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Monday, February 19, 2018


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Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

Photo credit: Brian Warrick, TowBoatUS Ft Lauderdale



How angry do people get when their boats are rocked by another boat's wake? A skipper working on his boat in Florida got so irked at the owner of a passing boat that he jumped in his car, drove to the next bridge, and parked in the center of the span. He refused to move until the startled bridge tender agreed to call the marine police.

In another claim, an elderly gentleman in Alabama, a retired minister, became a local "celebrity," according to our claim files, when he had the skipper of a transient powerboat arrested for swamping his small rowboat while he was quietly fishing in a no-wake zone.

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Boat Wakes And Bad Tempers



On a recent summer afternoon, the Coast Guard cutter Vice was resetting day marker #20 on an especially busy day on Florida's Blackburn Bay along the ICW, north of Venice. Allan Horton, a BoatUS member in Nokomis, Florida, noted that boats of all descriptions kept passing Vice with, at best, a token reduction in speed. As the Coast Guard crew worked to install the new marker, they were continually being tossed around by the passing boats' wakes. The Vice's captain responded by sounding the five-beat emergency signal several times. Remarkably, very few skippers seemed to slow down or even notice.

Horton, who describes himself as a frequent fist shaker whenever his boat is rocked, says he understands the Coast Guard captain's frustration. So do a lot of other skippers. Wakes make people angry. Lt. Scott Olson of the Florida Marine Patrol says he's been rocked quite a few times himself, even when his boat was in no-wake zones. It doesn't make him angry, however, because he says most people don't realize their boats are creating large wakes. Olson is a patient man; he says he turns on his blue light and "educates" them. Depending on the county in Florida, the cost to learn how to reduce the size of your wake is somewhere between $90 and $140.

What About Your Boat's Wake?

You can save a lot of money and also avoid being the recipient of rude gestures from other skippers by using a little common sense and courtesy. This means coming completely off plane when you enter a no-wake zone or any area where your wake could compromise the safety of other boats. All too often the skippers react to a no-wake sign by slowing the boat slightly and then plowing through with the boat's bow up in the air and the stern dug down into the water. Instead of reducing the size of the boat's wake, this token reduction in speed — not quite on plane — increases the size of the wake.

No wake means NO WAKE. The first rule is to slow down so that the boat is level (without using trim tabs) and the size of the wake is negligible. Look back at the wake you're creating. You can help to reduce the size of your boat's wake by positioning passengers toward the center of the boat to keep it level. Too much weight aft lowers the stern and increases the size of the wake. Finally, keep an eye on your depth sounder; shallow water increases the impact of your boat's wake.

Damaging wakes can also be caused when a skipper waits too long to pull back on the throttle. A good example is the young skipper in New Jersey who was tying up at a marina gas dock when he encountered someone who was "cursing and accusing me of not having any respect." Words were exchanged, gestures were made. The young skipper's cruiser, it seems, had created a large wake that bashed several boats at the marina against pilings and finger piers. He had "slowed" just before reaching the gas dock, so he reasoned that the damage must have been caused by "some other boat's wake."

Even a small boat in the stern-down position can throw up a huge wake. A center console off the coast of San Diego, California, to cite one example, inched past a 34-foot trawler then crossed its bow and ran down the other side. "Having experienced this type of 'courtesy' before, I called to my wife to hang on because we were about to get rocked from three sides," says the trawler's captain. "She grabbed the Bimini but couldn't hold on. She landed on the steering console, knocking out three of her front teeth." The boat that caused the dangerous wake was only 22 feet long.

Overtaking Boats

Wakes lose power the farther they travel. If you're overtaking a boat in open water, give it a lot of room. Passing as far away as possible reduces the wake's impact (not to mention ill feelings). Conversely, in a narrow channel, overtaking a boat without regard for your boat's wake can have serious consequences. The skipper of a 42-foot powerboat in North Carolina, for example, slowed down only slightly and sent a 25-foot sailboat surfing wildly onto a sandbar.

When you're the overtaking boat, use VHF Channel 16 and/or your horn to signal your intentions (one short blast if you're overtaking the other boat on its starboard side, two blasts if you're planning to pass on its port side). Cross the wake quickly (don't ride the waves), but be aware of your own boat's wake. If you're being overtaken, come completely off plane so that your stern is level. Slowing your boat will allow the overtaking skipper to slow his boat as well.

Coping With Other Boats' Wakes

Alas, not every skipper reads Seaworthy, (our damage-avoidance publication, available free to our insurance customers, and online at Awww.BoatUS.com/Seaworthy), and not every skipper is as courteous as you are. There will be times when you'll encounter a wake that has the potential to do serious damage to your nervous system, passengers, and the boat itself. The larger the other boat's wake (and the smaller your boat), the more important it is to lessen the impact.

First, if your boat is underway, don't wait until it's flying through the air to pull back on the throttle; slow the boat well before reaching the wake. Bringing the boat to a complete stop, however, is counterproductive; boats are far more stable when they're moving and you must also be careful not to lose steerage.

Avoid taking the wake on your beam. Especially in small boats, it's better to turn toward the wake briefly, then come back on course when you're in smooth water. Rather than plow directly into the wake at a 90-degree angle, bear off a few degrees so that you cross at a slight angle. This helps your boat's hull grip the waves and reduces the chances your boat (and passengers) will be thrown into the air.

Bow Riders And Wake Injuries

The most common type of personal injury in our BoatUS Insurance claim files involves passengers (typically over age 50, but anyone can be injured) who is seated near the bow and goes airborne after slamming into a wake.

In a claim we received from New Jersey, a woman seated on the bow of a 20-foot boat was thrown up into the air, came down hard, and suffered a compression fracture. In a similar accident, a passenger seated in the bow of an 18-foot boat in Florida was thrown into the air when the boat slammed into a wake. He landed at an awkward angle on the edge of the seat and severely sprained his back. Our claim files tell stories about passengers who have lost teeth, and have broken bones when boats hit wakes. The list is long and the claims involving wakes and personal injuries make for some grim reading.

Passengers, especially older passengers, should be seated amidships where there is less motion.

Finally, always warn the crew. A simple, "Hold on. Boat wake!" should suffice. Waiting until the boat is into the wake is too late. In another one of our claims, a 40-year-old woman in Ohio was seriously injured on a 22-foot powerboat because the skipper waited until the boat was only a scant second or two away from slamming into the wake to warn passengers down below.

Overloaded Boats

Two men were drowned on Florida's Lake Okeechobee when their 15-foot boat was swamped by the wake from a 72-foot trawler. Two other passengers managed to swim to shore. Keeping passengers aft to raise the bow may have prevented the mishap, but a far better solution would have been to limit the number of passengers aboard.

According to the police investigation, the weight of the four passengers alone exceeded the boat's rated capacity. In addition to the passengers, there was also a five-gallon can of gasoline, two large batteries, a trolling motor, tackle boxes, an anchor, and other personal effects. The investigation concluded that the boat had been dangerously overloaded.

By law, the boat's capacity (both number of persons and total weight) must be posted on all boats 20 feet and under. If the boat doesn't have a capacity plate, the best rule of thumb is to limit the number of passengers to the number of seats onboard. Never let passengers sit on the side of the boat.

One other note: While only mandatory in most states for children, wearing a life jacket at all times is advisable for non-swimmers and passengers in small, tippy boats.


Bob Adriance is editor of Seaworthy, the damage-avoidance eNewsletter produced by the BoatUS Marine Insurance division. Seaworthy is emailed free to Members quarterly. For an insurance quote, please call 1-800-283-2883 or apply online at www.BoatUS.com/insurance

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How Much CO Is Too Much?

(In Parts Per Million (PPM))
CO Concentration at the Source
Gasoline Engine 10,000 - 100,000 PPM
Diesel Engine 1,000 PPM
Slight headaches within two to three hours. 200 PPM
Frontal headaches within one to two hours. 400 PPM
Dizziness, nausea, and convulsions within 45 minutes. Insensible within two hours. 800 PPM
Headache. Dizziness and nausea within 20 minutes. Death within 30 minutes. 1,600 PPM
Headache and dizziness within five minutes. Death within 30 minutes. 3,200 PPM
Headache and dizziness within one to two minutes. Death in less than 15 minutes. 6,400 PPM
Death in less than three minutes. 12,800 PPM
Purchasing And Installing A Carbon Monoxide Detector

Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas and can come into your boat in countless ways. The BoatUS Marine Insurance claims files detail many deaths from CO poisoning, even on boats that weren't running the engine or generator. Whether wind direction, the "station wagon effect," a leaky exhaust fitting, or a neighboring boat is responsible, the bottom line is, the only way to know it's there is if you have a CO detector aboard.

Most gas-powered, or gas generatorequipped boats built after 1998 that have enclosed quarters have CO detectors factory installed. If your boat has one, great, make sure it's properly maintained and in working condition, they last about five years. If you don't have one aboard, purchase and install one.

CO detectors for your boat are quite different than the detectors you can pick up for your house, primarily because of the sensitivity of the units, and how they're constructed. Boats are far more confined than houses, and consequently need a different level of sensitivity. Installing a household unit in your boat will most likely lead to many, many false alarms. Also, household units simply aren't designed for the marine environment. That's why you need to buy a unit that's approved by Underwriter's Laboratories for "marine use".

CO has about the same weight as oxygen and it tends to spread evenly throughout an area, so there's no height installation that's more beneficial than another. It's better to avoid placing a unit next to a window, door, or hatch — any opening that can let in oxygen and distort the readings. Sleeping and enclosed areas are good places for a detector, and they should be mounted for easy monitoring.

The effects of CO are cumulative. It can be hours, or even days before CO levels in your blood stream reach a critical level. This is true even if the person breathes fresh air periodically; the CO remains in the bloodstream. How quickly the CO builds up depends on the concentration of the gas inhaled and the duration of the exposure. The half-life of CO is approximately five hours, which means that it takes five hours for the level of CO in the blood to drop to half its level when exposure was terminated.

Category: The Community

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Nursemaid Mandates?

According to "Coast Guard Considers Mandating Adult Life Jacket Wear" (June 2011), "the U.S. Forest Service estimates that 82 million people participated in boating in 2010 and Coast Guard statistics show 736 people died in boating accidents that year." If these figures are quoted correctly, that is a fabulous safety record of one fatality in more than 100,000 person-outings. Any fatality is obviously to be regretted, but if these figures are correct, requiring the Coast Guard to enforce more invasive life-jacket rules is not worthwhile, and makes life less enjoyable for the rest of us.


The idea of requiring adults over 18 to wear life jackets is another case of government overstepping its authority. As an adult I can decide when it's prudent to wear a life jacket. I've been out on an 8-foot boat without wearing one when I felt safe. I've also put one on when aboard a 50-footer when I felt it was the wise thing to do. This is not a decision the government needs to have a voice in.


Broken Connection

Last year I installed a Garmin GPS on my Hunter 27 and connected it to my Standard Horizon VHF radio. Having a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering I was able to do this, though as noted in the article, "Changing 'Please Try To Find Me' to 'Come Get Me'" (June 2011), understanding how to properly connect it was a bit of a challenge. Fortunately technical support from the respective manufacturers helped answer my questions.

I was therefore appalled, though not surprised, when I read Chris Edmonston's statement that "the connections are different, and not just from manufacturer to manufacturer, but between models from the same manufacturer, and even from year to year." My lack of surprise stems from my past professional experience in creating standards for computer hardware and software to interoperate where the oft-quoted joke was that "the wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from."

What appalls me is that, considering that people's lives are at stake, the attitudes of the Coast Guard and marine electronics industry seem incredibly cavalier. That those involved in this only got together earlier this year to develop an "action plan" to create "more emphasis from these organizations on explaining the problem through training materials, courses, and courtesy inspections" and that the Coast Guard and NMEA plan to "encourage manufacturers to better standardize interconnection fittings and color coding" is the equivalent of fiddling while Rome burns.

Based on my many years and experiences trying to get companies competing in the same industry to cooperate in order to adopt common standards, I can guarantee you that it will be many years, and probably many lives lost, before the problem is resolved.


The Jellyfish Tell A Story. Why Won't We Listen?

Regarding "Are Jellyfish Causing An Ecological Wobble?" (June 2011) you overlook that jellyfish are the result of an ecological wobble we've created. For decades, we've been using our oceans and waterways as dumps and toilets, continuously dumping everything from raw sewage to syringes to nuclear waste in ocean areas barely a few miles from shore. Then, we naively believe the ocean will magically cleanse itself, ignoring the potential impact our garbage has on the environment. Jellyfish are in a sense the cockroach of the sea, the ultimate bottom feeder. Through our efforts, we have created an environment rich in what jellyfish thrive on, and poor in their natural predators. We have fostered the ideal environment for them, and they're thriving. Perhaps this is nature's way of saying enough?


Reaffirming The Boating Spirit

While at the marina working on my old boat, a couple walked by. They were both complaining about a new tenant several slips down who had anchored way too close to them during the weekend. A short time later I heard a boat coming, several children laughing, and an adult woman's voice saying in a jovial teasing sort of way, "Honey, you can't drive this boat, how do you think you're going to park it?" The man replied, "Baby, I can drive anything. Watch this." His docking skills were a disaster, and several people gladly helped haul him in, probably to save their boats. These were the folks that were complained about earlier.

These people were quite green at boating, but they were having the time of their lives and completely enjoying themselves. Later on, after listening to more of their children's laughter and this loving couple taking stock of their "wonderful first weekend out," I began to question myself. Was it really so many years ago that I'd stayed on the guest dock for two days with my newly acquired trawler, trying to get the nerve to pull into my assigned slip? How many people had I annoyed back then with my lack of boating skills? I had these thoughts in mind as the couple with their children walked by. The man stopped and said, "Excuse me, sir, is this an Ed Monk-designed boat?" With a surprised smile, I said, "Why yes, are you familiar with Monks?" The man smiled sheepishly and said, "No, I really don't know much at all about boats. Someone told me, and I thought it would be a good way to start a conversation."

After several minutes of small talk about boats and equipment, it was clear that with the new boat, the kids, and the economy, this family's boat-outfitting budget was limited. I said, "You said you need to buy a cooler, right? Here's a deal. Take this extra large, $300 cooler. It's too big for just me and my wife, anyway. And use the money you would've spent on it and call this boat captain who I hired many years ago to give me 10 hours of sea time. It was the best money I ever spent." They were elated. I thought of the spirit of boating, and how much a little generosity means to all of us along the way. Not sure how to tell my wife I gave her cooler away, though.


A Hard Lesson Learned

I'd like to add to Michael Vatalaro's sound advice about avoiding delay in issuing a mayday call during a sinking "When Good Times Go Really Bad," (June 2011). Be certain to have a handheld VHF, cellphone, and life jackets within easy reach at all times. I was just off New Jersey in a 46-foot cruiser headed to Atlantic City when the temperature alarms for both engines sounded. I turned to see the transom door open and waves lapping in. I sent my friend down to close the door. Within seconds both engines quit. When the boat settled down, water flooded into the cockpit. Realizing we were sinking, we grabbed life jackets and I immediately issued a mayday call with our position on the fixed-mount VHF, but got no response — the batteries were already underwater. Our handheld VHF and cellphones were forward in the flooding cabin.

My friend jumped overboard in his life jacket. I went forward to untie the inflatable dinghy secured to the cabin top. The boat went down, and the dinghy broke free with me in it. I looked and called for my friend but never saw him or heard a response. I was found floating in the dinghy 18 miles away. They found my friend floating dead in his life jacket five miles from the accident. This happened in clear weather just eight miles from Coast Guard Station Atlantic City. We could've been rescued within minutes if we'd had our cellphones or handheld VHF with us on the bridge. Now, I never leave the dock without a charged cellphone and handheld VHF within easy reach, whether on my boat or someone else's.


Lori, Cook It Up!

Last month, we invited readers of our online cooking and recipe site to challenge Lori Ross, our cruising cook extraordinaire, to make speciality dishes based on different themes. The first winner of Lori's invitation is Kathy Dismukes, who challenged Lori to come up with a selection of hot vegetarian pastas. You can find these and many other recipes on www.BoatUS.com/cooking. Kathy writes:

My thanks to Lori Ross and BoatUS for the wonderful recipes. When I'd heard I'd won the contest, I was thrilled, but I couldn't believe the personal cookbooks from Lori's cooking library that came with winning. I finally had a chance to go through them, and I'm grateful, Lori, that you felt you could part with them. Thanks for your inspiration! I'll tune in regularly to see what treats you bring us.


BoatUS Flags Found In Far-Flung Places

For six years, from 2001 through 2007, my husband Douglas and I broke away from our jobs, and sailed Ithaka, our 39-foot sloop, throughout Central and South America. It was a dream come true for the two of us. While we were voyaging, we spent two extraordinary seasons in the San Blas islands of Panama, where we made friends with many Kuna Indian families. Every day we saw the men paddle or sail for miles out to the reefs to free-dive for hours for lobster and fish, then paddle or sail all the way back to their island huts by nightfall. Their boats were dugout canoes called cuyukos, and their raggedy sails, if they had any at all, were made from fabric scraps and sacks all sewn together by hand.

During our cruising adventure, we wrote a twice-monthly log for the BoatUS website, called "The Log Of Ithaka" (www.Boatus.com/cruising). When we uploaded the one about those fishermen, we began to receive offers of sails and sailcloth from BoatUS members who were touched by the arduous lives of these men and boys. When the president of BoatUS heard about this, the company generously offered to ship all this donated sailcloth down to us in Panama, along with lots of BoatUS flags. With a couple of cruising friends, Douglas and I began cutting and sewing sails, and trading them with the fishermen, in return for anything they offered — a few lemons, a pretty gourd — just so there was no feeling of charity, as pride is an important part of their culture.The project was a success, we made 52 sails, and began seeing the BoatUS flags flying from the tops of cuyuko masts, and in little villages, all over the islands during our last months in the San Blas. The Kuna treasured those flags! Thanks, BoatUS, for helping us help these folks. They're so generous to boaters who travel through, and it felt good to give something back.


For your own BoatUS flag, call 800-395-2628 or visitwww.BoatUS.com/logoitems

Category: The Community

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Poisoned At Sea

By Kathryn Ressel Seagle



It may be hard to believe that a zipped-in cockpit enclosure allowed in so little fresh air that a couple almost succumbed to carbon-monoxide poisoning, but it happened


A nippy weekend cruise with two other boats to the scenic island of Captiva, Florida, nearly turned deadly for an older couple who'd snapped tight their cockpit side curtains when the weather off the Florida coast turned chilly on December 10, 2010. Aboard Rojan, a 32-foot motor cruiser, Ron and Janie Ressel were taking turns at the wheel while they headed south at nine knots to Captiva Island Yacht Club. The wind was from the north. The temperature was 47 degrees.

Ron and Janie Ressel aboard Rojan on a more pleasant cruise.

Around noon Janie called to Ron to take his turn. When he didn't answer, she turned to see him slumped in the chair behind her in the cockpit. She yelled to rouse him but then passed out herself. When she came to, and realized Rojan was out of the channel and she didn't know where she was, Janie immediately got on the ship's radio to call friends Marlene and Jim Stice aboard Happy Hour to help her. She focused on keeping the boat on a steady course and in minutes realized that she was fading in and out of consciousness. The Stices kept her on the radio. When they asked her position, she was able to see a marker ahead and told them, "Markers 45 & 46." They told her to unsnap the curtains and put the boat in neutral. She managed to slow the boat, but one engine remained engaged, and the boat began to circle. Doing just one thing took more concentration than she had, while she suffered from the poisonous gases trapped in the cockpit of Rojan.

Happy Hour raced to Rojan's location and saw Janie unsnapping the curtains on one side of the boat. Luck was with Ron and Janie. Jim pulled his boat in close and Marlene threw a line directly into Janie's hands and she caught it. Jim and Marlene climbed aboard Rojan and radioed for help. The U.S. Coast Guard out of the Ft. Myers station, the Lee County Sheriff, and TowBoatUS all responded and headed toward the disabled couple. Meanwhile Marlene and Jim maneuvered Janie to a position on the transom and moved Ron into a sitting position.

The Coast Guard arrived with two EMTs who clamped oxygen masks on Janie and Ron and then tested their blood, which confirmed that both had carbon-monoxide poisoning — Janie's more severe than Ron's. They evacuated both Ressels into the Coast Guard boat and sped toward South Seas Plantation Marina — a very speedy 15- to 20-minute trip in an inflatable boat with three 300-hp Mercury outboard engines. At the marina on the northern tip of Captiva, a helicopter arrived to transport Janie to Lee Gulf Coast Medical Center, while Ron was transported to the same hospital by ambulance.

The Ressels get rescued by the Coast Guard.

Personnel in the Emergency Department of the hospital determined that Janie needed to be placed in a hyperbaric chamber, where she was brought up three atmospheres in order to force more oxygen into her blood. Meanwhile Ron was given a CAT scan and X-ray to determine if he had further injuries from falling when he lost consciousness. Within a few hours, he could coherently respond to questions and was released. With the help of his son Eric, Ron tracked down Janie's location in another building, and was reunited with her. She was kept overnight for observation.

And the drifting boat? During his stay in the hospital, Ron and TowBoatUS made plans through the Lee County Sheriff by telephone, confirming to have Rojan towed 42 miles home. By nightfall, the boat was safely secured in its home berth.

Ron and Janie Ressel, now fully recovered, are grateful to be telling their story. Many boating friends have checked their carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they're operational, replaced the batteries, or bought a new detector. Within a week the Ressels had a new CO detector mounted aboard Rojan and were making plans for more boating excursions while they celebrated Ron's 87th birthday.

This article was written by the Ressels' daughter, Kathryn Seagle.

This nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization is devoted to generating ideas and projects that keep boaters safer, and our environment protected. The Foundation is independently funded by donations from organizations and individuals, and by grants. www.BoatUS.com/Foundation

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