Today's lake level: 1064.18
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May. 28, 2017
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Captain's Comments

Boating season kicks off early this year

The boating season will start early this year. We really didn’t have much winter weather to speak of so it’s time to de-winterize!
 
After your first run, remember to check your water separator.  When you tank up remember to add “Stabil” and continue to do it during the boating season. Make sure you get your maintenance log out and do the recommended maintenance before launching. Keep your maintenance log up to date so you won’t miss anything that could cause you a breakdown during the summer cruising season. 
 
Re-check all your safety equipment to see that they are in working order. Check your PFDs to make sure they are in good condition and not mildewed or deteriorated. Check your dock lines and anchor and rode. Replace where needed. Inspect fenders so they will protect your hull properly.  Check your electronics so they will perform properly. If they are old you might want to update your boat’s electronics. Watch for the West Marine sales and you will save money and you will get electronics that will be technically superior to what you now have. 
 
If you are a fisherman you might want to note on your charts the excellent places to fish when Lanier gets an extra 10 feet of water and the lake level will be at 1071. The places you mark on your charts before the lake depth increases will become your future “honey hole” for large bass and stripers, as well as crappie. Those “honey holes” will provide a lot of great fish dinners as well as some large fish for mounting on the wall and great fish stories.  If the water doesn’t come up to have reasonable launching and cruising depths and you have a trailerable boat, Georgia has a lot of lakes that are not as drought stricken as Lanier.
 
Another option is the inland waterways in North Florida or on the Georgia coast. If you are a fisherman you have a choice of trout, flounder, reds, kingfish, or tarpon   If you ever catch a large tarpon you won’t believe how they fight. You will have a great fish story and probably a great trophy to mount on your wall. If you really want to catch a tarpon, go to Boca Grande, Fla. Tarpon season starts on the full moon in May. Boca Grande is a great place to visit. While there you could visit Ussepa Island and Cabbage Key. 
 
Buying a used boat
We have all seen the two to four year old boat parked in the driveway for sale. A lot of buyers think it might be a great deal. You might even take a sea trial on it and think it’s great. That’s a mistake a lot of novice boat buyers make. To protect yourself you should always have a marine survey done on any used boat you are considering. The results of the sea trial and marine survey will give you enough information to let you know if you are making a good purchase that won’t give you any surprises. Also the bank and insurance companies usually request a survey so you will have to have one anyway. Just make sure you keep a good maintenance log and do the service at the proper time. This will get you good service from your boat and when you sell it the maintenance log will help you get a better price for your boat.
 
Boating safety
The U.S. Coast Guard says that in 84 percent of boat related drownings, victims were not wearing a PFD. So far this year we’ve had too many drownings and the victims were not wearing a PFD.  In some cases they were boating at the wrong time, like at night. A lot of boaters have not taken a safe boating course which would enlighten them to the important factors of safe boating. Also, a satisfactory completion of the safe boating course will give you a 10 percent discount on boat insurance. Make sure that when you shove off on a boating trip your crew is wearing a PFD. That way your boat and crew won’t be in the headlines in a boating tragedy. Get your crew, children and adults in the habit of safe boating wearing a PFD. The less boating accident headlines the better. 
 
My first fiberglass experience
My first experience with fiberglass back in the early 1950s was with wooden boats in northern Wisconsin when they were replaced by aluminum boats which didn’t need to be painted every year. The old wooden boats that were traded in could be bought for $20 to $40. My mother would let me get three or four of them and I would remove the paint off the outside of the hull with a sander and paint remover. Then I would fiberglass the hull. When I finished a hull I would sell them usually at a profit. The boats were 12 and 14 footers, usually strip built “Antigo Lake Craft” and “Rhinelander Boats.” The Antigo was one of the most well balanced small boats I ever handled. I tried to keep it for myself, but one of my mother’s friends paid extra for it. The last I heard the boat was still going strong 20 years after I fiberglassed it. I’m glad I had learned about fiberglassing when I was a cabin boy on the schooner Rambler.  Now they have started using Kevlar and other materials to make glass boats lighter and stronger.
 
Neglected boating equipment
The boat trailer is probably the most neglected piece of boating equipment. If you have a flat tire or a wheel bearing go bad it can ruin a day even before you get to the water, so make sure you include your boat trailer on your maintenance log. That way you shouldn’t have any failures. Also Boat U.S. has insurance if you break down on the road the will send someone to repair the trailer on site. Just remember keep that trailer in good condition and you won’t have any break downs. 
 
Don’t leave bilge pump running
I used to repossess boats when I first started working with boats in Atlanta. I had to pick up a 24’ cruiser in Decatur. The bilge pump float was in the activated position and it had just rained. I got to I-285 and a Cadillac convertible was running next to the boat. I had to hit the brakes when the water in the bilge moved forward and activated the bilge pump float and sent a stream of water into that Cadillac. Needless to say the driver was a little upset. I stopped and switched the pump off and all was OK, but it was funny when it happened. 
 
We lost Roy Crittenden last month, he was without a doubt the most dedicated and knowledgeable member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary that I have ever met.  They should create a safe boating trophy or award in his name on Lake Lanier. Rest in peace Roy. 
 

Wear your PFD, be courteous, practice safe boating and I’ll see you on the water.

 
 

Mike Rudderham is a veteran marine surveyor with more than 40 years experience in the marine industry.





April 2017 column

Chartering is fun, but bring your wallet

With Lake Lanier still under drought conditions and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better for the boating season, maybe it’s time to go on a charter vacation.  Florida, Bahamas, or the Caribbean are great destinations. There are smaller yachts (50’ to 60’) available that can accommodate up to eight people and crew. Prices vary. Florida and the Bahamas $25,000 to $40,000. Most have a chef and some have a spa with a therapist.  The spa with sauna and massages are called “onboard beach clubs.”
 

MarineMax has some unique catamarans for charter. They also have a charter yacht ownership program where your yacht will pay for itself while under charter when you aren’t using it. Contact yacht ownership program at 866-934-7232 or yacht charter vacations at 888-461-5497. Chartering is expensive but you get to cruise on your own yacht. 
 

Probably one of the most impressive charter yachts is the 279 foot ketch “Aquijo” with masts 295’ high. It’s the world’s largest high performance ketch. She cruises between 15 and 20 knots and has all the toys including a jet pack for thrills in the air above the water. The yacht accommodates 12 guests and has a crew of 19. The weekly base rate is about $442,000. Yes you read that right.  Contact www.y.cocharterfleet.com. Yes it is probably the most expensive charter, but we can dream can’t we?
 

Schooner ‘Rambler’

When I was in my early teens I had a job as a cabin boy on the 48’ “Rambler.” Myself and another Sea Scout cleaned the boat after charter and also sanded and varnished the bright work and kept the teak decks oiled. Robbie Robinson was the captain’s name and he was a character. He was also a very accomplished portrait artist. He would get several thousand dollars for a portrait. He told me it took about 10 sittings to do a portrait to make people think they were getting their money’s worth. I asked if it really took that long. He said the portrait is done in the first sitting, the other nine sittings he touched up the backgrounds. He also had a 30’ Tahitian ketch that he let the Sea Scouts sail in races around Tampa Bay. It was a great experience for the Scouts. 
 

When I got older I used to frequent a pub for lunch by the name of “O’Keefes.” Robinson had painted a respectable portrait of a nude with her head turned so you couldn’t recognize her. They put it over the bar and let people guess who the local lady was. It was hilarious to listen to the patrons try and guess the identity. I don’t think it was ever revealed, but they sure had fun guessing. 
 

High school waterski team

My parents put me in a boarding school in 1956, St. Leo College preparatory School. I guess I was spending too much time around boats and water skiing and not enough time on school and homework. The school was located on a lake. So I convinced my parents to let me have my boat at school.  There were five or six guys who  knew how to ski. So we did a lot of practicing and also taught others to ski. We were getting pretty good and did some shows on visitor’s day. We decided to call ourselves The St. Leo Prep Ski Team. I contacted the American Water-Ski Association to find out who else had a team. It turns out we were the first and only team. Well, we wanted to go to tournaments to see how good we were. The only tournaments were at Cypress Gardens, so we headed there. Some 80 to 100 skiers competed in the slalom tournament. As I remember none of our team finished in the back of the field and I was in the top 10. Dick Pope of Cypress Gardens thought our team was great. In 1959 when I started St. Petersburg Junior College we started a college water ski team. Somebody built us a regulation jump. We used to have to chase the alligators off the jump before using it. 
 

Cypress Gardens held what they called the World Inter-Collegiate Water Ski Tournament. As many as six teams from Europe came to compete so the tournament could be called a World Tournament. We went against Rollins College and University of Miami who usually won. I was captain of our team of four and we won the tournament.  Tops in shalom, jumping and tricks. We couldn’t believe it. After that some of our team did TV commercials. One was a barefoot skiing scene. I kept on with my ski shows in Northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I don’t think I’ve skied in 20 years, but it sure was fun. In 1958 a bunch of skiers got together to set a world record by  pulling 23 skiers behind two 6 cylinder Mark 75 Mercurys. That was the record back then. Today’s record was set in Australia behind a specially powered catamaran.  They pulled 155 skiers. Sounds impossible, but it’s the record.
 

More water news

The water wars are still on and continue to cost taxpayer money. The only people who are getting anywhere in the battle is the lawyers, whose bank accounts are getting bigger. As I have said before, there is not enough water to go around, therefore you need to look for another source. It’s as plain as the nose on your face. It’s the Tennessee River. The river wouldn’t be harmed if it was used to enhance Georgia’s water so Florida will get a sufficient supply.  Maybe President Trump should be made aware of this situation. I’ll bet we would get some results. 
 

‘Nuggie’

The Atlanta Journal newspaper of March 12th had an article in it about the Friendship Force with a picture of President Jimmy Carter and Nugzar Ruhadse who came over from Tbilisi, Georgia when it was part of the Soviet Union. His nickname was Nuggie and he worked at Channel 11. I had the pleasure of meeting him and that led to a ride on a runabout and houseboat on Lake Lanier with his wife who was an opera singer and young daughter. On the houseboat cruise we were on the upper deck with a fellow passenger who was chewing tobacco. Nuggie asked to try it. He put a wad in his mouth and got rid of it quick, with a few comments in Russian. I also took them to the infamous “Lantern Inn” for dinner to see “Elvis.”  Nuggie went on the dance floor with his daughter on his shoulders to the delight of the audience.  They had a great time and were a fun couple to be with. Not sure but I guess he is back in Tbilisi. 
 

Be courteous, practice safe boating, wear your P.F.D. and I’ll see you on the water.



March 2017 column

Time to get your boat ready for spring

Most of this year’s boat shows were focused on new or improved large center consoles. The boats are usually sporting a new bottom configuration, steps, air slots etc. Also, large center consoles now have heads, showers, galley, staterooms forward and a convertible dinette. Smaller deck boats and bow riders now feature more seating and storage space.  Plus their transoms feature swim platforms with ladders and transom doors for easier boarding. These boats feature the new lighter outboards or stern drives.
 
Volvo-Penta is still using GM blocks for their inboard outboard, and inboard IPS drives. Mercury Marine is now manufacturing its own engines. Outboard engines have basically remained the same with the exception of middle of the line engines of all makes have been reduced in weight. The big thing at the boat shows is the advancement in electronics. What was introduced last year is no longer up to date for fishing, navigating, or anything else electronic on your boat. You can go from your favorite fishing hole and return to the exact same place a month later and stay over that GPS location without anchoring. Navigating is much easier also, as all the electronics are combined in one unit so it is more compact. Electronics are getting more efficient using one screen for more information. 
 
Equipment check
Now that we are having advanced spring weather, it would be a good time to check out your boat for the coming season. Make sure your equipment is up to date. Check fire extinguishers and flares and replace if necessary. Check fenders and lines and replace if they are worn. They might not last the season. Check your batteries and if they are going to exceed their warranty date replace them so you won’t have an embarrassing day during the season. Check navigation lights or horns.
 
One of the most important, items are PFDs make sure they are in top shape with no mildew or deterioration. Always have U.S. Coast Guard approved PFDs that have collars to hold your face above water if you go overboard and are knocked unconscious. Remember that 84 percent of drowning victims weren’t wearing a PFD.
 
If you trailer your boat don’t forget to grease the bearings, check the tires, taillights, and wiring, winch and tie down straps. If you haven’t put “bearing buddies” on your axle, do it, because with a simple grease fitting it makes greasing wheel bearings easy. You might also want to check out “Boat U.S.” as they have both road service and on the water towing available. There’s nothing worse than going to the water and having a flat with your crew waiting to go boating.
 
Water wars
The special master in the water wars, Ralph Lancaster, who was appointed by the Supreme Court, has ruled in Georgia’s favor. The judge said Florida did not include the Corps of Engineers as party to the lawsuit, which he said they should have been. Most likely Florida will refile the lawsuit to include the Corps. I still think that Alabama, Florida and Georgia should get together and figure out a way to use the Tennessee River for additional water. It would cure drought problems on the lake, and also provide enough water downstream to satisfy everyone. Both Gov. Deal and special master Ralph Lancaster seem to like the plan which was also the subject in Lakeside’s Captains Comment two months ago. It might help if Gov. Deal and special master Ralph Lancaster started receiving letters requesting a solution to the water problem. 
                                           
New VHF system
As I said earlier, electronics on boats are improving. And that includes more safety features. 
The VHF D.S.C. Digital Selective Calling marine radio is one of them. This is a new system being imitated for safety, which will “automatically” broadcast the location of a vessel making a distress call so the caller doesn’t have to accurately determine his location. The distress signal will automatically announce the G.P.S. location. The U.S. Coast Guard is getting more lenient on issuing these radio licenses. Several manufactures now make this unit. Check them out and see which one is the best for you.
 
Water-skiing behind a sailboat
The yacht club in Clearwater Fla., where I learned to water-ski, had blowboat fans and powerboat fans and each one thought their type of boating was best. So one day a sailor with a 20’catamaran bragged that his boat was fast enough to pull a water-skier, and the bet was on. They asked me if I would be the skier. I agreed. The catamaran skipper would hand me a ski rope as I pulled alongside behind a ski-boat. Once secure on the sailboat’s ski-rope I dropped the ski-boat’s rope and the catamaran was pulling me somewhere between 18 and 22 m.p.h. We were in open water and had a long reach. I skied for about five miles. Sailboats might not pull a skier out of the water, but once it gets going on a straight course at a speed above 18 mph it will hold a skier up. A lot of power boaters lost money that day. Some folks saw the sailboat pulling a skier and couldn’t believe their eyes. The ski-boat driver circled back and took a photo for proof of what the sailboat did. As I remember the photo went in the local newspaper with a story. That answered a lot of questions, especially to those who couldn’t believe what they saw.

Be courteous, practice safe boating, wear your PFDs.
 
February 2017 column

Boating alternative if the lake stays low

I hope everyone enjoyed the boat show and found the boat and equipment you wanted.  Due to Lake Lanier’s low level you are probably wondering where to go boating if the lake level doesn’t come up high enough to launch  for safe boating. 
 
Here are some options for boating, whether you trailer your boat or want to rent one. The ICW from Carrabelle, FL to New Orleans offers great cruising and many places to stop and visit, especially the seafood restaurants. There is also great offshore fishing, or you might want to travel north through Alabama on the Tenn-Tom waterway system. The ICW system on the east coast of Georgia and the Carolinas is also excellent cruising as well as offshore fishing plus many places to visit.  
 
If you like to explore and fish, Boca Grande, Charlotte’s Harbor and Pine Island Sound might be to your liking. Tarpon season starts the first full moon in May. That’s when Boca Grande Pass looks like a Walmart parking lot on a sale day with fishing boats.  You can explore and visit the small towns throughout the area.  Visit Cabbage Key for excellent food. It’s also where Jimmy Buffet wrote “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” You also could visit Useppa Island for some old Florida history and some good food. On Boca Grande there is the Pink Elephant Restaurant where a lot of fish stories originated and got bigger as they were told. 
 
You could also visit Key West.  Summer time is their offseason, so the prices would be cheaper. There is great fishing and exploring opportunities. Go online and check the many existing trips that are available. I’m sure you will find one that will suit your family. 
 
Boating courses
If you went to the boat show you probably saw the USCG Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadron exhibits. If you or your family have not taken a boating course, then now is the time.  Especially the kids who will need certification to run a personal water craft or boat. Also when you are in receipt of your graduation certificate from the USCG Auxiliary course most insurance companies will give you 10 percent off your insurance premium. So, do it now so you will have a safer boating season because of what you have learned in the course. If you need information on the courses Lakeside lists the numbers.  
 
Maintenance log
If you purchased a new boat at the boat show, now is the time to start your maintenance log. You can go online and start one or do it the old log book fashion. Go to your service manual to set up the log and include everything on the boat that will need servicing and if your boat is equipped with a trailer be sure to include that. Have a special place to store the bills to show that the work has been done.  Remember that a thorough and complete maintenance log will help you in the value of your boat when in five or so years you might want to trade or sell it.  The maintenance log should include all work done on the engines, generator, electronics, hull and deck, and accessories (canvas, anchor and rode, lines, fenders, and PFDs) the more complete it is the better. This is one place where going into more detail will boost the price of your used boat. Also include a photo of the boat when new, and then one every year after.  I know it’s a lot of work, but it will pay off in the end. If your maintenance is done by your dealer, he will appreciate and probably recommend the boat.
 
Playing on ice
Our lakes here don’t freeze over like they do in northern Wisconsin where I used to live. People rode their snowmobiles across the ice.  Ice fishermen would ride to their favorite fishing area on a lake and cut a hole in the ice and fish.  Many would set up five or six holes in the ice and place their “tip-ups” (fishing rigs) in the holes.  When the tip-up signaled fish on you went over and pulled it in. The lake I lived on, Black Oak Lake, the fish were walleye pike, lake trout or bass. Believe it or not when the temperature got 20 degrees or above and you were dressed properly it wasn’t too cold on the ice. 
 
I had a black Labrador retriever who weighed in at about 120 pounds. His name was “Johnny Rebel.” If I could throw it he would fetch it. On a good day he liked to play on the ice. One day an ice fisherman threw his catch on the ice and Johnny Rebel picked it up and brought it to the house. The ice fishermen followed him on their snowmobiles and were upset that Johnny Rebel stole their catch. After a few words about their fish, they didn’t want their fish because it had been in a dog’s mouth, so we settled on a six-pack of Hamms. This happened frequently that winter and cost me quite a few six packs, but I had a lot of great fish dinners. Labrador retrievers have a soft mouth, so the fish were in great shape and hadn’t even lost any scales. We also would go back in the woods to lakes that were undisturbed and have a picnic. We would start a fire for warmth and then have a cooking fire for brats and burgers. We would make a race course and either drag race or circle race our snowmobiles. Fun was had by all and the food was great. 
 
Snowmobiles are what you might call a land based personal watercraft. In fact Bombardier, a Canadian company, manufactures both the “Ski-doo” snowmobile and the “Sea-doo” PWC which are both popular during their seasons.  Another fun thing to do is cross country-skiing. It’s like a long hike, only with skis. It’s great exercise and a lot of people do it on lakes that are frozen over, and many places have ski trails through the woods.   I’m just glad we don’t have that kind of weather down here, but it’s fun to hear about it. Let’s hope we get enough rain for Lake Lanier and other lakes to fill up for out boating season. 
 
Be courteous, and practice safe boating.
 

January 2017 column

Here’s my solution to the ongoing water war
 
The headlines are filled with stories about the water war, and who has the best plan to solve it. Florida wants more water for the oyster harvest. It wants to restrict Atlanta residents on the amount of water they use – and with a growing population they need more.  Nobody has mentioned how to get enough water to satisfy all parties. 

There’s a simple solution. If you don’t have enough of what you need, find out how to get more.  The nearest source for more water is the Tennessee River, which floods the lowlands when the snow melts. Georgia’s northern border is close by, and if a surveyor hadn’t made a mistake when laying out Georgia’s boundaries the northern boundary would be in the middle of the Tennessee River. 
 
All waters are in some way controlled by the federal government, so this project would be run by the Corp of Engineers. Here is my idea: have the Corps oversee the construction of a canal connecting the Tennessee River with the Chattahoochee River. Select two places off the Chattahoochee River that would make good reservoirs at the dam end which would reconnect. Install a hydro-electric generator. The spring snowmelt would fill the reservoirs and rains would keep them full enough to keep everyone downstream satisfied for years to come. It would also reduce the cost that the federal government has to pay along the Tennessee River for flood insurance. This project will in no way affect navigation or boat traffic keeping all lakes and rivers at a reasonable level.  
 
I’ll bet Georgia Power would want to buy the extra electricity.  Another thing it would do is help the economy around the lakes and rivers. Boating and fishing businesses like marinas will benefit. It won’t be like now with Lake Lanier more than 10 feet below 
 
When the lake is full everyone benefits, if the lake stays low a lot of businesses will suffer and real-estate prices will go down. So something has to be done, and some positive action needs to start soon.  
 
I want to compliment organizations involved in the shore sweeps, styrofoam removal, and sunken boat removal. A job well done, keep up the good work. 
 
There is only one thing low water is good for – recovering those lost tools, or valuables you dropped overboard. Also, if you know where you got hung up on a log with your favorite lure, you might be able to find it.

Get ready for boating season
Some of those small things you forget to do when you put your boat away ... do you need a new anchor line, or extra line? How about dock lines or fenders? What about cleats, chocks or tow rings?  Do any need replacing? Are your batteries old? What about navigation and spot lights, compass and horn? Check and refill your onboard first aid kit. Inspect your PFDs and replace any that show age and wear. Reorganize your stowage area and remove anything you don’t need. A lighter boat is more efficient. If you have electronics or anything that needs repair you still have time to ship it off or take it to a dealer so you will have it back in time for the season.  Also you might want to get a USCGA boat inspection. The more prepared you are the better and safer boating you will have this upcoming season. 

Fish stories
I was about eight years old when my granddad taught me to row a boat so he could fish with two rods trolling over sand bars.  This developed into a guide service for me. My granddad would not allow outboard motors on the lake, so when people came to fish I’d offer to row them around the lake for $5, and for another $5 I’d show them the best places to fish. One of my clients was a Catholic Bishop named Bishop Scully from Albany, N.Y. He was a good friend of my mother’s crowd. Well, we fished for about five hours. The limit was five bass each and small mouth bass 12 inches or longer were legal keepers. We caught a bunch of fish that day and would replace a small one on the stringer with larger ones. Finally we had our limit of five good size smallmouths apiece.  So I started rowing back to the dock. The Bishop reached in his tackle box and took out a pint of bourbon and “Down the Hatch,” he drank it. Later that night my mother noticed I was quiet and it seemed like something was bothering me, so I told her about the Bishop. I had never seen this done before by anyone, let alone a Bishop. My mother explained to me that they were allowed to drink, but as a youngster it took me by surprise.  

Another true fish story: Once I settled in Georgia I became fishing buddies with a doctor. Every time we went fishing something out of the ordinary usually happened. Well, we were casting our lures in a small lake near Jackson, Ga. We had both caught a few fair largemouth bass. I got a good strike on my favorite Rapala.  I got him close to the bank and “pop” my line broke and my Rapala and the fish were gone.  The doctor was fishing about 40 feet down the bank. While I was fixing my tackle with another lure. Doc yelled at me to get the net, “I’ve got a big one on.” So I got the net ready and brought the fish in. Lo and behold the fish was not only hooked well with Doc’s tackle, but my Rapala was also in his mouth. Never heard of that happening before. 
 
A friend of my granddad brought a fellow by the name of Ray Kroc over fishing one day.  Down at the dock my father and he were talking various business subjects, as my father was in merchandising most of his life. Later that night my father said, “Virginia, that Kroc fellow who fished today is in the hamburger business, but I can’t see how he’s going to make any money selling them at that cheap price.” Ray Kroc sold a lot of those hamburgers with a chain called McDonalds.

Hope you enjoy the boat show. Check the USCGA booth for any boating information you might need. Practice safe boating, be courteous and I’ll see you on the water. 
 
 

December 2016 column

Here are some gift ideas for this holiday season:
 
 • One of the best safety items to have on board is an “EPIRB” for emergencies. The ACR Globalfix V-4 will do the trick and it floats.  It also has a GPS and will operate for 48 hours. If you go offshore you definitely need one of these.  They can be a life saver when you get into trouble offshore. The two models run from $400 to $500. Visit: www.cartex.com.
• An ICOM M93D hand held VHF radio packs all kinds of features that boaters want. And it floats. Cost is $349. Visit: www.westmarine.com.
• How about an easy to store “Body Glove” stand up paddle board. It’s inflatable so stow it on board and inflate it when ready.  It’s designed by GOPRO Games Champion boarder Luke Hopkins. Cost is $899. Visit: www.bodyglove.com.
• For stocking stuffers try the new Sebile lures for the fishermen in your family from $6.99 to $14.99. Visit: www.sebile.com.
• Cuda Titanium Bonded snips, great for cutting bait or fishing line. Price $19. Visit:  www.cudabrand.com.
• Innova Kayak inflatable 410C. Bring a boat onboard in a bag. Want to go exploring skinny water while at anchor, just inflate it and go. Price $759. Visit: www.innovoakayak.com.
• Boasters Grundens Elastic Belt with quick connects snap buckle that’s adjustable and it stretches. Price $9. Visit: www.ifsmarineoutdoor.com.
• A good pair of new deck shoes would be a good way to start the boating season. At West Marine you would have your choice of six different brands including Sperry Top Siders from $90 to $140. Visit: www.westmarine.com.
• Marmot precipitation jackets, men’s and women’s style. They are lightweight, waterproof and breathable. Price $100. Visit: www.westmarine.com.
• Canyon Quest backpack cooler. Special ice skin insulation keeps the ice for day. They come in two sizes, $100 and $150. Visit:  www.canyoncoolers.com.
• Papa’s Pilar light and dark rum is named after Ernest Hemingway’s legendary wheeler fishing boat that is still in Cuba. But a replica of “Pilar” can be seen in the Keys. Bottles are available in special nautical gift wrapping. Light $30 or dark rum $40. Buy it at: www.papaspilar.com.
• DIY boaters would love to have a Dewalts carbide wood cutting hole saw. It’s part of the new Flexvolt accessory line. $17. Buy it at: www.acmetools.com.
• Weego 44 jump starter features a waterproof compact lithium polymer battery pack and smart clamps along with a 500 lumen LED flashlight that is included. Cost is $149. Visit: www.myweego.com.
• Sticker Bamff Flashlight comes in three models: 4.0, 5.0, 6.0. All have dual cree LED heads and aircraft grade aluminum bodies with waterproof construction. $39 for the 4.0. Visit: www.strikerconcepts.com.

That should give you a good choice of gifts for the boating family. If you have a Captain who is prone to running aground like a few I’ve known, maybe a spare prop would be a good gift.
 
Atlanta Boat Show
This year’s boat show will offer many new boating concepts for 2017. The show will be January 12-15, 2017. Your outboard engines will feature Yamaha V-8 350 H.P. They were the first with the V-8 power. Suzuki has its new 300 H.P. Mercury has recently introduced 350 H.P. and 400 H.P. versions. Then you have Honda, with the only two cycle outboard.  Evinrude offers a new large engine and it also carries one of the best warranties. Then you have the largest horse power engine of them all; the “Seven” company’s 627 H.P. outboard using a marinised Cadillac V-8 engine. Cost is $90,000 per unit. That’s more than the cost of the Cadillac. They have become popular in twin installation on large offshore center console boats. 
 
The trend in boats now is going toward outboard power in 40 feet or less cruisers which were usually powered by inboard/outboards or straight inboards. This offers more living space and storage. You will see several at the boat show. 
 
Center consoles now not only feature a comfortable head, but they have express cruiser comfort below: galley, convertible dinette, and master state room with air conditioning. Power is now usually two large horsepower outboards instead of the three or four smaller engines. When you walk through the boat show you will see what I mean. You will also see a bunch of new electronics. If you cruise your boat the new electronics will amaze you.
 
New Year’s resolutions
Don’t forget your New Year’s resolutions. If you or your boating family haven’t take the U.S. Coast Guard Auxillary boating class make sure you sign up. Remember it’s mandatory when your kids reach a certain age. Taking this course could also reduce your insurance rates. Make a resolution to get your boat inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. This way you will know you have the proper and approved equipment on board. Last but not least, join Boat U.S. It costs just $30 a year. They also have a very interesting boating magazine that comes out every other month. Remember to make these resolutions, they will help you have a safe and informed boating year in 2017. 
 
A great winter trip
If you get tired of bad weather this winter, why not run down to Jacksonville and cruise the St. Johns River. It goes from Jacksonville to Sanford. You can spend a day down in Sanford and head back up the next or take four day weekend and take it slow. You will see alligators, birds, and fishing is usually good. You can trailer your boat down, or rent a boat in Jacksonville where they have small cruisers and houseboats available. 
 
In some places it’s like cruising in the jungle. There are also great places to eat and overnight accommodations down river. Visit: www.sjrivercruises.com for charts and places of interest.
 
The St. Johns River is 310 miles long with its headwaters just west of Vero Beach at Blue Cypress Lake, where you rent boats at Middleton’s Fishcamp. The river is made up of numerous springs.  Blue Spring is the largest spring on the St. Johns, discharging 104 million gallons of water daily. In the winter time this is one of the gathering places for manatees. The river is also one of the few that flows north. It goes through downtown Jacksonville and flows into the Atlantic Ocean at Fort George Island northeast of the city. Part of the land on the river is in the Ocala National Forest. 
 
The route from Jacksonville to Lake Monroe in Sanford is the most navigable. In the 1800s there were steamships that traveled this route. It is Florida in its wildest with numerous birds and alligators on the shore. The fishing is great and chances are you might find your own private fishing hole.  There are seven or eight towns that you can stop for the night. The restaurants come well recommended. 
 
A trip like this would not only be great for grown-ups but also quite an experience for kids. Send Lakeside some photos if you go. For houseboat rental at Holly Bluff Marina, call: 800-237-5105 or visit www.hollybluff.com.
 
Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year. Practice safe boating, be courteous and I’ll see you on the water.
 

November 2016 column

Now is the time for some armchair cruising

Since the boating season is over and you are wishing you were cruising in the summer sun, maybe it’s time for some arm chair cruising. How about doing the Great Loop? So what is the Great Loop? Well, it’s the continuous waterway that encompasses the eastern portion of North America including the Atlantic and Gulf Intercostal waterways, Great Lakes, the Canadian Heritage canals, and the inland rivers of America’s heartland. 
 
A good place to start on the Atlantic intercostal waterway is from the St. Lucie inlet to Norfolk, Virginia. Then it’s another 279 miles to the Hudson River for a total of 1,266 statute miles on the Eastern Seaboard. The Hudson River portion starts at Lady Liberty and goes to the entrance of the Erie Canal, 134 miles of historic viewing of the Hudson River Valley.  This leg of your journey is 338 miles from Waterford, N.Y. to Tonawanda, N.Y. This will be the slowest part of the cruise as you will pass through 57 locks on the Erie Canal. This leg of your trip is 892 miles from the International Peace Bridge at Buffalo to the Chicago River lock at Chicago. You will travel west on Lake Erie to the St. Clair and Detroit rivers, then through Lake St. Clair to Lake Huron, going north you pass through the Mackinaw Straits and into Lake Michigan and on to Chicago. 
 
The next leg is 327 miles on the Illinois River to Grafton, Ill., at the convergence of the Mississippi River at Cairo, Ill. At this time you can decide to take the lower Mississippi which will be 954 miles to the ICW on the Gulf Coast at Cairo. There is also an alternate route. From Cairo you travel 46 miles to the Tennessee River at Paducah, Ky. and take the Tennessee River 33 miles and enter the Cumberland River, thru Kentucky Lake on the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway this last leg was 215 miles to the Tenn-Tom.
 
The Tenn-Tom is 234 miles to Mobile Bay and the Gulf Coast I.C.W. From there it is 218 miles to Carrabelle. Don’t forget to stop at some of the best seafood restaurants in the country along this route. From there you hit the open gulf to Tarpon Springs which is the start of the I.C.W. on the west coast of Florida. At Fort Myers connect with the Okeechobee waterway (there are locks to go through on both sides of Lake Okeechobee). If you want to see some of old Florida, take the Rim Canal. It’s slower, but more interesting than crossing the lake. Take the eastern Okeechobee waterway and you will intersect with the Atlantic side of the I.C.W. and St. Lucie inlet. That completes the Great Loop, a total of 5,300 miles. 
 
There is always someone waiting to set a speed record and Lyn Morgan did in his 24-foot pontoon boat with a six cylinder Yamaha, 250 H.P. He outfitted it for the trip.  In his 5,300 mile trip he passed through 120 locks and had to stop for two major repairs. He made it in eight weeks and one day. 
Remember, you don’t have to take the Great Loop all at once, you might want to pick out an interesting link for a summer trip and then maybe the next year pick out something else until you have completed the loop. 
 
If I were to cruise it I think it would be in a single diesel 32’ Grand Banks. They are economical and easy to handle, plus sea worthy. If you decide on taking a sailboat, make sure the mast is rigged so you can drop it when encountering fixed bridges.
 
“The Loopers” as they call themselves have an organization called “The Great Loop Association” and they have rendezvous and meetings several times a year. For more information go to: www.greatloop.com. If you decide to go on the Great Loop cruise or a portion of it, please send us some photos. 
 
Great boating innovations
One of the greatest innovations was C. Raymond Hunt’s deep-v hull that was first used on the 31’ Bertram where it became famous for running in rough seas with a smoother and more controllable ride. Many manufacturers now utilize the deep-v hull. 
 
Here are more innovations:
  • The magnetic compass was first invented in 200 B.C. by the Chinese during the Han Dynasty.  Early compasses were made from lodestone and pointed south, rather than north. 
  • The first propeller was made out of wood in 1836 by inventor Francis Petit Smith. It propelled a 30’ steam powered 6 H.P. canal boat. 
  • The first New York Boat Show was in 1905, the National Motor Boat Show was held at New York’s Grand Central Palace. The boats were trailered behind teams of horses. 
  • The first fiberglass boat was built by Ray Greene of Toledo, Ohio. He built 25’ sailboats, 175 of them in fact. 
  • The first fiberglass powered boat was built in 1950 by Beetle Inc., in Wareham, Mass. 
  • Water-skiing was developed by Ralph Samuelson in 1922 on Lake Pepin in Minnesota. He enjoyed aqua-planing and wondered how skiing on water would be. He made some skis wider than snow skis and the rest is history. 
  • The electric trolling motor was invented by O.G. Schmidt in 1934.  He moved his growing manufacturing operation to Fargo, N.D., because of its proximity to the Minnesota-North Dakota Border.  He named the business “Minn-Kota Manufacturing.” 
  • The first unsinkable fiberglass boat was built by Dick Fisher in 1954 and was named the Boston Whaler when production started in 1965. It was designed by his naval architect friend C. Raymond Hunt.
  • The first stern drive was the Volvo Penta Aquamatic, invented by Jim Wynne. He raced a deep-V boat with two 80 H.P. Aquamatics in the Miami-Nassau race. The N.M.M.A. reports that there are over 14 million stern drive boats in use today. 
  • The first inflatable life jacket was invented in 1928. It was put into use by Air Force pilots who nicknamed it “Mae West” because of how it looked when inflated. 
  • The first Airslot hull, later called the cathedral hull for Thunderbird Boats, debuted at the 1959 New York Motorboat Show.  You also saw the boat on the TV series “Flipper.”   
  • Sonar was used by submarines during World War II. Lowrance came out with their little Green box in 1959 for recreational boaters. They have produced more than a million and remain one of the leaders in marine electronics. 
  • Trailer bearing protectors from a California company invented what is now known today as “Bearing Buddy,” in 1953. If you don’t have them on your trailer you should. 
  • First stand up jet ski was made in 1973. While Bombardier shelved the original Sea-Doo after just two years, Kawasaki took the stand-up jet power design and ran with it. Today many people refer to all personal water craft as Jet Skis.
  • First portable marine sanitation device was invented by Thetford. Yep, it was called “Porta-Poti.”
  • Automatic oil injection first came on the market in 1980 when Suzuki introduced it on their 85 H.P. three cylinder engine. 
  • Dual-prop stern drive was introduced by Volvo-Penta in 1983 since then several manufacturers have introduced their version.
 
Marine thermal camera
FLIR, the leader in thermal cameras for the marine industry, has just introduced an affordable thermal camera, the Ocean Scout TK. It will reveal the heat of vessels, buoys, obstacles, and people in water day or night. These thermal cameras were not really affordable for the average boater, but now FLIR is offering this unit for only $599. Normally they are in the thousands of dollars. Maybe ask Santa Claus for one. 
 
I hope everyone has a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.


October 2016 column

Center consoles have evolved into perhaps the most popular boat style


You’ve seen more and more advertisements every time you open up your latest boating magazine. Center consoles are now the most popular boat. There must be over 50 manufacturers. To name a few: Belzona, Boston Whaler, Century, Cobia, Dusky, Edgewater, Everglades, Hunt, Intrepid, Jupiter, Mako, Midnight Express, Nor-Tech, Pursuits, Scout, and Wellcraft. Most have models from 25’ to 40’ and up. The bigger they are the more comfortable they are, with heads, galleys, and berths below.

Some even have generators so they can have air conditioned comfort. Power is usually with multiple outboards. Some of the larger boats have four or five 400 H.P. “Mercurys” or 350 H.P. “Yamahas” or three or four “Sevens” 627 H.P. The speed sometimes exceeds 80 miles per hour. As one old fisherman once said, “I’ve never see a fish that fast.” I’m not sure where the design started, but one version I’ve heard was from the smaller bass boats.  The fisherman wanted to go offshore so they just built a bigger bass boat that you could walk around the console and have 360 degrees of fishing. 
 

The other story I heard was there was a wooden center console in the Bahamas and someone used it as a plug for a fiberglass boat. I got into building in 1969 or 1970.  Forest Johnson of Prowler fame had some molds. One would make a suitable center console and the other had a cuddy cabin that fit on the same hull. This was a 24’ powered by a 325 H.P. 427 C.I. V-8 Mercruiser straight drive. It was quick and could get you to that offshore fishing hole fast. Prowlers were famous for their speed and became famous for running booze from Cuba to Florida. Jack Beachem who started Lazy Days houseboats, Holiday Marina, and Lazy Days Marina had one on Lake Lanier that I believe was a 32’ cuddy cabin with twin engines. We sold eight or 20 boats and had several under construction when someone in Miami gave us a price for the whole company.
 

I experienced one of the greatest fishing trips I have ever had for Tarpon. It was in late July when the season had wound down. I asked Captain Duane Futch who fished with all the dignitaries that came to Boca Grande, “What are you doing today?” He said, “Let’s take that center console of yours and float some crabs when the tide comes in over the flats.” So we did. His wife and I had a double header with two tarpons 80 to 100 pounds. It doesn’t get any better than that, being on a boat you built for Tarpon fishing, having one of the top Captains for you guide and then hooking up a double header. Several years later I saw a cuddy cabin model in Ft. Myers. It was a police boat, and that’s the last I’ve seen or heard of the Fishmaster Boats. 
 

Trojan Yachts was the first to put a head in the console of the 26’ boat they built when they were first becoming popular. The smaller center consoles, 20’ to 30’ depending how much power you put on them, will run $175,000 to $350,00. The larger ones will of course be much higher. But remember you can not only fish in them but you can cruise in comfort.  Check them out; I’m sure you will find one you like.
 

PWC fishing

Offshore fishermen on the East Coast are converting four-passenger Yamaha SUV PWCs into offshore fishing vessels. It comes equipped with a cooler, depth finder, VHF, rod holders and storage.  They say the smaller fishing machine give them an advantage. I’m sure it does, but I don’t think I want to be 50 miles offshore on a PWC, even a special one. Give me a 46’ Bertram or a similar Viking or Hatteras for my offshore fishing.  
 

If you are interested in fabricating a PWC for fishing contact: Martins Custom Structures in Gloucester, Va. Good Luck. In countries like South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, personal watercraft fishing has surged in popularity with PWC-only tournaments regularly attracting close to 150 competitors. New Zealand has its own PWC TV show and New Zealand has the Jet Ski Fishing Club. 
 

Motor boating merit badges 

To become an Eagle Scout you have to pass many merit badge tests. The motor boating merit badge goes much further than the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron’s badge. You have to successfully dock and tie up a boat in a slip, successfully anchor it and weigh anchor, and instruct your passengers on the use of safety equipment on board. You have to demonstrate how to administer C.P.R. You must also know the various knots used in boating.  It helped me when I joined the U.S. Coast Guard. I don’t know if they still give you credit for that when you enlist, but I bet they do. According to BSA headquarters 596,718 motor merit badges have been earned in the 55 years since the badges inception. That’s almost 11,000 Scouts annually exposed to a solid foundation in power boating, a rate that has held up through the past decade. I think state government and the Coast Guard should accept this as the same as passing a boating test.
 

Winter is ’round the corner

It’s nearing the time to put your boat up for the winter. You need to pull up your maintenance log and see what you did last year. Just to name a few things: for outboards and outdrives check for grease or oil in the lower unit for water. If you find water, the prop shaft seal is leaking. Take off your prop and see if there is any monofilament line wrapped around it. That, plus age, is what makes the seal leak.  While you have the prop off inspect it for grounding damage, send it off for repair now, so it will be ready next spring. Water pumps and tune-ups should be done in the spring. 
 

Oil changes should be done now so old dirty oil won’t corrode or rust your engine over the winter months. Clean water separator and fuel filters, add Stabil or the equivalent to the fuel tank and fill it at least 3/4 full. Grease steering, tilt, and prop shaft. Take your navigation bulbs out and spray sockets with WD 40. Replace burned out bulbs. 
 

Take batteries out and store them properly, or put them on a timed trickle charger. Check their dates and if they will need replacing make a note and do it in the spring, you’ll get a longer warranty. 

Check your engine manual for winterizing. All water systems and head need to be protected. It’s also good to give the boat a thorough cleaning and waxing before you put the boat up. I always thought a cleaning and waxing party would be great. Invite all those who enjoyed the boat with you this summer and put them to work.  Tell them you’ll by the beer.  
 

If you keep your boat in the water remember to pressure wash the bottom before you put it on the trailer. Houseboats, cruisers and sailboats that stay in the water should be pressure washed in the spring. Make sure you write down in the maintenance log what you have done. If you drained engine blocks remember to replace the plugs. If you have any special items like a radio, depthfinder, or hand held electronics that might need replacing make a note of it and in January at the boat show you can probably get a special sale. 
 

The most neglected piece of boating equipment is the boat trailer. You want them when you need them, but most leave them sitting with no maintenance. Bearings must be greased properly. Tires and trailer lights should be checked.  Make sure your winch and line is in good shape. If you store your boat on a trailer, jack the tires off the ground, they will last longer. Remember, one of your worst experiences is a flat tire on a boat trailer with a carload of kids and people who want to go boating. 

I’ve covered most things about winterizing, but I’m sure there are some I’ve missed. If you have any questions ask your mechanic. 
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