Know your VHF channels

By Art Steinberg

If you carry a VHF radio onboard (and you should), you must maintain a watch on channel 16 when the radio is on and not being used to communicate. You may also maintain a watch on VHF channel 9. Note that urgent marine information broadcasts, such as storm warnings, are announced on channel 9 only in USCG First District waters (northern New Jersey, New York and New England).

Most radios have a memory scan option where you can add specific channels to the memory and press scan. The radio quickly switches through and listens to each channel, pausing if someone is using that channel and then resuming the scan.

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4 steps to fix a leak on your boat

4 steps to fix a leak on your boat

By Keith Dahlin

Back in the early ’90s, I lived aboard my Columbia 28 while attending university. I often walked down the dock like a kid in a candy store, making note of the boats I liked (and wanted). One in particular always made my mouth water. A few slips down from me floated September, a classic, beautifully lined Cal 40.

While walking to the marina early one morning, I found September 6 feet deep. Only the mast and spreaders placed the boat within its slip. Shocked and bewildered, I later found out that a seacock or hose connection failure had caused the boat to sink. I imagined it silently sinking in the middle of the night.

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Rig your own emergency lightning protection

Rig your own emergency lightning protection

By Dave Osmolski

In my 14 years as a vessel examiner, I have rarely seen a set of jumper cables on a boat, and I don’t carry jumper cables on mine. I carry four batteries, any one of which is capable of starting my engine. The odds of all four being depleted at the same time are minuscule.

Talking with my brother-in-law, a former sailor, got me thinking of sailboats and equipment. The day was stormy, and we were discussing a sailboat’s predilection for lightning strikes. We talked about using jumper cables as emergency lightning protection by directing the current from a lightning hit to the water. While not a perfect solution, it would be better than having lightning blow out a metal underwater fitting.

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Boating app tracks gear on board

Boating app tracks gear on board

By Steve Hayes

In preparation for DIY boat repairs, we collect spare parts and repair materials and store them in the many little nooks on our boat. The challenge comes in remembering what you have and locating it when you need it.

The “What’s on My Boat?” iPhone app may help. The developer, Intelligent Maintenance, has a series of inventory-oriented applications for boats, attics, closets, etc. The iPhone app lets you back up the database to Dropbox and download it to your other Apple devices.

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A clean boat is essential for all boaters

A clean boat is essential for all boaters

By Dave Osmolski

After unwrapping our boats from their winter cocoons, we spend hours cleaning, deodorizing and waxing our boats until they gleam. Then we jump in the boat and proceed to splatterthem with all manner of food, drink, bait, fish blood and entrails, saltwater, and heaven knows what else. After returning home from a delightful day on the water, we usually only have enough energy for a quick freshwater rinse to remove the salt.

If you have ever walked on the docks where charter boats tie up, you’ll notice that long after the fish are cleaned and the clients have departed, the captain and mate are still scrubbing, cleaning and polishing. Often it’s just the mate. As the main tool of the captain’s trade, the boat should look nice and clean for the next charter. And a clean boat is also a boat with fewer problems.

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Navigating the unknown

Navigating the unknown

When it comes to cruising in unfamiliar waters, even veteran boaters get sweaty palms and make beginner mistakes. Instead of regaling you with mine, I’m passing along 10 tips I learned the hard way.

1.  Pre-plot your course

This is really a double tip, because you have to buy the right charts before you can pre-plot your course. Get an up-to-date chart that shows an overview of the entire area as well as detailed charts of the harbors along the way. Spread the charts out at home, and plot your route ahead of time. Pencil in the courses you’ll be steering along with their compass headings. Navigating will be so much easier.

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A flare for safety

As a boater, you should have the required flares on board, but do you know how and when to use them?

flare-copywebWhen to use flares

  • You want to use your flares when you are in distress and in a location where they can be seen by someone. If you have radioed or called for help, you may be asked to fire a flare to pinpoint your location, so you can be spotted at sea and from the air.
  • If searching for you, the U.S. Coast Guard may ask you to set off a flare or an orange smoke flare in the daytime. Lighted flares are effective for short time spans (some for 8–10 seconds, others for 2–3 minutes), so use them efficiently with foreknowledge and practice. Don’t wait until the need arises before preparing for action; it could make the difference between life and death.

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