Don't forget about these boating
items, they're part of your vessel's safety plan!
(Part one of a two part series)
By Wayne Spivak, National Press Corps
National Marketing & Public Affairs Department
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
KISS – not a smooch,
For those who love
acronyms, this one's a doozie!
For those who manage
people or other assets, program computers, or even plan a dinner party,
if you learn the acronym KISS and live by it, you'll find life is a lot
But obtaining the
nirvana of KISS is not easy, because it's so simple! And because it is
just so plain simple, many of us overlook the obvious. So whether you're
planning the merger of multiple government agencies like the Department
of Homeland Security just did, or jotting down the driving instructions
to your house, you always realize you missed something small and
Some items you should
not overlook, when it comes to your boat, its crew and their safety are
often missed, because they are just so plainly obvious...but are they?
The following areas
are "stand alone items" you should think about, but most are
inter-connected and sometimes inter-dependant on each other. Think of
them as a house of cards. Remove one card, and your house stands. Remove
the wrong card or cards and you run the risk of having your house
Owning a boat, in many
respects is similar to owning a car. In previous articles, I have used
this analogy for why there are navigation rules, why Personal Water
Craft (PWC's) are indeed boats, and why we use sound signals, to name a
Just as owning a
vehicle entails certain responsibilities, so does owning a boat.
As the Owner or
Skipper (and I will use them interchangeably, but there are sometimes
major differences, and you should speak with your legal advisor about
them) of a not-for-hire vessel, you are responsible for the welfare of
your crew and passengers.
from meeting or exceeding both Federal and State/Local minimum equipment
requirements, to knowing how to both navigate and handle your vessel
properly. As the Skipper, you need to always have in the back of your
mind the welfare of you and your crew- safety is paramount!
The navigation rules
were created to avoid collisions as sea. But we all know accidents
happen, whether they are boat to boat or boat to ground or boat to
another object (dock, buoy, submerged logs, etc.).
Do you know what the
requirements are for reporting an accident? What if someone was injured
or missing overboard or even killed? Each State has different rules, and
it is the responsibility of the Skipper to be aware of the laws in the
State in which he/she is operating! And, don't forget your insurance
company's rules (if you have liability insurance).
Many who boat in
coastal areas enjoy taking trips offshore. But leaving the safety of the
local bays, rivers, and harbors entails new responsibilities for the
skipper and crew.
Typically there is
some type of inlet that must be traversed. There are different currents
in the ocean, and where the ocean meets land, compared to those you find
in the bays and harbors. Weather (wind) patterns may be different. The
combination of these items might even make the head waters of the inlet
Is your boat built for
offshore sailing or is it more of a bay boat, where the waves never get
extremely high? My boat is a bay boat. Three to five foot seas closely
spaced (a short frequency) and the ride is uncomfortable, but safe.
Higher seas and/or larger spacing and the ride becomes dangerous. How
about your boat? Know and recognize your imitations!
Within the bays,
harbors, and rivers of this country you'll find navigation aids.
Depending on the area in which you boat, you will find different types
of buoys, lights, ranges, and identifiable structures on land. All these
items can be found on your navigational chart.
Obviously, you need to
know how to read a nautical chart, and more importantly, how to plot
your position on the nautical chart. The Coast Guard Auxiliary's
Basic Coastal Navigation and Advanced Coastal Navigation
courses can help you here!
However, with the
exception of the entrance to major inlets and shipping channels, there
are NO navigation aids offshore! And, should you venture out more than
two and a half miles offshore, it's quite possible you won't even see
the shore (depending on how many feet above the sea surface you can
An example is that
while you are sitting in you're boat; all of a sudden land disappears
from view. From the surface of the water to your eye, is 4 feet. This
means that you have just passed the 2.3 mile marker, away from shore.
Should you stand up in the boat, and your height of eye increases from 4
feet to 6 feet, you'll be able to see land for another ? mile. This
assumes that the weather is clear. Haze, fog, and other visibility
decreasing weather will cut these distances dramatically.
One of the nice things
about driving in many parts of the US, is there is always a gas station
around somewhere. In the more rural sections of our country, you might
have to travel a bit, but you'll eventually find one. But on the water,
you may not be so lucky!
On the bays, rivers,
lakes and harbors of our nation, you'll find gas docks (where local
authorities have deemed them to be environmentally safe). However, have
you ever seen or heard of a floating marina offshore? I haven't, and
that brings us to a major issue when traveling offshore – Fuel
Do you know how many
gallons your fuel tank holds? Is the fuel gauge accurate? How many
gallons per hour (gph) does your engine burn? At what RPM is this rate
calculated? What RPM were you traveling at? Did you calculate how many
hours and/or miles you intend to travel? Did you then calculate your
fuel requirements? Did you use the rule of thirds (one third of your
fuel to get to your destination, one third to get you back home, and one
third in reserve for emergencies)?
out of gas is one of the leading categories requiring a commercial
towing service (and sometimes ultimately, Coast Guard or Coast Guard
Auxiliary assets to be dispatched)
Now, many of you are
thinking, what if I know there is a gas dock which would take ? my tank
of gas to get to, why not just plan for this?
My answer is what if
the gas dock is closed? Now you don't have enough gas to return to your
originating point or possibly to the next gas dock, should you encounter
any adverse condition outside your assumptions you made in your initial
Last and certainly not
least: What about taking a boating safety course(s)? Have you educated
yourself to prepare for the type of boating you will be doing?
In this article, I've
asked numerous questions, each of which you need to answer before you
leave your dock! I'll discuss the answer to the last question here
(regarding boating safety courses). To learn more about the other
questions and their answers, why not take the Coast Guard Auxiliary's
Basic Coastal Navigation or Advanced Coastal Navigation
In the next article,
we'll touch on some additional topics every Skipper needs to think
about, before venturing away from the dock.
information on boating safety, the courses mentioned, or the United
States Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary, look us up on the web at
If you're height
of eye is 4', and you just lost sight of land, you can assume
you're slightly more than 2.3 miles away from land.
If you sit
lower, then the distance is less.
If you sit
higher, then you'll be able to see land farther out to sea.