Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Whale Cove, Depoe Bay, Oregon

Whale Cove is a small cove, approximately one-third of a mile (0.5 km) in diameter, located on the Pacific Coast of Oregon in the United States, approximately 2 mi (3 km) south of the city of Depoe Bay. The cove is located at approximately 44 deg 44 min N latitude.
A portion of the cove is protected as part of Rocky Creek State Park.
In 1978, British amateur historian Bob Ward proposed that Whale Cove was the location where Francis Drake spent the summer of 1579 during his circumnavigation of the globe by sea. The exact location of Drake's landing spot, at which he claimed a portion of the west coast of North America as "New Albion", has long been a mystery. It is usually assumed to be in northern California on the coast of Marin County.
Ward proposed Whale Cove as the actual spot of Drake's landing based on its similarity to a 16th century map made by Jodocus Hondius. Ward theorized that Drake may have conspired with Queen Elizabeth I to mislead the Spanish about the true location of the cove to keep the Spanish from discovering Puget Sound, which Ward believes that Drake thought was the Northwest Passage.
One longstanding puzzling feature of the Hondius map is the small island on the peninsula protecting the cove. According to Ward, a portion of the peninsula protecting Whale Cove is submerged at high tide creating a similar island.
This has been a favorite spot for Whale Watching, so if you ever get a chance to go whale watching go aboard the "Whales Tail" for great viewing
Depoe Bay PO Box 1308, Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341
(541) 765-2545 or (800) 733-8915

Monday, June 29, 2009

The World's Smallest Harbor

The World's Smallest Harbor, Depoe Bay, Oregon, Lat. 44°48′26″N Long. 124°03′44″W. Depoe Bay is a small fishing town. Located along Hwy 101, it's the only town that boasts the smallest navigable harbor in the world at only 6 square acres. It is a must stop, and a great place to visit.
Take a walk to the sea wall, look for the geysers that have a habit of blowing water 60 feet in the air and watch the local whales breach. Depoe Bay has resident gray whales that actually make their home there 10 months out of the year. There are various observation spots to watch them play or you can charter a boat right there in town for a ride out to take a closer look. One of the better places is Dockside Charters located in the harbor, go aboard the "Whales Tail" for a great ride
Spotting a breaching Gray or Orca while whale watching is an absolute rush and is something you'll never forget. I remember one time Gray Whales breached on our port side and swam under the boat and came up and breached on the other side, then skyhopped right next to the boat, what an experience.
Depoe Bay, the closest port along the path of the migrating Gray Whales and the summer feeding grounds for numerous whales. Gray whales feed in and around the near shore kelp beds from late April through October, providing the best whale watching on the entire coast. The Gray Whales are also visible from the middle of December through February on their southerly and northerly migration. Orcas as well as Humpback whales are often seen.
Our Zodiac "Whales Tail" carries up to 6 people, very enjoyable trip for the whole family.
We run daily trips weather permitting out for ocean sightseeing and to see the whales. Departure times change daily so call in the morning for that days departure times.
I'm always telling people the very best time of the year for whale watching is July, August and September, but this year it is early. Whale Watching is great. Today Kit, on the Whales Tail, touched and petted her first whale. Obviously one of the Lagoon whales, (I'll call them) used to coming up to the boats has shown up and Kit was there to greet her. She spent about 15 minutes at the boat, all got to touch her before she wandered off. A fantastic experience for enyone who has never had that opportunity. There were also at least five other whales in the area as well.
The "Whales Tail" is available 7 days a week, Gary or Kit like to start in the mornings, around 8 AM and will run all day and into the evening. Call for reservations and prices on our Whale Tours.
DOCKSIDE CHARTERS Depoe Bay PO Box 1308, Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341 (541) 765-2545 or (800) 733-8915 Ask for Gary or Kit the "Whales Tail"

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Know your Boat

Seamanship is simply the skill of managing a boat and encompasses: navigation, safety, boat handling, line handling, anchoring, troubleshooting engine problems, and emergency situations.

Good seamanship is to know everything about your boat. You should know your boat's construction, layout, carrying capacity, limitations, and capabilities. Be familiar with equipment and where it is stowed to the point that you can locate and operate it in the dark. You should also get to know your boat’s propulsion, electric, and power systems, and how to deal with common problems.

Operational Characteristics and Limitations
Knowing the operating characteristics and limitations of your boat is important for safe boating, and can even help reduce fuel costs. You can find this information in the boat's operating manual, including:

maximum carrying and load capacity

maximum speed and range at various speeds

maximum fuel range

maximum draft

Economical cruising speed
If possible, find out the boat's wind and sea limitations. If the operating manual doesn't state it specifically, contact the manufacturer to find out the maximum sea conditions for your boat.

Boat Nomenclature
Nomenclature is a term meaning "system of names" get to know terms for location and direction aboard your boat, its hull type, and the names of its various parts.

Boat Measurements
Length overall is the distance from the foremost part of the boat’s bow to its stern, and is expressed in feet. Length is one of the most common ways to describe a boat. Waterline length is the distance between the fore and aft parts of the boat that meet the surface of the water. The beam is the distance between the right-side hull to the left-side hull.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pre-Departure Check List

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)
Have at least 1 approved PFD onboard for each person.
An additional throwable device is required if the vessel is more than 16 feet long.
Explain the location and use of all PFDs to passengers and crew that may be new to the vessel.

Sound Producing Devices
Have a horn capable of producing a four-second blast audible for at least 1/2 mile on board. If you use portable air horn, have a spare can of air or an alternate device.
Attach a whistle to each PFD.

Lights and Shapes
Have all navigation lights as required for your boat.
Make sure all instrument lights are working.
If you intend to engage in a recreational boating activity that requires a day-shape, have the required shapes.
Have aboard a flashlight and spare batteries.

Distress Signals
Make flares, day signals, etc., accessible and ensure they are stored in a dry location.
Carry signals at all times even if not required by the Coast Guard.
Inform the crew and passengers of their location and safety rules for proper usage.

Tools and Spares
Carry a basic toolbox with tools appropriate for your boat.
Carry a box of spares including fuel filter, light bulbs, head parts, through-hull plugs, etc.

Fuel and Oil
Top off your fuel tanks.
If you can't, have enough fuel to provide a reasonable margin of safety for your return.
Check the engine oil and coolant levels.

Fire Extinguishers
Carry at least one fire extinguisher and make sure it is accessible. Make sure you have at least the number required by Coast Guard rules.
Check to be sure mounts are secure and functional before departure.
Take the time to point out locations to passengers and crew.

On any powered vessel or auxiliary powered sailboat, or vessels using LPG for cooking or heat, check that all interior spaces are well ventilated before departure. If fuel smells are detected before ventilating, check after running the blowers for several minutes before starting. If odor persists, shut down the engine and look for the source of the leak.

Check to be sure bilges are reasonably dry and that pumps are not running excessively.
Clean up any spilled oil or waste in bilges to prevent overboard discharge.

Weather Forecast
Always check the weather forecast before boating.
Have a radio on board to receive weather updates.

Battery Care
If you have a dual charging system, make sure the selector switch in the proper position.
Make sure the power is on to the entire vessel.
Have aboard spare batteries for accessories such as your handheld radio, flashlight, portable navigational aid, etc.
If the batteries are rechargeable, make sure they're charged.

Docking and Anchoring
Have at least one anchor set up and bent-on to your anchor line.
Carry two or three extra dock lines in case you encounter unusual conditions dockside.
Visually inspect the lines you use for chafe or wear.
Carry at least two fenders on-board for docking or towing if required.

Rules & Documentation
Have the ship's papers, radio license, fishing permit, etc. on board.
Have the chart or charts for the area you intend to cruise in, regardless of your level of local knowledge.

Tips on Outboard Motors

After every outing, flush out the engine. This doesn't just apply to salt water, but to fresh water also. Buy a set of "rabbit ears", two flexible rubber seals connected with a metal clamp. Slip the apparatus onto the lower unit where the water is picked up and attach a garden hose.

Start up the engine and let the water pump do the rest.

While you're flushing the motor, check the water pump to make sure it has good water flow. Carefully put your finger through the stream of water. It may be warm, but it shouldn't be hot. If the output is not strong, you may have some debris stuck in the outflow tube. Immediately shut down the engine to prevent overheating and damage. Insert a small piece of wire into the flow tube and work it back and forth. Start the engine again and check the output. If that doesn't solve the problem, you may need a new water pump.

After flushing the engine, disconnect the fuel line and allow the engine to burn all the fuel in the carburetor. Once you've finished the flushing and run the engine out of fuel, be sure to turn off the key and, if you have a battery switch, turn it off.

Take the engine cowling off and check for fuel or water leaks. If you find leaks, consult your boat mechanic.

Wipe everything down and spray with an anti-corrosive like WD 40 or Quick-lube. Be sure to lubricate all the moving parts such as the shift and throttle cables, carburetor valves, etc.

Replace the cowling and wipe it down. Keep a canvas or plastic cover on the engine between trips.

Always use fresh fuel. At the end of the season, boat motor maintenance should include draining your tanks and taking the fuel to the proper recycling authority.

Regular Maintenance
Periodically check the fuel line for cracks and worn spots.

Make sure the fuel primer bulb is not cracked and is pliable.

Make sure the fuel-line fittings seat properly and don't leak.

Check the clamps on the fuel line for rust or corrosion.

Check the fuel tanks for damage and corrosion.

Check the tank vent to make sure it aspirates properly.

Check regularly for water in the fuel.

Basic Engine Drives

Below is a basic explanation of each type of drive.
1. Inboard Drives
The term drive is interchangeable with motor and engine, so an inboard drive is simply a marine engine enclosed inside the boat. With an inboard drive, the shaft, rudder and props are beneath the boat leaving the transom clear. Inboard drives can either be gas or diesel, and single or twin engines are optional. A marine V-drive engine is a modified conventional inboard drive that is placed closer to the stern of the boat than a conventional inboard drive.

2. Outboard Motors
Outboard motors are self-contained units mounted to the transom. Each has an engine, propeller, and steering control through the lower unit that acts as a rudder. Outboard motors are the most common type of boat propulsion.

3. Sterndrives
Otherwise known as the inboard / outboard marine motor, sterndrives are thought by some to be the best of both worlds. The engine is mounted inboard forward of the transom with a shaft that goes through the transom to the drive unit. Similar to the outboard lower unit, this portion of the engine has a propeller and acts as a rudder to steer the boat.

4. Surface-Piercing Drives
Surface drives are specialized drives, mostly used by high performance boats, with a propeller that "pierces" the surface of the water to provide increased thrust. They operate half in and half out of the water in the planing wake of the boat, with a propeller shaft that exits almost horizontally through the transom.

5. Jet Drives
Most often used in personal watercraft or very large boats, jet drives replace propellers to push a boat through the water using high pressure air forced out of the stern of a vessel. The water jet draws water from beneath the hull, and passes it through impellers and out a moveable nozzle that steers the boat. 6. Volvo Penta Inboard Performance System

6. Volvo Penta Inboard System
The Volvo Penta IPS is a newer drive system set up directly beneath the engines. Forward-facing propellers pull on the water beneath the boat, increasing efficiency and speed by up to 20 percent.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How to Rig your Boat

Rope, is called line when used aboard boats, is essential to outfitting your boat properly. When you shop for boating supplies and accessories, line should be at the top of your list. You will use it to tie your boat to the dock, to attach your anchor to keep your boat from drifting, to tie protective fenders when you are moored, and many uses which include, but are not limited to, knot tying, splicing.

There are many different types and sizes of lines to match its many uses. Line is classified by whether it is natural or synthetic, it's construction and size. Each type of line excels at different uses aboard a boat.

Line Construction
Line is made of either natural or synthetic fibers twisted into yarns and grouped together to form strands. To form the line, the strands are twisted, plaited or braided together to form the final product. How the lines are twisted together determines its "lay." Line can be right or left lay, and it is usually plain laid, plaited or double braided depending upon the intended use of the line.

Plain laid line is made of three strands twisted to the left or the right, but the most plain laid lines are right laid. Plain laid lines are also called "three strand" line.

Plaited line is made of eight strands. Four strands are twisted to the left and four to the right which are then paired and worked like a four strand braid.

Braided line is usually made from three strands braided together and comes in different construction types such as hollow-braided, stuffer-braided, solid-braided and double braided. The most common type of braided line is double braided nylon.

The construction of the line, along with the material used to make the line, determines the strength of the line and its various uses.

Natural Line
Natural fiber line is made from the organic material of plant fiber. Manila, sisal, hemp and cotton are the most common materials used to form natural fiber line. Manila, made from the fibers of the abaca plant is the strongest and most expensive of the natural fibers, and it is the most widely used.

Pros of natural line: Strong (but not as strong as synthetic), resistant to harmful sunlight UV rays and weathering, and it is resistant to abrasive surfaces.

Cons of natural line: Poor performance in load bearing applications such as towing, it is not resistant to rot, mildew and deterioration, and it has poor resistance to chemicals compared to some synthetic ropes such as polypropylene and polyethylene.

Synthetic Line
Synthetic line is constructed using man-made materials, and is considerably different than natural fiber line. Nylon, dacron, polyethylene and polypropylene are the main types of synthetic fiber line used aboard boats.

Nylon is the most commonly used synthetic line because of its great strength, elasticity and resistance to weather. It is constructed in many ways, making it a versatile choice aboard a boat. Polypropylene line is also widely used because of its strength and ability to float.

Pros of synthetic line: very strong, has excellent resistance to rot, mildew and deterioration, and it is extremely resistant to harmful sunlight U.V. rays and weathering. Another pro of synthetic line is its elasticity in applications where that is an important factor.

Cons of synthetic line: slips much easier than natural line so it is not ideal for knots and for use with deck fittings, its elasticity can be dangerous if it parts during a load bearing operation such as towing, and it is susceptible to chafing from rough surfaces.

Double Braided Nylon
Double braided nylon is constructed using only synthetic line, but because of its unique properties I included it here. Double braid, as it is called for short, is two hollow-braided ropes, one inside of the other with a braided core compressed and held in place by a tightly braided cover. This unique construction provides superior strength, 50% of which comes from the core.

Pros of double braided nylon line: Its extreme strength and elasticity make it ideal for load bearing applications, it is also very resistant to rot, mildew, and deterioration, very resistant to harmful sunlight UV rays and weathering, and it resistant to abrasion.

Cons of double braided nylon line: because it stretches, snap back is a dangerous possibility, and because it is a synthetic line, it slips easier than natural fiber line and doesn't hold knots as well.

A properly outfitted boat should have at least six dock lines on hand. Two (each) bow and stern lines, and two spring lines. The length of the lines depends upon how and where you moor your boat. Some boaters have custom made lines that are measured specifically for their berthing area, however, you should have designated bow and stern lines that are approximately two-thirds the length of your boat, and spring lines that are the full length for when you moor at unfamiliar places.

When choosing line for your fenders, anchor and mooring lines, consider using natural fiber, three strand line. The reason is that natural fiber line will hold better on your deck and dock fittings, and will also hold your fenders better when they are tied off to the side of your boat. If you choose natural fiber line for these applications, you will have to inspect and replace it more often because it is not as resistant to the elements, however the trade off is that natural line is less expensive than synthetic. Many boaters use synthetic fiber line for their mooring and anchor lines too.

Another type of line to have your vessel is polypropylene line. This line is great to attach a life ring or other floatation device because it usually comes in bright colors and it floats. This line is also used for skiing, wake boarding and tubing.

If you have the storage, you can never have too much line. Besides designated dock lines, consider varying lengths and sizes of lines to have aboard for practical or emergency use, or to just lend to someone in need. You may want to mix synthetic with natural fiber line as well.

What Size of Line to Use for Your Boat
For designated dock lines, the size of your line is determined by its diameter and depends on the size and weight of your boat.

The following is a guide for Line Diameter:

Boats under 20 feet = 3/8"

Boats 20 to 30 feet = 1/2"

Boats 30 to 40 feet = 5/8"

Boats 40 to 60 feet = 3/4"
Boats over 60 feet = 1"

How to Plot a Course on a Nautical Chart

Using a parallel rulers or triangles, draw a straight line from your departure point to your destination, or the first turn in your course. Draw as many course lines as you need to complete your trip.

Lay one edge of the parallel rulers along the line you drew. Walk it to the nearest compass rose on the chart until the edge intersects the crossed lines at the center.

Determine your magnetic bearing by reading where the course line intersects with the inside degree circle. Write this course on your chart above the plotted line in degrees magnetic (Example: C 240° M). Do this for each course line on your chart.

Determine the distance of each course in nautical miles using your dividers and the distance scale on the top or bottom of the chart or the latitude scale.This is done by putting one end of the dividers on your start point, and the other end at your stop point or turn. Then, without moving the dividers, place them on the nautical mile scale and read the distance. Do this for each course line you, and write the distance on your chart below the course line (Example: 3.5 NM).

Calculate the amount of time it will take to run each course by first determining your speed in knots based upon your normal cruising speed and current conditions. Write this on the top of your course line next to the bearing (Example: 10 Kts).

Continue to calculate the amount of time it will take to run each course by multiplying the distance of the course times 60. Then divide that number by your speed in knots. The result is the amount of time in minutes and seconds it will take to complete the course line you plotted. Do this for each course.

At the start point of your course, come up to the determined speed and point your boat in the direction you plotted on your chart, ensuring that you continually keep the magnetic compass heading. Run a steady course and speed for the amount of time you calculated for your first course. When the time is up, if you plotted another course, turn and steady the boat on the next compass heading until you reach your destination.

Here are some things you will need:
Be sure to plot the course in adequate water depth.
Plot the course using buoys, lights, and other aids to navigation that show safe navigation areas.
Always deviate from your plotted course to avoid unsafe conditions or a collision.
Purchase a nautical chart for your area
Parallel rulers or Triangles
No. 2 Pencil

Monday, June 22, 2009

Small Boat Handling Tips

Knowing how your boat reactions to your commands is key to becoming an good boat handler. By practicing these techniques, you will have better boat driving skills. Always practice these tips in open water with plenty of depth and open water.

Know Your Boat's Reactions
Get to know your boat's reactions such as when you turn to port or starboard in forward and reverse. Where is the pivot-point of your boat. Knowing this will help you in mooring and unmooring. Also, how long does it take your boat to stop when you bring the throttles to neutral?

Practice Approaching an Object
Once you get a feel for your boat, drop a cushion float or life ring in the water, and then practice approaching it. Start slow at first, and then increase your speed as you gain confidence. Next, see how close you can get to the object without touching it, and if you can control whether the life ring runs along the port or starboard side.

With your approach mastered, practice stopping your boat entirely so the object is at a predetermined point, such as a cleat. Hold it steady long enough to bring the object aboard. This simulates picking up a man overboard and will also build skill in mooring your vessel. Important: When an object or person is near the stern of the boat, and the propellers, the boat's engine should be in neutral for safety.

Next, practice approaching a buoy in open water with plenty of depth and maneuvering space. Bring your vessel alongside without touching the buoy, as if you were going to moor up. As your confidence and skill increases, challenge yourself by practicing all of these techniques in various stages at sea, current and wind conditions. Eventually you'll notice your practice start to pay off when you glide easily into the dock in any mooring situation.

Gelcoat Maintenance for Small Boats

Good boat maintenance starts with a boat's gelcoat. The best maintenance plan will preserve the shine and integrity of your boat's gelcoat through a two-part process: cleaning and protecting. Cleaning your boat's gelcoat thoroughly by removing dirt and debris will help protect the gelcoat.
Cleaning Your Boat's Gelcoat
Use specially designed fiberglass cleaners, do not use household cleaners. Although household cleaners like Soft Scrub and other abrasive cleaners seems to be a good solution to remove tough stains, they scratch as they clean. Tiny scratches will speed oxidation and dull your boat's gelcoat quickly. Once a boat oxidizes, the hull is vulnerable to greater damage from water penetration. If your boat is showing signs of oxidation, follow a gelcoat restoration plan that includes part two of this maintenance plan, protection.

To remove dirt and mild stains, many fiberglass cleaners are available at marine supply stores. There are many types of specialty cleaners, including some with wax to protect the gelcoat. Others are a two part process of cleaning and waxing. Both come in handy during Part Two of the gelcoat maintenance plan, protecting.

Protecting Your Boat's Gelcoat
After thoroughly cleaning the gelcoat with a fiberglass cleaner the next step to protecting your boat's gelcoat is waxing. At this stage of the game, experts vary on the type of wax, but most generally agree that applying wax is essential to maintaining the integrity and shine of your boat's gelcoat.

Most fiberglass boat waxes are beeswax based, carnuba wax, silicone or a combination of the waxes. All of the products are designed to protect the gelcoat from ultraviolet rays and the marine environment. For a glossy shine you should apply two coats of a beeswax-based paste which provides a protective barrier coat. Follow the beeswax with a carnuba-based liquid wax to bring out the gloss. You will need to wash with a carnuba-based soap every week. Sound like too much work? Try using a marine polish instead, although you will sacrifice the shine that comes from carnuba wax.

Like cleaners, protectants are plentiful on the shelves of boating supply stores. The most important advice to keep in mind is apply the wax or polish to protect the gelcoat according to the directions on the package.

Other ways to protect your boat's gelcoat is to use fenders with washable covers to ward off accidental dings and scrapes. Since ultraviolet rays do the most damage, covering your boat or keeping it in a boathouse will also preserve the life of the gelcoat and keep it nice looking for years to come.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Oxidation and Small Boats

If the surface of your boat appears dull or chalky, it is likely that your gelcoat has oxidized. Gelcoat oxidation can be remedied in most cases, but may require the hand of a professional if the oxidation is severe.

Signs of Light Oxidation
If your boat's gelcoat is slightly oxidized, most of the surface will be shiny with a few patches of dullness or cloudiness. At this stage of oxidation, a simple oxidation removing compound applied to the hull will remove oxidation and restore the shine.

Signs of Medium Oxidation
The entire surface of the boat will be dull with little reflectivity, and there will be signs of pitting. To remove the oxidation and smooth the pitting, you will need to apply a polishing compound using a circular motion with a machine buffer. The polish, similar to fine sandpaper, removes the pitted surface rather than coating it. Signs of Heavy Oxidation

The entire surface of the boat will have no reflectivity and may be chalky to the touch - pitting is obvious. At this stage of oxidation, washing, sanding and polishing are required. In most cases though, restoration will mean intense work to restore the shine and may require the attention of a professional. In the worst oxidation cases, the gelcoat may be beyond restoration and painting the boat may be the only option.

The best medicine for gelcoat oxidation is prevention. Follow a simple gelcoat maintenance plan to protect your boat's gelcoat. If you suspect your boat's gelcoat is already oxidized, try these simple tips to remove gelcoat oxidation and restore your boat's gelcoat to its original lustre.

How to Read a Nautical Chart

To operate your boat safely, you should carry paper nautical charts on your boat. Becoming familiar with nautical chart basics will form a foundation for knowing how to read the chart symbols that show channels, water depth, buoys and lights, landmarks, obstructions, and other important information that will ensure you safe passage.

The general information block of the chart shows the chart title, usually the name of the navigable water in the covered area, the type of projection and the unit of measurement (Soundings in Feet or Fathoms). If the unit of measurement is fathoms, one fathom equals six feet.

The notes contained in the general information block give the meaning of abbreviations used on the chart, special caution notes, and reference anchorage areas. Reading these will provide important information about the waterways you navigate not found elsewhere on the chart.

Having a variety of charts will serve you well. Depending upon the location you will be navigating, different charts will be necessary because they are produced in different scales, or ratios (type of projection). Sailing charts are used for open ocean navigation. General charts are used for coastal navigation in sight of land. Coastal charts zoom in on one particular portion of a larger area and are used for navigating bays, harbors, or inland waterways. Harbor charts are used in harbors, anchorages, and small waterways. Small craft charts are special editions of conventional charts printed on lighter paper so they can be folded and stowed on your vessel.

Nautical charts can pinpoint your location using lines of latitude and longitude. The latitude scale runs vertically along both sides of the chart indicating North and South with the equator as the zero point, the longitude scale runs horizontally on the top and bottom of the chart, and indicates East and West with the Prime Meridian as the zero point.

The chart number is the number assigned to the chart located in the lower right hand corner. Use this to locate charts online and to make purchases. The edition number is located in the lower left hand corner and indicates when the chart was last updated. Corrections published in the Notice to Mariners that occur after the publish date will need to be entered by hand.

One of the most important functions of a nautical chart is to show the depth and bottom characteristics through numbers, color codes and underwater contour lines. The numbers indicate soundings and show the depth in that area at low tide.

Soundings in white indicate deep water, which is why channels and open water are typically white. Shoal water, or shallow water, is indicated by blue on the chart and should be approached with caution using a depth finder. Fathom curves are the wavy lines, and they provide a profile of the bottom.

Nautical charts have one or more compass roses printed on them. A compass rose is used to measure directions using true or magnetic bearing. True direction is printed around the outside, while magnetic is printed around the inside. Variation is the difference between true and magnetic north for the covered area. It is printed with annual change in the center of the compass rose.

The compass rose is used to plot a course when navigating using direction bearings. The last section of the chart to note is the distance scale. This is a tool used to measure distance of a specific course drawn on the chart in nautical miles, yards, or meters. The scale is usually printed at the top and bottom of the chart. The latitude and longitude scale can also be used to measure distance.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Small Boat Emergencies

Visual Distress Signals
It is recommended that you have and know how to use visual distress signals. Carry extras. Always respond immediately to other boaters displaying a distress signal.

VHF Marine Radio
Purchase a Very High Frequency (VHF) marine radio. VHF marine radios have channels that are reserved for distress calls and are monitored continuously by the U.S. Coast Guard.
They save lives and are easy to use. They are more effective for marine communications than CB radios or mobile phones. VHF radios have more consistent reception than mobile phones.
No license is needed when used in recreational boats.
They withstand rough weather.
Boat-mounted radios are wired to the boat's battery.
The source of a VHF signal can be located so that you can be found even in fog.
Operating a VHF radio takes some basic knowledge.

When operating your boat, you must monitor Channel 16 (the distress channel). If you hear a MAYDAY call, remain silent, listen, and write down information about the boat in distress. If the USCG or other rescue authority does not respond, try to reach the USCG while traveling toward the boat. If you cannot reach the USCG, assist the other boat to the best of your ability while not placing yourself or your passengers in danger. If you have a life-threatening emergency, have everyone put on life jackets and issue a MAYDAY call on Channel 16.

Be aware that the distance for sending and receiving messages is limited by the height of the antenna and the power of the radio. Always use the one-watt setting except in an emergency or if your signal is too weak to be received clearly. Channel 16 is a calling and distress channel only and should not be used for conversation or radio checks. It can be used to make contact with another station (boat), but the communication then should move to a non-emergency channel such as 68 or 69. Penalties exist for misuse of a radio, including improper use of VHF Channel 16.

VHF Marine Radio Channels
Here are the most commonly used channels on United States waters.

Channel 6 Intership safety communications.
Channel 9 Communications between vessels (commercial and recreational), and ship to coast (calling channel in designated USCG Districts).
Channel 13 Strictly for navigational purposes by commercial, military, and recreational vessels at bridges, locks, and harbors.
Channel 16 Distress and safety calls to Coast Guard and others, and to initiate calls to other vessels; often called the "hailing" channel. (Some regions use other channels as the hailing channel. For example, the Northeast uses Channel 9.) When hailing, contact the other vessel, quickly agree to another channel, and then switch to that channel to continue conversation.
Channel 22 Communications between the Coast Guard and the maritime public, both recreational and commercial. Severe weather warnings, hazards to navigation, and other safety warnings are broadcast on this channel.
Channels 24-28 Public telephone calls (to marine operator).
Channels 68, 69, and 71 Recreational vessel radio channels and ship to coast.
Channel 70 Digital selective calling "alert channel."

Mobile Phone
If you own a mobile phone, include it as part of your standard boating gear. Keep a list of appropriate phone numbers on board. Use it to call 911 or another water rescue authority in your area. Mobile telephones may be useful for contacting local law enforcement agencies. However, they have serious limitations and should not be used as a substitute for a VHF radio.
Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB)
If you operate far from shore, you should seriously consider carrying appropriate communications gear. A satellite EPIRB is designed to quickly and reliably alert rescue forces, indicate an accurate distress position, and guide rescue units to the distress scene, even when all other communications fail.

To issue a MAYDAY call on Channel 16 of your VHF radio:
Say "This is (name of vessel three times, call letters once)."
Repeat once more "MAYDAY" and your vessel's name.
Report your location.
Report the nature of your emergency.
Report the kind of assistance needed.
Report the number of people on board and condition of any injured.
Describe the vessel and its seaworthiness.
Wait for a response. If there is none, repeat the message.

Weather for the Small Boat Operator

Tune a portable radio to a local station that gives weather updates. Listed below are the VHF-FM radio stations that broadcast National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather reports, which are updated each hour.

Be alert to weather conditions. Accumulating dark clouds, shifting winds, and graying skies all may be indications of danger. Track changes in barometer readings. A rising barometer indicates fair weather. A falling barometer indicates foul weather is approaching. Watch for wind direction shifts, which usually indicate a weather change. Watch for lightning and rough water. If not electrically grounded, boats (particularly sailboats) are vulnerable to lightning.

Be observant of weather from all directions, watch the weather to the west, the direction from which most bad weather arrives. Watch for fog that creates problems in inlets and bays. Typically, fog will form during the temperature changes of the early morning or evening hours and can persist for lengthy periods. Head toward the nearest safe shore if a thunderstorm is approaching.

Prepare your boat for bad weather:
Slow down, but keep enough power to maintain headway and steering.

Close all hatches, windows, and doors to reduce the chance of swamping.

Stow any unnecessary gear.

Turn on your boat's navigation lights. If there is fog, sound your fog signal.

Keep bilges free of water. Be prepared to remove water by bailing.

If there is lightning, disconnect all electrical equipment. Stay as clear of metal objects as possible.

Prepare your passengers for severe weather:
Have everyone put on a USCG approved life jacket (PFD). If a PFD is already on, make sure it is secured properly.

Have your passengers sit on the vessel floor close to the centerline. This is for their safety and to make the boat more stable.

Decide whether to go to shore or ride out the storm.
If possible, head for the nearest shore that is safe to approach. If already caught in a storm, it may be best to ride it out in open water rather than try to approach the shore in heavy wind and waves.

Head the bow into the waves at a 45-degree angle. PWCs should head directly into the waves.

Keep a sharp lookout for other vessels, debris, shoals, or stumps.

If the engine stops, drop a "sea anchor" on a line off the bow to keep the bow headed into the wind and reduce drifting while you ride out the storm. In an emergency, a bucket will work as a sea anchor. Without power, a powerboat usually will turn its stern to the waves and could be swamped more easily. If the sea anchor is not sufficient, anchor using your conventional anchor to prevent your boat from drifting into dangerous areas.
To determine the distance you are from an approaching thunderstorm:
Count the number of seconds between the flash of lightning and the clap of thunder.

Divide the number of seconds by five. The result is roughly the distance in miles you are from the storm.

VHF-FM Stations for NOAA Weather Reports. NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts weather forecasts and warnings using these frequencies:
162.400 MHz

162.425 MHz

162.450 MHz

162.475 MHz

162.500 MHz

162.525 MHz

162.550 MHz

Weather Warning Display Signals
Daytime Flags & Nighttime Lights: What the Signals Mean:

Small Craft Advisory: Winds in the range of 21 to 33 knots (24 to 38 mph) create conditions considered dangerous to small vessels.

Gale Warning:Winds are in the range of 34 to 47 knots (39 to 54 mph).

Storm Warning:Winds are 48 knots (55 mph) and above. If winds are associated with a tropical cyclone, this warning signals winds of 48 to 63 knots.

Hurricane Warning:Winds are 64 knots (74 mph) and above. This warning is displayed only in connection with a hurricane.

Running Aground in a Small Boat

If you run aground while traveling at a high speed, the impact not only can cause damage to your boat but also can cause injury to you and your passengers.

Knowing the local area is the best way to prevent running aground.

Become familiar with the locations of shallow water and submerged objects before you go out. Be aware that the location of shallow hazards will change as the water level rises and falls.

Learn to read a chart to determine your position and the water depth. If you run aground, make sure no one is injured and then check for leaks. If the impact did not cause a leak, follow these steps to try to get loose.

Don't put the boat in reverse. Instead, stop the engine and lift the outdrive.

Shift the weight to the area farthest away from the point of impact.

Try to shove off from the rock, bottom, or reef with a paddle or boathook.

Check to make sure your boat is not taking on water. If you can't get loose, summon help using your visual distress signals. Call for assistance using your VHF marine radio.

A vessel is grounded (runs aground) when it gets stuck on the bottom. Never assume that water is deep enough just because you are away from the shore. Also, don't presume that all shallow hazards will be marked by a danger buoy.

Fire Emergencies

How to Deal with Fire Emergencies

Don't mix the three ingredients required to ignite a fire, fuel, oxygen, and heat.

Make sure ventilation systems have been installed and are used properly.

Maintain the fuel system to avoid leaks, and keep the bilges clean.

If fire erupts on your boat:
If you are underway, stop the boat. Have everyone who is not wearing a PFD put one on in case you have to abandon your boat.

Position the boat so that the fire is downwind.

If the fire is at the back of the boat, head into the wind. If the engine must be shut off, use a paddle to keep the bow into the wind.

If the fire is at the front of the boat, put the stern into the wind.

If the fire is in an engine space, shut off the fuel supply.

Aim the fire extinguisher at the base of the flames, and sweep back and forth (remember P.A.S.S.).

Never use water on a gasoline, oil, grease, or electrical fire.

Call for help with your VHF marine radio.

To prevent a fire emergency, don't mix the three ingredients that cause a fire to start:

fuel, oxygen, and heat.

To remember how to properly use a fire extinguisher, remember P.A.S.S.
P: Pull pin.

A: Aim at base of fire.

S: Squeeze handle.

S: Sweep side to side.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Capsizing a Small Boat

Capsizing is when a boat turns on its side or turns completely over. Swamping occurs when a boat stays upright and fills with water. Sometimes a person falling overboard from a boat causes the boat to capsize or swamp. Regardless, the outcome is the same, people are in the water.

To help prevent and prepare for capsizing, swamping, or someone falling overboard, follow these guidelines.

Make sure that you and your passengers are wearing life jackets while the boat is underway.
Attach the ignition safety switch lanyard to your wrist, clothes, or life jacket.

Don't allow anyone to sit on the gunwale, bow, seat backs, motor cover, or any other area not designed for seating. Also, don't let anyone sit on pedestal seats when operating at a speed greater than idle speed.

Don't overload your boat. Balance the load of all passengers and gear. Keep your center of gravity low by not allowing people to stand up or move around while underway, especially in smaller, less-stable boats. In a small boat, don't allow anyone to lean a shoulder beyond the gunwale.

Slow your boat appropriately when turning.

Don't risk boating in rough water conditions or in bad weather.

When anchoring, secure the anchor line to the bow, never to the stern.

If you should capsize or swamp your boat, or if you have fallen overboard and can't get back in, stay with the boat if possible. Your swamped boat is easier to see and will signal that you are in trouble. Also signal for help using other devices available (visual distress signals, whistle, mirror).

If you made the mistake of not wearing a life jacket, find one and put it on. If you can't put it on, hold onto it. Have your passengers do the same. Take a head count. Reach, throw, row, or go, if needed. If your boat remains afloat, try to reboard or climb onto it in order to get as much of your body out of the cold water as possible. Treading water will cause you to lose body heat faster, so try to use the boat for support. If your boat sinks or floats away, don't panic.

If you are wearing a life jacket, make sure that it is securely fastened, remain calm, and wait for help. If you aren't wearing a life jacket, look for one floating in the water or other floating items (coolers, oars or paddles, decoys, etc.) to help you stay afloat. Do your best to help your passengers find something to help them float and stay together. If you have nothing to support you, you may have to tread water or simply float. In cold water, float rather than tread to reduce hypothermia.

If someone on your boat falls overboard, you need to immediately:

Reduce speed and toss the victim a PFD, preferably a throwable type, unless you know he or she is already wearing a life jacket. Turn your boat around and slowly pull alongside the victim, approaching the victim from downwind or into the current, whichever is stronger. Stop the engine. Pull the victim on board over the stern, keeping the weight in the boat balanced, especially in small boats.

Small craft boaters need to be careful to avoid falling overboard. Falling overboard and drowning is the major cause of fatalities for small boats. To prevent falling overboard:

Keep centered in the boat with your center of gravity low in the boat. Always keep your shoulders between the gunwales. If possible, don't move about the boat. If you must move, maintain three points of contact. That is, keep both hands and one foot or both feet and one hand in contact with the boat at all times. Evenly distribute and balance the weight of persons and gear within the boat, keeping most of the weight low. It is extremely important not to overload a small boat.

Sitting on the gunwale, bow, seat backs, or any other area not designed for seating is risky behavior and can result in falling overboard. It is illegal in many states.

Boating Accidents and the Law

An operator involved in a boating accident must:
Stop their vessel immediately at the scene of the accident and give assistance to anyone injured in the accident and give their name, address, and identifying number of their vessel as well as the names and addresses of passengers to the other vessel’s operator or passengers.

Witnesses to a boating accident must give their names and addresses to the operators, passengers, or injured person.

The operator or owner of a vessel involved in an accident must file a written report with your State Marine Board if:

A person dies, disappears, or is injured and receives medical treatment or damage to property exceeds $2,000.

Reports of accidents involving only property damage must be made within 10 days of the accident. However, you must file an accident report within 48 hours in cases involving a death, disappearance, or injury.

Passengers are responsible for reporting the accident if the operator is physically incapable of doing so.

Requirements for Personal Watercraft (PWC)

Everyone on board a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved Type I, II, or III PFD. Inflatable PFDs are not acceptable on PWCs. It is illegal to operate a PWC under the age of 16 unless accompanied by a person of age 18 or older who holds a Boater Education Card.

Persons under age 18 may not rent a PWC.

An operator of a PWC equipped with a lanyard-type ignition safety switch must attach the lanyard to his or her person, clothing, or PFD.

PWCs must be muffled effectively and also must display the required navigation lights if operated between sunset and sunrise.

PWCs have the following speed restrictions:
Slow to 10 mph when you are approaching within 100 feet of another powerboat or sailboat underway.
Slow to "slow, no wake speed" (maximum 5 mph) when within: 100 feet of any anchored vessel or non-motorized craft.
200 feet of a shoreline of a lake, bay, or reservoir (safe take-offs and landings are excepted)
200 feet of a swimmer, a surfer, a shoreline angler, or a diver-down flag.
200 feet of a dock, launch ramp, marina, mooring area, floating home, boathouse, pier, or swim float.

Do not operate PWCs within 200 feet behind a person being towed on water skis or other similar devices.

PWCs must be operated in a reasonable and prudent manner. It is illegal to:
Weave your PWC through congested waterway traffic.

Jump the wake of another vessel unreasonably close to that vessel or when its operator’s vision is obstructed.

It is illegal to operate a PWC if under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

It is illegal to chase, harass, or disturb wildlife, birds, or marine mammals.

In addition to adhering to laws as they apply to all vessels, operators towing a person(s) on water skis or a similar device must obey these laws.

It is illegal for vessels to tow persons on water skis or any device of this type between sunset and sunrise.

Children 12 years old and younger being towed must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved Type I, II, or III PFD.

Vessels towing a person(s) on water skis or a similar device must carry on board a red or orange skier-down flag and display it whenever the skier is in the water.

The operator of the towing vessel and the skier must not operate in a manner that endangers the safety of persons or property. Also, they must not operate while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Every vessel towing a person on water skis or a similar device must have a person, in addition to the operator, continuously observing the towed person.

If the towing vessel is a PWC, the PWC must be rated for at least three people, the operator, the observer, and the retrieved skier.

It is illegal to tow a person(s) holding onto any portion of the boat aft of the transom (including a step, ladder, platform, or deck) while underway.

If towing a skier with a personal watercraft, the PWC must be rated for at least three people, the operator, the observer, and the skier.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sound-Producing Devices for Small Boats

In periods of reduced visibility or whenever a vessel operator needs to signal his or her intentions or position, a sound-producing device is essential. The sound-producing device may be a whistle, horn, or bell that is audible for one-half mile. All vessels on state and federally controlled waters must have a sound-producing device.

Vessels less than 39.4 feet (12 meters) in length, which includes PWCs, are required to carry on board a whistle or horn or some other means to make an efficient sound signal to signal intentions or positions. Vessels that are 39.4 feet (12 meters) or more in length are required to carry on board a whistle or horn, and a bell.

Here are some common sound signals that you should know as a recreational boater.
A short blast lasts one second.
A prolonged blast lasts 4-6 seconds.

One short blast tells other boaters "I intend to pass you on my port (left) side."
Two short blasts tell other boaters "I intend to pass you on my starboard (right) side."
Three short blasts tell other boaters "I am backing up."

Restricted Visibility
One prolonged blast at intervals of not more than two minutes is the signal used by power-driven vessels when underway. One prolonged blast plus two short blasts at intervals of not more than two minutes is the signal used by sailing vessels.

One prolonged blast is a warning signal (for example, used when coming around a blind bend or exiting a slip).
Five or more short, rapid blasts signal danger or signal that you do not understand or that you disagree with the other boater's intentions.

Visual Distress Signals for Small Boats

Visual Distress Signals (VDSs) allow vessel operators to signal for help in the event of an emergency. VDSs are day signals (visible in bright sunlight), night signals (visible at night), or both day and night signals. VDSs are either pyrotechnic (smoke and flames) or non-pyrotechnic (non-combustible).

Vessels on federally controlled waters must be equipped with U.S. Coast Guard approved visual distress signals. All vessels, regardless of length or type, are required to carry night signals when operating between sunset and sunrise.

Most vessels must carry day signals also, exceptions to the requirement for day signals are:

Recreational vessels that are less than 16 feet in length.
Non-motorized open sailboats that are less than 26 feet in length.
Manually propelled vessels.

VDSs must be U.S. Coast Guard approved, in serviceable condition, and readily accessible.

If pyrotechnic VDSs are used, a minimum of three must be carried in the vessel. Also, pyrotechnic VDSs must be dated and will not meet VDS equipment requirements if past their expiration date.

Here are a few examples of the combinations of VDSs that could be carried on board your boat:

Three handheld red flares (day and night)
One handheld red flare and two red meteors (day and night)
One handheld orange smoke signal (day), two floating orange smoke signals (day), and one electric light (night only)

It is prohibited to display visual distress signals while on the water unless assistance is required to prevent immediate or potential danger to persons on board a vessel.

U.S. Coast Guard-Approved Visual Distress Signals
Pyrotechnic Visual Distress Signals

Orange Smoke: Day Signal
Red Meteor: Day and Night Signal
Red Flare: Day and Night Signal

Pyrotechnic Devices
Pyrotechnics are excellent distress signals. However, there is potential for injury and property damage if not handled properly. These devices produce a very hot flame, and the residue can cause burns and ignite flammable materials. Pistol-launched and handheld parachute flares and meteors have many characteristics of a firearm and must be handled with caution.

In some states, they are considered a firearm and are prohibited from use. Pyrotechnic devices should be stored in a cool, dry, and prominently marked location.

Non-Pyrotechnic Visual Distress Signals
Electric Light, night signal
Orange Flag, day signal

Navigation Lights for Small Boats

Small boat operators should make sure that their boats are equipped with the proper navigation lights and use these lights during the following conditions:

When away from the dock between sunset and sunrise.
During periods of restricted visibility such as fog or heavy rain.
No other lights that may be mistaken for required navigation lights may be exhibited. Also alue or red flashing lights are restricted to use by law enforcement vessels only.

The required navigation lights differ depending on the type and size of your vessel. For other configurations and requirements for larger vessels, see the U.S. Coast Guard's Navigation Rules.

Power-Driven Vessels Less Than 65.6 Feet Long When Underway
Power-driven vessels include sailboats operating under engine power. The required lights are:
Red and green sidelights visible from a distance of at least two miles away, or if less than 39.4 feet (12 meters) long, at least one mile away, on a dark, clear night. An all-round white light if vessel is less than 39.4 feet long or both a masthead light and a sternlight. These lights must be visible from a distance of at least two miles away on a dark, clear night. The all-round white light or the masthead light must be at least 3.3 feet (one meter) higher than the sidelights.

Unpowered Vessels When Underway
Unpowered vessels are sailing vessels or vessels that are rowed.
An alternative to the sidelights and sternlight is a combination red, green, and white light, which must be exhibited near the top of the mast.

If less than 65.6 feet long, the required lights are:
Red and green sidelights visible from a distance of at least two miles away, or if less than 39.4 feet long, at least one mile away, on a dark, clear night. A sternlight visible from a distance of at least two miles away. If less than 23.0 feet (7 meters) long, these vessels should:

If practical, exhibit the same lights as required for unpowered vessels less than 65.6 feet in length. If not practical, have on hand at least one lantern or flashlight shining a white light.

All Vessels When Not Underway
All vessels are required to display a white light visible in all directions whenever they are moored or anchored outside a designated mooring area between sunset and sunrise.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fire Extinguisher Requirements

Extinguishers are classified by a letter and number symbol. The number indicates the relative size of the extinguisher, and the letter indicates the type of fire it will extinguish.

Type A fires are of combustible solids like wood.
Type B fires are of flammable liquids like gasoline or oil.
Type C fires are electrical fires.

All vessels, including PWCs, are required to have a "Type B" U.S. Coast Guard approved fire extinguisher on board if one or more of the conditions exist:

Closed compartments under seats where portable fuel tanks may be stored
Closed storage compartments in which flammable or combustible materials may be stored
Closed living spaces
Installed inboard engines
There are double bottoms not sealed to the hull or which are not completely filled with flotation materials
Permanently installed fuel tanks

Approved types of fire extinguishers are identified by the following marking on the label "Marine Type USCG Approved" followed by the type and size symbols and the approval number.

Extinguishers should be placed in an accessible area, not near the engine or in a compartment, but where they can be reached immediately. Be sure you know how to operate them.

Fire extinguishers must be maintained in usable condition. Inspect extinguishers regularly to ensure the following.
Seals and tamper indicators are not broken or missing.
Pressure gauges or indicators read in the operable range.
There is no physical damage, corrosion, leakage, or clogged nozzles.

PWC operators need to take special steps in case of fire. Because their fire extinguishers may not be easily accessible, they should simply swim away quickly and use another operator’s extinguisher. They should not open the engine compartment to put out the fire. Keep bilges clean and free of trash in order to reduce the risk of fire.

Fire Extinguisher Charge Indicators
Check the charge level of your fire extinguishers regularly.
Replace them immediately if they are not fully charged.
To check this style of extinguisher, depress the green button. If it is fully charged, the green button should pop back out immediately. On this style of fire extinguisher, the needle indicator should be in the "full" range.

Backfire Flame Arrestors
Because boat engines may backfire, all powerboats (except outboards) that are fueled with gasoline must have an approved backfire flame arrestor on each carburetor. Backfire flame arrestors are designed to prevent the ignition of gasoline vapors in case the engine backfires.

Backfire flame arrestors must be: In good and serviceable condition, U.S. Coast Guard approved (must comply with SAE J-1928 or UL 1111 standards).
Periodically clean the flame arrestor(s) and check for any damage to ensure proper operation.
Ventilation System: Ventilation systems are crucial. Their purpose is to avoid explosions by removing flammable gases. Properly installed ventilation systems greatly reduce the chance of a life-threatening explosion.

All gasoline-powered vessels, constructed in a way that would entrap fumes, must have at least two ventilation ducts fitted with cowls to remove the fumes. At least one exhaust duct must extend from the open atmosphere to the lower bilge. At least one intake duct must extend from a point at least midway to the bilge or below the level of the carburetor air intake.

If your vessel is equipped with a power ventilation system, turn it on for at least four minutes in either of these situations:
After fueling
Before starting the engine
If your vessel is not equipped with a power ventilation system (for example, a personal watercraft), open the engine compartment and sniff for gasoline fumes before starting the engine.
Before starting engine, operate blower for four minutes and check engine compartment for gasoline vapors.

Vessels built after July 31, 1980, which contain power exhaust blowers in gasoline engine compartments, must have the above warning sticker placed near the instrument panel.
Powerboats are built to ventilate the engine when underway. As the boat moves along, an air intake scoops up fresh air and forces it down the air duct into the engine compartment. The exhaust sucks out the explosive fumes from the lowest part of the engine and fuel compartments.

Mufflers and Noise Level Limits: Vessel operators may not hear sound signals or voices if the engine is not adequately muffled.
A vessel’s engine must have a factory installed muffler or exhaust water manifold for noise reduction or another effective muffling system.
Vessels built after January 1, 1993, must not exceed a noise level of 88 dBA.
Vessels built before January 1, 1993, must not exceed a noise level of 90 dBA.
If water is used for muffling, it must be in conjunction with a marine designed exhaust manifold. Simply injecting water into an exhaust header does not satisfy the requirements for a muffling system. The use of cutouts or exhaust stacks is prohibited. Outboard motors, because of their exhaust design, do not require a muffling system.

Life Jackets (PFD's)

All vessels must be equipped with U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets, called personal flotation devices (PFDs). The quantity and type depend on the length of your vessel and the number of people on board and or being towed. Each PFD must be in good condition, be the proper size for the intended wearer, and very importantly, be readily accessible! Readily accessible means you must be able to put the PFD on in a reasonable amount of time in an emergency such as a vessel sinking, or on fire. PFDs should not be stowed in plastic bags or in locked or closed compartments, and they should not have other gear stowed on top of them.

Operators should ask everyone on their vessel to wear a PFD whenever on the water.

Everyone should wear a life jacket, especially anyone who is boating:
At night or alone
In dangerous water conditions, far from shore, or in areas with local hazards
Where there is high boat traffic
In cold water
While hunting or fishing

PFD Requirements
All vessels must carry one U.S. Coast Guard approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD for each person on board or being towed. All PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition and must be readily accessible. The PFDs must be of the proper size for the intended wearer. Sizing for PFDs is based on body weight and chest size.

In addition to the above requirements, vessels 16 feet in length or longer must have one U.S. Coast Guard approved Type IV PFD on board and readily accessible.

A child 12 years old and younger must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD at all times while on an open deck or cockpit of a vessel that is underway or when the child is being towed. Inflatable PFDs are not approved for children.

Each person on board a personal watercraft (PWC) must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved Type I, II, or III PFD. Inflatable PFDs are not approved for persons on PWCs.

USCG approved inflatable PFDs are authorized for use on recreational vessels only by persons at least 16 years of age.

Discolored or torn PFDs should be discarded and replaced.

Read and follow the label restrictions on all PFDs.

TYPE I: Offshore Life Jackets - These vests are geared for rough or remote waters where rescue may take awhile. They provide the most buoyancy, are excellent for flotation, and will turn most unconscious persons face up in the water.

TYPE II: Near-Shore Vests - These vests are good for calm waters when quick assistance or rescue is likely. Type II vests will turn some unconscious wearers face up in the water, but the turning is not as pronounced as with a Type I.

TYPE III: Flotation Aids - These vests or full-sleeved jackets are good for calm waters when quick assistance or rescue is likely. They are not recommended for rough waters since they will not turn most unconscious persons face up. Type III PFDs are used for water sports such as water-skiing. Some Type III PFDs are designed to inflate when you enter the water.

TYPE IV: Throwable Devices - (Not Wearable) These cushions and ring buoys are designed to be thrown to someone in trouble. Since a Type IV PFD is not designed to be worn, it is neither for rough waters nor for persons who are unable to hold onto it.

TYPE V: Special-Use Devices - These vests, deck suits, hybrid PFDs, and others are designed for specific activities such as windsurfing, kayaking, or water-skiing. Some Type V PFDs are designed to inflate when you enter the water. To be acceptable, Type V PFDs must be worn and used in accordance with their label.

Obstructing Navigation

Vessel operators should always be considerate of other vessel operators. Keep in mind that it is illegal to:

Operate any vessel in such a way that it will interfere unnecessarily with the safe navigation of other vessels within a narrow channel or fairway.

Anchor a vessel in the traveled portion of a river or channel in a way that will prevent or interfere with any other vessel passing through the same area.

Moor or attach a vessel to a buoy, beacon, light, or any other navigational aid placed on public waters by proper authorities.

Move, displace, tamper with, damage, or destroy any navigational aid.

Obstruct a pier, wharf, boat ramp, or access to any facility.

Homeland Security Restrictions
Do not approach within 100 yards and slow to minimum speed within 500 yards of any U.S. Naval vessel. If you need to pass within 100 yards of a U.S. Naval vessel for safe passage, you can contact the U.S. Naval vessel or the U.S. Coast Guard escort vessel on VHF-FM channel 16.

Observe and avoid all security zones. Avoid commercial port operation areas, especially those that involve the military, cruise-line, or petroleum facilities.

Observe and avoid other restricted areas near dams, power plants.

Do not stop or anchor beneath bridges or in the channel.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Legal Requirements of Boating

Reckless Operation of a vessel is operating a boat carelessly in willful disregard of the rights, safety, or property of others. Here are some examples of reckless operations:

Boating in restricted areas without regard for other boaters or persons, posted speeds and wake restrictions, diver-down flags, etc.
Jumping the wake of another vessel unnecessarily close to that vessel or buzzing other vessels
Unsafe Operation of a vessel is operating in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger others or their property. An example of unsafe operation is causing danger or damage from the wake of your vessel.

Failure To Regulate Speed is operating at speeds greater than that which allows the operator to bring the vessel to a stop within an assured clear distance ahead. It is illegal to exceed any posted speed limitations.

Improper Distance is not maintaining a proper distance while operating a vessel or while towing a person on water skis or any similar device. Specifically, it is illegal to operate a vessel at speeds greater than "idle speed" or slow, no wake speed, within 200 feet of:
A boat launch ramp
A marina
A mooring area

Overloading is loading the vessel beyond the recommended capacity shown on the capacity plate installed by the vessel manufacturer.

Riding on the Bow, Deck, or Gunwale is allowing passengers to ride or sit on the bow, gunwale, transom, seat backs, seats on raised decks, or any other place where there may be a chance of falling overboard while operating at a speed greater than 5 mph unless the vessel has adequate guards or railing. It is illegal to allow any person(s) to ride on any portion of the boat aft of the transom (including a step, ladder, platform, or deck) while underway.

Failure To Maintain a Proper Lookout is operating a vessel while failing to keep a constant lookout for other vessels and persons in the water.

Especially Hazardous Condition is operating a vessel in a condition that causes a hazard to the occupants or others on the waterways. Peace officers may instruct the operator to move the vessel to the nearest safe moorage if:

There are improper or insufficient personal flotation devices, fire extinguishers, backfire flame arrestors, or navigation lights between sunset and sunrise.
The vessel is overloaded or overpowered.
The vessel is leaking fuel.

Boating Certificate of Title, Registration

The Certificate of Number a pocket-sized registration card must be on board and available for inspection by an enforcement officer whenever the vessel is operated.

The registration number and validation decals must be displayed as follows.
Number must be painted, applied as a decal, or affixed to both sides of the bow, placed above the water line where it can be read easily.
Number must read from left to right on both sides of the bow.
Number must be in at least three-inch-high BLOCK letters.
Number’s color must contrast with its background.
Letters must be separated from the numbers by a space.
No other numbers may be displayed on either side of the bow.
Validation decals must be affixed on each side of the vessel. They should be placed in line with, and three inches toward the stern of, the registration number.

If your vessel requires registration, it is illegal to operate it or allow others to operate your vessel unless it is registered and numbered unless you have on board a valid temporary permit to operate the boat.

PWCs also are required to display the registration number and validation decals.

Registering Your Vessel
A Certificate of Number is issued for two calendar years and is valid until December 31st of the year indicated. Owners of vessels that have already been registered will be sent a renewal notice. If you change your address, you must notify your State Marine Board in writing, by e-mail, or by phone within 30 days of the change. If a numbered vessel is destroyed, stolen, or abandoned, the owner should report it to your State Marine Board within 30 days. If stolen, first report it to the local sheriff’s department so that a case number can be issued before reporting the theft to the State Marine Board.

If you lose or destroy your Certificate of Title, Certificate of Number, or decal, you must apply to for a duplicate and submit a processing fee. Larger recreational vessels owned by U.S. citizens may at the option of the owner, apply for a U.S. Coast Guard "Certificate of Documentation" in lieu of an title. A documented recreational vessels still requires state registration.

Hull Identification Number
The Hull Identification Number (HIN) is a unique, 12-digit number assigned by the manufacturer to vessels built after 1972.

Hull Identification Numbers:
Distinguish one vessel from another­ and are engraved in the fiberglass or on a metal plate permanently attached to the transom. You should write down your HIN and put it in a place separate from your vessel in case warranty problems arise or your vessel is stolen. Altered, improper, or missing Hull Identification Numbers may be cause for marine enforcement officers to seize your vessel.

A Hull Identification Number is required before a vessel can be sold. Your State Marine Board will assign a HIN for a home-built vessel or for an older vessel that does not have a HIN. Check with your Marine Board for requirements and information.

Engine Shut-Off Switches

Most powerboats and PWCs come equipped by the manufacturer with an emergency ignition safety switch. This safety switch can shut off the engine if the operator falls off the PWC, or is thrown from the PWC operating position.

A lanyard connects the safety switch to the operator's wrist or PFD. When the lanyard is pulled from the switch, the engine shuts off. If a PWC has an ignition safety switch, most states require the operator to attach the lanyard. Most states do not require powerboat operators to attach the lanyard. Even if attaching the lanyard is not required by law, many lives could be saved by doing so. If your powerboat or PWC does not have an ignition safety switch, you should have one installed.

Your PWC may have a self-circling feature. If the operator is thrown from the PWC, the engine idles while the PWC slowly circles so that the operator can reboard. Be sure the idle speed is set correctly.

Ignition Safety Switches
Every year, boating accidents involve an operator and passengers who fall overboard for a variety of reasons. Wearing an ignition safety switch lanyard not only ensures that your boat or PWC stays close if you fall overboard, but it also prevents you from being run over by your own boat. When the operator isn't wearing a lanyard, the unmanned boat tends to run in hard, fast circles, resulting in a severe injury even death from the propeller. Wearing the lanyard reduces the risk of a propeller injury and makes it easier to reboard the boat.

Operating your Personal WaterCraft (PWC)

Although a personal watercraft (PWC) is considered an inboard vessel, operators must follow the same rules and requirements that apply to other vessels, but there are some other considerations for the PWC operator.

Your PWC
Operating a personal watercraft carries the same responsibilities as operating any other vessel. Before taking your PWC out on the water, you should:
Review the video most PWC manufacturers provide.
Inspect your PWC periodically, and perform necessary maintenance to keep it in good operating condition.
Be aware of all local, state, and federal laws that apply to PWCs.
Do not forget that in addition to obeying all boating laws, the PWC operator must adhere to laws specific to personal watercraft.

Steering and Stopping a PWC
PWCs are propelled by a jet drive where water is drawn into a pump and then forced out under pressure through a steering nozzle at the back of the unit. This jet of pressurized water is directed by the steering control. When the steering control is turned, the steering nozzle turns in the same direction. For example, if the steering control is turned right, the nozzle turns right and the jet of water pushes the back of the vessel to the left, which causes the PWC to turn right.
The most important thing to remember about steering most PWCs and other jet-drive vessels is that you always must have power in order to maintain control. If you allow the engine to return to idle or shut off during operation, you lose all steering control. The PWC will continue in the direction it was headed before the throttle was released or the engine was shut off, no matter which way the steering control is turned. Always allow plenty of room for stopping. Just because you release the throttle or shut off the engine does not mean you will stop immediately.
Operating PWC On the Water
While these rules of courteous operation are especially important for PWC operators, they apply to all other vessel operators as well. Jumping the wake of a passing boat, or riding too close to another PWC or boat, creates risks and is restricted or even prohibited in some states.

The boat making the wake may block the PWC operator's view of oncoming traffic and also conceal the PWC operator from approaching vessels. It can be stressful for boat operators to have PWCs continually in close proximity to their boats. Wake jumping and riding too close to other vessels are common complaints others have against PWC operators.

Do not attempt to spray others with the wake of your PWC. Not only is this discourteous, but it is also dangerous and reckless operation. Excessive noise from personal watercraft often makes them unwelcome with other vessel operators, as well as with people on shore.

Here are some tips on how you can be a courteous PWC operator:
Vary your operating area, and do not keep repeating the same maneuver.
Avoid congregating with other PWC operators near shore, which increases annoying noise levels.
Avoid making excessive noise near residential and camping areas, particularly early in the morning. Excessive use in one area can be an irritant to people who are there to enjoy a quiet and relaxing time.
Avoid maneuvers that cause the engine exhaust to lift out of the water because that increases noise levels.
Do not modify your engine exhaust system if it increases the noise. Improperly modified exhausts will not make your PWC faster and may raise the noise to an illegal level.
Share the waterways responsibly with other boaters.
PWC operators need to beware of passing too closely behind another vessel. The vessel will block your view of oncoming vessels, as well as the oncoming vessel's view of the PWC.

The Environment and PWC
When operating your personal watercraft, always consider the effect you may have on the environment. Make sure that the water you operate in is at least 30 inches deep. Riding in shallow water can cause bottom sediments or aquatic vegetation to be sucked into the pump, damaging your PWC and the environment. Avoid causing erosion by operating at slow speed and by not creating a wake when operating near shore or in narrow streams or rivers.

Do not dock or beach your PWC in reeds and grasses. This could damage fragile environments. Take extra care when fueling your PWC in or near the water. Oil and gasoline spills are very detrimental to the aquatic environment. Fuel on land if possible.

PWC Considerations
Regulations concerning PWCs can vary from state to state. A PWC is very maneuverable and responsive to slight turns of the steering control. At high speeds, a quick turn can make the PWC unstable, causing the operator and passengers to fall off. This is why most states require that everyone on board a PWC wear a personal flotation device (life jacket). Chapter 4 has the legal requirements for your state.

Any passenger on a PWC should be able to hold on securely to the person in front of them or to the handholds, while keeping both feet firmly on the footrests. Children who are too small to be able to do this should not ride. A passenger on a PWC should never be seated in front of the operator.

Keep hands, feet, loose clothing, and hair away from the pump intake area. Before cleaning debris from the pump intake, be sure to shut off the engine. The jet of water exiting the steering nozzle at the rear of the PWC can cause severe internal injuries. Anyone riding on a PWC should wear a wetsuit or other clothing that provides similar protection. Also, keep everyone clear of the steering nozzle unless the PWC is shut off.

Frequently inspect your PWC's electrical systems (e.g., starter and engine gauge connections) to ensure there is no potential for electrical spark. This is important because gas fumes could collect in the engine compartment and an explosion could occur if a spark from the electrical system ignited the fumes. After fueling, sniff the engine compartment for any evidence of gas fumes.
Reboarding a Capsized PWC
PWCs are designed to turn over and that's part of what makes them fun, but it's also why it is very important that the ignition safety switch is attached to the operator. After a fall, the PWC could be overturned completely. You should know how to right the PWC and how to reboard from the rear of the craft.

Most manufacturers have placed a decal at the rear or bottom of the craft that indicates the direction to roll your PWC to return it to an upright position. If no decal exists, check your owner's manual or ask the dealer. With this information, you should be able to roll the PWC over and reboard with little trouble. If you roll it over the wrong way, you could damage your PWC.
It is a good idea to practice reboarding with someone else around to make sure you can handle it alone. Don't ride your PWC if you are very tired because reboarding would be difficult. Also, avoid riding where there are strong currents or winds, which could hamper your reboarding efforts.

Look for the decal on the rear of the PWC to determine the direction to roll it to return it to an upright position. Because a PWC is very maneuverable it is possible for a PWC to get into trouble fast. Here are some important things to do when operating your PWC. Do not ride too closely behind another PWC. If it turns sharply or if it stalls, you could collide with it, if the other rider falls off, you could run over him or her.

Always look behind you over both shoulders before making turns; another vessel may be too close behind you. Be aware of all traffic in your boating area, don't focus just on the short distance ahead. Always remember that operating a PWC has the same responsibilities as operating any other vessel.

Tides and Water Levels

Changing Water Levels
Fluctuating water levels can cause special hazards for boaters. Water levels can change rapidly due to tides, flooding rivers, or water released through dams. Any of these conditions can cause boats to run aground in areas where navigation may have been safe earlier. Any change in water level also can affect docking to a fixed pier.

Tides on Coastal Waters
Tides are created by the sun and moon exerting a pull on the earth. High tides and low tides are predictable, and each one normally occurs twice daily at approximately six-hour intervals.
Boat operators in coastal waters need to be aware of the effect of tides. The rise and fall of tides can cause water levels to fluctuate by several feet and also can generate strong currents. Some tidal currents are strong enough that some boats cannot make headway against the current.
As a boat operator, you need knowledge of the tides in your boating area. It is a good idea to learn how to read the tide tables found in many newspapers in coastal areas. Tide schedules also can be found on weather radio channels.

Locks, Dams and Bridges

The low-head dam is the most dangerous type of dam. They are not be easily spotted because the top of a low-head dam can be several feet below the water's surface. Because of their small size and drop, low-head dams do not appear to be dangerous. However, water going over a low-head dam creates a strong recirculating current or backroller, sometimes called the "boil" at the base of the dam. Even on small rivers, the force of the backroller can trap your vessel against the face of the dam and pull you under the water, even while wearing your personal life jacket. Be aware that on large rivers or during high water the backroller or boil may be located more than 100 feet downstream of the dam. Avoid low-head dams.

Large-structure dams are more easily spotted because of their powerhouses and spillways. They can be dangerous to boaters and swimmers both below and above the dam. These areas are usually off-limits.

Low-head dams pose a serious danger to vessel operators. Surface currents below low-head dams can suck vessels toward the face of the dam. Currents above low-head dams can sweep vessels over the dam. The recirculating currents and turbulent waters below these dams can swamp vessels and drown boaters.

Lock attendants are present at most locks to help you through safely.
A series of dams on a river help maintain enough water depth to allow river traffic to operate year-round. As a result of a dam, there will be two levels of water at the dam site, one level above the dam and a different one below. Locks safely transport boats from one water level to another.

Approaching the locks
Be aware that commercial traffic always has priority over recreational boats. Wait at least 400 feet away from the lock for the signal to enter the lock. Alert the lock attendant that you wish to go through the lock. You can sound one prolonged blast followed by one short blast of your boat's sound-producing device. You also may contact the lock attendant using your VHF marine radio on Channel 13, but never interrupt commercial communication. Enter the lock only after you've been signaled to enter by the lock's traffic lights or by the lock attendant. Otherwise, stay clear of the lock.

Signal Lights at Locks
Flashing red light means stay well clear of the lock and do not enter. Allow plenty of room for boats to exit the lock.
Flashing amber light means approach the lock at a safe speed and under full control.
Flashing green light means enter the lock.

When using locks, boaters should:
Have fenders and at least 100 feet of rope to use in securing your boat inside the lock.
Follow the lock attendant's instructions and proceed slowly.
Avoid passing another boat when inside the lock, unless directed to do so by the lock attendant.
Wait for the lock attendant's signal to exit the lock.

Most states have laws requiring that you pass under bridges at a slow speed. You should always reduce your speed and proceed with caution near any bridge or man-made structure that decreases visibility and passage. Many bridges are high enough to allow normal boat passage. However, some bridges provide only low clearance during normal conditions or periods of high water. Many drawbridges open and close when a boat arrives. To request passage, contact the bridge operator using sound signals or a VHF marine radio. Be aware that debris can collect around pilings of bridges and create dangerous obstructions. Sailboat operators should always check clearance of the boat's mast before passing under bridges. This can be very difficult to determine from the operator's position on the boat. On charted waters, the chart will indicate bridge clearance at a particular water level. Current water level and tide must be factored in to determine present clearance.

Changing Water Levels
Fluctuating water levels can cause special hazards for boaters. Water levels can change rapidly due to tides, flooding rivers, or water released through dams. Any of these conditions can cause boats to run aground in areas where navigation may have been safe earlier. Any change in water level also can affect docking to a fixed pier.

Tides on Coastal Waters
Tides are created by the sun and moon exerting a pull on the earth. High tides and low tides are predictable, and each one normally occurs twice daily at approximately six-hour intervals.

Boat operators in coastal waters need to be aware of the effect of tides. The rise and fall of tides can cause water levels to fluctuate by several feet and also can generate strong currents. Some tidal currents are strong enough that some boats cannot make headway against the current.
As a boat operator, you need knowledge of the tides in your boating area. It is a good idea to learn how to read the tide tables found in newspapers in coastal areas. Tide schedules also can be found on weather radio channels.