Bright Ideas To Help You With Your Boating Chores

Light Bulb Every now and then, pour a shot of cooking oil into your marine toilet, especially if it’s difficult to pump. This will lubricate the seals, “O” rings and moving parts.

Light Bulb If you are going to bathe in salt water use shampoo or joy. A rich cleaning lather will result.

Light Bulb Add a little rice to your salt shaker to help keep the contents flowing easily.

Light Bulb Formula for figuring out how much bottom paint in gallons you’ll need for one coat. One coat = your boat’s LOA x Beam x .85 divided by square feet covered per gallon listed on the paint can.

Light Bulb For two cycle engines that require a 50: 1 mix of oil to gas, use one pint of oil for every six gallons of gas. For a 100: 1 mix of oil to gas use 1/2 pint of oil for every six gallons of gas.

Light Bulb After washing the interior of your boat, add a small amount of Mildicide powder to the rinse water. This will keep the interior mildew free longer.

Light Bulb To remove mildew from the interior walls of your boat pour two tablespoons of non-chlorine bleach into a spray bottle. Spray then wipe. It cleans the mildew away and will help prevent the mildew from coming back.

Light Bulb Increasing a propeller’s pitch by one inch will reduce the rpm by 50 to 100.

Light Bulb There are a lot of sail and canvas cleaners on the market. Star Bright makes a canvas cleaner that works pretty good on dirt, grease and mildew stains. Use a mild dish washing liquid like Joy or Ivory, that’s if the canvas is in good shape. It’s best cleaned with lukewarm water (under 100 degrees f) and mild natural soap. Mix a 1/2 cup of non-chlorine bleach and 1/4 cup of natural soap(not harsh detergent) with one gallon of water. Let it soak in. Use a brush for stubborn stains, then rinse with cold water and allow to air dry. You want to use something mild, that will not weaken the fabric or threads.

Light Bulb A product called Mirror Glaze works great on plastic windows. They have several brands depending on how aggressive your cleaning needs are. The plastic will last longer if covered from the UV rays. UV rays in a short time will discolor the plastic turning it brown. After cleaning make sure no water is left on the vinyl window, the sun will boil the water and leave a permanent discoloration.

Light Bulb Next time you haulout, polish your propeller then coat it with Teflon grease. No living critter can hold onto it. It will last for months.

Light Bulb In clear water, to determine your distance from the horizon, use this formula. Distance from the horizon = 1.17 x the square root of the height above the sea in feet.

Light Bulb To find the eye of a hurricane, face the wind and with your right hand, point 112 degrees to your right. In the southern hemisphere face the wind and with your left hand, point 112 degrees to your left.

Light Bulb For a quick clean up of your fish blood stained and smelly cutting board, rub in meat tenderizer paste, let sit for 20 minutes. Rinse with cool water then rub with half of a lime.

Light Bulb Use liquid neoprene to seal electrical connections that won’t stay dry. It seals as well as insulates.

Light Bulb Try unplugging your trailer’s light harness from your tow vehicle before backing up into the cold water. This will maximize bulb life, because the bulb won’t be subjected to the thermal shock.

Light Bulb To eliminate corrosion, increase durability and improve serviceability of trailer light bulbs, boat running lights, remove each bulb and coat the metal base with dielectric grease

What Accident Statistics Reveal

While doing some research for National Safe Boating Week, we ran across some interesting statistics. The following chart lists the states with the most boating accidents, according to the USCG Office of Boating Safety.

ChartObject Number of AccidentsTop Ten States 1997

Unfortunately, Florida has a commanding lead, with California second. This is probably understandable because of the vast amount of shoreline these states have. However, what about Texas? They ring in at number ten and have much more shoreline than all the other “waterfront” states that are listed. And…what’s up with Missouri and Arizona? How many boats could these small states have?

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Looking at the top ten states with the greatest number of registered boats highlights some other interesting items. Even though Florida is third in registered boats, they jump to number one in accidents. (Perhaps because of the year-round boating season.) California holds at number two in both categories and Michigan, with the most registered boats (who would have guessed that?), is third in accidents. Texas, fifth in numbers of registered boats is tenth in accidents. They must be doing something right. And…congratulations to South Carolina, Ohio and Illinois who are eighth, ninth and ten respectively in number of boats but don’t show up at all in the top ten accident states.

Since Florida had the most accidents, we went a little further in our investigation of their specific statistics and found some interesting results. According to Florida’s 1998 recreational boating accident statistics, 77% of all boating accidents involved males while only 23% involved females.

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Another interesting statistic was the age and experience of the operator involved in an accident. It is obvious that the problems lie in the 22-51+ range, however, these boaters are not required to have any boating safety education in Florida. Currently, only those born after September 30, 1980 are required to have any boating safety education.

As far as experience is concerned, 48% of all accidents involved boaters with 100+ hours of operator experience; 18% involved boaters with 10-100 hours of experience; 17% involved boaters with less than 10 hours of experience. The remainder of accidents had no entry for number of hours experience. Seems like those with the most experience cause the most accidents. Or, perhaps, the more time you spend on the water, the higher your odds of being involved in an accident. Interesting!

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Do you think boating education helps in preventing accidents? As you can see from the chart above, 2.5 times as many accidents involve boaters who have had no boating safety instruction.

Other 1998 FL Recreational Boating Accident Statistics of Note:

35% of boating accidents were directly attributable to alcohol use and the overwhelming primary cause of fatalities was alcohol-related. If you drink and boat, you are more likely to be involved in an accident, and once involved, more likely to die. A sobering thought!

53% of fatal boating accident victims drowned, while 39% suffered trauma and 9% died of other causes.

Bottom line: don’t drink and boat, wear your lifejacket, take a safe boating course and maintain a proper lookout, especially for boaters who fit the profile of an accident-maker.

Navigating Inlets

Arguably, one of the most dangerous locations that a small boat can be located is in the jaws of an ocean inlet with a strong onshore wind and a maximum ebb tidal current. The waves become greater in height and shorter in period.

These conditions are very dangerous for all vessels, especially the smaller ones. Today, while training with one of my boat crews, we exited the Fort Pierce Inlet on a strong 4 knot ebb tidal current and nearly 20 knots of easterly wind. Due to the opposing forces of wind and current, the waves in the inlet were four to six feet in height. Although we took green water over the bow, our 41 foot Coast Guard vessel easily handled the conditions. After about an hour of offshore training we began our transit back into the inlet.

As we approached the mouth of the inlet we were surprised to observe a small 16 foot open boat, powered by an outboard engine, approaching the mouth of the inlet from inshore. It they had entered the larger waves just offshore from their position they would have been in jeopardy of being flooded by the six foot breaking waves. Wisely, the boat full of young teenagers turned around and headed inshore. Yes, they were wise to turn around, but were they wise to approach so close to the dangerous location? Would they have taken their boat so close to the edge of Niagara Falls and turned around at the last minute?

Many a mariner has underestimated the dangers associated with ocean inlets. If the boat’s propeller was suddenly fouled by debris or the engine had mechanical problems, the strong ebb tidal current would have quickly carried them into the larger seas and threatened them with capsizing. Shortly after we moored up from our training mission, this boat full of teenagers ironically ran out of gas not far from the station and called us for help. Needless to say they were very lucky that they did not run out of gas during their close approach to the inlet.

All mariners should be extra careful when transiting North America’s inlets during the winter months. The ocean tends to get rougher during the winter due to the much stronger winds associated with this season. Our inlets become much more dangerous places for small vessels. Not only is it rougher, but the waters are colder, increasing the threat of hypothermia in the event that a boater is thrown into the water as a result of capsizing.

Before determining whether to transit an inlet and head offshore, mariners should obtain a marine weather forecast and know the state of the tidal current. The mariner should also know the limitations of their vessel. Some vessels are more suitably designed to handle the rougher conditions. The mariner must also be careful not to over-estimate their personal abilities to safely handle their vessel during the heavy weather conditions.

If you were already offshore when the weather deteriorated, causing the inlet to become too dangerous to transit, it is often best to wait offshore for the tidal current to begin flooding. The flooding tidal current will significantly improve the conditions, usually reducing the wave height and increasing the wave period. An attempt to transit during the worst conditions can result in broaching, capsizing or even worse; pitchpoling. Pitchpoling occurs when a following sea lifts the stern of your vessel up so high that the vessel tumbles end over end.

It is very difficult to determine the inlet conditions from seaward. While offshore your vision is limited to seeing the smooth backs of the waves as they roll towards the inlet or shore. Whereas from shore or inside the inlet, you can clearly see how bad the conditions actually are as you observe the whitewater spilling off the tops of the waves. The nighttime conditions of darkness worsen the situation 1000-fold. If you are concerned for your safety, by all means call the nearest Coast Guard Station and describe your situation.

Strong offshore ocean currents can also cause dangerous conditions similar to those found in inlets. The Gulf Stream running north at 4 knots and an opposing wind of 20 knots will result in the wave height being considerably increased and the wave period being decreased. The Gulf Stream can also cause very dangerous conditions for small boats. Transits across the “Stream” should be carefully planned with a close eye kept on the weather.

To learn more about this topic I encourage you to complete a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Boating Skills and Seamanship Course. To find out the location of the course being offered near you call 1-(800) 368-5647. If you are interested in helping others while helping yourself please consider joining the U.S. Coast Guard. Call 1-(800) GET-USCG

Marine Fire Prevention and Control

Classifications of Fire

In order to successfully put out a fire, you need to use the most suitable type of extinguishing agent—one that will do the job in the least amount of time, cause the least amount of damage and result in the least danger to crew members. The job of picking the proper agent has been made easier by the classification of fire types, or classes, lettered A through D. Within each class are all fires involving materials with similar burning properties and requiring similar extinguishing agents. However, most fuels are found in combinations, and electrical fires always involve some solid fuel. Thus, for firefighting purposes, there are actually seven possible fire classes. Knowledge of these classes is essential to firefighting, as well as knowing the burning characteristics of materials found aboard vessels.

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Those of you who have taken the Nautical Know How Boating Basics Online Course may remember discussion of the fire triangle which is composed of heat, fuel and air. These three things are needed to make a fire, remove any one of them and the fire is extinguished.

To move into a slightly more advanced theory of fires, there is a fourth ingredient necessary for fire, and the “fire tetrahedron” more accurately demonstrates the combustion process. A tetrahedron is a solid figure with four triangular faces. It contains the four things required for combustion; fuel (to vaporize and burn), oxygen (to combine with the fuel vapor), heat (to raise the vapor to its ignition point) and the chain reaction (the chemical reaction among the fuel, oxygen and heat). Remove any of these four and you have no fire.

Class A Fires —Fires of common combustible solids such as wood, paper and plastic are best put out by water, a cooling agent. Foam and certain dry chemicals, which act mainly as smothering or chain-breaking agents, may also be used.

Class B Fires —Fires caused by flammable liquids such as oil, grease, gas and other substances give off large amounts of flammable vapors and require smothering agents to do the job. Dry chemical, foam and carbon dioxide (CO2) may be used. However, if the fire is being supplied with fuel by an open valve or broken fuel line, you must first shut down the source of the fuel. This action alone may stop the fire or at least make it easier to put out.

In a gas fire, it is important to shut down the source of the fuel. Attempting to put out the fire without shutting down the sources, creates an explosive hazard that is more dangerous than the fire itself.

If may be necessary to put out a gas fire before shutting down the fuel supply in order to save a life or reach the supply valve, but these should be the only exceptions.

Combination Class A and B Fires —Water fog and foam may be used to smother fires involving both solid fuels and flammable liquids or gases. These agents also have some cooling effect on the fire. In enclosed spaces, CO2 may also be used. Caution: CO2 robs the air of oxygen and can suffocate a person using CO2 to put out the fire in enclosed spaces.

Class C Fires —For fires involving energized electrical equipment, conductors or appliances, non-conducting extinguishing agents must be used such as CO2, Halon and dry chemical. Note that dry chemical may ruin electronic equipment. Always attempt to remove the source of electricity to remove the chance of shock and the source of the ignition.

Combination Class A and C Fires —Since energized electrical equipment is involved in these fires, non-conducting agents must be used. CO2, Halon, and dry chemicals are best. CO2 reduces the oxygen supply, while the others break the chain reaction. REMEMBER: Always try to de-energize the circuit.

Combination Class B and C Fires —Again, a non-conducting agent is required. Fires involving flammable liquids or gases and electrical equipment may be extinguished with Halon or dry chemical acting as a chain reaction breaker. In enclosed spaces, they may be extinguished with CO2.

Combination Class D Fires —These fires may involve combustible metals such as potassium, sodium, and their alloys, and magnesium, zinc, zirconium, titanium and aluminum. They burn on the metal surface at very high temperature, often with a brilliant flame.

Water should not be used on Class D fires. It may add to the intensity and cause the molten metal to splatter. This, in turn, can extend the fire and inflict serious burns on those near by.

Combustible metal fires can be smothered and controlled with special agents known as dry powders. Although many people use the term interchangeably with dry chemicals, the agents are used on entirely different types of fires: dry powders are used only to put out combustible metal fires; dry chemicals may be used on other fires, but not on Class D fires.

Fire Extinguishing Agents
Agent Advantages Disadvantages
  • Always Available
  • Excellent cooling properties
  • Provides protection for fire party
  • Best choice for Class A
  • Not to be used on Electrical Fires
  • Can reduce stability
  • Can spread Class B fires
  • Damages/destroys equipment
  • Forms air-tight blanket over burning liquids
  • Minimal chance of re-flash
  • Can be used from distance-around corners, from upper decks
  • Not to be used on Electrical Fires
  • Damages/destroys equipment
  • Knocks down flames
  • Fast and effective
  • 15′ range
  • Rated for Class B and C fires
  • Minimal Protection against re-flash
  • Highly corrosive to electronic equip.
  • Agent can cake and solidify in container
Carbon Dioxide
  • Safe for Class C
  • Non-corrosive, non damaging to equip.
  • Minimal chance of re-flash in sealed space
  • Effective on small Class A & B fires in open spaces
  • Displaces oxygen – can kill firefighters
  • No re-flash protection in open spaces
  • Safe for Class C
  • Non-corrosive, non damaging to equip.
  • Minimal chance of re-flash in sealed space
  • Effective on small Class A & B fires in open spaces
  • No re-flash protection in open spaces
  • In very hot fires, can generate deadly phosgene gas
  • No longer available after 2000 AD

Procedures for Fighting a Fire Onboard

Signal : Continuous sounding of ship’s whistle & General Alarm
for at least 10 seconds

F IND the fire, the location, and its size
I NFORM the Captain immediately to:

  • Sound the general alarm to muster the crew and notify all hands
  • Make a distress call to Coast Guard and nearby vessels
  • Activate emergency firefighting equipment
R ESTRICT the fire

  • Shut off air supply to the fire – close hatches, ports, etc.
  • De-energize electrical systems in affected space
  • Set fire boundaries to confine the fire
  • Shut off fuel supply and ventilation
  • Maneuver vessel to minimize the effect of wind on the fire
  • Prior to activating fixed extinguishing system, ensure that all personnel have been evacuated from the space
E XTINGUISH the fire

  • Determine class of fire, appropriate equipment, extinguishing agent and method of attack
  • Overhaul and set re-flash watch
  • Muster crew to account for all personnel
  • If unable to control fire, prepare to abandon the vessel


As soon as water is used for extinguishing, dewatering procedures should commence to avoid impairment of stability!

Fires on PWC

Feature FIRE! although fires in PWCÂ’s do not occur often, they are something we can help avoid and be prepared for.

Fire is known as combustion and is defined as a rapid reaction between a combustible fuel and oxygen producing energy in the form of heat and light. Simply speaking this provides the energy to move your watercraft.

Basically, fire involves three substance combinations; heat, fuel and oxygen. Under the hood of your PWC the engine generates heat, there is fuel in the form of gas and oil and oxygen in the air. I guess you never thought you rode a time bomb!!! Not really. Everything is in a controlled environment or in balance.

Improper balance could result in a fire leading to damage of your pwc or personal injury. What creates an imbalance? IMPROPER MAINTENANCE AND CARE OF YOUR WATERCRAFT. Leaking fuel lines, carbs or gas tank may give combustion that necessary fuel to start a fire. This linked with an electrical short can cause damaging results. Proper and regular maintenance along with a pre ride check can avoid an area of imbalance.

Feature Watercraft are equipped to carry a fire extinguisher. Fire extinguishers are designed for small fires before they reach larger proportions. How do we know if the fire extinguisher is adequate for its purpose? Fire may be broken down into 4 categories: class A, B, C and D. We are concerned mostly with two types class A (ordinary combustibles) and B (flammable liquids). Most extinguishers are labeled for A, B and C class fires and are classified as multi-purpose. An extinguisher is classified with a rating number.

Example: 2A-10BC
For class A fires this example would be good for 10 square meters of burning (1A = 5 sq meters) or
For class BC fires this example would be good for 2.5 square meters of burning (1BC = 1/4 sq meters)


Be familiar with the type of extinguisher you carry. DonÂ’t wait until you have a fire before you read the operating label! Most extinguishers are to be used by aiming the nozzle at the base of the flames, pressing a button or pulling a trigger then moving horizontally back and forth covering the area of fire until extinguishment is expelled or fire is completely out.

Feature What if I canÂ’t reach the extinguisher compartment?

Think back to fire 101. Water is an extinguishment and may be used to lower the temperature below fire point. This is great if it is fiberglass, vinyl or other ordinary combustible. However,fuel and oil are lighter then water and will float on the surface and continue to burn. Should your engine compartment be involved in fire you may be able to contain the fuels while overturning your craft and eliminating the oxygen supply allowing the fire to burn out quickly without causing major damage. Eliminating any one of the three ingredients and fire will not burn. Be cautious of fuel that may be spread around you should you be in the water.

DonÂ’t be a hero!
Your craft can be replaced, you canÂ’t. Use your common sense. If burning gets out of control swim or get away and call the local Fire Department

Points To Remember

  • Check your craft before you ride
  • Carry an appropriate extinguisher
  • Be aware of how your extinguisher operates
  • Fire relies on heat, fuel and oxygen. remove one ingredient and the fire will go out
  • Think of your personal safety
  • Be cautious of re-ignition

Semi-annual Safety Checklist

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

  • As part of your pre-departure inspection of PFD s check for wear or abrasion, weak or torn seams, secure straps and buckles. 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.

How big a boat can I handle by myself?

A question that I get almost monthly deals with how large a boat can one handle on their own. I thought that the answer might be of interest to those of you who are continually looking for some way to spoil an otherwise nice day. One version of the question and the answer follows.
Capt Matt

Question: I need to know how large a boat can one person operate without anyone else aboard? I am looking at buying a 65′ trawler (beam=19′) that has twin 800 hp engines and weight is about 55 ton.

Answer: Single-handling a boat depends on the design and layout of the vessel and the handler’s physical fitness, strength, experience, nautical cunning and determination. There are very definite limiting factors that can help you decide how big a boat you might be able to handle with safety and confidence.

The first thing is the anchor. Assuming you have an anchor(s) that is/are large enough to hold the vessel in a storm, can you raise the heaviest anchor onboard without the help of a winch and get it on deck?

Another factor is simply the configuration of the vessel. Is it set up in such a manner that you alone could maneuver it to a dock with a strong wind blowing you away? Could you get a line from the vessel to the dock without loosing control?

If you are considering single-handling a sail boat, you must answer the following question; Can you reef or lower, smother and get sail ties around the largest sail on board, in all kinds of weather, with no assistance?

Although living aboard a large boat can be very satisfying, I’m afraid that one is going to be very limited in what he/she can do alone by way of actually traveling by himself/herself away from the slip. Due to circumstances beyond my control I have, on occasion, singularly operated vessels between 80-100 feet. It is not fun and it takes its toll both physically and mentally. Luckily, in all these instances I was not presented with contrary weather or other emergencies.

I also gave private lessons in the Bahamas to a gentleman who bought a 53’ Defever and wanted to operate it alone. Although I told him up front that I didn’t think it was a good idea, he insisted he wanted to try. In the first two hours he had changed his mind when he discovered that it simply couldn’t be docked without help. He couldn’t be on the bridge controlling the boat and on deck to handle lines at the same time. Contrary winds and currents would not allow it.

“Boat Smart from the Start. Wear Your Life Jacket.”

Life jackets Americans are increasingly heading to the water for recreation and relaxation as the opportunities for on-the-water activities increase each year. With this growth comes additional responsibility. It is essential that both novice and experienced boaters alike practice safe boating habits, such as wearing a life jacket. This year’s theme “Boat Smart From the Start. Wear Your Life Jacket.” recognizes that boating safety begins long before the boat leaves the dock. Recent year averages indicate approximately 88 percent of the people who died in boat accidents were not wearing life jackets.

The Right Life Jacket for You!

Life jackets are personal flotation devices (PFDs) and come in a variety of shapes, colors, sizes and materials. Some are made to be more rugged and last longer while others are made to protect you from cold water. No matter which life jacket you choose, be sure to get the one that is right for you. Select a PFD based on your planned activities, and the water conditions you expect to encounter. Remember, spending a little time now can save your life later. United States Coast Guard (USCG) approval means that the PFD has passed rigorous testing. So, always look for the USCG approval number on any life jacket you buy. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s label and the “Think Safe” pamphlet that is attached to the device. Valuable information is contained within these resources.

A special note regarding inflatables:

Inflatable PFDs are available in adult sizes only, are comfortable for continuous wear in hot weather and provide high flotation when inflated. They are good for adult swimmers involved in general boating activities. Because inflatable PFDs will not float without first being inflated, they are not considered appropriate for use by non-swimmers or weak swimmers, unless worn inflated. They are not for use by children younger than 16 years of age or by persons weighing less than 80 pounds.

Inflatable PFDs use a replaceable CO2 gas cylinder as the primary means for inflating the PFD. They can also be inflated by blowing into an oral inflation tube. There are two types of inflation systems being offered on inflatable PFDs. One is called a manual inflation and requires the user to jerk on a pull-tab (lanyard) to inflate the PFD. The second is called manual-auto inflation and this type includes a back-up system designed to automatically inflate when the PFD is submerged. The manual-auto type PFD can also be inflated in the same manner as with the manual type. The CO2 gas cylinder is good for only one inflation.

To keep the PFD in a serviceable condition, a used CO2 cylinder must be replaced with a new one after each CO2 inflation. A PFD that is not properly rearmed can only be inflated using the oral inflation tube. Some users may need assistance to properly rearm their PFD’s inflation system. The user must check the status of the inflator and cylinder before each outing. Inflatable PFDs must not be worn under restrictive clothing because automatic or accidental manual inflation could restrict breathing and cause injury or death. Inflatable PFDs are not suitable for use in whitewater, with personal watercraft or while water-skiing, tubing, knee boarding or other similar activities.

How Do You Test Your PFD?

Inherently Buoyant PFDs: Put your life jacket on. It should fit properly with all zippers, straps, ties and snaps correctly secured. Ease yourself into the water or walk into water up to your neck. Lift your legs and tilt your head back, in a relaxed floating position. Your mouth should be out of the water and you should float comfortably without any physical effort. If the life jacket rides up, try securing it tighter to your body. If it still rides up, you may need a different style. You should be comfortable and able to swim without significant restriction. You should have someone else to act as a lifeguard or assistant if you are uncomfortable with being in the water or are trying this activity for the first time.

Inflatable PFDs: If you do not wish to test the CO2 inflation system, remove the CO2 cylinder (and if the PFD has an automatic feature, remove the water-sensing element). Put your life jacket on and fully inflate it. Then test it like an inherently buoyant PFD.

Because of the design, ride-up is generally not an issue with inflatable PFDs. The amount of buoyancy provided with inflatable PFDs will probably require the user to swim using some form of side or backstroke, as it will be difficult to swim on your stomach when the PFD is properly secured.

Docking Tips Continued . . .

“. . . I just bought a pontoon boat and struggle with putting it in the slip, any comments or suggestions?? Unfortunately, I am in the middle of the rows of slips so I can not just taxi in but must make a hard right turn. I keep bumping into the slips on the next dock over.

The best way to get good at docking is practice, practice, practice. With repetition, you start to get a feel for wind and current. Pontoon boats are generally not as “maneuverable” as mono-hull boats and tend to be affected by wind to a greater degree. If you have the resources, please get someone with experience to teach you (on your boat, if possible). (And, by the way, that person should not be a spouse. You need a professional marine educator.) Short of that, I have some tips.

First, don’t get discouraged. You were not born knowing how to drive a boat just as you were not born knowing how to drive a car. You had to learn. And…because boats don’t drive like cars, it is another learning experience. A boat steers from the stern and pivots on its axis. So, when you steer to the right, for example, the stern of your boat moves to the left (which may be why you are bumping into the slips on the next dock over). Try visualizing “pushing” your boat in to the slip (somewhat like a shopping cart on ice).

Let me ask you; when you get in your car, do you have to look for the place to put the key or do you just grab the key and stick it in? Do you have to look to find the gear shift handle, or do you just reach and grab it? Don’t you just do these things unconsciously? If the answer is yes, you have what is called muscle memory. Your muscles have learned the exact location of these items as they relate to your arm. It seems natural. You don’t have to think about it. However, in your boat, it is a new experience. You don’t have muscle memory yet. In addition, the boat steers from the rear, you have wind or current, or maybe both, to deal with, and you are naturally a bit tense. That is where the practice, practice, practice comes in. You have to get muscle memory.

I also tell my students to use another visualization. As you are approaching your slip, make an imaginary line from the center of the bow of your boat, on a slow arcing curve (in your case to the right), into the middle of your slip. Practice keeping your boat on this imaginary line. If your boat is drifting to the left of the line you need to steer more right. If it is drifting to the right of the line you need to steer more left.

When approaching your slip you need to have some momentum to overcome any wind or current. However, momentum does not equal speed. You want just enough to get into the slip and be able to shift smoothly into reverse to stop the boat. You should also be aware that when you shift to reverse, even with the wheel centered, your stern will tend to “walk” to port because of the counter clockwise rotation of the prop.

If there is not enough room between rows of slips to do this in one continuos arc, you’ll need to use reverse and make a few “course adjustments.” Remember when you do this that, as you stop the momentum of the boat, the boat is more susceptible to wind and current. You need to anticipate the effects of both so that you end up where you want to be. The following graphic illustrates this in a very general way.

Wind and current will determine where you should actually begin your maneuvers in relation to your slip.

One final note: if possible, you want to dock into wind or current. Even if it means going past your slip and turning around and approaching from the opposite direction. It is easier to handle a boat into wind and current and it also helps slow you down as you enter your slip.

Practice, practice, practice until you know, without thinking about it, what effect the wind and current are having on your boat and what you need to do to compensate. With practice, you will become familiar with your boat and react instinctively and confidently as the conditions change.

Hope this helps.

Boat Insurance – What You Need to Know


The weather is ideal for setting sail on the open seas. But before you leave on your voyage, it is important to make sure you have insurance for your boat and your liability. In recent years, boat insurance has become harder to find, especially in Southeast states, due to increased losses from sever hurricanes and storms. Hurricane Andrew, in 1992, caused approximately $15.5 billion in insured losses and damaged an estimated $500 million worth of pleasure boats, or the equivalent of one in every eight boats in South Florida.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), the size and age of the boat, as well as its horse power are the main factors determining coverage and premium. Other variables are the type and value of your craft and the water where it’s used. A sail boat 25-feet or longer would probably cost approximately 25 to 30 percent less to insure than a power boat.

When buying insurance, no matter what boat or circumstances, it is important to know what questions to ask your insurance representative. The I.I.I. suggests asking the following:

  • Will personal possessions such as fishing or water-skiing equipment also be covered?
  • Will the boat be covered for actual cash value (depreciation) or agreed value?
  • Are there any lay-up periods, in dry dock, as for instance from December to April?
  • If I hire a crew will it affect my liability coverage and include workers compensation coverage?
  • Are there discounts for safety equipment or safe boating courses?

You may be asked by the insurance representative about the use of the boat (cruising on a lake, boating across the Atlantic). Answer truthfully because any untruthful statement may cause future claims to be denied.

The I.I.I. advises owners of jet skis and waverunners to purchase a PWC policy to protect them in the event of an accident. The PWC policy covers bodily injury, property damage, guest passenger liability, medical payments and theft. Liability limits can start at $15,000 and be increased to $300,000. Typical policies may include deductibles of $250 for property damage, $500 for theft and $1,000 for medical payments. Additional coverage can also be purchased for trailers and other accessories. A $6,000 PWC insured for a premium of $400-500 could include $300,000 worth of liability coverage, guest passenger liability, physical damage for theft, accident or other calamity such as wind damage. Owners should talk to an agent or company representative for more information about the type of coverage that would best suit their needs.

Finding the right coverage may require shopping around and diligence on your part. However, taking the time now to review your insurance needs may mean smooth sailing for the rest of the season.