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What You Need to Know About the U.S.C.G. License Exam

All captains are mariners, but not all mariners are captains. If you want to become a USCG licensed captain, there is a testing process you can go through. You need to gain experience on a boat. When you feel you are ready, then it’s time to take an official U.S. Coast Guard license exam. When…

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Search MIC Database

  You may remember reading in a past tip that the first three letters of the Hull Identification Number are a three letter code that identifies the manufacturer. To decipher the code and determine the manufacturer of a boat, click on the link “USCG Manuf. ID Code (MIC)” and you will find a page similar…

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The History of Ship Figureheads

One of the most striking and prominent features on any old ship is the ship figurehead. A carved figure displayed prominently on the bow, these ornamental displays are iconic. Their origins stretch back further than some might think. And their meaning and purpose is multi-fold. These figureheads were symbolic, hence the name. But they were…

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Your Definitive Guide to Boat Safety Equipment

It’s a foolish sailor who heads out to sea with no safety gear on board. It’s also illegal to not have many basic safety items on hand as well. Save yourself the frustration and potential danger by making sure you have everything you need ahead of time. A lot of safety equipment required on a…

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What Does Buoyancy Mean for Boaters?

When you’re looking for life jackets and other PFDs you may run across pounds buoyancy. Floatation devices all have a buoyancy rating. Understanding what that means will allow you to choose the right PFD for you. Everyone on a boat should have access to a personal flotation device. One that fits and they know how…

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A Heavy Ship Moored

How do Boats Float?

A boat, or any other object designed to float, is based on a theory by a very old guy, even older than Capt. Matt. Though he is old and, by the way, dead, he was really a cool guy and his name was Archimedes (Ark-i’-meed-eez). His principle, cleverly named the Archimedes’ Principle, explains how things…

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Essential Spare Parts and Tool Checklist For Your Boat

Just as with your car, your boat needs to be maintained. There are things that may happen out on the water that will require repairs. Parts break, batteries die, things happen. Every boat needs to be equipped with a basic mechanic’s tool kit. In addition, you need to have a backup supply of spare parts….

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7 Best Satellite Phones for Marine Use

You can never be too safe at sea. A radio and a GPS device can help you out in an emergency. But if you want to ensure you’ve got an edge, consider a satellite phone. A normal cell phone is ideal on land. But cell service is spotty at best at sea. A high quality…

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What to Do When Your Boat Engine is Overheating

An overheating engine can be a real burden to deal with. Time and money may have to go into fixing it if you can’t figure out what’s wrong. Luckily, there are warning signs you can look for. Also, there are some tips and tricks that you can look into if you want to fix the…

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Glossary of GPS Terms

  – A – Absolute Positioning Positioning mode in which a position is identified with respect to a well-defined coordinate system, commonly a geocentric system (i.e., a system whose point of origin coincides with the center of mass of the earth). Almanac A data file that contains orbit information on all satellites, clock corrections, and…

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Weather Proverbs

Perhaps the most often quoted weather proverb among mariners is: Red sky in morning, Sailors take warning. Red sky at night, Sailors’ delight A red sky at night (when the sun is to the west) is caused by light passing through dust particles in the air to the west. Dust indicates dry weather and since…

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Life Jackets and PFDs Hanging Up

State Laws and Regulations for Wearing Life Jackets

By now we should all know how important wearing a personal flotation device is when you’re boating. But despite how long they’ve been available, there are still a lot of boaters who don’t make use of these life saving tools. Nearly half of all boaters in the UK don’t wear life jackets. In the US,…

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Nato Phonetic Alphabet Wall Painting

The Phonetic Alphabet

The phonetic alphabet is an essential skill for all radio operators. Whether you’re on sea, in the air, or on land, knowing how to communicate effectively could save your life. What Is The Phonetic Alphabet? It’s very important for sailors to properly understand and know how to use the phonetic alphabet. A phonetic alphabet is…

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Where The Buoys Are

Effective July 20, 1998, the The United States Coast Guard commences a five year phased-in merger of the Uniform State Waterway Marking System with the United States Aids to Navigation System. This merger eliminates distinctions between the two systems and creates safer, less confusing waterways. The Uniform State Waterways Marking System (USWMS) prescribes regulatory markers…

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How to Wire Boat Trailer Lights

When you first get a brand new boat trailer, things are great. It looks good, it’s reliable, and it works well. As time goes by, things begin to get a little sketchy. Used and old trailers are notorious for lighting problems. Sometimes even new ones can be difficult to wire with certain tow vehicles. Wiring…

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How to Prevent Boat Theft

In 2018 there are nearly 4,500 boats reported stolen in the US. That may seem insignificant compared to cars stolen, but it’s still a remarkably high number. Thousands of boats missing every single year. And only about one in 10 stolen boats are ever recovered. How does someone even get away with a boat? You…

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What You Need to Know About Chart Symbols

Learning to drive requires you to learn how to read a map sometimes. Learning how to sail means you need to know how to read charts. Of course, we have a lot of electronics that can do this job for us these days. If you’re ever stuck without power and you need to read a…

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The Basics of Boat Sound Signals

  There are several occasions on a boat when you need to use sound signals. In particular, when visibility is limited, boat sound signals are of the utmost importance. Other boaters need to be aware of where you are and what you’re doing at all times. Learning what these sound signals mean and how to…

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Easy Guide to Boat Slang

  These days a lot of slang terms come to us from the sea. Naval tradition, sailing, even piracy all created their own slang and lingo over the years. Many of the terms found their way into modern languages and are just everyday terms now. And some, as we’ll see, only seem like they have…

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The “Aids To Navigation” Merger

(This article originally appeared in 2002, however, some areas of the country may not yet be in compliance. For those of you in such areas, we are leaving this article up.) A phase-in period of the Uniform State Waterway Marking System (USWMS) (found on most lakes and rivers) with the United States Aids to Navigation…

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The 3 Best Bilge Cleaners 2022

The bilge on a boat is one of the least respected parts of the craft, despite its importance. As boat owners, we know that we need to clean it regularly, but it happens much less frequently than it should. Consider that if the bilge pump stops working you risk sinking. It makes sense to keep…

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The Road International Regulations for Avoiding Collisions at Sea

Part A – General Rule 1 Application (a) These Rules shall apply to all vessels upon the high seas and in all waters connected therewith navigable by seagoing vessels. (b) Nothing in these Rules shall interfere in the operation of special rules made by an appropriate authority for roadsteads, harbors, rivers, lakes or inland waterways…

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Identifying Regulatory Markers

Regulatory markers are used to advise you of situations, dangers, or directions. They may indicate shoals, swim areas, speed zones, etc. They can be easily identified by the orange bands on the top and bottom of each buoy. On the water, you will find these markers posted on the sides of buoys to aid in…

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DSC Radio: What is the Digital Selective Calling System?

Every boater needs to have a VHF radio on board their vessel. It’s a vital communication tool that can link you to the mainland and rescuers when needed. It can also help inform you about weather and other emergencies. But what about a DSC radio? This is newer technology and not everyone is familiar with…

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Engine Cooling Systems Explained

Our last contest consisted of selecting the order of things to check to troubleshoot an overheating engine with a “raw water” cooling system. A few of our viewers asked me to explain just what a raw water system was and how it worked. Raw water refers to the water that the boat is floating in….

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Monohull Vs Multihull

There has been a debate in the world of sailing foe some year over monohull vs multihull. Is one superior? What are the benefits and drawbacks of each? It’s a layered question and both have some great upsides and a few downsides. Is one better? That’s likely up to the individual sailor. But we can…

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Cell Phones vs. VHF Marine Radio

If you’re new to boating it can be overwhelming to get a grip on all the extra gear you need and/or want. You may wonder if something like a VHF radio is even necessary. Especially if you have a good quality cell phone with good coverage. The Coast Guard does not advocate cell phones as…

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Boating Regulations by State Boating Education Requirements

Nearly every state now requires boaters to have some form of formal boat safety education. This typically comes in the form of a test administered by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators or NASBLA. The regulations can vary widely from state to state so make sure you check your local laws to ensure…

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Identifying Aids to Navigation

You are fishing offshore when you hear storm warnings on your radio. You decide to head for the nearest inlet. You encounter the following buoys in the following order. What do they mean and what should you do? This maker indicates a mid-channel or safe water mark. This will usually be the first marker you…

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Getting Help on the Water

  Always be prepared is the Boy Scout motto, and it’s a good one. No one wants to endure an emergency at sea, but you must be ready for one. The quicker and more efficiently you can act, the better. Quick thinking and preparation can save lives. According to the US Coast Guard, there were…

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