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Boating Tips for Every Season!
Sea Tow Captains work 24/7, 365-days a year – we are a year-round boating community because we have Captains servicing members all over the nation. While some of our Captains are watching the leaves change color soon in the northeast, Captains in the southern regions are ramping up for another busy boating season. Here are a few boating safety tips no matter where you are:
Late-Season Boating Tips. Fall is here, but that doesn’t mean boating in the northern states has to come to an end just yet. In fact, some of the best leaf peeping can only be done from the water. And, judging by BoatingLocal.com’s Fishing Channel at boatinglocal.com/fishing – which recently reported that a state-record, 68.85-pound albacore tuna was caught off Old Saybrook, Conn. – fall fishing is better than ever this year. Here are a few safety tips from the Sea Tow Foundation for boating and fishing on these shorter, cooler autumn days:
- Use your charts. With the sun setting earlier, you may find yourself cruising home in the dark, making landmarks hard to spot. Aids to navigation such as channel markers and buoys also may be pulled as early as October in some areas. Make sure your charts – electronic and paper – are up to date and use them to navigate instead.
- Check lights and flares. Make sure your boat’s navigation lights are in working order and your emergency flares are not past their expiration date. Carry a couple of waterproof flashlights to help you unload passengers and gear at the dock or ramp after dark.
- Carry a VHF radio. Waterways tend to be less crowded in the fall. While this can be peaceful, it also means if you run into another boater, you have a way to communicate with them.
- Wear a lifejacket. As water temperatures start to drop, boaters who accidentally fall overboard run an increased risk of hypothermia. While children under 13 must wear a life jacket when the boat is under way by law, it’s a good idea for adults to wear them, too – especially at night. Purchase a model with a light attached, for added visibility in the water at night. Dress in layers for warmth, but be sure your life jacket fits over them.
Tips to Help Kick Off High Boating Season in the South
Sea Insure Tip of the Month:
- Do your annual maintenance. Whether you work on your boat and engine(s) yourself, or take them to your dealer or service shop, make sure your maintenance is up to date. The manufacturer’s recommendation to service the engine at “100 hours or annually” actually means whichever comes first, points out Capt. Kerry Kline of Sea Tow Central Florida Lakes. “I met a Sea Tow member who had 95 hours on his engine and was waiting for it to hit 100 hours before he did the maintenance,” says Capt. Kline. “The problem was, the last time the engine had been serviced was four years earlier, when he bought the boat.”
- Inspect the water pump. If the pump has dried out, or the impeller has disintegrated or is broken, it can do severe damage your engine the next time you run it. “I always recommend starting every season with a new water pump,” says Capt. Ryan Pratt of Sea Tow Treasure Coast in Jensen Beach, Florida. “In the grand scheme of things, it’s a lot cheaper than having to repair or replace an engine.”
- Check the fuel filter. When today’s ethanol-enhanced fuel sits unused for three months or longer, it can precipitate out water. Remove the filter and pour some fuel into a cup to inspect it. Remove any water from your tank and change the filter.
- Top off the batteries. The sun and heat in southern regions can evaporate the water in the batteries quickly. Top off batteries with distilled water, not tap water. Make sure all the terminals are clean and tight. Start your engine and let it warm up before leaving the boat ramp or dock to be sure it has a good charge and you won’t end up dead in the water.
- Maintain your trailer. Re-grease the hubs or buddy bearings annually and check the tire pressure before heading out to the lake or river. “The number one cause of blowouts is an underinflated trailer tire,” says Capt. Kline. Don’t forget to put the drain plug back in your boat before launching it.
- Inspect your lifesaving equipment, including fire extinguishers and flares, and replace any that have reached or passed their expiration dates. Replace damaged lifejackets, and be sure you have the required number for your boat. Check that the kids’ PFDs still fit them well and keep a couple of extra life jackets in children’s sizes onboard for guests.
We often speak with boaters who have their boat insured under their homeowner’s policy. While this may save a few bucks, homeowner’s insurance policies generally offer minimal physical damage coverage – often only around $1,000 – and exclude many other valuable coverages, such as pollution, environmental damage and salvage. The lack of these coverages could mean thousands or more in out-of-pocket expenses in a claim situation. Call Sea Insure today at 877-568-1672 or visit www.seainsure.com for a free quote on the broadest coverage available for your vessel.
CAPTAIN SPOTLIGHT: Three adults, two kids rescued after boat sinks off Guilford, Connecticut
On the afternoon of August 29th a vessel hit Falkner Island North Reef and sank in less than 10 minutes. The captain and crew abandoned ship with their life jackets on and formed a circle. They bobbed in the water helpless until Sea Tow Central Connecticut Captain Ken Carnes arrived on scene and rescued all five.
The distressed boaters had called the Coast Guard as their vessel was taking on water. The Coast Guard quickly determined the sinking boat’s location using nearby towers that detect signals and then put an emergency message out to all area boaters as emergency personnel headed out from the New Haven Coast Guard station. The Coast Guard also notified the Guilford Fire Department, which responded to the scene as well.
“It was a good save,” Coast Guard Command Duty Officer Mark Averill said. “They all wore their life jackets and stayed together in the water, which is the right thing to do. … It was a good response by all partner agencies and successful.”
CAPTAIN SPOTLIGHT: Man’s Best Friend Saved by Sea Tow Key West
Capt. Steve Dobkins is used to receiving calls for assistance on the water, but he recently got one that was highly unusual. “We’ve lost our dog!” said the voice on the other end of the line. “We think he fell out of the boat on our way back from Boca Grande Key.”
Capt. Steve quickly headed out to the island, which lies off Key West. The sun had already set, and the poor dog was alone out there somewhere, swimming for his life in the dark sea, so the Capt. Steve got on the VHF and contacted competing towboat operators for help. A former dog handler prior to becoming a Sea Tow Captain, he refused to give up the search even after he’d spent several fruitless hours on the water. Finally, as Capt. Steve approached Crawfish Key, his spotlight picked up two bright eyes shining in the darkness.
He had found the dog, whose name was Bear, but now he had to get him into the boat. Calling on his early training, Capt. Steve climbed out into the shallow flats and managed to get Bear to trust him enough to let him lift the dog onto the boat’s deck. Safe at last, Bear accepted a piece of beef jerky and curled up at the Captain’s feet for the ride home. Capt. Steve took Bear back to Sea Tow’s base on Stock Island and reunited him with his ecstatic owners, who had only adopted Bear from a shelter a couple of months before.
Reap the Rewards with MarineMax
If you’re thinking of buying that cool new piece of electronics equipment, or need some other essential item for your boat, don’t forget to activate your MarineMax Rewards Membership. It’s a $20 value that’s included in your Sea Tow membership, and can provide you with even more savings off the already low prices in the MarineMax Boating Gear Center.
This online store, located at www.boatinggearcenter.com, has great deals and discounts on a wide variety of items that any boater needs. Want to see the types of savings you can get? Check out the latest edition of MarineMax Rewards magazine.
To enroll in MarineMax Rewards:
- Create your own Sea Tow account at seatow.com as per the instructions above.
- When logged in to your account go the “National Participants” section under Savings and Discounts and click on the MarineMax link to access the registration form.