How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

January 8, 2019

The Silent Killer
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be a danger for boaters year round, but that’s especially true in winter when biting winds and cold weather make pulling out boat covers and going below deck a deadly temptation. These confined spaces are more susceptible to trapping carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas produced by gasoline-powered engines that could poison or even kill someone who breathes too much of it. Carbon monoxide can build up above the water near the water platform, in the air space beneath the stern deck, or on or near the swim deck. Due to back drafting, traveling at slow speeds, idling in the water or even a nearby vessel, carbon monoxide could infiltrate your boat’s cabin or cockpit without your knowledge.

Educate Yourself
Carbon monoxide poisoning kills just under 400 Americans per year with a third of these deaths happening in the winter, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. But as the saying goes, knowledge is power. Learn the warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, seizures and confusion. Carbon monoxide can be fatal with prolonged exposure to low concentrations or brief exposure to high concentrations.

Take Preventative Measures
The first step to ensuring your safety is installing and regularly testing carbon monoxide detectors in your boat’s confined areas. Next, stay away from exhaust vents while they are running. Schedule regular engine, exhaust system, and generator maintenance. Never block exhaust outlets that could cause dangerous backups in the cabin and cockpit areas. Finally, keep a distance of 20 feet from other boats whether in the water or at the dock.

If Disaster Strikes
If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, treat it seriously. Flood the boat with fresh air: open hatches, crack the windows, roll back the cover. Turn the boat so the wind takes the exhaust away. Shut off the engines and consider seeking medical help immediately.

 

 

 

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How to Winterize Your Boat

December 18, 2018

Series of boats covered and stored for winter

For those who can’t enjoy the waves all year round, winterizing your boat is a must if you want to get back out on the water come warmer weather. Maintaining your boat now will save you time, headaches and money down the road. Your insurance may not cover neglect. So how do you keep your boat in tip-top shape for winter?

Step 1: Protect It Against the Elements

Ideally, you’ll want to store your boat in a climate-controlled facility where it’s secure and dry. Options include:

  • Dry stacked storage stores multiple boats simultaneously by stacking and removing boats with forklifts.
  • Depending on the size of your boat, you may be able to use a standard self-storage facility.
  • At-home garage storage is probably the most convenient and affordable storage option. If you lack a garage, you can store your boat in your driveway or yard. For this option, make sure you shrink-wrap or cover your boat in a waterproof, fitted tarp to prevent water damage or mildew growth.
  • A covered outdoor storage facility can accommodate various-sized boats and can provide more cover from most weather, but it may still be exposed to the elements. Tarps or shrink-wrapping should also be used for this type of storage.
  • Wet storage at a marina should only be used for areas where temps stay above freezing. You’ll also want to use a fitted waterproof cover and check on your boat once a week during the off-season to prevent damage from weather, barnacles, and algae.
  • For short-term wet storage, you may use a boat lift that keeps your boat hovered above the water. These lifts can be vulnerable during extreme weather and make your boat susceptible to flooding and critters/pests.

Step 2: Work from the Inside Out
Unless you want to paddle come spring, you’ll want to take special care of your boat’s engines, electrical systems and batteries during the winter months:

  • Drain the engine (for inboards and stern-drives) so that water in the cooling chamber doesn’t freeze, expand, and crack the engine block and manifolds.
  • Fog the engine cylinders to coat the inside of the engine and prevent corrosion from forming inside the engine, cylinders, pistons, and rings.
  • Treat the fuel with a stabilizer so that carburetors and injectors aren’t clogged with deposits.
  • Change the oil to stop condensation and prevent corrosion.
    For outdoor storage, run antifreeze through the boat’s water systems to prevent ice damage.
  • Remove the battery and keep it on a trickle charger to avoid a dead battery in spring.
  • Don’t forget the interior! Remove valuables, electronics, lines, fire extinguishers, flares, cushions, etc. Open and clean the refrigerator and freezer and be sure to go through all drawers and lockers.

Step 3: Ask the Experts
Always be sure to consult your owner’s manual for your boat and motor for other recommendations on winterization. When in doubt, hire a professional.

 

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The Clothes Make the Winter Boater

December 7, 2018

Yves Saint Laurent said, “Good clothing is a passport to happiness,” and, when you’re on the water in winter, happiness means warmth. The right winter clothing can be the difference between an invigorating jaunt and a miserable one. It could even save your life. Being able to move freely and maintain a clear head are essential to winter boating safety, and the proper clothing could mean the difference between staying on deck or falling into icy waters.

To stay dry and warm, you’ll want to invest in high-quality items that do double or even triple duty. As on land, you’ll want to dress in layers and protect your head, extremities (especially your hands and feet) and core.

Base Layer

This is the closest layer to your body and acts as a second skin. A snug-fitting base layer like thermal underwear helps to trap your body heat and increase your comfort. Some types of thermal underwear can absorb perspiration and allow your body to breathe under all those layers. It also allows you to move freely and flexibly so that you’re as nimble as you normally would be.

Skip the cotton and opt instead for Merino wool socks that act as a performance fabric to wick away moisture and thermoregulate your feet to keep them warm, dry, and comfortable.

Insulating Layer

Depending on the conditions, this layer could be a simple fleece pullover or something more protective like a drysuit or wetsuit. Lightweight, water-resistant, and an ideal thermal midlayer, fleece stays warm even when wet, dries quickly and won’t hinder your movements. A drysuit, made from neoprene, rubber or nylon, will keep you completely dry on the water. Loose-fitting, it allows you to wear clothes or other layers underneath. They work by keeping an insulating layer of air between your body and the water. Drysuits can be bulkier and harder to move in but provide more insulation in the water. Wetsuits are better for more active sports like surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, and jet skiing but are not as insulating as drysuits.

Weather-Protection Layer

The outermost layer keeps water and cold air out. The weather conditions – rain, snow, wind, or spray – will determine the appropriate outer layer. Look for breathable gear that keeps weather out but also lets moisture and heat from your body pass through to keep you dry and comfortable. Look for easily adjustable gear like hoods, zippers, and cuffs that provide flexible protection depending on your needs and the conditions. For overnight excursions, look for offshore-rated gear as you’ll need the heaviest duty possible. For day trips, coastal or inshore coats may be just fine.

It may go without saying, but waterproof boots with rubber, grip/anti-slip soles will protect your feet against saltwater and extreme cold in addition to keeping you on deck. Some boots even feature drawstrings at the top to keep water out during especially rough seas.

While cold and wet hands may be inevitable – sometimes you’ll have to be bare handed to fasten or unfasten something – you’ll still want to look for high-performing gloves that are waterproof yet insulated and provide maximum movement. Some smartphone-friendly gloves, made from diving material, allow you to operate controls without function loss.

Winter boating requires the appropriate gear and attire for safety and comfort. You won’t regret investing in quality attire. Be dry, be warm, and always be safe.

 

 

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Navigational Sound Signals: A Cheat Sheet for Boaters

November 5, 2018

Horns, pots and pans, and other noisemakers aren’t just for birthday parties and New Year’s Eve celebrations. For boaters, it’s essential to have the proper “noisemakers” on board—and to know how to use them.

The cheat sheet below covers inland sound signals for power-driven vessels.

SOUND SIGNALS CHEAT SHEET

Sound Producing Devices by Boat Size:

  • If your boat is less than 39.4 feet long, you are required to carry an efficient sound-producing device, such as a whistle, an air horn, or a bell.
  • If your boat is between 39.4 feet to 65.6 feet long, you are legally required to carry:
    • A whistle that’s audible for 1/2 nautical mile
    • A bell with a minimum mouth diameter of 7.87 inches

Sound Signals for Common Maneuvers:

Short blast duration: approx. 1 second
Prolonged blast duration: approx. 4-6 seconds

  • One Short Blast: Tells other boats, “I intend to pass you on my port (left) side.” In other words, when you’re approaching another vessel—either head-on or from behind—you will maneuver to leave them on your left side as you pass.
If the other vessel is in agreement, they should sound the same signal in response.
  • Two Short Blasts: Tells other boats, “I intend to pass you on my starboard (right) side.” In other words, when you’re approaching another vessel—either head-on or from behind—you will maneuver to leave them on your right side as you pass.
If the other vessel is in agreement, they should sound the same signal in response.
  • Three Short Blasts: Tells other boaters, “I’m backing up” or “I’m using astern propulsion.”
  • Five (or more) Short Blasts: This rapid sequence of blasts is a DANGER signal. You are required to use the danger signal if you don’t understand another vessel’s sound signal—or if you feel their proposed maneuver is dangerous.
  • One Prolonged Blast: This is a WARNING signal. It should be used when:
    • You are leaving a dock or departing your slip—to signal that you are getting underway.
    • You are coming around a blind bend and can’t see approaching vessels.
  • One Prolonged Blast + Three Short Blasts: This sequence of blasts lets others know you are departing a dock in reverse. (This is a combination of signals noted above: 1 prolonged = getting underway; 3 short = backing up).

IMPORTANT: The sound signals listed in this Cheat Sheet must only be used when you are within half a mile of the other vessel(s)—and you can see each other by eye. In fog or other conditions of restricted visibility, you must adhere to the signals listed under Rule 35 of the USCG’s Navigation Rules. The information above reflects Inland Rules; International Rules may be different.

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“Ditch Bag” Basics Every Boater Should Know

September 24, 2018

“Abandon Ship!” For most of us, those words seem like a silly line from an old movie. Indeed, as a boater, you may not ever need to ditch your ship and jump overboard. But emergencies do happen. And it’s important to be prepared in case they do.

That’s where your ditch bag (aka: ditch kit; abandon ship bag) comes in.

Here are 8 ways to ensure your ditch bag serves its purpose:

  1. Stock your ditch bag with the right contents. Some key items include an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB); Personal Locator Beacons (PLB); a waterproof emergency VHF; emergency lights; and a waterproof handheld GPS. This is a partial list only; most ditch bag manufacturers provide a full list of essential items.
  2. Always have your ditch bag onboard—whether you’re planning a long sea journey or a few hours of fun on a lake. As you well know, winds and currents can be unpredictable. Never assume you—and everyone else on your boat—will be able to make it safely ashore.
  3. Keep your ditch bag visible—and in the same location for every trip. Make sure your bag is in a place where you can grab it quickly as you evacuate the boat (like near the helm). Make sure every person on the boat knows where the bag is located.
  4. Make sure your ditch bag can float and that it can remain buoyant with the weight of its contents.
  5. Attach a strong lanyard to the bag. Because you’ll likely need to use both hands during your evacuation, it’s important to secure yourself to the ditch bag before you exit.
  6. Attach lanyards to the contents of the bag. To make sure your emergency items don’t float away, connect each item to the bag with an individual lanyard.
  7. Equip your ditch bag with a passive signaling device, just in case you become separated from it in the water.
  8. Make sure all battery-powered ditch bag items are equipped with working batteries.

In the event of an onboard (or non-evacuation type) emergency, your ditch bag will serve as a convenient storage place for many of the safety items you may need. In addition to the contents of your ditch bag, however, you should always have other precautionary items—like paper charts and PFDs—on board as well.

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Plastic Free July: A Growing Global Movement

June 20, 2018


Have you heard about Plastic Free July?

What started off as International Plastic Bag Free Day (observed every year on July 3) is now part of a growing global movement to end plastic pollution.

In addition to crowding landfills, plastic waste pollutes our oceans, threatens sea life, and contaminates groundwater. Sadly, nearly 90% of the debris in our oceans is plastic, including massive floating islands of plastic waste hundreds of miles long.

You probably already know that single-use plastic bags are bad for the environment. Perhaps you even bring reusable canvas bags with you to the grocery store. The growing number of consumers using reusable bags is a good first step to reducing plastic waste.

But what about when you stop at the hardware store? Or pop into a convenience store on the way home from work? Do you bring a reusable bag for that type of shopping, too? According to the Earth Policy Institute, a trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide each year. That’s nearly 2 million every minute! With that in mind, consider these statistics:

  • Plastic bags are typically used for 25 minutes or less
  • A plastic bag can take between 100 to 1,000 years to break down in the environment

But single-use plastic bags are only part of the problem. According the National Park Service, Americans use 5 million plastic straws every day. Every day! What’s more, plastic bottles are one of the most commonly found items on the ocean’s surface. If you want to help protect our oceans from plastic pollution, resolving not to use any single-use plastic during month of July is a great first step. To learn more, visit BreakFreeFromPlastic.org.

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How to Spot Someone Who’s (Silently) Drowning

May 16, 2018

As you gear up for a summer of fun on the water, reading a blog post about drowning is probably not at the top of your “fun things to do” list. But it could be lifesaving.

The information below is a brief summary of an eye-opening, in-depth article by Mario Vittone.

First, a few sobering facts:

  • Drowning is the number two cause of accidental death in children ages 15 and under.
  • Of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult.
  • In 10% of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening.

Drowning looks different than you may think.

Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., coined the term “Instinctive Drowning Response” to describe how people’s bodies react when they are drowning. Here are a few things that may surprise you:

DROWNING PEOPLE RARELY CALL OUT FOR HELP: A drowning person’s mouth is not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale and call out for help.

DROWNING PEOPLE CANNOT WAVE FOR HELP. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.

DROWNING HAPPENS FAST: People can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.

NOTE: If you DO see someone thrashing, yelling and waving for help, they are likely experiencing aquatic distress—which can briefly precede Instinctive Drowning Response. People in this stage can still grab a lifeline and help in their own rescue. Once a person has gone into Instinctive Drowning Response, however, they need to be rescued by a trained lifeguard.

10 signs that someone is drowning:

  1. Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  2. Head tilted back with mouth open
  3. Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  4. Eyes closed
  5. Hair over forehead or eyes
  6. Not using legs
  7. Hyperventilating or gasping
  8. Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  9. Trying to roll over onto the back
  10. Appears to be climbing an invisible ladder

Watch this video to see what drowning really looks like: Recognize the Signs of Drowning

Be Safe This Summer! According to the CDC, two of the main factors that affect drowning risk are alcohol use and failure to wear life jackets.

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