Mailboat Letters

Published: October 2012
Staying Clear Of Big Ships

As a ship pilot on Chesapeake Bay, I read Captain McGovern's article about collision avoidance with great interest. Close encounters with recreational boat traffic are a common occurrence in any pilotage area. Although a ship may seem to be moving glacially, it is wise to remember that a ship doing 15 knots is moving at 25 feet per second. A ship doing 20 knots will cover one nautical mile in three minutes. Pilots adjust ship speed in accordance with traffic density, but it is helpful for recreational boaters to understand that because of a ship's size, its speed can be very deceiving. Generally, ships are also quiet, and a lack of vigilance can place the unwary into harm's way.

Visibility is a very real problem aboard ships. I advise boaters to look for the windows on a ship's navigation bridge. If they can't see the windows, they should assume that the ship doesn't see them and govern themselves accordingly.

A two-mile CPA (Closest Point of Approach) is desirable, but impossible to achieve in some waters. Recreational boaters should become familiar with the routes commercial traffic ply in their particular areas of recreation, and be vigilant if they find themselves navigating in those areas. Any action taken to avoid a collision should be early and substantial. As stated, Channel 13 is the ship-to ship-frequency. Don't be afraid to use it!

Bill Band
Maryland Pilots
Baltimore, Maryland

To your six tips for avoiding a collision with a huge ship in your July issue, I would offer a seventh, which works particularly well at night: When there is a light on the horizon whose bearing stays constant, you may break that bearing lock (and avoid a potential collision) by steering directly at the stern of the target. This maneuver works in every case except a situation where the light is directly ahead of you when first noticed, and remains dead ahead. In that case you simply turn left or right to break the bearing lock. I learned this years ago flying jets off carriers and it works the same for boats.

Mac McCarthy
Ocean City, New Jersey

Prop Guards

I just finished reading the latest issue of Seaworthy — lots of good info, as always.Regarding the prop guard article, in relatively few words, you captured the history, progress, and complications of the issue and, more importantly, presented the things boaters can do easily to minimize their risks now. One point of clarification: While ABYC has managed the effort, the USCG has "sponsored" and funded the work.

Richard Blackman
Cambridge, Maryland

Regarding the article on prop guards, your recommendations for preventing propeller accidents were good, but I would suggest shutting the engine off completely whenever a swimmer is climbing back aboard. I had a situation where the shift lever was bumped while I was helping my son board, and the prop was engaged for just a second. Thankfully, I jumped back and shut the engine off in time and he was not hurt. The lesson is to always shut the engine down; it could prevent an injury.

I read every issue of Seaworthy and heed the advice I learn from others. Keep up the great work and thanks for providing a forum from which we can all learn.

Lloyd Masukawa
Alamo, California

Overinflating RIBs

Depending on where the RIB is used, the sun could be a factor in overinflation. Here in North Florida, we have to be careful not to overinflate racing marks when they are set. As the sun shines on them, the air inside gets hotter and the marks inflate more. We never lost a mark, but some were close to pulling their seams apart when they were picked up and very hot air came out when the valve was released.

C. Henry Depew
Tallahassee, Florida

Style Vs. Seaworthiness

Your overview of market attractions compromising engineering-design priorities raises many flags, but not all flags. Prudent boat purchasing practice eventually will make a marine survey the norm for significant new boat purchases as well as used boat purchases. This is an educational challenge for BoatUS to make part of its narrative on behalf of its boating consumer members. Also:

  • Marine surveyors have a valuable "new boat service" to sell, which is overlooked. It may be via a survey or via a pre-purchase consultation. Marine surveyors typically know key details about boats like your candidate boat and have access to related information. Purchasing an hour or two of consultation time from a respected surveyor may be the best expense you will make in planning your purchase options. Indeed, the marine surveyor community could advertise the value and the benefits of such a pre-purchase role with a new level of organization.
  • New-boat purchasers have a wide range of owner websites available to learn about what current owners have to say about their boat that you're thinking of buying. Start with a simple web search.
  • Read carefully the new boat warranty before signing up to buy. Be clear about what is excluded and conditions for securing performance. If a big-ticket OEM [original equipment manufacturer] item is excluded and left to the OEM supplier's warranty, what is the written procedure to remedy the problem? What if there is a dispute between your new-boat seller and the big-ticket OEM supplier—like a dispute about a defective engine and defective installation causing the problem?

The recreational boating industry is wholly different from the auto industry. The boating manufacturers are typically small, privately owned corporations and are less likely to have their products exposed to public scrutiny. No Consumer Reports here! So buyer beware, including new boat buyers. Do your homework first. It helps keep the terrific eye candy of modern boats in perspective.

Jack Lahr
Annapolis, Maryland

Editor: Another good source for boat buying members is the Consumer Protection Bureau's database, which has over 10,500 complaints arranged by manufacturer. To view complaints, go to:

Owning two yachts built in the mid-'70s, I can appreciate the difference between a cocktail barge and a real boat. Everyone looks at aesthetics and pizzazz that sell boats. I have dealt with the same issues in house construction. I want durability and maintenance-free finishes. Teak is great if you have money and time. I have two cup holders I made out of PVC pipe for my 1978 Trojan. My 1974 Chris Craft has a hull 3/8-inch thick. Keeping and storing gear and spare parts is most important. When my boat was recently boarded by the Coast Guard, the inspector noted that he had never seen so much gear on this size boat. It would be good to publish "Seaworthy" gear and parts to have on board for certain size boats that go offshore in certain waters! Keep up the good articles for the weekend warriors!

Dean Jarvis
Tampa Bay, Florida

The Seafaringness Gene
(There Goes Our Excuse)

I was disappointed to discover that the story about the "seafaringness" gene in "Small Stuff," July 2012, isn't true; it's based on what turned out to be a spoof from March of last year. There is no Mystic University and there is no publication called Genetic Determination Today.

On the other hand, I did learn that the word "thalassophilia" has been used to describe love of seafaring, and maybe thalassophilia genes remain to be discovered.

Colin Dykes
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Lessons From Members,
#1 Engine Trim And Fuel Prime

Several weeks ago I was out drift fishing; every time I went to start my boat to start another drift, I found I had lost my prime and had to pump the bulb. (I have a 150-hp Mercury outboard). I was thinking I had a defective bulb or, worse, a bad fuel pump, but I had just replaced both last season so this didn't seem too likely. After I docked, I got my answer. While I was traveling across the bay in the morning, I had been trimming my engine to get a bit more speed and apparently had trimmed it a bit too far. When I raised it to flush it out, I realized it was too high. I went out the next day and, after my trip across the bay, made sure the engine was all the way down… problem solved. Maybe you can share this with your readers.

Paul Coonelly
Long Island, New York

Lessons From Members,
#2: Power Cord That Can Help You See In The Dark

Many boating magazines recently have had ads for a Marinco shore power cord with new features, including a "built-in Cordlight that helps you make connections even in the dark!" The ad shows a lighted female end of the cord acting as a flashlight to help find the power inlet on the boat. The problem with this is that, unless the cord has batteries, the shore end is plugged and hot! Having a live cord is dangerous for two reasons. The first and obvious is that it is possible to drop the live end in the water, the second that unless the main breaker is off on the boat, the end can arc when plugging into the boat. This can burn the plug, making it more apt to overheat and cause a fire.

I always follow the safe practice of having the breaker on the dock off before making the shore AND boat connections. Only then do I turn on the shore-side breaker. The LED lights at each end of the cord are a great idea, but encouraging boaters to climb aboard boats and hold the hot end of a 30- or 50-amp power cord is an accident waiting to happen!

Capt. Peter S. Reich
Shelter Island Heights, New York

Aw, Shucks…

Since becoming a member of BoatUS and purchasing towing and trailer coverage, I have not only enjoyed peace of mind but also look forward to getting the magazines. I have been boating for many years but know that I am not a blue-water sailor. All the magazines are top quality and my compliments to all who publish them. But Seaworthy has taught me so much on how to keep safe and maintain my boat even though I am not a novice but nowhere near being a real fixer. The pictures and step-by-step guidance and guides to staying safe on the water are so well presented. I keep articles in a binder and reread them. I am an older boater, but how I wish I had joined BoatUS years before I did. Please, just pass on my thanks to the editors and all the staff of Seaworthy. They do a terrific job.

John Lavin
Sebastian, Florida

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