Put the Atlanta Boat show on your January calendar
Cold weather is on the way and boats are being winterized. Next on your agenda should be the 52th Annual Atlanta Boat Show, again being held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, January 9-12, 2014
One of the many things I really like about this boat show is the timing. It’s too cold to boat, unless you are a diehard fisherman, and football season is dwindling away. The Coast Guard Auxiliary is not performing safety patrols on area lakes unless special circumstances call for our presence. It’s a great time to gather up the family and take in a boat show, talking with the manufacturer’s representatives and the dealers, who are selling all kinds of vessels to suit the needs of anyone or any family. There are also booths where all kinds of boating gear will be offered, from electronics to life jackets. The Coast Guard Auxiliary will also have a booth which will be located at the rear of the building along with other booths. The U.S. Coast Guard will have their traveling exhibit in the front lobby as last year. By the way, it is important to choose the right type of boat for your needs, as we will discuss now.
Another thing you should know is that over 90 percent of the registered boats in the US are trailerable boats, meaning that their length usually does not exceed 26 feet and their weight is around 5,000-6,000 pounds. Vessels larger than that usually call for special towing rigs not available to the average family. Boats come in many models, sizes, and types. Each serves a specific need. A boat developed for one purpose may serve poorly for another. Likewise, a boat that is safe in one set of conditions may not be safe for others. When you select a boat, be sure that it will suit your needs. Let’s look at the overall types of boats available.
Of course, we have sailing vessels, some even have engines! Then we have other groups of boats known as utility boats, runabouts, cruisers, pontoon boats, houseboats, personal watercraft, (yes, they are also called boats), and others. These are the types most seen on area lakes and rivers. If a family intends to host guests who are a little apprehensive about boating, a pontoon boat makes a great platform, offering room to walk around and generally slower in speed, offering a smoother ride. If you plan to spend nights under the stars, you should look at the cabin cruisers, beginning around 24 feet. They usually accommodate two adults and two children. Houseboats are “floating condos” and you can entertain the whole neighborhood! A fairly new addition to the boating line is the deck boat, which combines the space and openness of a pontoon boat with the speed through the water of a planning hull boats like runabouts or cruisers. Generally, there is no cabin space, also common to the pontoon boat. These boats have gained in popularity over the past few years.
That’s about as far as we can go with this, but for you first time boat owners, I hope this overview will help. One last thought: it’s a good idea to have a way to keep one or all of your passengers out of the sun, and sometimes out of the rain. This calls for a “hardtop” cover or a canvas top, sometimes referred to as a “Bimini” top. The latter type can be folded down when not wanted. You can also add clear vinyl enclosure to further protect you from the elements.
And please visit the booths that feature equipment for your boat. This will be a great time to consider a VHF marine radio if you don’t have one. The Coast Guard does not recommend a cell phone as your only means of communication. If you have room on your dashboard, and the location is fairly protected from rain, we recommend the mounted type. The transmitting power is 25 watts. If your boat is a smaller version with no room for a mounted radio, you may want to consider a handheld VHF radio. Transmitting power is 5-6 watts, which will get you out several miles, and usually sufficient for Lake Lanier.
See you at the show, and please drop by our booth for free Georgia Boating Regulations, safe boating literature covering a multitude of marine subjects and information on safe boating courses being offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary throughout the majority of the State of Georgia.
Roy Crittenden is Public Affairs Officer for Flotilla 29.
More info: Flotilla 29 Lake Lanier, 770-393-4382, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://a0700209.uscgaux.info
November 2013 column
Fall boating brings fun, cautionary advice
November can be a great time to take the family and friends out for a day of recreational boating, picnicking, leaf viewing and generally having a great time. Air temperatures are just right to brisk and water temps are still in the moderate range. At the time of the writing of this article, Lake Lanier is slightly above normal pool, a rare occurrence this time of year. While recreational boating slows down during November and December, fishermen and some boaters with heated cabins will still find their way out on the water for a day of relaxation and fun.
Boating accident statistics give us a warning, however, about boating during October, November and December. I have access to U.S. Coast Guard boating accident statistics for 2012, and they give us reason to be concerned. Trauma, drowning and hypothermia continue to rank 1, 2 and 3 as causes of death. The highest percentage of accidents resulting in death occurred in October (25 percent), November (22 percent) and December (26 percent). The other nine months ranged from 11 percent to 27 percent (February).
Hypothermia is not “freezing to death,” nor is it “frostbite,” and it can kill at temperatures well above freezing. To give you an idea of how much time you have if you fall overboard when the water temperature drops, consider this: water temperature 50-60 degrees, unconsciousness can occur in 1-2 hours, death 1-6 hours. If water temperature is 40-50 degrees, unconsciousness can occur in 30-60 minutes, death 1-3 hours. If you plan to be on the water this fall and winter, there are things you can do to prevent hypothermia.
• Try to avoid boating alone. It’s nice to have help in emergencies.
• Avoid situations that promote loss of body heat. Stay dry and out of the cold wind.
• Wear your life jacket, since it will help keep preserve body heat, and in the event you fall overboard you will be better able to return to the boat.
• Proper clothing makes a big difference. Wool clothing is much better than synthetics.
• Have a blanket or two on board to warm anyone who may need them, whether or not anyone falls overboard.
Remember, too, that there will probably not be many other boaters around you during this time of the year, meaning “good Samaritans” will be scarce. Should you find yourself in the position of rescuing someone who possibly is suffering from hypothermia, keep this in mind: their energy resources are minimal. Have them do as little as possible to help you in their rescue. They may deplete what energy reserves they have left. Hypothermic people have died after rescue because of their exertion during the rescue.
Fall boating can be a wonderful experience, but one needs to exercise caution since the rules have changed some from summer boating. To learn more about cold weather boating and other important facets of recreational boating, consider taking our one-day “About Boating Safety” course being offered at Lake Lanier from February through October each year. Announcements of our courses are printed in this newspaper and in other lake area newspapers during those months.
Please plan to visit our safety booth at the Atlanta Boat Show January 12-15, 2012. We hope to again be located in the lobby area of the Georgia World Congress Center next to the Coast Guard traveling exhibit, and will have ample free safe boating brochures available. You will also be able to speak with our knowledgeable Auxiliarists on duty should you have questions.
October 2013 column
Last chance this year to take a USCGA Safe Boating Course
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is offering its last safe boating course of the year on October 12. Why not enroll now and join the over 200 Lake Lanier recreational boaters who have completed our courses this year. See the announcement and procedure to follow for enrollment elsewhere on this page.
This month’s column is about Life Jackets. BORING! Besides, you know everything there is to know about them, right? Let’s find out. Take this quiz, then we’ll talk.
Answer the following, true or false:
Most boating fatalities occur at sea.
Most boating fatalities happen to women, minorities, and children under 18.
Most boating fatalities occur in bad weather.
Most boating fatalities are from bodily injuries, due to a collision.
Most boating fatalities happen to inexperienced boaters.
The law only requires that you have one life jacket per person on board.
It is OK to put a child in an adult life jacket but not vice versa.
Most all boat-related drownings occur because there weren’t enough life jackets on board.
The law views an inflatable life jacket the same as a regular life jacket.
A floatable seat cushion counts as a life jacket.
Most boating fatalities happen to white males, ages 18-34, with boating experience. They occur on lakes, streams, and inland waters more than the ocean, and in boats under 16 feet, in calm seas and good weather. Seventy percent of all boating fatalities are from drowning, and in 90 percent of the fatalities, the victim was not wearing a life jacket.
Drownings are most likely to occur when a person enters the water unexpectedly from a boat capsizing or from a fall. When this happens, there is no time to grab a life jacket and the trauma of such an event creates sufficient shock and disorientation to prevent even good swimmers from saving themselves.
The law requires that each individual on board have a properly sized and fitted Coast Guard approved life jacket (other than Type IV) that is in good condition. Boats 16 feet or larger also must carry a throwable (Type IV) floatation device (such as a cushion or ring). Life jackets are generally labeled as “infant,” “child,” “youth,” or “adult,” but more importantly show the weight range of the person they were designed to support (e.g. less than 30 pounds, 30-50, less than 90, etc.). It is more important that the jacket fit and match the weight range, rather than the age range. It is also vital that a child is securely fitted in a jacket that they can not slip out of.
Life jackets now come in a wide variety of styles, colors, and types. These include life jackets, vests, coats, deck suits, and inflatables. The Coast Guard designates them by type (I, II, III, IV, and V) according to their style and buoyancy. Briefly summarized: Type I is for off-shore, providing more buoyancy and support for the head; Type II is for inshore boating; Type III is for calm water conditions, but unlike I & II, will not turn an unconscious person’s face out of the water; Type IV is a throwable device; and Type V is a special use device, such as a floatation coat, work vest, or deck suit. Which is best? The one that is designed for your conditions and is comfortable enough for you to wear while onboard! A life jacket on board doesn’t do you any good, when you are in the water.
The law states that life jackets must be readily available (not in plastic or stowed under other gear) and throwable devices must be immediately available (not in a locker) when underway. Inflatable life jackets (w/CO2 cartridges) must be worn in order to be counted. (Remember that when submerged, they are designed to inflate. If this happens inside a locker of a capsized boat, they could restrict removal and access to all other life jackets.)
Wearing a life jacket is a state law for some activities, such as skiing, tubing, riding a PWC, white water paddling, and sail-boarding. In Georgia, all children under 13 years old must wear a properly fitting life jacket when riding in an unconfined portion of the boat.
So how did you do? The answers to the quiz were all false. So what did you learn? Select the right life jacket. Wear it. Be safe.
September 2013 column
Five top excuses not to wear a life jacket
For a number of years the events surrounding the promotion of National Safe Boating Week (observed in May of each year) have stressed the wearing of life jackets by recreational boaters at all times while under way. Consider for a moment the reasoning behind that strategy. According to Coast Guard boating accident statistics for 2011, there were 533 drownings in the U.S., and 84 percent (415) were not wearing a life jacket. The great majority of time, when boating accidents occur, entry into the water is unexpected, providing no time to grab a life jacket. If we have an individual in the water with perhaps a head injury or some other type of injury, that makes it difficult to swim, even if they knew how.
Here are more sobering facts about life jacket wear according to the Coast Guard Life Jacket Wear Rate Observation Study done in 2012:
Adults in open motorboats – 5 percent were wearing a life jacket
All boaters excluding PWC boaters- 18 percent were wearing a life jacket
Youthful boaters (17 and younger) – 67.5 percent were wearing a life jacket.
As you know, in Georgia children younger than 13 are required by law to wear a life jacket if in the open cockpit of a boat. With statistics like this, one has to wonder why more people don’t automatically put on a life jacket upon leaving the dock. Well, someone asked many of them why they did not do so, and according to the National Safe Boating Council who did the survey, here were the top five reasons given:
“I have life jackets on board.” Having life jackets on board the vessel is not enough. Accidents happen too fast to put on a stowed life jacket.
“I’m a strong swimmer.” Even a strong swimmer needs to wear a life jacket. During an emergency, clothing can become heavy or waterlogged while in the water.
“It’s too hot and doesn’t look cool.” Old fashioned, bulky orange life jackets have been replaced with new styles, like inflatable life jackets that may resemble a pair of suspenders or a belt pack. These are much cooler in the warmer weather.
“It gets in the way.” There are life jacket styles available for any recreational water activity – fishing, water sports, hunting, paddling and more. There are even styles for pets!
“Nothing is going to happen to me.” Face it, accidents happen. Boating can be a fun, safe and enjoyable activity, but when the “Wear It” message is ignored, the consequences can be grim.
Just ask Richard VanDermark, an experienced boater and a navigation officer in Orange County, New York, about the importance of life jacket wear. VanDermark recalls the day he went tubing with his family in 2011 when he slipped while helping his grandson onto the boat, hitting his head and falling into the water. Thanks to wearing his life jacket, his son-in-law quickly pulled him out of the water and performed CPR. “There is no doubt in my mind that my life jacket saved my life. No matter how good a swimmer you are, you never know what will happen when you’re boating,” said VanDermark. “Always wear your life jacket.”
Inflatable life jackets have been authorized for wear by Coast Guard Auxiliarists and can be bought in the Atlanta area for less than $100, much less than when originally introduced.
August 2013 column
Taking on water requires swift, proper, corrective action
Some months ago I read an article dealing with a sinking situation calling for quick and correct action to save the day. My mind spun back to the middle 1990s when I bought a 10-year-old, 38-foot Californian motor yacht from a guy in Jacksonville who had it tied up at his condo on the St. Johns River. As part of the deal I had a survey done by a reputable marine surveyor in the area. A few days later I reviewed his recommendations and was satisfied that the boat was seaworthy with no alarming deficiencies that could not be corrected when I got the boat back to Savannah. The deal was finalized, and I had the minor problems fixed in Savannah at Thunderbolt where I planned to keep the boat.
A few weeks later my wife and I returned to Savannah with plans to take a cruse up the ICW to North Carolina to visit friends. We departed Savannah for the short trip to Hilton Head Island as our next major destination. As we rounded Daufuskie Island and entered Calibogue Sound where you can see the lighthouse at Harbour Town Marina, the boat seemed a bit sluggish with the bow a bit lower than usual. I sent my wife below to check around and a few seconds later she returned to the fly bridge with the unnerving news that “water was everywhere.” I had no idea where it was coming from but I knew quick action was called for. We put on life jackets and I issued a “May Day” call on the marine radio. Coast Guard Station Tybee immediately answered and began asking a multitude of questions. I thanked them and told them I was pretty busy with a sinking boat and I would get back to them. I was not about to lose a boat I had just bought!
Broad Creek was within sight on my starboard side and I headed for the little entrance to the creek and eased the boat up on the shore. There was a falling tide. The twin 3208 Caterpillars were still hammering away, almost covered in water by this time. Within minutes a TowBoat US vessel was beside me and the operator came aboard and we found that an engine water intake hose had broken on the port engine, so I shut it down and the water ceased. After an hour or so his portable pumps had cleared the engine room of water and with one engine I backed the boat off the oyster shells and proceeded up the creek to a marina where we stayed a day or so getting things back in order.
Long story, but these things do happen, and they can happen to boats of all sizes, and we see it often on Lake Lanier. One needs to plan for such an eventuality. With your boat in mind think about the most likely ports of entry for water. The stern plug might be your first thought. If you ever take the plug out while it is on your trailer, always leave it in the boat where you can find it. Engine cooling system hoses with double clamps need checking during the boating season. Replace hoses that are suspect. Inspect all through hull fittings at least annually for leakage and general condition. From time to time turn on your bilge pumps and check for that beautiful hum they make. Have a bucket or hand pump on board for your use or for helping out a fellow boater. Hand pumps with a 5-6 foot hose are a cheap investment and are available at marine supply stores.
In summary, if you find yourself with unwanted water on board, have everyone put on life jackets, put out a call for help on your marine radio, either handheld on mounted. What! You haven’t bought that radio yet! Try to find the source of the leak, make sure your bilge pumps are pumping, get someone busy bailing or pumping water out by hand, slow down and head for shore and look for a place to beach the boat. If it should sink, stay with the boat because chances are it will not sink entirely due to built in flotation and everybody can hang on to the gunnels or swim platform and be found by rescue people.
July 2013 column
'Ten commandments' of boating safety according to the USCGA
Here’s a different type of column this month but one that every boater should read. It’s the “Ten commandments” of boating safety from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary:
1. Thou Shalt Wear a Life Jacket
Coast Guard statistics show that the vast majority of drownings occur when no life jackets are being worn. Always have an adequate number of life jackets on board and make sure that children are wearing life jackets that fit correctly.
2. Never Shalt Thou Drink and Drive
Whether a car or a boat, it’s just plain crazy to drink and drive. Rarely does alcohol account for less than 25 percent of boating accidents in a given year.
3. Taketh a Boating Safety Course
Yes, something as simple as an eight-hour boating safety course can make all the difference. Seventy percent of boating accidents involve skippers who have never taken a course. Check out the website at the bottom of this article to get connected to one of our upcoming “About Boating Safety” courses.
4. Safety Begins With Thou
Adults between the ages of 40 and 49 account for the highest rate of boating fatalities. You set the tone for safety for the entire crew and passengers. Remember, also, that you as skipper are legally responsible for everyone.
5. Thou Shalt Know The Rules of Navigation
Can you imagine giving the keys to the family car to one of your children and they have never opened a book on driving regulations, much less taken a course. Most agree that at Lake Lanier the most often rule of boating violated are the “Rules of Navigation.”
6. Thou Shalt Keep a Good Look-Out, While Driving Safely
You are required by law to always maintain a look-out. You are also required to use all means available to do so. Have radar? Turn it on. Speed is another matter because, like driving a car, speed should always be reduced if visibility and/or weather demand it. Nearby boat traffic is also a factor.
7. Knoweth Thy Weather
Clearly, if you have ever left your dock under beautiful skies and then came home under heavy weather, you know how important it is to know, before you go, what to expect during the course of your journey. Make it a habit to check the weather forecast before going out, and the weather channels on your VHF/FM marine radio are also available with up-to-date weather information.
8. Haveth Thy Boat Meet State and Federal Standards
Can there be any easier way to ensure that your boat meets USCG and state requirements than getting a FREE vessel safety check by a certified Coast Guard Auxiliarist? No penalty for failure here. The Vessel Examiner will come back for a recheck after any deficiencies are corrected and award the windshield decal.
9. Useth a Carbon Monoxide Detector
If you have an enclosed cabin, equip it with a Carbon Monoxide detector. Most recently manufactured cabin cruisers will come equipped with one. You can’t smell this stuff, see it or taste it, and it can get you without you ever realizing its presence.
10. Thou Shalt File a Float Plan
The U.S. Coast Guard recommends that you always tell a friend or family member where you plan to go and when you’ll be back. Make it a habit before leaving on any boat trip, and this is especially true if you are cruising the ICW or offshore.
There, you’ve got ‘em to mull over, and if you would like to learn more about boating safety or maybe even explore membership in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, contact: Flotilla 29 Lake Lanier at (770-271-4059 or http://a0700209.uscgaux.info
June 2013 column
It's time to get your free vessel safety check
When was the last time you got anything worthwhile that was truly free? What about getting something free that could save your life or keep you out of trouble with law enforcement? The Vessel Safety Check program helps to achieve voluntary compliance with federal, state and local recreational boating safety laws, particularly regarding the carriage of safety equipment, and has been around since 1947. It was introduced as a “free” service and remains so today. It also heightens the boaters’ awareness of safety issues through one-on-one contact by Coast Guard Auxiliary vessel examiners.
This time of the year, recreational boaters are thinking boating again. Many of these vessels have been in “mothballs” for several months, or more professionally referred to as having been “winterized.” Now is the perfect time to consider contacting a Coast Guard Auxiliarist who is a qualified “Vessel Examiner” and setting up a time for the safety check. We have 21 certified vessel examiners working on and around Lake Lanier, and our examiners are prepared to come to your home or dock at a time convenient to you. During 2012, our team examined 279 vessels on Lake Lanier.
This service is not a vessel “survey,” but is a comprehensive check of all the safety features of your vessel and also a check of all the equipment and safety requirements dictated by state and federal law. Remember, too, that there is no penalty if your vessel fails for one reason or another. After you make the correction, we will recheck your vessel and issue you our windshield decal, indicating that your vessel has passed our inspection. Law enforcement on state waters in Georgia are aware of our Vessel Safety Check program and recognize the decal when they see it.
Following is a list of the items we check:
Proper display of numbers. State laws are very specific about just how this is done and, yet, it is one of the most ignored processes we see.
Registration/documentation. Proof of ownership and/or compliance with state registration must be on board.
Personal flotation devices. There must be an adequate number on board, they must be serviceable, must fit the wearer, and must be Coast Guard approved.
Visual distress signals. You must be able to attract attention when needed.
Fire extinguishers. There must be an adequate number and correct size on board as dictated by the size of your vessel, and they must be fully operable.
Ventilation. Applies to inboard engines and inboard-outboard (stern drive) types of propulsion.
Backfire flame control. This is a factory installed mechanism that sits atop your carburetor and prevents flames, caused by engine backfiring, from entering your engine compartment.
Sound producing devices. You must have sufficient capacity to make noise to attract attention based on the size of your vessel.
Navigation lights. They must be adequate for your vessel, placed properly, and must work. If you have a practice of always boating during daylight hours, in sunshine, you may never turn them on to see if they actually function properly.
State and local requirements.
Overall vessel condition. Is the vessel “seaworthy” or are there some problems that really stand out that could prove to be a risk for the occupants?
This is also a great time for the skipper to ask questions of the Auxiliarist dealing with marine issues, Coast Guard Auxiliary programs, and the like. We will also discuss with you other issues such as reporting of accidents, charts and aids to navigation, survival tips, fueling/fuel management, float plans, weather and sea conditions, value of marine radios (handheld and installed), and safe boating courses available in the area.
As you can see, there’s really more to this business of recreational boating than meets the eye. You can buy and run a boat without training, but it is not a wise thing to do. When the weather is perfect and few boats are on the water, most anyone could operate a boat, but when things are not perfect, and they rarely are, your knowledge and experience can save your life and the lives of your “precious cargo.”
May 2013 column
'Wear It' is this year's theme for National Safe Boating Week
National Safe Boating Week is a great way to kick off what will be a fun and safe summer on the water. We’re asking boaters to pay extra attention to their boating safety behaviors, and to especially always wear their life jackets. Remember – even the most experienced boaters fall victim to boating accidents. In 2010, Coast Guard Boating accident statistics show that there were 672 boating fatalities in the U.S. and 484 people drowned. Of those, 87 percent were not wearing a life jacket. On top of that, 86 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had not taken a boating safety course. One-half of the fatalities occurred in open motorboats.
Operator inattention, operator inexperience, excessive speed, improper lookout and alcohol rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents. Of those five factors, alcohol use was the leading contributor. It figures. Alcohol use can easily lead to operator inattention, excessive speed and lack of an appointed lookout. It has been my personal experience that while performing safety patrols on Lake Lanier, and even while towing a disabled vessel, my boat was almost rammed by another boat while the skipper was doing who knows what. They certainly were not looking where they were going.
Today’s life jackets are a far cry from the ones available when I began boating years ago. They are much more comfortable, look better and are not as hot. Inflatable jackets are also available and when not inflated they resemble a set of suspenders. When you hit the water, you can pull a little cord and inflate the jacket. Some can be purchased that inflate themselves when you enter the water. Carbon dioxide cartridges begin the inflation process. Georgia law requires that “all children under 10 years of age wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD (personal flotation device) while on board any moving vessel. This law does not apply when the child is in a fully enclosed cabin.”
It is a well established fact that recreational boaters who have completed a boating education course are, by far, safer boaters and enjoy boating much more since they have learned the “rules of the road” and many other safe boating practices. The Coast Guard Auxiliary at Lake Lanier gives a one-day (Saturday) boating course at their operations center just before the entrance to Aqualand Marina on Lights Ferry Road. Announcements of the course schedule are printed monthly in this newspaper and in others around the lake. We also place posters in all the marinas, boat dealers and other marine businesses.
It is my hope that those who read this article make a conscious effort to take safe boating more seriously. No one leaves the dock expecting to have an accident, but they do happen, and at an alarming rate. Wearing a life jacket and becoming a more informed boater will enhance your chances of not becoming one of these sad statistics.
April 2013 column
Situational awareness is vital for boaters
Situational awareness is rarely mentioned in safe boating courses and I could find no mention of it in “Chapman’s Piloting/Seamanship and Small Boat Handling,” though I’m almost sure it is there somewhere. In considering this subject, think for a moment about an Army unit on the battlefield. It is of utmost importance to them to know as much about the enemy as possible. Such things as their number, their armament, their location, their military plan, their fortifications, etc., are keys to their success during engagement.
This subject came up in one of our safe boating courses and most people thought in terms of being out on the water and being aware of your surroundings. Certainly, that’s part of it but not all of it. Situational awareness really begins before you leave home for a cruise or fishing trip on the lake. Having reviewed the latest local weather report on television, newspaper or on the internet can give you the information you need to make an informed decision on whether today is a good day to take the boat out. You may decide that it’s too risky, especially during the summer months when thunderstorms can pop up at any time.
If you decide it’s a “go,” when you get to your boat slip or are about to launch from a ramp, give your boat a good once over to see if everything is working properly. Check the gauges, bilge, battery condition and, yes, check the plug in the transom! Convince yourself that your boat is ready to face the day. When you and your crew get underway, appoint a “lookout” to be an extra set of eyes for you, the skipper. Remember, too, that you are legally responsible for all on board, and that, itself, can be a sobering thought.
Now you really want to employ “situational awareness” for you need to know about current weather conditions, traffic on the lake that day, awareness of waterway markers, shallow areas in which you may venture, etc. Keeping a keen eye out for other boaters in your area is vital to your safety. There have been way too many collisions on Lake Lanier simply because someone wasn’t following the “rules of the road.” You can’t follow the rules if you or the other guy doesn’t know the rules. These rules are designed to prevent collisions, plain and simple.
In summary, situational awareness simply means paying attention all the time to what is going on around you. As you probably have already experienced, on some days there can be a lot of stuff going on around you.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary’s safe boating courses will be offered at Lake Lanier on a monthly basis from February through October. Watch for our announcements in newspapers, on posters in marine dealers and on radio stations around the lake. There will be an announcement in this newspaper as well.
March 2013 column
An update to Coast Guard's 'Rescue 21'
An introduction to “Rescue 21” was given in this newspaper three or four years ago when this Coast Guard emergency location program was initiated along parts of the coastal United States. Its coverage now encompasses nearly 37,000 miles of the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts. Rescue 21 offers us “inland lakers” absolutely nothing, but as a mariner, I think you have a “need-to-know” about such important advances in search and rescue available to our marine brothers and sisters who do their boating in our coastal waters. An additional benefit to you is that you will probably be the most informed boater on your dock concerning this program.
What exactly is it? A key feature is that approximately 350 radio masts have been erected along the coastal U.S., and some older ones adapted, and have been equipped with radio-direction finding equipment capable of showing the bearing of any incoming distress call within an accuracy of about two degrees. About 80 percent of America’s coastal waters are within range of two or more towers, so a Coast Guard watchstander who receives a distress call should be presented with the vessel’s position onscreen and to an accuracy of about half a mile, even before he has finished responding to the initial call. This is a real advantage over the older system where the skipper of the vessel in distress had to give their best known position.
In the event natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods disable some of the standing towers, portable ones can be set up on trailers and will work as well. Rescue 21 replaces equipment the Coast Guard has been using as part of the National Distress and Response System of the 1970s, and as the Coast Guard puts it, “should take the search out of search and rescue.”
February 2013 column
Check out membership in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
If you have been thinking about finding a meaningful volunteer position, learning new skills and making new friends, you may find a perfect fit with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. We have had a record number of new members through 2012, but always have room for more. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed civilian volunteer component of the U.S. Coast Guard under the Department of Homeland Security. We are seeking more volunteers interested in serving their country and their community.
The Coast Guard’s philosophy is “ready for today … preparing for tomorrow” against all threats and hazards. The role of the Coast Guard Auxiliary is to be a force-multiplier of the Coast Guard. The Auxiliary participates in Coast Guard missions authorized by Congress, with the exception of direct law enforcement and military action.
There are many places in the Coast Guard Auxiliary where you can make a difference and find a sense of belonging. The Auxiliary conducts missions on the water, in the air and on land. We conduct safety patrols and search and rescue missions on our waterways, using our personal boats, assist the Coast Guard with homeland security duties, teach boating safety classes, conduct free vessel safety checks for the public, as well as many other activities. We are also seeking those individuals who want to contribute their talents in the areas of web design, information technology, public affairs and other administrative roles. The Coast Guard reimburses us for the fuel we use on patrols.
Training opportunities include marine safety and environmental protection, recreational boating safety dealership and public outreach, vessel examiner, boating safety class instructor, public affairs specialist, boat crew, coxswain and many others. Applicants must be a U.S. Citizen, at least 17 years old, and pass a background check. There are approximately 32,000 Coast Guard Auxiliary members in the U.S. They come from all aspects of life, including lawyers, physicians, accountants, analysts, engineers, college and high school students, teachers, nurses, IT people, etc. They all team together to make this country and its waterways safer for everyone. Come join us and make 2013 an enjoyable year for you also; make friends, have fun and make a difference in the world!
Take a moment to check us out and get more information on becoming a member at http://a0700209.uscgaux.info. Visit our monthly meetings held the third Tuesday of each month at our Operations Center on Lights Ferry Road just outside Aqualand Marina. We meet at 7 p.m.
January 2013 column
A season of safe boating courses begin in February
As you read this article, the Atlanta Boat Show will be under way or on the verge of opening. The Coast Guard Auxiliary will be located in booth # 223 in Hall “C” of the Georgia World Congress Center. We invite you to stop by and talk with our members about membership or almost any phase of recreational boating, including arranging for a free Vessel Safety Check. In addition, you can pick up a safe boating course schedule for 2013 being offered by Flotilla 22 Lake Allatoona and Flotilla 29 Lake Lanier. On a personal note, I knew absolutely nothing about the Coast Guard Auxiliary, even though I had been a boater for a number of years. After taking their course, I learned who they were and what they did, including their relationship with the U.S. Coast Guard. That was nearly 20 years ago, and I never regretted my decision to join.
The courses vary some, but cover topics such as, but not limited to, “Know Your Boat, Before Getting Underway, Navigating the Waterways, Operating Your Vessel Safely, Boating’s Legal Requirements, Boating Emergencies, Enjoying Water Sports and Georgia Boating Laws.”
Successful completion of this course may result in a discounted premium on your boat’s insurance premium that could easily be enough to cover the small fee for the course. Becoming a more knowledgeable skipper will make boating much more fun and relaxing and could bring a sense of “reassurance” to some of your guests!
Another good reason to take a course is because Maritime Law holds the skipper responsible for anything that happens on your vessel, even the conduct of your passengers. There are written navigation rules referred to as the “72 COLREGS” governing operation of boats in international and inland waters. If you violate any of these rules and cause a problem, you can be held accountable. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to be familiar with the most common ones? The civil penalty that can be imposed for violation of these rules has been set at “not more than $5,000 for each violation.” We’re only asking you to spend one day and about $40 to make you a more knowledgeable and safer boater.
Also, consider these 2011 Coast Guard recreational boating accident statistics:
• 4,588 boating accidents
• 686 deaths
• 3,081 injuries
• 75 percent of deaths due to drowning
• 88 percent not wearing a life jacket
• 86 percent of deaths on boats where the operator had not had a boating safety course
• 80 percent of those who drowned were on boats 21 feet or less
• Five top causes of accidents were operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and alcohol use.
December 2012 column
The Atlanta Boat Show - A January event to attend
Cold weather is on the way and boats are being winterized. Next on your agenda should be the huge 51th annual Atlanta Boat Show, again being held at the Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, Georgia, January 10-13, 2013.
One of the many things I really like about this boat show is the timing. It’s too cold to boat, unless you are a diehard fisherman, and football season is over, with the exception of the Super Bowl.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary is not performing safety patrols on area lakes unless special circumstances call for our presence. It’s a great time to gather up the family and take in a boat show, talking with the manufacturer’s representatives and the dealers, who are selling all kinds of vessels to suit the needs of anyone or any family. There are also booths where all kinds of boating paraphernalia will be offered, from electronics to life jackets.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary will also have a booth which will be located at the rear of the building along with other 10’ booths. The U.S. Coast Guard will have their traveling exhibit in the front lobby as last year. By the way, it is important to choose the right type of boat for your needs, as we will discuss now.
Another thing you should know is that over 90 percent of the registered boats in the United States are trailerable boats, meaning that their length usually does not exceed 26 feet and their weight is maximized at around 5,000-6,000 pounds. Vessels larger than that usually call for special towing rigs not available to the average family. Boats come in many models, sizes, and types. Each serves a specific need. A boat developed for one purpose may serve poorly for another. Likewise, a boat that is safe in one set of conditions may not be safe for others. When you select a boat, be sure that it will suit your needs. Let’s now look at the overall types of boats available.
Of course, we have sailing vessels, some even have engines! Then we have other groups of boats known as utility boats, runabouts, cruisers, pontoon boats, houseboats, personal watercraft, yes, they are also called boats, and others. These are the types most seen on area lakes and rivers. If a family intends to host guests who are a little apprehensive about boating, a pontoon boat makes a great platform, offering room to walk around and generally slower in speed, offering a smoother ride. If you plan to spend some nights under the stars, you should look at the cabin cruisers, beginning around 24 feet and running on up. They usually accommodate two adults and two children.
Houseboats are “floating condos” and you can entertain the whole neighborhood! A fairly new addition to the boating line is the “deck boat,” which combines the space and openness of a pontoon boat with the speed through the water of a planning hull boats like runabouts or cruisers. Generally, there is no cabin space, also common to the pontoon boat. These boats have gained in popularity over the past few years.
That’s about as far as we can go with this, but for you first time boat owners, I hope this overview will help. One last thought; it’s a good idea to have a way to keep one or all of your passengers out of the sun, and sometimes out of the rain. This calls for a “hardtop” cover or a canvas top, sometimes referred to as a “Bimini” top. The latter type can be folded down when not wanted. You can also add clear vinyl enclosure to further protect you from the elements.
And please visit the booths that feature equipment for your boat. This will be a great time to consider a VHF marine radio if you don’t currently have one. The Coast Guard does not recommend a cell phone as your only means of communication. If you have room on your dashboard, and the location is fairly protected from rain, we recommend the mounted type. The transmitting power is 25 watts. If your boat is a smaller version with no room for a mounted radio, you may want to consider a hand held VHF radio. Transmitting power is 5-6 watts, which will get you out several miles, and usually sufficient for Lake Lanier.
See you at the show, and please drop by our booth for free Georgia Boating Regulations, safe boating literature covering a multitude of marine subjects and information on safe boating courses being offered in 2013 by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary throughout the majority of the State of Georgia.
November 2012 column
Paddlesports becoming a mainstay in recreational boating
Paddlecraft are an extremely affordable entry point to recreational boating, which is attractive to new boaters, boaters downsizing from larger boats to those interested in getting closer to the environment. More than 300,000 paddlecraft are being sold annually.
The Coast Guard provides the following tips for those considering taking up a paddlesport:
• New and inexperienced paddlers should seek out paddler education before heading out on the water. The Coast Guard Auxiliary now offers the “Paddlesports America Course,” a four-hour, classroom-based introduction to paddling safety, techniques and safety strategies.
• Paddlers need to dress for the water temperature rather than for the air temperature and wear the proper personal protective clothing, including dry or wet suits, when advisable.
• A lifejacket is one of a paddler’s primary pieces of safety gear. Any lifejacket worn is better than none at all, however, the Coast Guard recommends paddlers use lifejackets that are inherently buoyant rather than inflatable. This makes reentering a paddlecraft, especially a sit-inside kayak, easier in the event of a roll-over. Lifejackets should be brightly colored to increase visibility to boaters in power and sail craft.
• Paddlers should always check the weather forecast before paddling alone and should always file a “Float Plan.” Paddlers should resist the temptation to paddle alone and instead paddle with a partner or in groups. This reduces risk to an individual in the event of an emergency. Paddling in groups increases the chances of being seen by boaters operating power or sail craft in the vicinity.
• Paddlers need to understand their physical limitations and endurance. Paddling can be strenuous exercise. Paddlers should be physically fit and know techniques for self-rescue, as well as how to rescue fellow paddlers.
• Paddlers are encouraged to invest in a waterproof, hand-held VHF-FM marine radio as their primary means of distress alerting on the water. Communications via VHF-FM provides superior alerting capabilities compared to cell phones. When a MAYDAY is sent our via VHF-FM radio it is a broadcast and not just one party receiving the distress call; any nearby boaters can hear the distress call and offer immediate assistance.
• Day and night visible flares, a signal mirror, and/or a whistle, sound producing device should be used to alert others that you are in distress.
• A float plan should be completed and left with someone who is not going with the boaters. A float plan is a lifesaving device on paper and provides emergency responders with valuable information they need to search for the distressed boater. Information on a float plan and how to obtain a blank float plan can be found at www.floatplancentral.org
• A Personal Locator Beacon is a compact device that is clipped to one’s person, normally on the lifejacket one is wearing. In the U.S., users are required by law to directly register their PLB in the U.S. 406 MHz Beacon Registration Database at www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov or by calling 1-888-212-SAVE. Other users can register their beacon in their country’s national beacon registration database or, if no national database is available, in the International Beacon Registration Database at www.406registration.com
– Once activated in a distress situation, the PLB transmits a 406 MHz signal to the International Cospas-Sarsat Satellite System which provides distress alert and location data for search and rescue operations around the world.
– When a 406 MHz beacon signal is received, search and rescue personnel can retrieve information from a registration database. This includes the beacon owner’s contact information, emergency contact information, and vessel/air-craft identifying characteristics. Having this information allows the Coast Guard or other rescue personnel to respond appropriately.
On Lake Lanier we are beginning to see quite a bit more paddlesport activity than in prior years.
October 2012 column
Can your crew handle an emergency situation?
In a previous article we talked about developing a routine of having a pre-departure safety briefing before leaving the dock. Discussed were things like giving each passenger a life jacket and demonstrating how to put it on, showing the locations of the fire extinguishers and discussing how to operate them, choosing a couple of passengers to be “lookouts” and report to the skipper anything they see that looks like a possible danger, showing them around the boat, and if your boat has a “head,” showing how it operates, telling them when you announce “power coming up,” to take a seat or hold on to something sturdy. These are just a sampling of things the skipper could cover before getting underway.
Here’s another “what if” that should be discussed, especially if the skipper has a health issue of some sort that could potentially put them out of commission. I recently had two friends that had strokes and neither had any warning or suspected that they were susceptible to such a thing at this point in their lives. Would anyone on your boat know what to do if something unforeseen happened to you? My wife and I had the privilege of cruising the intracoastal waterway on and off over a two-year period, and more than once I gave thought to the possibility that something could happen to me, wondering if my wife would be able to handle the boat and the emergency situation that had developed. Most of the time we were out in the middle of nowhere, all alone as far as the eye could see.
Two things come to mind immediately: can someone handle the boat well enough to keep it from getting into a dangerous situation and does someone know how to call for help on the VHF/FM marine radio? If someone has a cell phone, that could be helpful as well? A list of emergency procedures could be posted near the wheel covering such things as stopping and starting the boat, use of the throttle, use of the boat’s radio, how to anchor and determine your present position by waterway markers or GPS coordinates. You don’t want a bad situation to rapidly get worse. While we are awaiting help, what can we do for the ill skipper? A working knowledge of CPR could be useful as would some knowledge of first aid.
Since the immediate reaction to such an emergency would probably be “we’ve got to get some help,” the marine radio and its use is of prime importance. Larger vessels usually come equipped with mounted radios and there are handheld radios, thought not as powerful, that would be fine for smaller craft like runabouts, etc.
Preparation for something that may never happen is not a bad thought. After all, we buy insurance with the expectation and hope of never having to use it, don’t we?
September 2012 column
Getting your boat to the lake and back
When you are boating on Lake Lanier on any summer weekend, dealing with the rough water due to wind and wakes made by larger boats, you may find it hard to believe that approximately 95 percent of boats sold are small enough to trailer. Many recreational boaters trailer their boats to and from area lakes when they go for a spin on the water while others may launch their boat in the spring and keep it at a private dock until winter. As a matter of fact, one of the real advantages of having a boat of trailerable size, usually 26 feet or less, is that you can visit different bodies of water and vary your scenery and experiences. You may elect to go up to Chattanooga and cruise the Tennessee River, either toward Knoxville or Alabama in the other direction. This will give you a chance to experience “locking through” huge locks on the river. You may also choose to go to Savannah or Brunswick and get acquainted with the intracoastal waterway.
That part of your day on the highways can be the most important of all. Nothing can spoil an outing on the water quicker than a trailer failure of some kind on your way to the launching ramp. Even if you make it, you will have had an unpleasant interruption. The purpose of this article is to minimize your traveling problems and pass along some tips that could be useful in helping make that trip to the lake more enjoyable.
During my preparation of this article, I spoke with a fellow who sells boat trailers, and I asked him which aspect of trailering or trailer maintenance is most likely to get shortchanged by those who trailer their boats. Without hesitation, he replied “failure to maintain proper air pressure in trailer tires.” He reminded me that most trailer tires require higher pressure than automobile tires and that the recommended pressure is stamped on the side of the tire. Trailer tires are usually smaller than automobile tires, which means that they spin and flex many more times per mile than do the car’s tires. When tires flex, they get hot and eventually may blow. When trailering your boat, stop along the way, take a break, and check the temperature of the trailer’s tires and wheel hubs by hand. A hot or excessively warm tire or hub may indicate an impending problem. Before we leave tires, remember that your trailer’s tires will most likely dry rot, develop cracks or separate inside the tire long before the tire tread wears down. I replaced the tires on my tandem axle trailer this year simply because my tires were getting too old to be trustworthy. Nothing like peace of mind in at least one area. There’s plenty of other stuff of which to be concerned when you are a boater!
While we are in the wheel area, we should say a few words about the little gismos that ensure that the wheel spins effortless around the axle. We, of course, are talking about “wheel bearings,” something you really don’t want to neglect, for if any of them fail, you are out of business until they are replaced. Trailers in general and wheel bearings in particular don’t like water, especially salt water, and we must take the necessary steps to ensure that they are protected from the elements that can and will cause their destruction. We must make sure we have them well lubricated, minimizing heat buildup but also leaving little or no room for water intrusion into the bearings. There are available wheel bearing protectors which replace the hub caps on the axle. You simply tap them on with a rubber hammer and fill them with a grease gun through the grease fitting (zerk fitting). They are spring loaded, and the spring pushes a disc outward as the grease fills the bearing area. It is a good practice to carry an extra set or two of the proper size bearings in case you need them, for they can be had to buy on a Sunday afternoon!
Trailer lights are required by law and need special treatment since they, too, don’t like water. Be sure to unplug your trailer lights from your tow vehicle before backing into the water at the launching ramp. The ramp is not a good place to get in a hurry, since strange things can and do happen there. Remember the time when some fellow unhitched his trailer on the ramp and forgot to untie the boat from the trailer and the whole thing rolled down into the lake? Stuff like that does happen. Safety chains (sometimes a cable) attached to the trailer are required and should be crossed when attached to the tow vehicle. Theoretically, this enables the chains to catch the trailer tongue in case the coupler on the trailer comes loose from the ball on the hitch of the tow vehicle. Other considerations should include tying the boat to the trailer at least at the bow and the transom. Having a fire extinguisher in the tow vehicle is a good idea as well. Don’t forget the jack (your car jack probably won’t do) or a spare tire. One last thing before closing: make sure your boat is positioned properly on the trailer. We call this “balancing your load.” No more than 5-7 percent of the total weight of the tow should be on the trailer tongue (tongue weight).
The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers a “Trailering Handbook” which is available for the asking. We also teach trailering in our “About Boating Safely” 1-day course.
Correction from July article:
In my article “Nighttime boating dangers hit home on Lake Lanier,” I need to correct a portion of a sentence involving navigational lights. Here is the proper way the paragraph should have read: “We teach in our safe boating courses that when you see a white and a green light you are the stand-on vessel and have the right-of-way, but remain alert in case the other skipper does not see you or does not know navigational rules. When you see only a white light, you are overtaking a vessel or the other vessel is anchored. When you see a red and white light, you must give way and pass behind the other boat since he has the right-of-way.” I had the wrong color listed in the last sentence.
August 2012 column
Coast Guard and its Auxiliary have important relationship
So far in 2012, the Coast Guard Auxiliary represented the Coast Guard in a number of patriotic celebrations throughout the Atlanta area. We had Auxiliary vessels and crew in four parades, participated in six special services at area churches, participated in two city sponsored celebrations where representatives of the various military services were present and had a bagpiper and featured singer at the huge 4th of July Centennial Park program in downtown Atlanta. These activities typically occur during Memorial Day, 4th of July and Veteran’s Day in November. We are frequently asked about the relationship between the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
The United States Coast Guard is the nation’s oldest continuous seagoing service, now over 200 years old. When our nation was born almost all trade was done by ship. Immediately there became a need for an organization to ensure safe transportation and enforce U.S. law. The roots of the Coast Guard date back to 1790. Over the years the duties of the Coast Guard have expanded. Today they include search and rescue, national security, marine boating safety, aids to navigation, bridge administration and ice operations.
The Coast Guard promotes safety on, over and under the high seas and navigable waters subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. The Coast Guard is authorized by law