Kill Switch

Must-have devices that could save your life

By Dave Osmolski

I have just returned home after spending a few weeks at my “homemade tropical paradise” in Flamingo Bay, Florida, where I can boat, fish, swim and enjoy some of the best shelling in the U.S. I keep my boat in my backyard, so I can be off and running in a jiffy.

During this trip, I learned of a boater who died in an avoidable boating accident, the second boating accident fatality in the area in a few years. Both fatalities could have been avoided had the proper safety procedures been followed.

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Photo of boats transiting the Swinomish Channel

Transiting the Swinomish Channel

By Michael Guelker-Cone

Most of us have a bucket list of things we want to accomplish or places we want to go before heading off to that great marina in the sky. My list of places to visit has expanded along with my experience and the confidence that came with it. Many places on my list are close to home, including Washington’s Swinomish Channel. I kept putting it off because of the horror stories I’d heard of boaters running aground in the channel. In Seamanship and Piloting, I’d been warned that it wasn’t a matter of whether you’d ever run aground but when.

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Cracked hose

Check your engine for cracked hoses

By Nick Ledbetter

Every good captain conducts an engine check before departing on a cruise. I have diligently conducted engine checks on my boat for years, always before a cruise and sometimes when I’m just messing around in my boat.

This check was much easier on my trailerable runabout where I could just pop the cover and quickly see every angle of the entire engine. It’s a bigger job on HoloHolo where I have to get down into the engine compartments and crawl around the front, back, top and bottom to get to the dipsticks, belts, hoses and other checkable parts. Getting through the checklist is literally a pain in the knees and elbows.

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Photo of 2018 Charles F. Chapman Award Recipients

2018 Charles F. Chapman Award Recipients Honored

By Yvonne Hill with photos by Art Dodd

Each year, we recognize the top educators in United States Power Squadrons, America’s Boating Club, with the Charles F. Chapman Award for Excellence in Teaching. These volunteer instructors have devoted themselves to teaching boating and boater safety courses to prepare our members to become the best trained, most prepared boaters on the water.

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Exploring the overlooked anchorage of Polkinghorne Islands

By Steve Lorimer

On several trips to northern British Columbia or southeastern Alaska, I’d noticed the Polkinghorne Islands just west of Wells Passage. We’d passed these islands in deep fog without seeing them a number of times, but in summer 2016 I vowed that it was time for a visit.

None of the guidebooks mentioned the islands as a safe anchorage, but when talking with Billy Proctor, an old-time commercial fisherman, environmentalist and year-round resident of Echo Bay, he mentioned anchoring there while salmon fishing in nearby waters. That did it! He had confirmed what I had speculated, and as we left Sullivan Bay in the Broughton Islands, we headed for the Polkinghornes.

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Spring 2019 Photo Contest winners


Members submitted and voted on their favorite boating photos

Via an online poll, USPS members voted for their favorite photo in The Ensign’s Spring 2019 Photo Contest, in which we invited photographers to submit their best boating photos.

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Fishing Boats in Angelmo, Puerto Montt, Chile

Rounding the Horn

By Rafael Belliard

When my first mate Linda, the perennial travel opportunities researcher, found the perfect way to round the cape, we decided to make it happen. We would take the trip with back-to-back cruises from Miami, Florida, to Valparaiso, Chile, and on to Buenos Aires, Argentina, which included the much sought-after “rounding of the Horn.”

In the Winter 2019 issue, we detailed our trip from Miami to Chile. Here, we complete our cruise around Cape Horn.

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Photo accompanying Building a Boat showing a glued lapstrake sailboat on the water

Building a Boat

By Al Meyer

The beginning

I launched my previous boat, Wee Lass, a Penobscot 14 designed by Arch Davis, in 2004 and had lots of fun with it. In 2008, Hurricane Ike damaged the boat, but I repaired it and got it back in the water.

The boat developed a slow leak where the centerboard case joins the hull. Over time, it became more and more of a nuisance. When I noticed discoloration on some of the hull planks, I decided to start building a replacement.

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Dock on deck logo

Emergency room afloat

The medical kit and  the conscientious boater, Part I

By Gino C. Bottino, M.D.

The realization

When I started this column, I wanted to write about putting together a complete medical kit. The more I thought about the idea, the more I realized how complicated the task would be.

First, you have to keep the size manageable while making it reasonably complete. This becomes difficult when you consider that everyone boats in different venues, at different times of the year and in different climates with different groups of people, all of whom have individual needs.

After much consideration, I broke the topic into two segments: on-board medical kits for groups with an organizer and staff, and kits for those traveling alone.

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Woman to Woman

Harrowing docking experience

By Capt. Katherine Redmond

My favorite story revolves around an experience my husband and I had while travelling on the Intracoastal Waterway in our first powerboat during our first live-aboard experience. (We had previously been sailors.) Having no experience with powerboats and after spending three weeks in a V-berth on our friend’s sailboat, we bought what should have been a houseboat. It had a full-size refrigerator and stove and a large bathtub! It also had a single inboard engine (which, in my opinion, is the most difficult to control, especially in reverse), a shallow keel, and was so top-heavy that a sneeze could cause its 46-foot frame to heel precariously.

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