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Apr. 19, 2018
7:40 am


Steve Johnson's Boating Safety

Second in command is vital position

The duties involved as “second in command” is seldom thought of but vitally important. 
With exception of commercial and military vessels, this post does not get the same spotlight as the person in command, sometimes referred to as the captain. What happens if that very same officer in charge becomes unable to fulfill their duties? How many of you that really enjoy boating, plan for contingencies such as this? The answer  is as simple as adding one more qualified and competent operator. There should be someone else onboard that has the knowledge and capability to react. This is most widely known as the First Officer on certain types of ships.
The initial step to accomplish that goal in the world of pleasure boating is primarily basic safety training. Get familiar with the fundamentals, then progress to the more complex parts of the learning process. Each manufacturer and class of boat has an operating manual when it comes to understanding and directing all the systems correctly. 
There are countless things to comprehend: engineering, helm, navigation, electronics, emergency equipment and communications. The list can get long depending on your specific model and type. One method to immediately improve your overall boating experience is for everyone, including passengers, to know what to do in case of emergency. Take the time to brief each and everyone onboard the general voyage plan, rules to follow while underway, the location where stowed, and how to wear a lifejacket. As stated by the U.S. Coast Guard statistics in all boating safety and license courses, the major cause of fatalities in boating is due to drowning. Take classes in person, even online, to gather this much needed information.
There are five core skills to develop second in command:
• Know how to use the radio or other communications systems on your vessel
• Understand and comply with the Navigation Rules of the Road 
• Develop a feel for the way the boat handles in various conditions and maneuvers
• Effective operation of boating safety equipment  
• Voyage planning and basic navigation.
Creating the enhanced safety program for your vessel is possible especially with having an additional pilot, just in case. Addressing this primary need has long term value to all aspects of your underway experience. The majority of boating safety awareness is preparation with the concept of an additional driver being one of the best and most impactful factors in that task. 
Please remember the water environment of which you are traveling is filled with hazards. And they must be recognized and avoided in a timely manner. Through continual practice, the incidence of risk is significantly reduced. Enjoy your voyage even more with having someone on your boat that is second in command.

Steve Johnson, US Coast Guard (ret). is with CPO Johnson, Inc. More info:

March 2018 column

The Demolition Derby

Some of you may have had the opportunity of attending one of these vehicle sporting events in the past. Older model, heavy, very elaborately dented and decorated cars hurl around a dirt covered arena, sometimes at fairly high speeds. The ultimate goal: wreck as many opponents as possible and be the last car driving. The defined area for this spectacle has no lane dividing lines, directional signs, lights, or smooth pavement to guide the way. It’s very noisy and action packed experience for both spectator and driver. It’s called the Demolition Derby.
Does this description sound somewhat familiar on the water during peak times? After just a few hours the surface becomes much rougher with wake and wave. Vessel traffic increases, feels like almost exponentially, each one traveling a different direction and speed, adding to the risk of collision or grounding. These are the times when being on the water feels like The Demolition Derby. There is a remedy to this unwanted situation and it delivers outstanding benefits to everyone involved, and to boating safety especially. It is as simple as information! 
As there are numerous methods and organizations you can obtain various levels of boating training, nothing compares to the professional delivery by a skilled maritime instructor, resulting in awareness, positive change, and increased safety. That can be achieved by attending training sessions with other like-minded boaters. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Power Squadron have some of the best training syllabus and instructors around. For those of you who desire to obtain a U.S. Coast Guard license, please contact me to discover more about that process. Learning as a group, coupled with the convenience of online media, if desired, provides the ultimate understanding needed to function in challenging conditions. Please know that safe operation of your vessel is a requirement, not an option.

Actual on the water experience is always the best teacher with the classroom environment or online primarily serving as introduction to the many necessary skills of vessel control and navigation. Liken this to driving a vehicle on the roadways. Knowledge, with the correct application of the operating laws, is necessary for everyone’s safety. You can see the negative results on the news. Boating is no different than driving a vehicle. The main objective is to travel to your intended destination without hitting something or someone.  
Learning is definitely a continuous journey of discovery by previous example and experience. Why not find out how to expand your boating knowledge and reap the numerous benefits by avoiding … the Demolition Derby.

February 2018 column

How color can improve safety while cruising

Imagine ... in dense fog, with visual eyesight not being an option, and nearby sounds becoming distorted, almost reverb echo in a vibration sense. A foreign atmosphere, dense with condensation of close-to-the-ground cloud you are immersed in. Off in the distance you hear a faint but increasing din of a vessel’s horn. Exact bearing in relation to your position is but a guess at best. What way is it heading? How fast is it going? Is there movement toward my location? 
The only technology reliable for this scenario is radar. Not just any detection sensor will do in a case such as this, but one that instantly provides you with an urgent piece of information you need for collision avoidance and assessment of risk. That can be found with SIMRAD’s Halo Radar with Velocity Track technology. 
Through pulse compression, Doppler, the system detects targets and displays the data on the Multi-Function Device into three main categories;  Dead in the Water (including land mass and obstructions),  Diverging, and Converging, the latter of which is obviously the most dangerous. Closest Point of Approach and Time of CPA not calculated, and actually is not critical at this initial point in time. Just one very concise and quick piece of important information can make all the difference in the world to safe navigation.  
The new technology advance answers the one main question that absolutely means the most: Is this object observed on the radar dangerous and does it pose a risk of collision? It calculates this very unique query, within a fraction of time, using color. 
Yep, the simplest solution to a problem is usually the best. Color contrast and classification immediately delivers accurate situational awareness in a short period of time. Know what and where your danger areas reside and you are well on your way to a collision free voyage and piece of mind.
How's that for Tactical to Practical. Even better, it is but a software download with the correct configuration. This one seemingly small, but extremely significant, change in radar makes it the prime sensor for use in situational awareness. Marine Navigation should always rely on more than one sensory input and technique as Bowditch, The American Practical Navigator, Chapter 25 precisely states. Part of that combination should include The Color of Radar.

January 2018 column

Back to the future ... in boating

Technology advancing so fast it becomes almost a blur. Nothing terribly wrong with this increasing frequency of evolution, except one seemingly small, but extremely significant point: remembering how to use alternate methods of operating your vessel.
The most precise and quickest form of marine navigation is GPS. Within seconds an accurate position can be read, safe water assured, sometimes even seeing the bottom in vivid 3D. Connection to satellites allows for real time weather observation, music and entertainment at your fingertips. But what happens when the power goes out or some other electronic causality occurs? 
Is there the possibility that your GPS is not providing precise positional information? Actually that last question is not far off the mark. During my professional interaction with mariners – all types, commercial, military, and personal – they all have a common theme in their stories. Sometimes the information is not correct. Distance off the actual position varies from as little as a few feet to over 20 yards. That can lead to a wide variety of marine incidents.
The remedy for this type of occurrence is found in one of the most profound reference books for mariners: American Practical Navigator, Bowditch, Chapter 25. Only 11 pages comprise this Chapter. However it presents a small, but extremely concise set of instructions for the person in charge of a navigational watch. Given operating a small pleasure craft on the lake is vastly different than ocean and coastal environments, the obligation to reasonably know your position at all times is the same. 
High profile maritime accidents in 2017 have dramatically shown that advanced technology does not guarantee safety and collision avoidance. The only way to ensure your security, and that of others on the water is to learn different methods of navigation along with  other auxiliary operations on your vessel. During the Atlanta Boat Show you will see some organizations such as; U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Power Squadron, Sea School, and other training institutions that provide this much needed educational service. 
Please stop by the booths and discover the advantages of professional maritime training can be to your overall experience on the water. 
To accomplish this objective consider investing your passion for the water in boating educational courses. This approach provides not only an alternate method to operate your vessel, it adds volumes of understanding to the function and proper use of advanced systems. The final result is increased confidence, situational awareness, improved performance, and especially boating safety.                                           
Looking forward to another great year at the lake and seeing you at the 2018 Atlanta Boat Show!

December 2017 column

The 'Live Jacket Zone'

According to official U.S. Coast Guard statistics, the major cause of water fatalities is drowning, not collision. The information is a portion of the syllabus for most boating safety courses. There is however something that can be done to prevent and diminish the occurrence of this risk, and that is: wear a life jacket. 
Through the efforts of the local Lake Lanier flotilla, USCG Flotilla 29, there is now a program stressing safety by placing painted, stenciled decals at boat ramps that read, “LIFE JACKET ZONE.”
The program is headed up by dedicated flotilla member and officer, Dan Vaccarro, plus ACE volunteers Tim and Winona Baker.
The message (and its location) is a fresh, real-time, bold statement of the benefits of wearing a flotation device. The best way to convey a message, especially one as important as this, is with short but direct visible graphics at the location where it is needed most. It’s very similar in concept to the internationally mandated “No Smoking” stencil on all foreign and domestic superstructures of commercial vessels, especially oil tankers. Designed for all the crew and visitors on deck to see and functions as a critical reminder. 
A division of my professional duties in USCG Training is to serve as assessor for water survival in the International Maritime Organization, IMO course called Basic Training. Required by international standards and maritime law, the mariner is directed to show proficiency in wearing and utilizing various forms of survival equipment – life jackets being the main focus. All of this is conducted in an indoor heated pool with plenty of lifeguards present. Even with those safeguards in place there is the occasional close call with someone not comfortable with wearing a life jacket or thinking it is not needed. 
Regardless of how safe you perceive you are, there can be times when incidents happen, unannounced, completely by surprise. life jackets are designed for these situations. That’s the foundation of water safety, the aptitude to not only stay afloat, but prepare for the unexpected.
Ask yourself this one very important question: Do you have the ability to swim or stay afloat for a reasonable period of time in the water, in spite of the season, time of day, or condition of the surface?

Wearing a life jacket helps even the odds of survival in all the variants, no matter what the actual environment. My one reservation as to the “controlled” training in a pool: It does not realistically promote actual conditions of cold or rough ocean, river, or lake. On the good side of this type of training: it does provide an introduction to the circumstances. It is far better to be prepared then blindly react to an incident. Wearing of a life jacket displays faith in survival technology. 
There are different types of lifejackets, also known as Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs), each serving a specific purpose and all delivering one extra, extremely effective benefit: increased confidence.
The USCG Auxiliary, Power Squadron, other agencies and organizations have more details on this subject or contact me to find out more tips on PFDs, especially the new USCG-approved type just entering the market called U-Float.
Remember the next time you venture out on the water. You are entering the ... Life Jacket Zone.

November 2017 column

Background on the U.S. Coast Guard Racing Stripe

This famous logo first came to life during the early 1960s when there was an urgent need to identify the rescue and law enforcement service to other boaters and military craft, air and sea. During WWII Coast Guard Cutters painted like other war ships but carried the letter “W” in front of their hull number to distinguish from the U.S. Navy. Ordered and adopted by President John F. Kennedy, the service has never looked back. The icon of the U.S. Coast Guard is emulated by other similar organizations and agencies around the globe in some related fashion, especially the diagonal design of the stripes.

A profound difference in the color scheme of the two logos, even including the additional wording, “Auxiliary.” With enthusiasm, I can assure the same mind-set and core mission values are identical. The US Coast Guard Auxiliary is an integral part of operations for the service, providing tremendous benefit to the public in boating safety, inspections, and training.
Where did the Auxiliary get its start? Congress passed a law on June 19, 1941 that restructured the Coast Guard Reserve. Now the service was directed to operate two reserve forces. The already existing civilian reserve organization was renamed the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. The newly structured U.S. Coast Guard Reserve was to function on a military basis providing an important resource of wartime capabilities, very similar to the duties of the other armed services.
The next time you see one of these dedicated professionals at the boat show, your marina, on patrol, training seminars, or performing safety inspections please remember: without them, the waterways we enjoy for recreational boating would be much different and complex. 
Coupled with the Power Squadron, other boating safety organizations, and license training institutions they expertly provide essential, and sometimes under-appreciated assistance. Boating safety is not complete with a one-time educational event but is without doubt a fulltime endeavor. It’s a very valuable skill set to achieve and utilize to your benefit.  
Winter season is almost upon us, a perfect time to enhance boating knowledge through any form of training. Contact me if you want to know more and where to get this valuable information that will radically change the way you think about boating, improving your experience on the water. 
This article is dedicated to the memory of fellow Lakeside News columnist, Roy Crittenden, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, who passed away this year. His dedication of unwavering service to the public, the organization, and boating safety will be remembered.

October 2017 column

What is the 'sail effect' for power boaters

Description: Final approach to the dock at bare steerageway, lines ready, forward spring first, quickly followed by other leads securing the large High Endurance Coast Guard Cutter to the mooring. This can be a challenge depending on the powerful forces of wind and current. The same mindset applies to the task of safely stopping with anchor, paying out the necessary scope of anchor line or chain to secure and hold the boat in place.

The most important part of ship handling is to control the movement through the water using all available resources, both natural and engineered. Maneuvering at slow speeds presents all sorts of conditions that can redirect the watercraft and stand into danger. Different dynamics depending on the size and design contributes to the strength of the forces acting on the control of the vessel, one of which is known as “Sail Effect.”  You can learn more about wind influence on power boats at:

Most military ships, both Navy and Coast Guard, stationed in the Atlantic and Caribbean regions, visit Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for intense training called REFTRA which stands for Refresher Training. It is absolutely the most effective and practical education there is available anywhere in the maritime world. Through tough, expertly designed and delivered exercises, the training hones skill sets that make the ship and crew ready for any contingency, in all conditions or threat levels.  
Each night vessels return from sea off the Southern Coast of Cuba following a long day filled with countless drills and preparation for things like navigation, Search and Rescue, and other duties. US Navy Port Control assigns a different berth depending on mission and schedule. It is a very busy place when it comes to ship traffic so dock space can be limited. In command of the ship’s navigation as the deck watch officer, my duty was to safely pilot the ship into port and dock safely at the pier. Port Control decided the outside berth between two large US Navy Arleigh Burke class destroyers would be the location. In addition to the very difficult position, the prevailing wind was strong, especially in the evening hours blowing off the dock. A mere 200 yards from that very same side of the pier was shoal; complete with jagged rocks jutting sharply out of the water. No room for error, everything was literally riding on this task performed correctly.

The initial course to the starboard side berth – “port side to” – placed me below or to the left of the entrance at the beginning of the pier which would provide for the wind striking on the port side of the ship blowing me safely through the narrow gap. It’s a technique not for the faint of heart, as it relied on the force of the wind providing lateral movement. Once in the shadow of the first Navy destroyer the wind ceased to have an effect on control and I could now maneuver more effectively with engines and rudder. Preparing for the upcoming wind blowing me off the dock again as I breached the open and narrow space in between the ships, my objective was to decrease the surface volume of the superstructure of my vessel, lessening the adverse pushing effects of the wind. Retracting the helicopter hanger gave me the needed reduction of exposed side structure. Shortly thereafter, final reach. We are safely docked alongside, with all lines made fast. It could have gone wrong if not for continual training. 
It’s something all boaters should consider. Understanding the pros and cons of side forces can make you a better pilot in every aspect.  Each vessel has a unique character when operating in the wind. Knowing and understanding how  “Sail Effect” can be harnessed and controlled for your benefit and is one factor to boat handling success. Next time the wind starts to blow brisk take advantage of the situation and practice. You’ll be glad you did.


September 2017 column

An explanation of LORAN (Long Range Navigation)

LORAN is an acronym for Long Range Navigation. It is currently an obsolete terrestrial radio navigation system which enabled ships and aircraft to precisely determine their position and speed from low frequency radio signals transmitted by fixed land based radio beacons, using a dedicated receiver unit. 
The final version of LORAN in North America was LORAN-C, which operated in the low frequency level of the radio spectrum from 90 to 110 kHz. Russia used a nearly identical system in the same frequency range, called CHAYKA. LORAN was in steep decline in the ’90s and early part of the 21st century with the satellite-based Global Positioning System being the preferred technology that eventually replaced it. 
However, there have been attempts to enhance and re-popularize LORAN, mainly to serve as a backup and land-based alternative to GPS and other satellite navigation systems. The current program has been phased out in the United States and Canada. The United States Coast Guard and Canadian Coast Guard ceased transmitting LORAN-C signals in early 2010. The other updated version of the navigation tool was E-Loran, primarily used in other parts of the globe. It was discontinued December 31, 2015 with international authorities leaving a few stations operating in the European sector ... just in case.
Instruction of this type of navigation skill was a requirement until a few years ago and to this day the training charts used in USCG license examinations are full of these remnant lines. 
Through the use of a Loran Linear Interpolator scale (upper right hand corner on the navigational paper chart graphic) you could very accurately determine your position. Even on some of the GPS Multi-Function Displays there is evidence of E-LORAN input in the operating systems. 
Why return to an old way of navigation? Maybe because it is terrestrial, not dependent on the premium cost and crowded space of satellites that orbit the Earth. Back-up systems are always critical to ensure accuracy regardless of the type vessel, aircraft, or vehicle you are operating. Are you absolutely sure your GPS is providing correct information all the time? Navigation is a vast arena of technology and utility. 
The return of LORAN can certainly help maintain a consistent environment and help reduce incidents that can develop with too little or inaccurate  sensor input.


August 2017 column

Safe boating is no accident

That headline can be interpreted in a few different ways as in: preparation, education, and the positive results of these types of measures. Compared to other modes of transportation, boating is unique. You’re not required to have a complicated license unless you are taking passengers for hire or for commercial application. Driving your vehicle is demanding enough. Now factor in boating which most enthusiasts do at part-time intervals. Remember the road driving test? The final driving exam with actual demonstration of the newly acquired skills and abilities for complicated maneuvering.
In the maritime world of schooling and assessment, that’s where simulation now comes into play complementing actual experience and lecture based instruction.  Virtual immersion of the student into various scenarios, some hazardous, provides the opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom.

It’s a perfect platform for a vital training element called Error Trapping; learning from mistakes and isolating the behavior to reduce further incidence in the future. There are maritime simulators around the country at various institutions and academies. The U.S. Power Squadron has a portable one at the Atlanta Boat Show each year and I would highly recommend you visit the booth to see the technology in action. 
The real question is: How does boating safety education correlate to a better experience on the water? The answer comes in many different forms: classroom, online, simulation, an especially hands-on, real time practice. If you encounter an incident or close call while on the lake you should go over the event’s time line, if that’s possible. Far too many emergencies occurred last year due to excessive speed with improper navigation, something that can be greatly reduced if boaters would learn and apply the basics.
Above all other factors of maritime awareness, the highest priority is familiarization with your vessel and having an additional person qualified to handle the craft properly, in case the primary operator is incapacitated. 
I’m not suggesting that everyone should attend some type of formal license education, unless required by law, but each operator should be proficient in all aspects of safe boating when underway and prepare for any and all contingencies. This can be accomplished with routine briefings and practice drills to hone the necessary skills.
Here’s three general guidance categories needed for safe boating for your consideration:
  • Maneuvering
  • Basic Safety Training
  • Vessel Knowledge
That’s all you need to begin your journey to a better, on the water, understanding. It does take time but these items are achievable with the proper system or training plan in place. Imagine the improvement of safety for you, fellow passengers, and other boaters that share the lake with you. 
Please contact me to discover how to develop and personally design your own approach for safer boating, ultimately providing an improved experience on your vessel for everyone. 
It is absolutely true ... Safe Boating Is No Accident.

July 2017 column

What the colored boat lights mean

July is a significant month full of celebration and patriotic events. Boaters have the opportunity to enjoy the fireworks show from unique position, out on the lake. It’s certainly an excellent vantage point, with clear, calm weather and surface. There are also many other vessels in your vicinity doing the same thing and that can pose a collision hazard once they begin moving.
Red, white and blue always takes center stage during July festivities, the proud colors of our flag ... but that’s not what I am referring to. There’s a different combination of shade: red, white and green. They are the colors of running lights found on watercraft of all sizes, even the wings of aircraft. Their sole mission is to provide the observer the direction of travel, also known as aspect and or target angle, for those with military experience.
The following example of this genius system with light demarcation lines provides the very core – extremely important information – for collision avoidance. As stated in the Navigation Rules of the Road, lights should be displayed during periods of darkness or restricted visibility. Actually most vessels equipped will exhibit them any time they are underway, especially commercial vessels. Lines that separate the colors into sectors have meaning beginning with;
Side Lights
• Red is left (port)
• Green is right (starboard)
Stern Light
• White
Masthead Light
• White
• Yellow (used for commercial towing and public service vessels, flashing).
When you see these lights it provides the most important part of visualization of the approaching water craft. For instance, if you see a red light then you are looking at the other boat’s left side and you are obligated to turn right, slow down, or both to avoid an incident. In a head-on situation you would see both red and green, and the white masthead light. White light only would indicate you were observing from astern. There are only three types of situations described in the Rules of the Road.

This one graphic, with the distinct colors and division of sectors with lines of demarcation speaks volumes of quick, easy to interpret, information.
Propose this idea to enhance safe boating and proper action to operating rules of collision avoidance. Place this small decal in the helm area to provide immediate visual reference. Graphics are universal in nature crossing the boundary of spoken language. Small, seemingly insignificant, pictures, displayed where they can best be seen at all times while operating underway both day and night, will deliver outstanding results and can help moderate risk when navigating a vessel. 
Contact me if you want to learn more about and apply this technique to enhance your safety on the water.

June 2017 column

'Use it or lose it' applies to boating as well

How many times have you heard that saying? It’s so true regardless how it is applied. Proficiency in boating is no exception. The concept is the very reason why US Coast Guard licenses or the International Standards are renewed every five years. Think of the amount of time spent on your boat if you are a weekend and holiday enthusiast. How does it compare in terms of time to other parts of your daily routine? 
Time is marching on ... so should your learning curve. Actual experience is the absolute best teacher of all. Boating safety training should be part of your mariner experience. There are a few different opinions in the professional maritime instructor community about the frequency regarding renewal of license and knowledge. 
My belief and witness tells me loud and clear that initially, know-how in planning and preparation are the introductory elements to safer boating. License renewal does little to solve that need but there are ways to always be ready.  
Best practices often come in smaller portions, the trade secret to boating safety education. Look back and remember how it felt to “cram” for an exam after many hours of class! Now ask yourself ... did I learn anything in the process? Lesser units of training deliver the greatest success: both in duration of the seminar and the mastery of the content. 
Consider a safety class offered by the USCG Auxiliary, Power Squadron, or other institutions credentialed to offer this service. That’s only the beginning. Something I recommend: dedicate time out of each trip to go over certain items with your passengers and crew. Such short briefings deliver benefits in numerous ways.
Here’s a sample list of topics to cover or design your own based on your specific boating needs:
  • Life jackets
  • First Aid Kit
  • Fueling Operations
  • Person Overboard
  • Basic Weather Forecast 
  • Steering and Throttle
  • Anchoring
  • Line Handling

Take a few moments to go over these items each time you venture out on the water. Not only will it enrich the knowledge and protection of others, you will also garner added expertise of your skill sets as a safe boat operator. Additional information about this process can be found on the internet or contact me for more details.
Always keep in mind, “Use it or lose it!”

May 2017 column

The basics of navigation

“Navigation General,” is a vital part of knowledge for every type of deck officer seeking a professional license. It covers a wide range of topics, including weather, buoys, markers, and other aids to navigation. This science is one of the most valuable foundations in safe boating and developing good navigation skills. 
Weather plays a huge role in everything. The ability to recognize a threat and take the proper actions to avoid or mitigate, is significant to your overall success. Many different forms of media provide that data: satellite and other sophisticated technologies deliver near real time information. This is where training, and the preparation to become proficient in the operation of advanced electronics, pays huge dividends in your boating experience. Coupled with the latest high def multi-function displays, your vessel becomes connected, more efficient, and safer to operate.
Buoys and markers are referenced on GPS systems and charts ranging in technology from advanced satellite generated systems to paper charts and booklets produced by a variety of vendors. Without these locations and depth soundings, safe navigation would be near impossible. Like signs on the highway, these visual aids to navigation define safe paths to travel depending on the size and design of your vessel. Other markers denote obstructions such as sunken wrecks, shoal and objects that could cause harm by collision.
Probably the most violated markers on the lake would be the no wake zones. Sometimes misinterpreted, a conflict of opinion between these two basic maneuvers.
   • Slow to no wake speed before you reach the demarcation line
   • Decrease speed rapidly at the boundary
There is a problem with the second method, as slowing down rapidly, changing the center of gravity abruptly forward, causing the bow to dip down, creating a much higher wave than produced by the vessel’s normal wake pattern. Initial swell, the largest, then diminishing as the energy moves throughout the area. This is the type of surface action that can cause damage to boats and other nearby structures. 
Compared to any other portion of boating education, Navigation General covers the most diverse and important lessons. It is partially covered in Boating Safety classes given by many organizations and professionals. There is room for more of this type of training given its importance and relevance.
More thorough understanding can also be found in US Coast Guard approved license courses of instruction offered both, in class and online. The most valuable part of this syllabus of training is actually not the license, it is the additional knowledge how things work in all aspects of boating and shipping. Contact me if you want to know more how Navigation General can improve your total awareness of  boating and provide a excellent base to all things Boating Safety.

April 2017 column

An explanation of 'Rubber Docking'

Final Approach. It’s a term commonly used in aviation denoting the aircraft’s descent on the last course for landing. Boats also have their own version of Final Approach. For those of you with handling experience, you already know the unique feeling as your vessel edges toward the dock.

Sometimes the overall maneuver is complicated, with a lot of factors to consider: Wind, water depth, current, your speed, other nearby craft  and obstructions the highest concerns in the few moments before coming to all stop, safely without incident, alongside the berth. That may sound like a simple thing to accomplish, but I can assure you that’s not always the case. 
Safe boat handling presents a requirement for competency to the task. I’ve witnessed my fair share of mishaps over many years. You can look at You Tube for countless examples of all types of marine accidents, both big ship and small vessel. Competency is only achieved in a very direct fashion: by simulated or actual experience. There are local professionals in your area that can help you gain the confidence and experience needed. Some training groups and institutions also have boating simulators to assist in developing these specific skill sets. That’s one of my favorites while serving as a trainer. 
In a simulated environment you can make mistakes, learn from the process, and become superior in the skill of boat handling, without the actual incident or associated risk occurring. It’s working through a process called Error Trapping to improve performance. 
However ... there is another way you can gain this knowledge: part simulation, part actual experience and best of all, not having to hire someone or purchase equipment. The combination produces outstanding results. This time of year, when the lake is not crowded, is a perfect time for you to hone your capability in boat handling. I highly recommend practicing a method called “Rubber Docking” by throwing something in the water that floats near your vessel, and practice maneuvering up to it, using small amounts of rudder and or just the engine. 
This little – seemingly insignificant – exercise will get you accustomed to how your boat handles in slow speed, and sometimes in elements such as wind, current, and rough water. It’s a great environment to learn safer boating techniques. There’s no need to be close to other boats or make risky maneuvers when you can accomplish the basics out in open waters, away from the crowds.

Mastering these methods will improve:
  • Retrieving a person from the water quickly and safely
  • Collision avoidance
  • Maneuvering next to a dock
  • Anchoring
There is much value in this know-how and numerous outlets where you can obtain the information. Contact me if you want to know more.

March 2017 column

Always know where you are while boating

One definition of responsible navigation involves the fact that a person in charge of an underway vessel should be able to quickly and with reasonable accuracy give their approximate location at all times without regard to navigation systems and other piloting methods. It’s all part of the total equation of knowing your geographic location and in order to become proficient with navigation you need to first estimate your position – a process called dead reckoning. We all do it each and every time we drive our vehicles on the roads. Familiar landmarks, intersections, and driving experience serving as our guide. 
The same holds true for boating.  Some of you develop and master electronic navigation skills to deliver the desired information. But what do you do when the power goes out or the system fails? If the answer is “I don’t know,” then you are just one moment away from an unwanted incident. Such problems can come in an assortment of conditions: grounding, collision, and many others all stemming from one element – incorrect navigation or lack thereof.
Once published by the federal government, NOAA ceased printing paper charts in April 2014.  Most boaters don’t use this form of mapping but it is still mandated for license and one of the required back-ups for the newer Electronic Charting Display Information Systems ECDIS found on larger vessels. The charts you have on your GPS devices are lacking one important aspect, they are NOT updated.

There is an advanced technology on the market that offers up to date, almost real time underwater charts through the use of the cloud and that is called Insight Genesis. Through a network of boaters that record and download the data you can pull the specific area you need and overlay it with your current charts depending on the system you are using.  It’s extremely valuable for sport fishing and also has application for other safe navigation utilities, especially underwater cartography. The technology also provides a broad range of voyage planning services as well as local knowledge of charting routes and destinations. 
Back to the focus of proper navigation: you should never rely on just one source of information. I highly recommend practice using paper or booklet charts. Also, get visually familiar with your surroundings, becoming more of a pilot than an operator. The very core of being an effective navigator is to know where you are going, what you will see along the way, and what time you will get there.
With practice and experience comes more precise estimation. The ability to do that task well delivers many benefits to you, especially the aptitude to look ahead and predict what will happen. This comparison provides the confidence needed to make the correct decisions and become more aware of potential hazards before they develop into risk.
Think of this question often when on the water “Where am I?” It will deliver a positive difference in your boating experience and to others that enjoy the lake.
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