia, confusion and loss of energy.

Practice Makes Perfect
Create a drill and practice it. Doing so will help people remember the steps and ensure they know where flotation devices and emergency equipment are stowed. Try to keep the drill realistic by using a heavy/awkward object in the water, so potential rescuers understand the difficulty of pulling a person aboard. Also, ensure passengers know how to use communication and safety equipment, in case the operator goes overboard.

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