Mailboat Letters

Published: January 2011

Someday A Mayday?

My name is Fred Gonzalez and I'm a firefighter in Southwest Florida. Our department just purchased a rescue boat and, unfortunately we've been very busy. I thought it was great that you published an article outlining the steps and procedures to send out a mayday. I personally don't think enough boaters know what they're supposed to do. We often pull up to vessels in distress in which the occupants were amazed at how many boats went by and neglected to offer assistance. Folks should know how to use their VHF to send out a mayday; it could be YOU out there someday.



Electricity On the Hard

Photo of a boat receiving power while in storage

Regarding the Alert that mentioned using power on the hard: The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has a requirement that all boats receiving power while in storage must be protected with a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) source. This would also be a good practice for boats that require maintenance on the hard (a form of storage out of the water).

Also, I recommend that a grounding connection be made to the underwater metals of any boat on the hard using shore power. This connection has to be made to the facility grounding system, not just into a ground stake. I won't work on a boat's underside unless grounded, if shore power is connected.



Right Of Way?

In the October issue, I read the article about the collision between two sailboats. In that article, it was stated that there is no "right of way for boats."

Well, this is not true, according to Chapman's Piloting and Seamanship of Boating. It seems that while piloting your boat, there is an area that is called the Danger Zone. The Danger Zone around one's boat is located clockwise from dead ahead to two points (22.5 degrees) abaft the starboard beam. All boats in the area that are approaching your course have right of way. Boats outside this area approaching your course must give way to you. This is something that should be known by any boat operator, especially if they have not taken any formal courses on boating rules of the road. Just like driving a car, there are rules to be followed.



Editor: The Danger Zone, taken from Chapman's, is a useful tool and skippers would do well to understand it as they navigate with other boaters. But the COLREGS (Rules of the Road) do not mention "right of way" (they instead mention stand-on and give-way vessels), nor does the Danger Zone passage in Chapman's — and for good reason, since the term "right of way" tends to imply that if a skipper follows all the rules and is still involved in a collision, he would not be liable. And while that is true in most circumstances, there is the possibility that by following the rules ("I have right of way over that guy so I am not turning"), you put your boat and crew in danger. Rule 2, entitled "Responsibility," requires that every vessel must use all appropriate means to avoid immediate danger, even if it means violating the rules. This means that no vessel has the right of way over any other vessel if there is imminent danger of collision.

Can Dock Lines Sink A Boat?

I read with great interest (and sympathy) the article in Alert titled, "Can Dock Lines Sink A Boat?" (Seaworthy, Vol. 28, No. 4, October 2010).

The writer named two reasons — neglect and loose dock lines — that caused the sinking of that boat. We also learned the hard way — a ripped out deck cleat and boat-to-dock-contact — because of loose lines.

The secret is having the lines gently taut at all times, keeping the boat centered in its slip. We found that something called TideMinders [] appears to be the easiest way to accomplish this, regardless of high crosswinds, extreme tide changes, even neglect. We had a 12-foot-wide slip and a sailboat with a 10-foot beam. The TideMinders kept lateral movement to four inches max and they rolled up and down with any change in water level, so the boat's lines never needed adjusting.



Why Vents In Boat Tanks?

It keeps occurring to me that I have two automobiles that sit for approximately six months every year and neither seems to have the problems I encounter with my boat (100-gallon tank).

The automobiles have a cap on the tank; the boat's tank is vented. The venting would be the source of water that is subsequently absorbed by the ethanol. There must be some air intake into the auto tank to replace fuel as used. This may be just enough for the replacement.

What am I missing? Would the boating industry consider converting new manufacturing to a system similar to autos?



Editor: Autos use a closed low-pressure fuel system that allows expanded vapors to collect inside a charcoal canister and then get burned off as the engine runs. Due to EPA regulations, the system is not vented directly to the atmosphere. This creates pressure in the fuel system, which is why you sometimes hear a whoosh when you open your filler cap. Unlike autos, USCG regulations and ABYC safety standards prohibit all but a miniscule amount of pressure in boat fuel systems, since even a small leak would force gasoline or vapors into engine spaces.

First, Birdies And Now, Spiders

My wife and I live on Greenwood Lake in West Milford, New Jersey. Shortly after the completion of our dock and sundeck, we acquired resident barn swallows in the overhang at the very end of the dock, closest to the water (four nests, four families). The swallows leave in the early fall, and families of starlings move in till spring, when the swallows return. Sort of like their own timeshare. I have a boat lift that is operated with pulleys and cables that run over the top of the boat, making a convenient perch for dozens of them to sit and stare at the lake.

Photo of hang the CD discs from the rafters above a boat-lift

Aside from staring, they also leave behind a row of reminders on the boat cover. I collected discarded CDs from my wife's computer work and freebies in the mail. I glued two discs together so both sides had the shiny, reflective surface showing. I then used heavy nylon string and a staple gun to hang the discs from the rafters surrounding the boat. Perching and poop trail problem solved! Next challenge: Can anyone tell me how to get rid of millions of spiders under all the rafters? Spider Away spray did not work.End of story marker


Dear Lindsay …

Just a quick note to thank you for your timely attention and help with my recent claim. Only my pride was hurt in the accident, but I suffered a severe tongue lashing when I explained what happened to the Mrs. Thanks for making my insurance claim quick and painless.

First Time's a Charm

I have been a BoatUS insured member since 1976, except for one year between boats, and have just had my first claim experience. I am writing you to call attention to your adjuster, Salandra. In this day and age it is rare to talk to someone who is not only very professional but courteous and receptive to what the customer has to say. My claim is going through the system and this nice young lady has kept me advised at every step, which is greatly appreciated.

Solving Mildew Problems

I'm having trouble with mildew and thought you must have published some articles about it at one time, but I couldn't find anything about this in the archives.


Editor: See "Getting Fresh Air Down Below".

Sunday In Honea Path

My wife and I were trailering my son's Boston Whaler from Clemson, South Carolina, (in the upstate) to Charleston on Sunday. While driving through Honea Path, the trailer's axle fractured. Honea Path is not exactly a metropolis, and we were at least 20 miles away from any large town.

I removed the trailer from my hitch and we drove to a gas station and asked for a phone book. I had no idea where I was going to find anyone to help me move a loaded trailer with a broken axle on a Sunday. It just so happened that in the phone book there was a listing for "TowboatUS," I assumed in Anderson, which was the closest large town. I called and spoke to a person (it was either "Tom" or "Todd"), and identified myself as a BoatUS member. Although he was out of the office, he was able to reach a local towing company and get them to me in about two hours. We loaded the trailer and boat on a rollback tow truck and we had it in a secure storage yard in about 30 minutes.

Both the TowBoatUS representative and the local towing company were extremely helpful. I was just amazed. The TowBoatUS representative called us later to make sure we'd been helped. Very impressive! Please pass on our sincere compliments to your TowBoatUS people.