The SkipperLiner Blog

How To Protect Your Boat From Corrosion

propellor-corrosion

It’s a well-known fact that water corrodes metals: one needs to look no further than the nearest wishing well to find ample evidence. But when it comes to knowing what water may do to the metal on your boat, however, this simple fact becomes much more complicated. By developing a basic understanding of the science behind corrosion, you will better be able to protect your boat (and your pennies)!

Galvanic Corrosion

The type of corrosion that is most harmful to your boat is called galvanic corrosion. It’s easy to make galvanic corrosion sound unfathomably complicated but its basic premise is a fairly simple one: essentially, whenever two different metals that are either physically or electrically connected are submerged in water a small amount of current will flow between them, creating a battery. The current between them is made up of electrons that are being supplied by one of the metals giving up its own metal ions into the water. This is galvanic corrosion and if it continues unchecked, the metal giving up bits of itself may eventually completely erode.

That, in a nutshell, is galvanic corrosion. With that basic understanding in place, let’s investigate the process a little more closely: different metals have different nobilities, with gold at the top of the scale and metals like zinc and magnesium at the bottom. When metals with different nobilities are submerged in water and create a battery, it is their position on the nobility scale that determines if they will sacrifice their own metal ions to provide electrons for the current. The metal with the lower nobility will be the metal that corrodes.

On a boat, a common galvanic circuit is created when a bronze propeller is attached to a stainless steel boat. In this case, bronze is the less noble metal, which means that when these two metals are in the water together, the expensive and necessary bronze propeller is donating electrons to the circuit and corroding itself. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could somehow just add an even less noble metal to this circuit so that the bronze propeller wouldn’t be the metal that suffers from corrosion? Enter the sacrificial anode: by simply attaching a less noble metal to the shaft, you break the circuit and it will be the less expensive metal that corrodes, not your propeller. Science can be pretty nifty!

Your propeller is not the only place that galvanic corrosion can take place: your engine is another prime place for galvanic circuits to set up shop because there are so many dissimilar metals there. For an outboard motor just attach anode tabs and for an inboard engine install pencil anodes, so you will break any harmful galvanic circuits and protect your engine, making the anodes bear the brunt of the corrosion.

Understanding Anodes

As you can see, anodes are crucial players in the fight against corrosion. There are three materials used for anodes: aluminum, magnesium, and zinc. In order to make sure that you’re putting in the best anode for the job, it’s important to know that different types of water conduct electricity differently and different types of metal have different voltage potentials. Salt water is more electrically conductive than brackish water, which is more conductive than fresh water. Magnesium has the highest voltage potential, then aluminum, and then zinc. When you’re trying to decide which type of metal to select for your anode, you need to match the voltage potential of the metal with the conductivity of the water you’ll be in. In other words, if your boat is only in salt water, your anodes should be made of zinc, whereas if your boat is only in fresh water, your anodes should be magnesium. If your boat is exposed to salt water, brackish water, and fresh water, then aluminum anodes are best suited for the job. Bear in mind that magnesium anodes should only be used in fresh water because their high voltage potential can actually cause too much protection and extremely damage aluminum castings. Similarly, using zinc anodes in fresh or brackish water may result in a coat forming over the metal and diminish their ability to effectively function.

When it comes to installing an anode, remember that contact is key to break the circuit: make sure you either attach the anode directly to the metal you are trying to protect or that you connect the two with a wire. Moreover, anodes can only perform their function if they are completely exposed, which means you should never coat or paint them because it will render them useless. Finally, check your boat’s anodes about once a year and replace any of them that appear to have lost about half of themselves to corrosion.

Galvanic corrosion is both an extremely damaging but also highly preventable process. By having a basic understanding of the science behind the process you can keep your anodes in top sacrificial form, saving both your boat and your wallet from undue expense.

“Image Credit: wikimedia.org

6 Tips For Boating in the Rain

boating-in-rain

If you’re an outdoors enthusiast, you’ve probably heard the old adage, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.” You might even have said it a time or two yourself.

While having good gear certainly makes dealing with inclement weather a more manageable task, it doesn’t do everything: some boating challenges brought on by bad weather are more extensive than even the best equipment can cover. From dealing with poor visibility and the cold, when it comes to boating in the rain, there are more than a few obstacles for you to overcome.

However, by following the tips below you can better prepare yourself for the days when the only yellow in sight is from your raincoat instead of the sun.

6 Rainy Day Boating Tips

  1. Go slow. As a basic rule of thumb, any time visibility decreases so should your speed. When you’re boating in the rain, slowing down is the most important thing you can do to keep yourself and others safe. If the current or wind is pushing you off course, try to readjust your position by using the wheel and steering slightly upwind instead of relying on the throttle to help you make corrections. Ultimately, if something suddenly looms out from the rain and appears in front of you, you need to be going slow enough so you will have time to change your course and avoid a collision.
  2. Use more than just your own eyes. Poor visibility is probably the biggest challenge presented by boating in the rain so it’s important to use every available resource to try and compensate for the reduction in visibility. Make sure to keep an eye on your radar so you will have an idea of what obstacles may be ahead but take care not to be overly reliant upon it. Always remember that while your radar is an indispensable tool, it is not a perfect one: it may present two separate obstacles as a single target because it is not able to distinguish between them and it may also not pick up logs or other small debris. As such, it’s important to use your radar in conjunction with posting a lookout at the bow of the boat. The lookout may be able to see what you and the radar can’t.
  3. Wear a helmet. If your boat doesn’t have a cabin, then you probably know how painful a hard rain can be as it whips into your face. Wearing a helmet will not only protect your face from the sting of the rain but it will also keep water out of your eyes and make it easier for you to see.
  4. Stay warm. Being cold is both a nuisance and a danger: not only is it difficult to stay focused when you’re distracted by how cold your hands are but it is also difficult to perform vital tasks when your fingers have gone numb. One good way to keep your hands toasty and dexterous is to wear rubber surgical gloves underneath neoprene gloves. It’s also a good idea to keep hand warmers on board so you can quickly and easily warm up your extremities whenever you need to. Additionally, you might want to keep a spare set of clothes on board so you’ll have something to change into once the rain stops. Putting your spare clothes into a vacuum bag will not only help you to conserve space but the bag will also keep the water out.
  5. Listen. When visibility becomes limited, it’s important to rely on those senses that aren’t compromised. Make sure to listen for sounds that may help you notice what the rain prevents you from seeing: you might be able to hear a boat or a buoy before you can see it through the rain.
  6. Wear the right gear. The basic gear you need for boating in the rain is a rain jacket, bibs, boots, and gloves. But how do you know what qualifies as the “right” gear? There are some basic guidelines you can follow to help you select the gear that will help you withstand the rigors of elements. For starters, instead of getting anything with a stitched seam go for a “welded” seam because that will keep water out much more effectively. To check seams, turn the item inside out: a welded seam will have a strip of cloth glued down over it, completely covering it up. You’re also going to want to get items that are made from breathable and durable fabrics: GoreTex or microporous and coated hydrophilics are probably your best bets. When it comes to selecting anything with a zipper, remember that no zipper is completely waterproof so make sure the zipper has a flap that can be secured over it to prevent water from sneaking inside. Also, it’s important your rain jacket and bibs are adjustable at the hood and cuffs so you can tighten them to help keep water out. As for your boots, they should come up to at least your calves and they should absolutely not have laces: if a boot laces up, expect water to get in. Finally, yellow rain gear is a cliché for a reason: it’s easy to see. Avoid getting black or darkly colored gear because it will make you harder to see if you go overboard.

Ultimately, inclement weather can put a damper on any day if you’re unprepared for it so always check the weather before you go out and use these tips as a guideline to help keep you safe even on rainy days.

“Image Credit: flickr.com

Aluminum Hull vs. Fiberglass | SkipperLiner

Being the avid boater you are, you may have struggled with this question before buying your first vessel.  And thats okay – it can sometimes be confusing.  Hopefully with this blog entry, however, you’ll finally be able to decide which hull best suits your needs and you’ll have an answer to the question, “What is better when deciding between an aluminum hull vs fiberglass?”.

Fiberglass

You’ll find fiberglass hulls are the most commonly used as they are the easiest to clean and maintain, as well as easiest to shape.  However, fiberglass hull owners should know – or may know all too well – fiberglass hulls can crack or split if the vessel is inadvertently ran aground.  Obviously, no one plans to run aground while out boating – but it can be a serious hazard, especially aboard a fiberglass hulled vessel.

Along with cracking and splitting comes repair costs – and expensive one at that.  We don’t want to throw out numbers, but we can tell you it would be cheaper to repair a dented aluminum hulled vessel.  Some novice boaters and boat owners may think that fiberglass is lighter than aluminum – quite the contrary, however.  Due to fiberglass being heavier, this makes your engines work harder and ultimately decreases performance and fuel efficiency.  Based on these findings, you can see that if you are in the market for a custom hull shape – and one that doesn’t take much maintenance – fiberglass my be a good fit for you.  However, the inevitable repair costs accompanied with heavier weight and – in turn – decreased engine efficiency, one should do their homework before becoming completely sold on a fiberglass hull.

Aluminum_hull_vs_fiberglass

Aluminum

Aluminum hulls have far fewer draw backs than fiberglass hulls, but aren’t seen as often as fiberglass.  That is beginning to change, though, as aluminum hulls are beginning to gain in popularity.  Welding technology on aluminum hulled vessels has progressed to a point where vessels are more attractive and stronger than they had been in the past.  On top of the advanced technology used when putting together aluminum hulls, most of them come with a lifetime hull warranty.  Due to aluminum reportedly being 10x stronger than fiberglass, aluminum hulled vessels are rarely damaged and, when damaged, the damages are easy to repair – both cost and labor-wise.  Not only is aluminum stronger and easier to repair than fiberglass, it is also lighter.

Because it is lighter than fiberglass, engines don’t need to work as hard to propel the boat forward, ultimately increasing fuel efficiency and overall performance of your vessel.  While the engine on your lighter aluminum hulled vessel increases in efficiency, it also creates a higher ride and a quicker plane, offering a more comfortable and smoother journey.  Finally, to wrap up the benefits of aluminum hulls vs fiberglass, aluminum vessels require much less maintenance, and because of this – are a great choice in any body of water.

Conclusion

Feel free to come to your own conclusion when considering which vessel to buy, but the evidence is clear – aluminum hulled vessels are a better choice when purchasing a vessel.  The benefits of aluminum hulls far outweigh those of fiberglass.  As we said, however, invest in what is best for you.  If you’re looking for a fairly customizable hull that is easy to clean, then fiberglass is the way to go.  But if you are looking for a low maintenance hull that is lighter, easier to maintain, and can thrive in any body of water, aluminum would be your best choice.

 

 

Safely Beaching Your Boat

safely_beaching_your_boat

Spring is upon us – and with it comes warmer temperatures and open water.  If you’re looking to sit back and relax the weekend away, beaching your boat is a great option.  Especially if you own a larger vessel or houseboat – the family can run and grab anything they need off of the vessel, and get right back to having fun.  Or, better yet, if your vessel has a water slide attached, kids can wear themselves out from the comfort of being close to shore.  So if your vessel contains tons of fun water activities – they’re never too out of reach.  Beaching your boat can be tricky if you’re not used to it – but hopefully with the following tips, you’ll be laying on your local sandbar faster than you can say “Cannonball!”

Know Your Terrain

Before beaching your boat, it is important to know exactly the sort of terrain you’ll be dealing with.  While most popular spots have sandy bottoms because it’s great for swimming, some places have soft mud or rocky bottoms that can trap a boat in place or worse, cause expensive damage.  The more you know about the desired location on which you’ll be beaching your boat location, the better prepared you’ll be by the time you when you decide to head in.

Pay Attention to the Tide

If you’re a seasoned boater, this isn’t breaking news.  But the more well-versed you are with the tide, the more prepared you’ll be when beaching your boat.  Boating on a river or stream doesn’t necessarily mean you’re “out of the water” when considering high and low tide; a rough high tide and your vessel can float away, too low of a tide and you can expect a scraped boat bottom.  Sudden changes in wind direction can push water away from shore stranding your vessel, or pile up water causing a properly anchored boat to possibly float away.  Thunderstorms pop-up and strand boats every year on both tidal and non-tidal waters by quickly building up wind and waves that drive boats ashore before their owners can move them to deeper water.

Watch Your Speed

When thinking of properly beaching your boat, a lot of speed isn’t always necessary.  Some boaters think its necessary to drive onto a sandbar quickly in order to be properly beached.  This is a proper approach only if you’re looking to scratch up the bottom of a fiberglass hull – which is probably one of the main things you want to avoid.  A more appropriate approach would be to drive in to waist-deep water, kill the engine, get the motor or outdrive out of the water, and have an acquaintance walk the boat in with a bow line.

Park with Leaving in Mind

During favorable tide, veteran sandbar enthusiasts will pull the boat inshore until the keel under the bow firmly nudges the sand.  The approach of taking the anchor to the beach or further inshore to provide tension can leave the stern of the boat vulnerable to being swamped by wakes, or for wind or wave action to push the boat parallel to the beach.  Because of this, the entire keel can end up resting on the sand, making it more difficult to get the boat back into deeper water.

A more favorable approach would be to march the bow in until the water is about knee-level, and then spin the boat 180 degrees so the bow faces out toward the deep water and the correct direction. Then, walk or swim an anchor out to deep water, and proceed to deploy one or two stern anchors or sand spikes to keep the boat pointed in the correct direction.

Seven Steps to Follow When Your Boat is Sinking

sinking-yacht

Although the first day of summer doesn’t officially occur until the 21st of June, most of us will begin celebrating the advent of boaters’ favorite season long before that day.

However, as we all take to the water in droves, it’s important to remember that clear skies do not guarantee smooth sailing: from the weather to mechanical malfunction to obstacles in the water, there are numerous potential hazards you may encounter.

Most often, the danger these hazards pose can be mitigated or avoided completely by exercising good nautical judgment, which is why it is vital to have a plan in place to help you evade these threats. However, not every obstacle is avoidable and even the most carefully laid plan may not succeed. Consequently, in addition to having a plan for how to avoid a hazard, it’s equally as important to have a plan for what to do if the hazard becomes a danger.

A good sailor knows what to do to stay afloat, while an expert sailor knows what to do if the boat begins to sink. If the unthinkable were to occur and you suddenly found yourself in the worst-case scenario, do you know what to do?

Planning For The Unthinkable

If your boat begins taking on water faster than the pumps can evacuate it, below are the seven steps you should use to form the basis of your action plan. The steps are listed by order of importance, but if you have a crew that you trust assign some of the steps to them so tasks can be performed simultaneously. In an emergency, every second will matter so try to make each one count.

  1. Make sure you, your crew, and any passengers put on life jackets. Also, grab your ditch bag because it should contain crucial items such as your personal locator beacon, waterproof handheld VHF and signal flares.
  2. Call for help. Make a mayday call to the Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16 and provide your location, the number of people on board, and the nature of your emergency. Make sure to wait 10 seconds for a reply before you repeat your call.
  3. Locate the source of the leak. If your boat is taking on water because you struck a deadhead or because of some sort of mechanical failure, it’s possible that you may be able to repair or at least slow the flow of water. For example, if a hose has burst, you might be able to close its seacock. It may also be possible to use a bung to plug the hole in the hose or if a through-hull fitting fails. A bung is a tapered piece of softwood (pine or cedar works best) that you press into the hole, the wood will swell, and a watertight seal will be created. Avoid using hardwood for a bung because it may not swell to fit the hole and it could split the fitting, which would prevent a tight seal from being formed. Likewise, never use a hammer to put a bung in place because it could cause more damage to the hole and actually increase the flow of water. It’s best to keep an appropriately-sized bung tied to every through-hull fitting below the waterline so there will always be one readily within reach. However, if a bung is not available or if it won’t fit the hole, use whatever is handy to try and stanch the flow. By jamming wadded clothing into a rudder, prop-shaft hole or crack in the hull and then using knives or fishing rod butts to further wedge the wad into place you may be able to slow the influx of water and buy some time.
  4. Use crash pumps. If you have an inboard or sterndrive you may be able to detach the engine’s raw-water intake hose and use the engine as a crash pump. Put it in the bilge and have someone keep an eye on the water level so you will know when you need to throttle back in order to prevent running dry and overheating the engine. Some boats are even outfitted with “safety seacock” adaptors, which allow you to alternate between engine intake and bilge whenever you find it necessary to do so.
  5. Trim to decrease the flow of water. If your boat begins taking on water, you need to do everything you can to slow the flow. Bear in mind that a ¾ inch hole 2 ½ feet below the waterline will let in 24 gallons-per-minute. Decreasing the rate of water admittance can be accomplished by raising the hole so it is closer to the waterline. For example, if the leak is on the port side, shift crew and gear to starboard.
  6. Head for shore. This gets you closer to safety and, if you can steer clear of rocks or high surf, purposefully ground your boat on a beach or sandbar may be a better alternative than sinking.
  7. Stay with the boat. This will create a bigger target for a helicopter and help rescuers locate you more quickly.

Every year, hundreds of recreational boaters find themselves in their worst-case sailing scenario. There’s no way to know if you’ll be one of them, but by having an action plan you can know that you and your crew are as prepared as possible for every boater’s worst nightmare.

“Image Credit: wikimedia.org

4 Tips For Safely Launching Your Boat

yacht-launching

It’s easy to wax poetic about the seductive allure of boating: between the shimmering water, the tousling breezes, and the dream of a blue sky, there are many elements of the activity that lend themselves well to being romanticized. The actual launching of the boat, however, is not one of them. When the line to the launch rivals the length of the Titanic, the ramp is slippery, and the driver is inexperienced, there is little room for seduction. By following the tips below, however, you can quickly and safely launch your boat and get back out on the water to once again give yourself over to the siren’s call!

Launching Your Yacht

  1. The most important key to successfully launch your boat is to get your bearings before you even begin backing up. After you have prepped your boat for launch, get out of your car and walk the ramp area so you know what kind of space you’re dealing with. Taking the time to visualize your path to the water and selecting a few landmarks to use as reference points will help you be able to more effectively contextualize what you will see in your mirrors as you back up.
  2. Backing up using just your mirrors can sometimes be disorienting and make it hard to know which way to move the wheel to get the boat to move in the direction you need. However, simply putting one hand at the bottom of the steering wheel can easily rectify this problem. When you use this technique, you only have to move your bottom hand in the direction you want the boat to go in as you watch it in your rearview mirror: if you want the boat to move right in the mirror, move your bottom hand to the right and you will see the boat move to the right in the mirror. In order to back up in a straight line, you need to keep the boat evenly spaced in both of your side-view mirrors. If the boat starts to favor one mirror more than the other, push your bottom hand in the opposite direction to correctly realign the boat.
  3. The easiest way to get your boat down the ramp is to try and do it in one straight shot backward. Try to align your car and boat so all you have to do is reverse in a straight line to the water’s edge. Before you put the car into gear, however, take a moment to look in your side-view mirrors and choose a couple of fixed points on each side that you can use to help you make sure you will back up in a straight line. As you reverse, make small corrections early to keep your boat centered between in your mirrors and it’s a good idea to take a couple of quick breaks and turn your head to get another perspective of the situation. One of the most important things is to go slowly: speed is one of the quickest ways to get yourself and your boat off track.
  4. However, not all ramps can be navigated by a straight shot: some launches will require that you execute a reverse turn before you reach the water, which calls for a little more finesse. In order for your turn to be successful, you will need your vehicle and boat to be aligned and facing the ramp just a bit before the trailer hits the water. Usually, the best way to do this is to begin the turn about two rig lengths from the top of the ramp. Select a fixed point in your mirror to act as the pivot point for the turn and choose a fixed point that will line up with the end of the turn so you will know when you’ve successfully completed it.

Ultimately, launching your boat can be a stressful prospect, especially if you’re launching at an unfamiliar or crowded ramp. However, by following the above steps you will be able to more confidently and easily navigate the situation. As you launch your boat, always remember to get out of your vehicle and scout out the situation before you even think about putting the car into reverse. And once you do begin backing up, it’s crucial that you back up slowly and make small corrections early on. It’s better to take more time and launch your boat on your first try, then to try and go quickly and have to keep starting over. That said, however, if you need to start over and pull forward so you can reposition your rig, do it! Your boat is worth more than your pride.

Additionally, launching your boat is much easier if you have another set of eyes to help guide you. If you’re feeling unsure about the best way to navigate the ramp, ask someone to help guide you through it. If you do decide to use a guide, however, make sure that you both work out what hand signals you’ll be using before the car is in motion. It’s no use having a helping hand if you don’t know what the hand is trying to help you to do.

“Image Credit: wikimedia.org

8 Tips for Keeping Your Oil Clean and Engine Smooth

yacht-engine

You don’t have to be an expert sailor to know that engine oil contamination is bad for a boat’s engine. In fact, you don’t even have to be a sailor: engine oil contamination can cause any machine, be it boat, lawnmower, or car, to experience equipment failures. Considering that oil is responsible for lubricating your engine and keeping your yacht engine running smoothly, it’s pretty crucial that your oil be clean if you want to enjoy a day out on the water. While oil has been engineered to be able to absorb and handle the presence of a few contaminants, too many contaminants will diminish the oil’s ability to do its job and hurt your engine.

Although there are many possible causes of oil contamination, there are three basic rules of thumb that are helpful to always keep in mind to keep your boat engine purring. First, you should change the oil in your boat’s engine after every 50 hours of use. Secondly, you should never drop the throttle before your engine has had the chance to warm up to operating temperature because this will contribute to fuel dilution and hamper the oil’s ability to flow well through the engine. And finally, if you do find any contaminants in your oil, always make sure to drain it out and then refill your engine.

In addition to these basic guidelines, here are eight possible causes of oil contamination and potential solutions to rectify the issue.

  1. Fuel: More often than not, fuel is public enemy number one when it comes to engine oil contaminants, especially in older carbureted engines. While fuel is the most common culprit, it’s also an easy fix: simply tune the engine. By making sure that the timing, carburetor tuning, distributor cap, plug wires, and spark plugs are all well calibrated, you can avoid the your engine oil being contaminated by fuel.
  2. Belt Dust: If the belts of your engine are not well adjusted they will create dust that will be suffused throughout the engine compartment. When this dust is sucked through the flame arrester or air intake, it can contaminate the oil. You need to cut down on how much dust enters the engine by aligning the belt pulleys and maintaining proper belt tension.
  3. Rust: Rusty pulleys cause belt dust and reduce belt life. You can refinish your pulleys or replace them with pulleys that have been sanded smooth and powder-coated.
  4. Foam: Meant to reduce the sound of the engine, foam is glued to the underside of the engine hatch. Over time, the foam can decay and be sucked into the engine intake, thereby contaminating the oil. Check your engine for any foam that appears to be deteriorating and make sure to thoroughly remove it before replacing it with new foam.
  5. Sticky Exhaust Valves: If a valve is not completely closed, the exhaust manifold may pull water back into the engine. Frequently, sticky valves are caused because the engine is running too rich, which results in exhaust deposits to be left on valve seats and stems. Consequently, regular maintenance will help to rectify this issue.
  6. Cracks: If your engine is improperly winterized, there may be cracks in your block, exhaust, or intake manifold, which may allow water to seep in. To check if this is the case, fill your engine with clean oil and let it run. If the oil level of your engine rises and it appears to be milky, that is an indication that water is seeping into the engine. Make sure to repair any cracks.
  7. Overheating: Overheating can be attributed to a variety of issues with your engine. For example, a faulty water pump or blocked cooling passages can both cause overheating, which may allow water to leak in and contaminate your oil. Keep in mind that it will often take extremely high temperatures to create cracks in cylinder heads and blocks.
  8. If your engine is running and the boat is in motion, even seemingly tiny water leaks from fittings can allow trickles of water to make their way into the engine by way of the flame arrester. This can be avoided by giving your engine a close inspection to see if there are any water leaks while the engine is on. If there are, make sure to tighten clamps and fittings, and replace any hoses.

Ultimately, most oil contamination can be avoided by making sure that your boat’s engine is regularly maintained and kept in good working condition. It’s always a good idea to conduct frequent check-ups of your engine before going out on the water so you don’t experience any mechanical failures or malfunctions that can leave you adrift. Moreover, engine trouble can happen to anyone so it’s always best to be prepared for the worst: always be sure to have a radio on board in case the unexpected occurs and you’re unable to make your way back to shore.

“Image Credit: flickr.com

How To Safely Navigate Bridges, Locks, and Dams

yacht-bridge

Although boating is a form of transportation that has existed for thousands of years, it has never lost its beguiling or fantastic allure. For both experienced sailors and landlubbers alike, it’s easy to wax poetical about a clear horizon and water-edged breeze. Regardless of your proximity to it, the romance of sailing the open sea is hard to resist. What’s less romanticized, however, is the actual process of getting there, which often requires you to first make your way through a canal or beneath a bridge, a task that calls for keen awareness and navigational skill. By following the guidelines below, you can more safely traverse the narrow waterways that lie between you and the promise of open waters. Although bridges, locks, and dams each bring their own unique set of navigational challenges, simply slowing down and knowing your vessel will help to mitigate the obstacles each may present.

Bridges

For novice boaters, passing beneath a bridge can be a somewhat daunting prospect. Considering that both traffic and the current often increase around bridges, this trepidation is understandable, but it can also be managed. One of the best ways to ensure a safe passing is by doing your research ahead of time: make sure that you know whether the height of the bridge will impact your ability to go beneath it and have an understanding of how the waterway’s current will factor into the equation, as well.
It’s always a good idea to call the bridge and check that the clearance boards posted are correct. Moreover, you can usually expect the clearance to increase by about two to four feet if you pass below the center of a drawbridge. That said, knowing the height of the bridge is only helpful if you know the height of your own vessel, which can easily be accomplished by measuring from your boat’s highest point to the deck and then measuring from that deck to the waterline and include deck camber.
When it comes to the current, expect that it will be stronger. You should always yield the right of way to boats with a strong current on their stern so they can go through first. Bear in mind that if you’re contending with a strong current or breeze and you’re not sure you can clear a bridge at the lowest point, it’s a good rule of thumb to call for an opening. Although unnecessary bridge openings can result in a stiff fine, traffic and weather conditions will be considered.
While personal watercrafts don’t need to worry about the height of a bridge, they do need to consider the impact of other traffic. Always be aware of the position of other vessels and never assume they are aware of yours. Finally, regardless of the size of a boat, any wake can have a significant impact on its course so slow down to a no wake speed when you’re going under a bridge.

Locks

When it comes to locks, the most important thing is to slow down early because narrow canals make it easy for wakes to travel far and can easily knock boats off course. Secondly, you should always call on the VHF because the lockmaster will be able to tell you where you’ll have the least amount of turbulence. Moreover, many lockmasters will let larger vessels in through the locks first so they will have more space to maneuver.
It can be difficult to know how many lines you may need or where to attach them when you’re going through a lock. Large locks often only require bow line and stern line, which can be fastened to the floating ballards on lock walls. However, if a line is provided from above it’s a good idea to attach it to the cleats across the boat from the lock wall because this will help to better hold the boat against the lock wall when the water goes down.

Dams

For both large and small vessels alike, the dangers a dam presents are often quite deceptive. Even if a spillway is not open, the dam is most likely still making power, which frequently results in a strong current. This can be difficult for boaters to notice, however, because things in the water will be moving at the same speed as their vessel. Moreover, all it takes for a current to graduate from weak to strong is for a generator to be turned on and you can suddenly find yourself being sucked toward the dam. Consequently, it’s best to head upstream of a dam for water sports and kayaks and sailboats should stick close to the shore in case the wind falls or arms tire. Moreover, reservoirs are often hundreds of feet deep, which make them the last place you want to find yourself if your boat breaks down or runs out of gas because they are too deep for you to be able to anchor.
Even small dams can prove to be quite hazardous. Low-head dams or weirs are concrete walls that are submerged beneath the surface and allow the water to spill over the top of them. For boats upstream, they are difficult to see until you’re practically right on top them, while boats downstream may be pulled back towards them by the strong surface current they create. As a result, exercise caution and awareness and be sure to give weirs as wide a berth as possible.

“Image Credit: flickr.com “

Here is a Method That is Helping Yachters in Low Visibility Conditions

fog

Once you’ve been boating long enough, there are certain aspects that become second nature. For example, looking up the weather before departing, checking that there is a lifejacket for each passenger on board, or always making sure the load of people or gear is balanced so that your boat maintains proper trim. These things, and many more, are all items on your boating checklist that you begin to cycle through and check off unthinkingly once you become experienced.

Regardless of your experience level, however, there are some things that never become intuitive and boating in times of low visibility is one of them. To that end, the United States Coast Guard has implemented a variety of different navigation aids that boaters can use to help them safely negotiate their course. One of the most common, and dangerous, causes for limited visibility is fog.

Knowing how to safely navigate your vessel even when fog has significantly reduced visibility is the mark of an experienced and confident sailor. While the USCG maintains a variety of navaids to help vessels safely stay their course, there are two guidelines that you should always adhere to no matter what electronics navigation equipment is on board or which external navaids are present. First, you should always decrease the speed of your vessel. Even if you are confident the fog will not affect your ability to easily pilot your vessel to your destination you should never count on other vessels to be able to do the same. Secondly, post lookouts and have them listen for other vessels. Although technology has significantly improved our ability to safely navigate the open sea, it is not infallible and should not be used in place of common sense and basic awareness.

With these basic tools in place, external navaids can be better utilized. In order to decrease the risk of collision or losing one’s bearings during times of limited visibility, boaters can rely on sound signals that are emitted from aids to navigation. Different types of sound signals, such as a diaphone, gong, siren, or horn, are used to help a boater establish their position and identify the lateral navigation aids. However, although many boaters believe that the sound signals released from jetty lights, navigational buoys, and other navigational aids are automatically activated when visibility becomes limited, unfortunately, this is not the case for all of them.

Many navigational aids will only begin issuing a sound signal once they have been activated to do so. The system of activation for emitting these sounds signals, however, is about to change as the USCG is in the process of implementing the new Mariner Radio Activated Sound Signal (MRASS) system, which allows boaters to activate the signals themselves by keying their VHF radio microphones five times on a specifically designated frequency. Provided that the boater is within VHF range, once it’s activated the navaid will release the sound signal at its designated intervals.

Each MRASS will have its own VHF frequency and currently authorized channels include 81A and 83A. That said, however, if those frequencies are functioning as working channels for a port then a different frequency will be assigned. A list of the correct MRASS frequencies will be included on current NOAA nautical charts. Although NOAA no longer offers printed charts, the most up-to-date charts can be downloaded as PDFs from their website, http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/pdfcharts/. While MRASS is intended to be a Coast Guard wide change, currently there is not an established timeline for when the system will become fully operational.

Under both the new MRASS and the old Remote Radio Activated Sound Signal (RRASS) system, the sound signal will remain active for 30 minutes once it has been cued. In many ways, this new system is a significant improvement to the old one, which required a boater to first call the Coast Guard on VHF channel 16 and then verbally request the sound signal to be activated. However, although MRASS does improve upon the previous system, there are still some issues that may potentially arise with the new method.

The cause for concern stems from the fact that MRASS will be implemented in a somewhat piecemeal fashion. In other words, because MRASS will not be the standard technique for sound activation on all navigational aids, it may be difficult for boaters to know which navaids use which system of sound signal activation. Although nautical charts do, of course, illustrate the location of sound navaids, there is currently no way for boaters to use the chart to tell them which method of sound activation they should rely on. The USCG hopes to limit the impact of this possible issue by having NOAA include some sort of symbol on nautical charts that would specify whether the navaid uses MRASS or RRASS.

Ultimately, while boating in foggy conditions is a reason to exercise significant caution and it can also be stressful, there are methods that you can use to keep you and your passengers safe. By keeping up-to-date with the latest technologies and systems, slowing down, and always being aware, even times of limited visibility can be safely managed.

 “Image Credit: flickr.com

The 3 Part Recipe For Easy Docking

yacht-docking

Anyone can push the throttle forward in open water, but it takes someone who is truly in touch with their boat to execute an elegant docking maneuver.

Gliding gracefully into a docking area is one of the most satisfying and impressive parts of boating. Confidence comes with experience, but it also helps to have some secrets and tips for making docking easier.

The position of the wheel, the force and timing of the throttle, wind direction, and the pull of the current all come in to play. Docking well requires more than just knowledge of the conditions, however. It takes technique.

The Recipe For Easy Docking

Docking well is an exercise in finesse. Here is the three part recipe that will help you dock like never before.

1. Know Your Turning Circle. Your boat‘s turning circle is determined by the amount of space your boat needs to make a full turn. This can change at different speeds and in different conditions. Knowing your turning circle in a given situation can help you know how and when to turn when docking. Whether you are dead ended in the fairway of your marina or you’re working against a current at a fueling dock, knowing your turning circle will help you maneuver with ease. You can get a good sense of your turning circle by taking note of landmarks you pass while on the water like bow pulpits, pilings, and raised outboards. Practice this until you have it down pat. The more you do it, the more you will ingrain it in your mind and movements. Over time, your turning circle at different speeds and in different conditions will become intuitive.

TIP: Props aft of your boat’s transom create a wider turning circle than props that are forward of your transom.

2. Know Your Boat’s Carry. Carry is the distance your boat coasts when you cut the throttle. It also takes into account the amount of force behind your boat as it glides through the water. Slicing through the water after shifting into neutral is not only fun, it’s important to know when timing the use of throttle in different wind and current conditions when docking. Underwater form, the diameter of your propeller and windage all affect how far your boat carries. As a general rule, deeper, taller boats, and boats with larger wheels carry farther.  Carry varies with boat speed, wind, and current. Paying attention to all three of these variables is crucial to a successful docking maneuver.

TIP: monitor your engine’s rpms instead of the boat speed to get a better sense of how current and windage are affecting carry. This can help you avoid the uncomfortable and often embarrassing situation of having to throw the throttle wide open in reverse to stop a collision from occurring

3. Know Your Kick. Kick refers to the sideways movement and direction of the stern of your yacht when you shift into gear. The end goal of docking is to stop at the dock. Knowing your kick will help you get a feel for how and when to apply reverse thrust when pulling up to the dock. Basically, when you turn your propeller, you create a sideways force called propeller torque. This torque and the effect it creates on your boat is called the kick. Rpms and propeller rotation direction will create variance within the kick. The placement of the rudder and gear case on your yacht can also have an effect on your kick. So how can you use kick knowledge to dock well? Keep an eye on your rudder and gear case position along with your rpms before shifting. Shifting into neutral before making rudder changes will also give you more control. A great way to practice is by centering your rudder, then taking note of how changes in propeller rotation and rpms have on your boat.

TIP: Movement of crew or passengers can cause listing, which will effect your kick and the way your boat handles.

There are more components to docking, and everyone has their own methods and techniques. The key is to spend time with your boat, get to know how it operates in different conditions, and practice. The more times you approach a dock, the better understanding you will have of how your vessel behaves in different conditions and with different methods.  Combining this 3 part docking recipe with your own knowledge and experience of docking your yacht will have you pulling into marina and fueling stations with confidence and precision.

“Image Credit: flickr.com