Friday, January 23, 2009


As the operator and or owner of a vessel you are responsible not only for the prudent and safe operation of your boat, but also for the lives and safety of your passengers and others around you. Become familiar with Federal, State, and local rules and regulations regarding safe boat operation and try to learn all aspects of good seamanship such as boat handling, navigation and piloting, weather, communications.

Your water fun depends on you, your equipment and other people who, like yourself, enjoy spending leisure time on, in or near the water. Let's take a look at your responsibilities:

1. File a float plan with a relative or friend.
2. Make sure the boat is in top operating condition and that there are no tripping hazards. The boat should be free of fire hazards and have clean bilges.
3. Safety equipment, required by law, is on board, maintained in good condition, and you know how to properly use these devices.
4. Have a complete knowledge of the operation and handling characteristics of your boat.
5. Know your position and know where you are going.
6. Maintain a safe speed and proper lookout at all times to avoid collision.
7. Keep an eye out for changing weather conditions, and act accordingly.
8. Know and practice the Rules of the Road (Navigational Rules).
9. Know and obey Federal and state regulations and waterway markers.
10. Maintain a clear, unobstructed view forward at all times. "Scan" the water back and forth, avoid "tunnel" vision.
Most boating collisions are caused by inattention. You are the key to water safety.

In the U.S. there are more than 2,500 boat manufacturers that produce more than 4,000 different boat models which are powered by a variety of outboard, stern drive, and inboard engines. Because of the great variety, choosing the right boat can be confusing, but the right choice is an important step in enjoying the nations waterways. In selecting the right boat for your needs, consider the type of activity for which you plan to use it, such as water skiing, fishing, cruising, or weekend outings. You need to consider the type of water on which it will be used, such as lakes, rivers, open ocean, or the Great Lakes. The boat should be large enough to handle the number of people on a normal outing.

Never overload your boat with passengers and cargo beyond its safe carrying capacity. Too many people and/or gear will cause the boat to become unstable. Always balance the load so that the boat maintains proper trim. Here are some things to remember when loading your boat:
1. Distribute the load evenly fore and aft and from side to side.
2. Keep the load low.
3. Keep passengers seated (Do not stand up in a small boat).
4. Fasten gear to prevent shifting.
5. Do not exceed the "U.S. Coast Guard Maximum Capacities" information label (called the Capacity plate).
6. If there is no Capacity Plate, use the following chart as a guide to determine the maximum number of persons you can safely carry in calm weather. The chart is applicable only to mono-hull boats less than 20ft in length. A mono-hull is a boat, which makes a single "footprint" in the water when loaded to its rated capacity. For example, a catamaran, trimaran, or a pontoon boat is not a mono-hull boat. Many hunters and anglers do not think of themselves as boaters, but use small semi-v hull vessels, flat bottom jonboats or canoes to pursue their sports. These boats tend to be unstable and easily capsize. Capsizings, sinkings, and falls overboard from small boats account for about 70% of boating fatalities and these facts mean you must have a greater awareness of the boat's limitations and the skill and knowledge to overcome them. Standing in a small boat raises the center of gravity, often to the point of capsizing. Standing for any reason or even changing position in a small boat can be dangerous, as is sitting on the gunwales or seat backs or on a pedestal seat while underway. A wave or sudden turn may cause a fall overboard or capsizing because of the raised center of gravity.

Anchoring is done for two principal reasons: first, to stop for fishing, swimming, lunch, or an overnight stay and secondly, to keep you from running aground in bad weather or as a result of engine failure. Anchoring can be a simple task if you follow these guidelines:
1. Make sure you have the proper type of anchor (danforth/plow/mushroom).
2. A three to six foot length of galvanized chain should be attached to the anchor. The chain will stand up to the abrasion of sand, rock or mud on the bottom much better than a fiber line.
3. A suitable length of nylon anchor line should be attached to the end of the chain (this combination is called the "Rode"). The nylon will stretch under heavy strain cushioning the impact of the waves or wind on the boat and the anchor.
4. Select an area that offers maximum shelter from wind, current and boat traffic.
5. Determine depth of water and type of bottom (preferably sand or mud).
6. Calculate the amount of anchor line you will need. General rule: 5 to 7 times as much anchor line as the depth of water plus the distance from the water to where the anchor will attach to the bow. For example, if the water depth is 8 feet and it is 2 feet from the top of water to your bow cleat, you would multiply 10 feet by 5 to 7 to get the amount of anchor line to put out.
7. Secure the anchor line to the bow cleat at the point you want it to stop.
8. Bring the bow of the vessel into the wind or current.
9. When you get to the spot you want to anchor, place the engine in neutral.
10. When the boat comes to a stop, slowly lower the anchor. Do not throw the anchor over as it tends to entangle the anchor line.
11. When all anchor line has been let out, back down on the anchor with engine in idle reverse to help set the anchor.
12. When anchor is firmly set, use reference points (landmarks) in relation to the boat to make sure you are not drifting. Check these points frequently. Do not anchor by the Stern. Anchoring a small boat by the stern has caused many to quickly capsize and sink. The transom is usually squared off and has less freeboard than the bow. In a current, the force of the water can pull the stern under. The boat is also vulnerable to swamping by wave action. The weight of a motor, fuel tank, or other gear in the stern increases the risk.

Most fires and explosions happen during or after fueling. To prevent an accident, follow these rules:
1. Portable tanks should be refueled ashore.
2. Close all hatches and other openings before fueling.
3. Extinguish all smoking materials.
4. Turn off engines, all electrical equipment, radios, stoves and other appliances.
5. Remove all passengers.
6. Keep the fill nozzle in contact with the tank and wipe up any spilled fuel.
7. Open all ports, hatches and doors to ventilate.
8. Run the blower for at least four minutes.
9. Check the bilges for fuel vapors before starting the engine.
10. Do the "sniff test". Sniff around to make sure there is no odor of gasoline anywhere in the boat. Do not start the engine until all traces of fuel vapors are eliminated.

Fuel Management
Practice the "One-Third Rule" by using:
1. One-third of the fuel going out
2. One-third to get back and
3. One-third in reserve

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Vessel Documentation

All undocumented vessels equipped with propulsion machinery operating on navigable waters of the U.S., must be registered in the state of principal use. A certificate of number will be issued upon registering the vessel. These numbers must be displayed on your vessel. The owner / operator of a vessel has to carry a valid certificate of number whenever the vessel is in use. When moved to a new state of principal use, the certificate is valid for 60 days. Some states require all vessels to be numbered. Some larger recreational vessels may be documented. The certificate of documentation has to be on board a documented vessel at all times. A document serves as a certificate of nationality and an authorization for a specific trade. A documented vessel is not exempt from applicable state or federal taxes, or is its operator exempt from compliance with federal or state equipment carriage requirements.

Numbers must be painted or permanently attached to each side of the forward half of the vessel. The validation stickers must be affixed within six inches of the registration number. With the exception of the vessel fee decal, no other letters or numbers can be displayed.

The owner of a vessel must notify the agency which issued the certificate of number within 15 days if:
1. The vessel is transferred, destroyed, abandoned, lost, stolen or recovered.
2. The certificate of number is lost, destroyed or the owner's address changes. If the certificate of number becomes invalid for any reason, it must be surrendered in the manner prescribed to the issuing authority within 15 days. A documented vessel must have the name of the vessel and hailing port plainly marked on the exterior part of the hull in clearly legible letters not less than 4 inches in height. In addition, the documented vessel must have the "Official Number" permanently affixed in block type, Arabic numerals, not less than 3 inches in height on some clearly visible structural part of the boat.

With a few exceptions, all commercial vessels of 5 or more net tons, which are used on the navigable waters of the U.S., must be documented. A commercial vessel of 5 or more net tons engaged in foreign trade is eligible, but not required, to be documented. A recreational boat may (at the option of the owner) also be documented if it is 5 or more net tons. The Certificate of Documentation is issued by the Coast Guard. There are advantages and disadvantages to documenting your vessel. The main benefit of documentation versus numbering is that a documented vessel may be the subject of a Preferred Ship Mortgage under the Ship Mortgage Act of 1920.

This means that lending institutions regard a documented vessel as a more secure form of collateral. For larger and more expensive boats, it may be easier to obtain bank financing if the boat is documented rather than numbered. Another benefit is that the certificate of documentation may make customs entry and clearance easier in foreign ports. The document is treated as a form of national registration that clearly identifies the nationality of the vessel. The main disadvantage of documenting rather than numbering is the higher cost. The numbering fee varies from State to State. In addition, documented vessels are not exempt from State or local taxes, or other boating fees. You can get information on documenting a vessel by contacting the U. S. Coast Guard Vessel Documentation Office at (800) 799-8362.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Small Boats Crossing Coastal Bars

Coastal Bar Conditions
Tides (changes in water level) are caused mainly by the gravitational pull of the sun and moon. A flood tide is the tidal movement of water towards shore, and an ebb tide is the movement away from shore or downstream. Slack water is when there is no tidal movement. Tidal current is the flow of water. Tidal currents can have considerable velocities, especially during an ebb tide.

Coastal Bars
The most dangerous condition occurs when a swift ebb current meets heavy seas rolling in at a shallow river entrance (called a bar). At these coastal bars the water "piles up" and then "breaks". Even on calm days a swift ebb tide may create a bar condition that is to rough for small craft (any vessel under 65 feet). It is safest to transit from harbor to ocean only on slack water, flood tides, or then the sea state is calm. If you are inside the bar when rough conditions exist, stay inside. If you are trapped outside a rough bar on an ebb current, wait a few hours until the tide floods. Waves can build up around sand spits and shallow areas. These areas are dangerous and shoud be avoided. In a bar area, sea conditions can change fast and without warning.

Bar Restrictions
Federal statutes authorize the Coast Guard to terminate the use of recreational boats on coastal bars when unsafe boating conditions exits. Bar restrictions are activated when, in the judgment of the Coast Guard, conditions of wave height and surface current make boating unsafe. The Regulated Boating Area Warning Sign is a diamond-shaped white daymark with a orange reflective border and the words "Rough Bar" in black letters. Generally, two alternating quick flashing yellow lights are displayed when seas exceed 4 feet in height. Lights are usually extinguished when the sea conditions lay down, but this is no guarantee that the bar is safe. In general, jetties continue seaward for several yards past the visible end. By all means AVOID CROSSING OVER A SUBMERGED JETTY. Navigate with caution near jetties when wind and sea are setting you toward the jetty.

Range Markers
Front and rear range markers are rectangular-shaped dayboards either red, green, black, or white, with a contrasting colored center strip. (most range markers are KRB, red with a black center stripe.) For nighttime use most range markers are lighted. By steering a course which keeps the two range markers or their lights in line with one another, the you will remain within the approximate channel. Because entrance channels are constantly shifting, the range markers do not always mark best water. You should remain in the approximate channel by steering a course that keeps these range markers in line.

Seasonal Aids to Navigation
Due to severe weather conditions and reduced vessel traffic during the winter, numerous aids to navigation (lights, buoys, fog signals) are seasonally discontinued, withdrawn, or replaced by smaller aids. These changes occur at regular intervals each year. The approximate dates are contained in the most recent edition of the Light List. The actual dates may change due to adverse weather conditions. You can look at the Coast Guard's Local Notice to Mariners and listen to a Broadcast Notice to Mariners on the VHF radio.

Weather Warning Displays
1. Small Craft Advisory: Alerts mariners to sustained (more than two hours) weather or sea conditions, either present or forecast, that might be hazardous to small boats. If you should here of a Small Craft Advisory you can determine the reason by tuning your radios to the latest marine broadcasts. The decision as to the degree of hazard is left up to the you, based on his / her experience, and size and type of boat. The conditions for the Small Craft Advisory are usually 18 knots of wind (less than 18 knots in some dangerous waters) or hazardous wave conditions.

2. Gale Warning: To indicate winds within the range of 34 to 47 knots are forecast for the area.

3. Storm Warning: To indicate winds 48 knots and above are forecast for the area. If the winds are associated with a tropical cyclone (hurricane) the Storm warning display indicates that winds 64 knots and above are forecast for the area.

4. Hurricane Warning: Issued only in connection with a tropical cyclone (hurricane) to indicate that winds 64 knots and above are forecast for the area.

NOTE: A "HURRICANE WATCH" is an announcement issued by the National Weather Service via press, and radio and television broadcasts whenever a tropical storm or hurricane becomes a threat to a coastal area. The "Hurricane Watch" announcement is not a warning, it indicates that the hurricane is near enough that everyone in the area covered by the "Watch" should listen to their radios for advisories and be ready to take precautionary action in case “Hurricane Warnings” are issued. A SPECIAL MARINE WARNING BULLETIN is issued whenever a severe local storm or strong wind of brief duration is imminent and is not covered by existing warnings or advisories. Boaters will be able to receive these special warnings by keeping tuned to a NOAA or Coast Guard VHF-FM radio frequency and commercial radio stations that transmit marine weather information.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Helicopter Evacution Procedures

Helicopter Evacuation Procedures
The following procedures are used by the Coast Guard during helicopter evacuation from a vessel. If you have a radio aboard, further instructions may be given by the helicopter on the voice distress frequency. As Captain or Boat Operator, each person on board is under your care and although the Coast Guard may assist you, each person is your responsibility. Helicopter evacuation is a hazardous operation to the patient and the helo crew, and should only be attempted in event of very serious illness or injury. Make sure you give the doctor all the information you can concerning the patient so an evaluation can be made concerning the need for evacuation. Today's helicopters can only proceed up to 100 miles offshore for a pickup, and then only if weather conditions permit. They have limited time to conduct the evacuation before fuel constraints require the helicopter to return to base. If you have a victim on board and believe that an evacuation is necessary, find a safe course and make best speed towards the closest Coast Guard air station.

Requesting Helicopter Assistance
(1) Give accurate position, time, speed, course, weather conditions, sea conditions, wind direction and velocity, type of vessel, and radio frequencies.
(2) If not already provided, give complete medical information including whether or not patient is able to walk.
(3) If you are beyond helicopter range, advise your intentions so that a rendezvous point may be selected.
(4) If there are any changes in any plans or information, advise immediately. Should the patient expire prior to arrival of the helicopter, be sure to advise.

Making preparations for the Arrival of the Helicopter
(1) Provide continuous radio guard on 2182 kHz or specified voice frequency if possible.
(2) Clear most suitable hoist area. This should include securing of loose gear, awnings and
antenna wires. Lash up or stow running rigging and booms. The stern is the preferred hoist area. The foredeck should be prepared only when the stern or amidships cannot possibly be used.
(3) If the hoist is at night, light the pickup areas as well as best you can. Be sure you do not shine any lights on the helicopter that might blind the pilot and crew. If there are obstructions in the vicinity, put a light on them so the pilot will be aware of their positions.
(4) Advise location of pickup area before the helicopter arrives so the pilot may adjust for and make the approach aft, amidships, or forward.
(5) Remember, there will be a high noise level under the helicopter, voice communication is almost impossible. Have a set of hand signals among the crew who will assist.

Hosit Operations
(1) If possible, have patient moved to close to the hoist area as his condition permits.
(2) Normally, if a litter is required, it will be necessary to move the patient to the special litter that will be lowered by the helo. Be ready to do this as quick as possible. Make sure the patient is strapped in, face up. If patient’s condition permits, ensure that they are wearing a lifejacket. Be sure patient is tagged to indicate what and when medication was given.
(3) Change course to permit the your boat to ride as easily as possible with the wind on the bow, preferably on the port bow. Try to choose a course to keep engine exhausts clear of hoist area.
(4) Reduce speed to ease ship's motion but maintain steerageway.
(5) If you do not have radio contact with the helo, when you are ready for the hoist, signal the helo in with a "come on" by hand, or use flashlight at night.
(7) If a trail line is dropped by the helo, guide the basket or stretcher to deck with the line. keep line clear at all times, the line will not cause shock.
(8) Place patient in basket sitting with hands clear of sides, or in the litter. Signal helo hoist operator when ready for hoist. Patient nods head if he is able. If you are on deck give a thumbs up. DO NOT SECURE CABLE TO VESSEL OR ATTEMPT TO MOVE STRETCHER WITHOUT UNHOOKING.
(9) When patient is strapped in stretcher, signal helo to lower cable, and signal hoist operator when ready to hoist. Steady stretcher to prevent swinging or turning.
(10) If trail line is attached to basket or stretcher use to steady (keep feet clear of line).

Monday, January 5, 2009

GMDSS Sea 300 MF/HF SSB Radio

To power up the transceiver
a. Press (PWR) key, Radio will self-test and will take a few minutes to stabilize
b. Keying the microphone push-to-talk button will switch the transmitter circuits on
c. When the microphone P- T- T button is depressed the "TUNED" indicator will indicate that the transmitter has matched to the antenna
d. Stop scan on SeaCall 7000 - Press (3)

Selecting a voice channel
a. Enter the desired three or four digit channel number followed by (ENT) key.
b. To enter CH 403, press [4] [0] [3] (ENT) keys.
c.To toggle the display from Channel to Frequency press (CHAN / FREQ) key.

Selecting a TELEX channel
a. Enter the desired telex channel followed by the (Mode) key.
b. Make sure the modem key is on.
c. To enter CH403 Telex press (4) (0) (3) (MODE) keys.
d. To toggle the display from Channel to Frequency press (CHAN / FREQ) key.

Entering a Receive only frequency
a. To enter any frequency between 490.0 kHz and 30,000.0 Khz
b. Enter the frequency using four, five, or six digits followed by (ENT) key.
c. The (CHAN / FREQ) key will be inoperative when in the receive only mode.

To manually review the ITU channel list
a. Enter a desired ITU channel number followed by (AUX / SEND) key.
b. Use the UP or DOWN keys to sept through the ITU channel list.

c. To exit the manual ITU channel review and restore normal radio operation press (ENT) key.

Adjusting the squelch threshold
a. The squelch normally needs no adjustments, and is factory adjusted you can manually adjust the threshold from the low level 0 to the very high level 9.
b. To adjust the squelch threshold Press (AUX / SEND) and (SQL) keys.

c. Enter the desired squelch level setting, (3) (ENT) keys.
d. The factory setting is 4.

e. Use the (SQL) key to toggle the squelch on and off The "SQL" annunciator indicates the squelch is on.

Controlling Front Panel Illumination
a. Enter any numeric key from (1) to (4) followed by (ENT) key.
b. 1 = illumination off 4= Maximum brilliance

Selecting Level of Power Output
a. There are three power level for the radio. High power = (150 Watts MF band) (300 Watts HF band) Intermediate power = 1/2 power in each band Low power is 25 Watts in MF band and 50 Watts in HF band
b. To decrease power in one-level increments press (AUX / SEND) (FREQ DOWN) key.
c. To increase power in one-level increments press (AUX / SEND) (FREQ) UP key.

Selecting Lower Sideband (if needed, Standard is USB)
a. To select Lower Sideband Press (MODE) key until "LSB" appears in the annunciator.
b. The radio is normally in Upper Sideband.