A Tidy Vessel is a
by Wayne Spivak, National Press Corps, United
States Coast Guard Auxiliary
When I was younger, I remember saying "Cleanliness
is next to Godliness." I guess it was our culture's way of
teaching us that neat and clean were a healthy way to live. Then I
remember my third-grade teacher sending me to the desk in the back of
the room for being a slob.... Oh well, so much for "being next to
However, that old adage as many old sayings do has some
truth to them. And no better place to share the validity of the adage
is on your boat. A sloppy boat is just a disaster waiting to happen.
What is a sloppy boat?
Let's define my term "sloppy". A sloppy boat has lines,
and equipment lying around the deck. A sloppy boat has a bilge, which
contains foreign objects. A sloppy boat has chafed and/or exposed
electrical systems. A sloppy boat has leaky or poorly supported fuel
A sloppy boat has a galley full of dirty dishes. A
sloppy boat has pots and pans not secured. A sloppy boat has heating
and air conditioner ducts clogged or blocked. A sloppy boat is a very
dangerous place to be.
A USCG Auxiliary Vessel Safety Examiner will, during
the course of a free Vessel Safety Check (VSC), check your boat and
note when and where these and other conditions exist. Failure to keep
a tidy boat, is just one of the reasons for failing a VSC, and if not
corrected, could cause the Coast Guard to issue a voyage termination
But, we've gone a little too far. Let us examine why a
sloppy boat is a very dangerous place to be!
Dangers of a sloppy boat
For some of us who remember the original Dennis the
Menace television series, Mr. Wilson was always tripping over Dennis'
toys. I remember laughing at every pratfall. However, that was TV, and
your boat is reality!
Tripping on equipment or lines that are just lying
around the cockpit, the galley, the sole, or even the walkways can
seriously injure you, your crew or guests. In fact, it's possible to
fall overboard by tripping over something (I know, I've almost done it
myself, but it was on a sailboat, and I didn't see the chock).
In addition, gear, which is not stowed properly, as far
as weight distribution, can cause instability for the vessel, and
increase the chances of both a broaching and/or a swamping. A reason
for the increased likelihood of these two conditions is the reduced
freeboard caused by the improper weight distribution.
Foreign articles in the bilge can cause the pump to
fail, which in turn, prohibits the water from finding its way out of
the boat. Excess water in the bilge can cause stability problems for
your vessel, by having a freely shifting weight moving counter to the
righting arm of the vessel.
For those who haven't taken a seamanship course, the
righting arm is the term used in determining the amount of heel a
vessel can withstand before it capsizes. Many factors (vectors) are
involved, from height of the vessel, to beam. One factor is the
buoyancy of the vessel. Free moving water changes the relationship of
this vector and hence the equations of the righting arm. In simpler
terms, when the bilge pump isn't working, your vessel isn't safe!
Electrical systems and fuel systems that are in need of
repair can be the cause of the one element you never want to loose
control of in a boat. From time in memorial, fire has been one of the
most prized, yet frightening aspects on a boat. "Fire", as Richard
Pryor once said, "is inspirational", except on boat!
With nowhere to go, but
overboard, a fire can be one of the most frightening and dangerous
events that a boater can encounter. As in your house, frayed wires can
cause a fire. Improperly maintained fuel systems can also cause gas
fumes, which can be ignited. In either case, unsafe electrical and
fuel systems are a dangerous condition. Dirty and clogged heating or
air conditioner vents prevent these systems from efficiently working,
and can cause overheating of the a/c or heating systems.
Vermin, insects, food poisoning, flying debris are all
caused by a sloppy galley. Broken glass, crockery, sharp implements
(such as knives, forks and even spoons) can be dislodged during a
bouncy ride, and be the catalyst for injury.
Who wants to sleep in an overly cold or hot cabin that
most likely is inhabited by non-paying, non-contributory guests (we're
not talking about the in-laws...we're talking about vermin and insects).
A clean galley is
a safer galley. A safer galley is a safer boat, and safe boating is
what we in the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary want for all
boaters. In fact, why don't you contact your local Coast Guard
Auxiliary Flotilla? You can find them at
www.cgaux.org or by contacting your local Coast Guard unit (www.uscg.mil)
and request a VSC. Better yet, contact a Vessel Examiner in your area
by using our automated VSC Examiner finder at: