Well, the wind is blowin' harder now Fifty knots or there abouts, There's white caps on the ocean. And I'm watching for waterspouts — Jimmy Buffett, Trying To Reason With Hurricane Season
If you boat anywhere down the East Coast or the along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, you’ll have to deal with some direct or indirect affects associated with a hurricane. Now that the hard reality is out there, there are some things to keep in mind that can help you keep yourself safe and protect your property.
One of the reasons folks get into boating in the first place is to get away from the constant sensory input of today’s overly connected world. But if you live an area that’s exposed to hurricanes (or other extreme weather for that matter), you need to find a reliable and fast way to get the latest forecasts. Of all the things you can do to keep safe when you’re in the path of a hurricane, advance warning is, by far, the most effective.
Get Out Of The Way
For most recreational powerboats, many times the best solution is to pull the vessel and head inland. This reduces the impact of the initial storm surge and the accompanying rain and wind. The sooner the better on this because there will be lots of folks who either don’t or can’t move their boats in advance. Those folks will be the ones jammed onto the back roads and highways when mandatory evacuation orders are issued.
Batten Down The Hatches
For those boats that can’t be moved, it’s time to go old-school mariner and batten down those hatches. That phrase has survived modern times because it precisely describes what you need to do in a crisis situation. First, remove anything that’s not permanently part of the boat. That means cushions, toasters, life jackets, curtain rods and anything else that would fall off if the boat gets sideways. Leave them aboard and you not only risk losing them for good, but you could create dangerous projectiles for anyone or anything still hanging around during the worst parts of the storm. Use plenty of extra fenders, used tires or anything else that will absorb impact and lash them to the boat. Quadruple your normal line usage, springing to any and all potential contact points. Check that all hatches and portholes are secure and detach or cover windscreens. It also wouldn’t hurt to drop an anchor fore and aft and make sure they’re well set.
Don’t Try To “Ride” It Out
There seems to be some absolutely crazy theory floating around out there that you and your boat might be better off away from your marina, riding out the storm in open water. That is a misguided and misinformed idea. Yes, you are technically out of the way of more flying debris and your boat won’t be lashed to a “fixed” object like a dock when the indescribable physics of a hurricane are set in motion. Here’s the rub: YOU will be unnecessarily in harm’s way. There is NOTHING tough about riding out a furious storm on the water. Boats become a part of our lifestyles and identities, but they can ALWAYS be replaced.
Visit Discover Boating for more information on Hurricane Preparation.
7 Hidden Secrets To Winterizing Your Boat
Unless you live south of, say, Jacksonville, Florida, chances are you will find it necessary to winterize your boat until the first few hints that spring is back for good. Of course that’s a longer time frame in some parts of the country than others, but generally, you’re looking at about the same decommissioning procedure whether it’s two months or six months.
Let it be known that the sure-fire best way to make sure your boat is prepped and stored correctly is to take it to your local dry-storage marina and say goodbye until after the vernal equinox. But us boaters are known to be a hands-on, do-it-yourself breed, so consider the following tips if you’re taking on the task yourself (or with an able-bodied crewmate). Chances are you might just save yourself a little folding money in the process, and IF spring comes early…you’ll be ready to launch as soon as boating fever strikes.
This is not a comprehensive list of the proper steps to winterize a boat. After all, there are lots of different kinds of boats, in both freshwater and saltwater, with both gas and diesel motors, in many different styles. Please check your engine manual for a step-by-step checklist for your particular motor. That being said, here are some tricks of the trade to keep in mind.
Write It Down
It is one of the great fallacies among recreational boaters that will be able to remember exactly what we did to our boat during the winterizing process. But months go by and you find yourself wondering if you really DID change that oil and filter. After all, there’s a reason that we have ship’s logs. So, no matter how good your long-term memory, keep a notebook to remind yourself of what you did and DID NOT do, so you can hit the water running in the spring.
Watch Your Gas
It’s critically important that you add some sort of premium gas stabilizer to your tank after your final outing of the season. Simply fill up not-quite-to-full on your way home (either to the marina or to the launch ramp), add the appropriate amount of stabilizer (brands vary on the ratio), and let the final ride mix thoroughly.
Change Is Good
It’s been a long, enjoyable boating season, so it’s time to treat your boat’s motor to a well-deserved oil change. Depending on the location of your oil pan drain (or dipstick position if your engine has its own oil management system), pump/drain as much of your oil out as possible. This is also the time to change your oil filter, water/fuel separator, in-line filters, and whatever other changeable component you can change. If you do all this now, you will know exactly when something was changed last.
Hold Your Spark
About the only changeable components you want to save for spring recommissioning are your spark plugs. There’s no reason for new spark plugs to sit languishing in a cold engine all winter. However, go ahead and buy your new set while you’re buying all of your filters. Verify that you’ve got the right size by comparing them against the ones already in your engine.
Muff And Fog
Unless you’ve got a closed cooling system (like your car), you will need to make absolutely sure you’ve got water available to run through your motor when you’re decommissioning for the season. This is typically accomplished by using Muffs (aka Rabbit Ears) on an I/O drive or a flushport hose connection on an outboard. Do NOT run your engine without water circulating or you may be decommissioning for good. The next step (on fuel-injected engines) is to crank the engine (not start) and spray a preservative (aka Fogger) into each cylinder via the spark plug port. If you’ve got a carbureted engine, spray the fogging compound into the carburetor with the motor running (with water circulating) until the engine chokes and stalls. You’re trying to distribute the fogger completely throughout the engine.
Smart Battery Care
Make sure you remove your battery before stowing your boat away. However, make sure it’s the very last thing you remove from the boat, because if you don’t, you will have forgotten to raise your outboard or outdrive to the up or trailerable position. Now, store that battery in a warm, dry place like a climate-controlled basement or garage, preferably somewhere close (but not too close) to an electrical outlet. This will give you an easy way to put your battery on a trickle charger about once a month to have it ready to go.
A Final Word About H2O
Without a doubt, the single most potentially damaging thing to your boat in the off-season is, ironically, water. It will go where it can and lead to things like mold and mildew (and the accompanying smells) and it do serious harm if allowed to find its way into tight areas and expand as it freezes. Do yourself a favor and invest in a great cover with an internal bracing system. Better yet, pony up for a quality shrink-wrap job. And when you park your boat for the winter, make sure it’s tilted as much toward aft as possible to allow water to do its thing and run down hill.
For more information on winterizing your boat, visit DiscoverBoating.com.
Okay, first things first…they’re called fenders. Not bumpers. Yes, they do perform a bumping action to protect your boat from slamming into hard things. But the correct term is fenders. Whew! Glad we got that out of the way.
Learning when and how to properly use fenders is one of the simplest and easiest ways to protect your fiberglass, aluminum or wooden boat from the wear and tear of docks and pilings , and can add plenty to your boating experience when used to separate yourself from other boats when rafting up (tying multiple anchored boats together).
Just like putting a new roof on your house provides lots of protection, buying fenders is really not the sexiest item you can put in your shopping cart when at your local marine retailer. Cool electronics, funny t-shirts and wild watersports gear can turn your head. Fenders, well….not so much. Since they’re relatively inexpensive, you might as well get at least four high-quality, matching fenders along with dock lines about three feet long. While there’s not hard-and-fast rule about what size you need, 5-inch diameter by 20-inch long will serve you well on just about any boat under 30 feet.
When coming into a dock, get started early setting up your fenders, depending on how you will be pulling in. This is especially important if speed efficiency is an issue (such as pulling into a crowded fuel dock) or wind or current will be a factor, demanding your complete attention during the actual docking process. Remember, you don’t have to deploy all the fenders, just the ones on the dockside.
Generally, you’ll tie off your dock line to the dockside cleats a few inches above the waterline or so the fenders cross your rub rails about mid way. This will provide the best protection for your boat, especially if boat traffic and/or windy conditions have the water choppy. Once you’ve actually pulled up to the dock and tied off, double check that your fenders are right in the middle where your hull meets the dock and that you’ve used a cleat hitch knot so they’ll stay put. To tie a cleat hitch, slip the dock line under one end of the clear and start a “figure 8,” ending your last turn by turning the line under itself and pulling the line tight to lock it in place.
When leaving the dock, just keep the fenders in place until you’ve released the dock lines and you’re safely away from the dock and other boats. Then remember to untie and properly stow the fenders before you get underway. Not only does it look pretty silly to have fenders still attached while you’re running, but you run the risk of dropping them in the water and not noticing until you are long gone. Make sure you stow your fenders in the same place every time, with dock lines still attached, so they’ll be ready to deploy the next time you head back to the dock.
For more boating tips, visit DiscoverBoating.com.
With its longer days, warm temperatures and fish so active they just jump right in your boat (yeah right), it’s easy to understand why summer is the season that seems to get all the attention when you start talking about the “best” time to be an angler. If by best, you mean the easiest course to catch your limit, you have a pretty strong argument. But if by best, you mean a more challenging and enjoyable fishing excursion — you have to give some serious consideration to fall. All you have to do is tweak your tactics and your gear a little, and you’ll be a committed autumn angler for life.
Chase The Bait
You’ll start to notice target species such as bass and walleye begin to change their feeding patterns just as the first few waves of crisp fall air sweep across the lakes and rivers. That’s you cue to start paying close attention to the bait fish. Find those little guys and your prey will be somewhere nearby. You’ll have the best luck on large feeder creeks, wide bends and the warmer somewhat shallow runs.
Mimic The Bait
If you know what your target species is currently feeding on, it stands to reason that you want to present either a live or artificial enticement that resembles their normal menu. This can mean a similar size, color and reflectivity. You will notice that while it may take a little more time to get them interested, when your target fish start feeding, they will tend to be more aggressive in attacking the bait. Patience and the remembering to work your bait erratically as you retrieve, will pay off with some big hits. This goes for topwater lures, spinner baits and deeper-diving crankbaits.
Reduce Your Line Test
When you’re fishing slightly deeper waters and you’re seeking out suspended target species at different layers (or strata), consider using a lighter monofilament that usual. This seems to help you not only cast a little further, but the reduced drag will get your bait where it belongs that much quicker. Since this is literally the connection point between you and your prize catch (or supper on the table), make the investment in a quality line. While it’s not as flashy as the latest hyped-up, can’t-miss, 100-percent-guaranteed artificial lure, high-quality monofilament may just save that fancy new lure AND your fish.
Follow The Weather
It goes without saying that you’ll be keeping an eye on the weather when you’re out on the water, but make sure you know what that means to your target species. Bait fish will generally be moving in the same direction as the wind. Knowing that, you can head to the bank (wind blowing directly at you) and start the hunt there. Cooler ambient temperatures will also mean that your fish will be trying to find areas where the water temperatures are somewhat moderated. Constant sun (or shade) either on the north or south side of your body of water will be the best bets.
For more articles on fishing, visit DiscoverBoating.com.
When you’re in the market for a new boat, by far the biggest choices you’ll come across while shopping for a bowrider. These boats have an open bow seating area and will likely be based off of a “Deep-V” hull. This will likely be the group you’ll look at first if you want a trailerable boat for basic watersports, fishing and day cruising.
Here’s what you need to look for in a bowrider:
Most bowriders will feature an L-shaped lounge in the cockpit to encourage conversations among guests, but there are a number of different configurations available. The helm should reflect the boat’s personality and should offer clear sight lines and a comfortable, adjustable captain’s seat with a natural-feeling throttle position. Make sure the dashboard is easy to see from the seated position and that the switches are mounted where you won’t accidentally bump them. Take the time to examine the bow seating (even if you will be doing all the driving) to ensure a comfortable backrest angle and good use of space for legroom. Easy-to-reach grab rails (particularly important for those new to boating) and cup holders are a nice touch.
This is one area where you can really express your own personality because you will find everything from the tamest white on white gelcoat to graphic decals that convey a wilder sense of adventure. Colored hulls are beautiful from the water, providing a more aggressive-looking profile. Upholstery and deck coverings can also provide stylish accents. Snap-in carpets provide a nice compromise between easy to clean and easy on the feet. In the world of boating, you’ll hear the term “fit and finish” often. This refers to the quality of the build, especially in places you might not see, and it will have a big impact on your satisfaction down the road. Open hatches, inspect hardware, remove cushions, and look “under the hood” to see the boat builder’s attention to detail. Well-constructed boats hold their value longer if properly maintained. Make sure to check for plenty of storage as well. One thing to look for is whether storage compartments are well finished and hinged for easy access.
By all means, ask for a test drive to make sure you’re buying a boat that meets your basic performance needs. Many times the lowest advertised price on a boat will include the smallest recommended engine package. That may be fine if you and your spouse will be the only ones on the boat, but consider moving up in horsepower if you’ll be pulling tubers and waterskiers with a half-dozen people on board. No one has ever regretted having a little more punch than they thought they needed. But that doesn’t mean you have to go with the biggest engine package…look for the “sweet spot,” which is almost always the middle option. When you’re behind the wheel, don’t be hesitant to open the boat up and see the approximate top speed. You won’t run at that speed very often but it’s nice to know. More importantly, see how the boat tracks (maintains its course) a comfortable cruising speed. You also want to check how the boat turns at speed. Do you have to fight the wheel or does the boat handle crisply? Ask your dealer about the advantages of sterndrive and outboard motor options. Either will get you where you want to go and will perform comparably, but many times, there is a regional affinity toward one or the other.
For more information on bowriders, visit DiscoverBoating.com.
So, you want a versatile boat that handles easily, features plenty of seating and storage, and is designed to be able to bring along a big crew? Sounds like you may have already narrowed down your choices to two choices that are among the fastest-growing segments in the entire boating industry: pontoons and deck boats.
Since the very first aluminum pontoon was introduced in 1958 at the Chicago World’s Fair (it was a Sanpan), boaters have been drawn to their unapologetically simple design, ease of use and the no-frills ability to get lots of folks aboard to get the party started. Back in those days, you broke out the folding lawn chairs, fired up the charcoal grill, and slowly putt-putted your tiny outboard to the nearest cove of like-minded revelers.
Similarly, the deck boat concept really started in 1974 when a company called Hurricane started building a fiberglass V-style hull to add better performance and handling, but still retain the a pontoon-style topside and wide-open floor plan that people loved so much about pontoons. It was so popular, in fact, that the first deck boat (called FunDeck) has been in constant production ever since.
But my how times have changed. These two boat types have come a long way and have been refined to the point that they really stack up against any other powerboat style. And today, they really go head-to-head when families are in the market for a new boat. Let’s examine the pros and cons of each.
This is perhaps the most subjective part of comparing pontoons and deck boats, and it all comes down to your personal tastes and what turns your head. Today’s pontoons are tricked out with coordinated graphics, a choice of rail skin colors, high-quality vinyl seats, and tough and attractive marine-grade carpet. But since every inch of a pontoon is built for maximum seating and storage, some folks find them a little utilitarian. Today’s deck boats are designed similarly to other fiberglass runabouts, but with the bow section carried as far forward as possible to accommodate more folks in the forward seating area. You’ll see coordinated upholstery accents, bimini tops and carpet, and the exterior graphics tend to be a little bolder. Many deck boats also have integrated wake tower options, which adds a distinct watersports profile.
With a fiberglass, V-style hull, you typically would compare the handling of a deck boat to a similarly sized open-bow boat. Look for a stable ride at all speeds, little or no bowrise, and superior turning at higher speeds. The option of outboard or I/O propulsion is a big plus for deck boats as well, depending on your needs. Even with a full load, pontoon boats (by design) are going to plane easily with less horsepower than a deck boat. Sharp turns are helped by the addition of hydraulic steering systems, but you will still cut a wider swath in a pontoon, unless you choose a performance model with triple (center) tube system, which provides extra buoyancy and stability.
Both styles of boats truly shine when it comes to the ability to do a lot of different things on the water. Fishing, watersports, cruising, camping, entertaining, etc. are all right in the wheelhouse of pontoons and deck boats. In fact, depending on your family’s needs, there are all sorts of different packages to dial in your preferred activities, such as rod holders, tackle storage and livewells for more hardcore anglers. If you’re like most folks considering one of these boats, though, you will find that the basic features will serve you well, and allow you to fish in the morning, pull the kids on tubes in the afternoon, and finish the day with a beautiful sunset cruise.
Ease Of Operation
In the world of trailer boating, you really can’t get much easier than pontoons and deck boats. With their stable platforms both are fairly easy to master when it comes to everything from launching and retrieving to cruising out on the water. Look for a raised helm or a captain’s seat that features a fold-up bolster to increase visibility. Pull-up cleats conveniently installed around the deck will make it a cinch to pull up and dock from any angle. Make sure you’ve got docking lights for bringing the boat in safely in the evening, and an all-off master switch to make sure you don’t run down your battery when you leave the boat.
For more info on the two, visit our Boat Types page.
Driving or riding a personal watercraft (PWC) is a fun, unique way to enjoy time on the water. PWC provide freedom and maneuverability that is unparalleled. The jet propulsion feature and lack of propeller provide a smooth ride unlike anything else.
The unique nature of a PWC requires a basic understanding of operating procedures. Before grabbing the throttle, it is important to learn about responsible riding. You see, riding responsibly is not just about protecting yourself, it’s about being aware (and honest) about your skill level, conscious of your boat and the wake it leaves behind, considerate towards other boaters and being sensitive to marine life.
First, a word about today’s PWC technology. With clean and quiet four-stroke motors, comfortable seating, stable decks and a long list of improved safety features, the PWC being sold today really have earned the title “Next Generation.” With the proper education, riders can use PWC in new, exciting ways including watersports like skiing and wakeboarding, fishing and even camping expeditions.
Using the Throttle and PWC Features
Most PWC don’t have brakes. They require the rider to use thrust from the throttle while turning away from whatever object (swimmer, dock, boat, submerged log) you may be heading towards. This is important to think about because it is as counter-intuitive as just about anything else you may need remember in a hurry. For that reason, it is best to ride slow until you are comfortable. Like anything else, PWC just take a few minutes to learn, but plenty of practice to master.
At least one brand of PWC includes a “braking system.” You will still need to get used to the stopping distance particular to that model of PWC. Always practice your power-out maneuver, brake or no brake, until it becomes second nature.
Wear Proper Safety Gear
Part of the thrill of piloting a PWC is that “here we go” sensation. But responsible riding requires that you make sure you are protected while having fun. That means wearing a proper-fitting lifejacket and neoprene shorts. Eye protection is not a bad idea either. Snug fitting, wrap around shades can prevent water or debris from entering the eye.
Know The Rules
They call basic boating safety guidelines the “Rules of the Road,” even though you’re out on the water. That’s probably because most automobile drivers know how to act at a four-way stop or if they’re turning left in front of an oncoming car. There are lots of different rules that you should know before leaving the dock, but here’s one you need to know about PWC....they never have the right of way. Long story short, boats under power give way to sailboats and paddlers like canoes and kayaks. And the shorter and more maneuverable the powerboat, the lower on the pecking order you are. In other words, PWC riders always have to give way to other boats. Never assume the other guy will dodge you…take evasive action and get back to the fun.
For More PWC Safety Tips, check out DiscoverBoating.com.
“It won’t ever happen to me.” At least that’s what every boater who’s ever been injured out on the water thought that morning. That’s if they thought about it at all. There are plenty of things to remember and the thought of an onboard injury just isn’t as compelling as remembering the sunscreen and sandwiches. But sooner or later, somebody will slip and twist and ankle. Or cut their thumb. Or get stung by a bee. That’s when you’ll be glad you took the time to learn a few basic first aid techniques.
Space is at a premium on any boat, but a carefully packed first aid kit needs to be the first gear you stow. Whether you buy a pre-stocked kit from a marine retailer or you assemble it yourself, you need to make sure to include the basics. That means making sure you can treat common boating ailments such as sunburn, scrapes, bruises, sprains, insect bites and even seasickness.
Evaluate The Situation
When it comes to rendering first aid, always remember that your main goal should be not to make the situation worse. If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything and head directly back to shore. Very often, doing the wrong thing can be much worse than not doing anything at all. Of course, most of the time the problem should be pretty obvious. Wrap and ice a sprained ankle. Clean, disinfect and bandage a cut. You know the drill. Most first aid kits come with an easy reference to help you know what to do when. Just make sure and keep any eye out for any signs of the injured person going into shock such as clammy skin, labored breathing or profuse sweating.
Head Back To Shore
If someone’s got an injury or gets sick while you’re out on the water — even if it’s not a life-threatening situation — it’s probably time to head back to the shore. Whether it’s seasickness, dehydration or a bad reaction to an insect sting can get worse. For that reason, it’s a good time to call it a day. For anything more serious, it’s time to set a course back to the dock immediately. Keep your patient low in the boat and don’t hammer the throttle.
Don’t ever hesitate to call for help if you need it. You’ll know it’s a serious episode when someone loses consciousness, exhibits signs of shock, or has difficulty breathing. If that’s the case, call 9-1-1 on your cell phone or use Channel 16 to place a Mayday call. Speak slowly and clearly, announce your position from the GPS, and describe your emergency. Maintain emergency contact until help arrives.
Steve Rosenberg, Avid Custom Media
What better way to celebrate the longest day of the year than by kicking off a worldwide celebration of sailing? Since its inception in 2001, Summer Sailstice has been growing steadily with free events around the world and more than 5,000 registered vessels and 19,000 participants.
The celebration takes place this weekend, in coordination with Sailors for the Sea, with a goal of educating and mobilizing sailors, their families and communities to enjoy and conserve the natural beauty of the oceans and raise awareness about the impact humans have on fragile marine ecosystems. To help the cause, participants are encouraged to make a contribution of any size to www.sailorsforthesea.org.
With hundreds of events going on, it’s easier than ever to find something near you, from Newport to Bora Bora. Just click here for more info.
The Summer Sailstice program is the brainchild of Latitude 38 magazine associate publisher John Arndt, who has an admirable sailing pedigree, having spent three years on the Northern California Marine Association Board and six years on the Sail America Board, along with big-name races and long-distance cruises under his belt.
Even if you don’t have a sailboat, there’s still time to catch a ride. The website www.cruzin.com offers peer-to-peer sailboat rentals, and the brand-new www.kroocial.com is designed to help connect sailors with sailboats around the world. You may also find a ride by checking out local crew lists in your area. Here are several good regional lists:
Long Island Sound: www.windchecklis.com
Florida/Gulf Coast: www.southwindssailing.com
Key Sponsors for this year’s Summer Sailstice include: Discover Boating, Footloose Sailing Charters, Hobie, Jeanneau, Hunter Sailboats, North Sails, West Marine, BoatU.S., Mariners General Insurance Group & Pettit Paint.
Even renowned multi-hull sailing champion Loick Peyron is joining the Summer Sailstice celebration for the their year in a row.
“I’m very happy to be a part of Summer Sailstice again this year,” Peyron said. “We’re busy at the Artemis base in Alameda (California) preparing the new Big Blue Baby 72 for training. The Solstice is a major celebration in Sweden and the atmosphere for the team over the weekend will be great. See you on San Francisco Bay!”
For further information on the Summer Sailstice celebration and to find out how you can get involved, visit www.summersailstice.com
Boating is in my blood. As I was growing up, I took advantage of any chance I could to spend time on the water with my friends and family. In fact, I represent the fifth generation of my family to spend time at our rustic cabin on the St. Lawrence River. But I got away from boating as a young adult, and I might not have returned if it weren’t for the birth of my two sons.
Here are the reasons I would recommend the boating lifestyle to ANY family, whether boating is in your blood or not.
1. Fun for all. Do you and your kids love sports like swimming, fishing, tubing, waterskiing and wakeboarding? Great! But there are plenty of other ways to have fun on a boat. Just think of the art, science or music projects you can conduct on the water! The important part is that boating gets you out on the water together where there is no schedule, few distractions, just a focus on family time.
2. A chance to unplug. If there’s one thing that thrills me about boating with the kids, it’s that our boat doesn’t have a screen. It’s our opportunity to unplug as a family and focus on having fun outside together in the natural world.
3. Get away without going far. You hear a lot these days about the benefits of the “stay-cation,” especially how easy it is on the wallet. A great way to take a break without going far is to get out on a boat. No matter where you boat, there’s something about being on the water that provides that much needed escape from the day-to-day routine, whether it’s for an hour, an afternoon or an entire week.
4. A healthy choice. As a mom, I’m always looking for family fun that I can feel good about, and boating definitely fits the bill. When we’re looking for a fun day away from it all, we’ll pick a park we can boat to and bring along a picnic lunch, a soccer ball and our bathing suits. It’s a great formula for bringing the family together, having fun, staying active and eating healthy.
5. A boat for every income. There are some people out there that are convinced that boating is a luxury that only rich people can afford. But it’s simply not true. Many entry-level boats can be purchased for a monthly payment of around $200. That’s how much many of us spend per month on things like dinners out, movies and video games. I like those as much as the next person, but in today’s economy, sometimes we have to choose. And as a mom, the choice is clear to me. When I think about the kind of life I want my kids to live and the memories I want them to have, a boat wins out, hands down.
P.S. Does your kids’ world revolve around their friends? Boating is a golden opportunity for any parent to keep their teen or pre-teen close while getting to know their friends. We all want to be the “cool” parents, don’t we? Trust me: A boat will add to your cool factor.
By Liz Walz
Safety Tips for a Fun-Filled Father’s Day on the Water
Before you embark on a fun-filled Father’s Day on the water, check out West Marine safety expert Chuck Hawley’s quick tips for smooth sailing.
1. It’s common knowledge that the best way to make boating safer is to have everyone wear a life jacket. There are two groups of boaters where it’s really, really important: kids under 13 and non-swimmers. Before you set sail, ask if there are any non-swimmers on board, and make sure all of the kids have appropriately-sized vests.
2. A small medical kit is always a good idea. For less than $50, you can buy a kit in a waterproof container that has a good assortment of bandages, dressings, pain meds and antiseptics. For longer trips or larger groups, you may want to consider a more comprehensive medical kit.
3. While not specifically in the “safety” category, any boat can benefit from the addition of some waterproof binoculars for identifying navigation aids, harbors, and seeing vessels that might require assistance.
4. It just makes sense to check the weather before you head out, and monitor the weather while on the water. VHF radios and the ever-present smart phone can provide advance warning of inclement weather.
5. Does your bilge pump run frequently? Engine hard to start sometimes? Battery doesn’t hold a charge for very long? These are not-so-subtle messages from your boat that perhaps you should do a little maintenance before shoving off.
6. I know guys don’t like to ask for directions, but we’ve got to get over it. When on the water, it just makes sense to have appropriate marine charts (or perhaps a chart booklet) and a GPS. When it gets dark or foggy, you’ll be so much happier than being without.
7. Boat shoes are different for a reason: they don’t leave marks, they provide a good grip on dry and wet surfaces, and they make you look like a boater. Unfortunately, not everyone shows up with boat shoes on, and you should avoid having them run around barefoot if you want to avoid foot injuries. Make sure your guests bring along shoes with non-marking soles.
8. Keep your speed under control, especially in heavily-trafficked waters. If you’re not sure of the other guy’s intentions, slow down and assume that he doesn’t know the ‘Rules of the Road’ as well as you do. This is especially true at night when navigation lights can be lost in the surrounding lights onshore.
9. Be conscious of the boats around you. It’s a basic law of the sea to lend assistance to those in need. Monitor the radio, look for flares and other signs of distress, and keep an eye on boats that seem to be not entirely under control.
10. Don’t forget the sunscreen! The reflection from the water amplifies the sun’s intensity putting you at greater risk for burning. Make sure to reapply your sunscreen throughout the day, especially after swimming. This goes for any activity on or off the water.
Chuck Hawley is a life-long sailor, having grown up on the California Coast. He has sailed approximately 40,000 miles on vessels ranging from ultralight "sleds" to single-handed sailboats to the maxi-catamaran PlayStation. Chuck has worked for West Marine for 30 years, and is responsible for many of the West Advisor articles that appear in West Marine's catalogs. He is also Vice President of Product Information. Chuck, his wife Susan, and their five daughters have spent many a Father’s Day enjoying the freedom that getting out on the water affords.
If you’ve enjoyed fishing all your life, you’ve got a great opportunity to say thanks and help preserve that way of life for the next generation. And if you’re just getting started, why not begin the right way, with respect for the water, your catch, and the young anglers who will follow in your wake.
Catch & Release
This should be pretty obvious, but recreational fishing can get out of balance in a hurry if everybody only practices Catch & Take. Not to say that there’s anything at all wrong with catching your supper, but be reasonable and let the rest keep swimming until the next time.
Structure or artificial reefs can have an unbelievable impact on fishing stocks. They provide a habitat for fish, crustaceans and shellfish where none existed before. Most states have reef program, so make sure yours is active and see how you can participate. Check this out: An artificial reef the size of an automobile can produce thousands of pounds of fish over five years.
Champion Water Quality
Remember that everything that goes into the ground has the potential to reach a waterway. To reduce the need for cleaning products, always wash your boat down with fresh water after every use. And when you do need to clean your boat, choose non-toxic options where available. Also, some lawn fertilizers can cause troublesome algae blooms, which can seriously damage fisheries. Always opt for low-phosphorous fertilizers to avoid those problems.
With government agencies and waterfront communities limiting water access for ordinary anglers and boaters, you need to be vigilant about defending your rights and speaking up. Make yourself known at neighborhood, city, county and state meetings. Sometimes a well-informed and persistent of anglers with a simple message of access is all that stands between a new gated community or a non-water-dependent development and the preservation of your local boat ramp.
Inspire Young Anglers
The earlier you teach a child about the joys of fishing, the sooner you’ll instill a lifelong desire to conserve and protect fisheries and become thoughtful stewards of the great outdoors. Just lead by example and you’ll be amazed at how your lessons take hold and inspire the next generation to preserve the future of fishing.
For more Fishing Tips visit Discover Boating..
Which came first, the angler who liked to ski, or the skier who liked to fish? Whatever the answer, ever since that combination came about, there have been boat builders who have been trying to find the perfect balance of features to satisfy both desires. The result the popular hybrid boat style, appropriately called a Fish & Ski. Available in either fiberglass or aluminum, the key in finding the right boat for you is to decide which will be your primary activity.
If you’re an avid angler, you want to look for wide casting platforms with comfortable pedestal seats that can be stowed away when not in use. At least one good-sized livewell and perhaps even a baitwell, are must-haves, and you’ll get plenty of use out of lockable rod storage. Outboard-powered Fish & Ski models definitely need an elevated ski tow eye to keep the ski rope up off the motor. Also, look for an oversided in-floor locker to store kneeboards, life jackets and other watersports gear.
Most Fish & Ski boats will feature a full, wrap-around windshield so make sure your line of sight is below the windshield header. Flip-up seat bolsters and adjustable seats, along with a tilt steering wheel will also come in handy. Since this is a multi-purpose boat by its very nature, you should be able to do a little entertaining and cruising as well, so look for boats that offer good seating options as well as cupholders and perhaps a built-in cooler.
Styling & Storage
This is a pretty subjective category, but as far as styling goes, you should lean toward the main purpose of the boat — anglers will probably want high-gloss paint and themed graphics, while skiers will be looking for a mono-colored hull with accent colors. Storage should feature easy-to-open hardware on hatches, access doors wide enough for your biggest gear, and dedicated-purpose, built-in areas for tackle or watertight boxes for electronics gear.
If you plan on doing a lot of skiing, think about upgrading the outboard motor to 150-horsepower and up. No one has ever been out on the water with a boat full of kids and gear and thought: “I’ve got too much power.” Look for a well-balanced boat that doesn’t give you too much bowrise when you’re trying to get a skier out of the water. Top speed on these boats will be about 40-50 mph. Although Fish & Ski models may sometimes look like a bass boat, their DNA more closely resembles a bowrider with a deadrise of 18-21 degrees. Look for boats that turn smoothly and track well for the best watersports performance. Although you’ll probably want a boat with a trolling motor on the bow, you want to balance that with extra freeboard toward the front to help you operate safely in rough water.
*photo provided by Polar Kraft boat
When searching for the perfect offshore fishing boat, you need to focus on models that give you plenty of room for fighting your catch, while providing easy access to all of your angling gear and safety equipment. And if you’re going to be heading offshore, sooner or later you’re going to run into rough water — and that’s the time you be glad you made the boat’s seaworthiness a primary factor in your purchase decision. Obviously you’ll see a direct correlation between cost and overall length, so remember that you might be better off making sure you’ve got all the fishing features you will need as opposed to maximizing the size.
Look for an uncluttered cockpit that provides maximum fishing space. You will appreciated padded thigh-high gunwales and toe rails for safety when things get rough. Clever use of space will result in convenient seats for your guests while running that fold out of the way when it’s fishing time. If you will be trolling, you must include “comfortable helm station” on your must-have list since that’s where the skipper will be spending most his time.
If you’ll be fishing for species that go for live bait, it can’t be emphasized strongly enough how much you’ll be depending on your one (if not two) high-capacity, recirculating livewells. There’s no running back to the dock if you’re out in the open water, so make sure you bait lasts as long as you do. A large rigging station will also make your time on the water much easier — look for an oversized cutting board and dedicated, easy-access spaces for all your knives, pliers and lures. If you’ll be trolling, you absolutely must have outriggers and downriggers to maximize your chances for success. If the boat builder you’re considering doesn’t offer downriggers as an option, make sure the boat is pre-drilled to accept them. Dedicated “cradles” for downrigger weights is also a great idea.
Most offshore boats have built-in rod storage in the gunwales, along with several in the stern, and “rocket launchers” above the T-Top. Make sure everything is easy to reach, and the gear will not be in your way when stowed. Never hurts to have a couple of locking panels to secure your rods temporarily if you need to leave the boat at the dock. And when you land your prize catch, make sure you’ve got large, insulated fish boxes with macerators and overboard drains.
If you’re like most offshore anglers, you’ll likely be running as fast as conditions allow when you’re cruising the waters looking for fish. Many fishing boats have no problem cruising at 50 mph. If you’ll be fast-trolling for certain species, you will want a boat that doesn’t slog at pre-planing speeds. And here’s something else you will appreciate on those long, hot days on the water: Find a boat that “tracks” well, meaning it won’t need constant course correction. Since you’ll be running hard most of the time, nimble handling is a must for quickly avoiding random debris you’ll inevitably come across. Remember that you may be in rough conditions more often that you’ll be in flat calm seas. When you conduct sea trials, make sure you try a variety of conditions to make sure you’ll have an acceptably comfortable and stable ride.
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Image courtesy of Hatteras Yachts
If you are an angler living up north, you’ve probably spent the long winter ice fishing with your buddies. Nothing like the experience of cooking up a hearty meals and waiting to feel that tug on your jigging stick that indicates you’ll be pulling up a bass, pickerel, perch or pike.
However, as much fun as this is, we all look forward to ice out. It’s a new season filled with phenomenal fishing on lakes, ponds, reservoirs and rivers. Life is rejuvenated; a million species are moving, waking up and coming out in the warming landscape.
In addition to seeing all the organisms in the water start doing their thing one of the best things to do while fishing is to watch the migrating waterfowl, eagles, hawks, osprey, cormorants and loons. These birds are not only beautiful to watch, but play a role in locating baitfish. Of course, the electronic savvy angler really doesn’t need the birds, but you should still tune in to them for the information they are relaying. As good as your sonar is, it doesn’t swoop down to the water and fly away with lunch.
Spring turnover happens to be an awesome time for reeling in those fish. The fresh oxygen filled water brings most species of fish up and about like our first cup of coffee gets us moving.
Largemouth bass tend to hang back a little more — enjoying their winter retreat — compared to smallmouth, trout and pan fish. So if you’re only targeting largemouth, remember that they can be located in a number of different areas, making it a bit longer between fish. They could be in staging areas outside flats. Just like the rest of the year, they will always relate to cover — obviously weed lines have died but you can usually find a mound, some weeds that didn’t rot and float away, stumps, rocks, old tires etc.
Sometimes the winter ice has moved things around, changing an underwater stump or log location, which only adds to the fun of locating new spots. You’ll have the best luck with jerk baits (hard and soft) and stick baits. Fish using slow, erratic, pauses, twitches to trigger strikes while retrieving the bait.
A slow-rolling spinnerbait is also a pretty good bet when you’ve got a good assortment of hard structure. It’s not just the slow roll, but the pause and drop when it really starts working. Although you’ve probably read that smallmouth bass are supposed to be a bit lethargic at ice out, but something about a flashy spinner that really gets them going. On warmer days with sun, you should be able to tear it up on the flats. Once you get a few days of good sun, and the water temps edge up closer to 60 degrees, the bass are definitely heading shallow — from there it’s on!
Article and photos courtesy of New England fishing legend Dan Kenney (www.gofishdan.com)
For more fishing articles visit Discover Boating.
If you live (and fish) near the coast, you always have to be aware of (and plan around) the ebb and flow of tides. And what can make your fishing expedition even more challenging is that tides don’t just make the water go up and down, they actually change the feeding habits of the fish and, more importantly, the areas where you’ll find them.
So, instead of the “hot spots” or “honey holes” your inland anglers may know like the back of their hand after countless hours of “research,” coastal fisherman have an additional factor to consider — they have to anticipate where the fish will be on a rolling 6-hour schedule of water moving up and down. Not to say one is harder than the other, but that in either case, you’d better know what you’re doing or you will wind up doing more fishing than catching.
GET A TIDE CHART
Back in the day, you would get a tide chart as a placemat under your plate at any early-morning breakfast place anywhere near a coastal launch ramp or marina. Now, you’re likely better served with a smartphone app with an up-to-the-minute calculation of your exact area’s daily tide schedule. The iPhone app Tide Graph is pretty solid, although not recommended as a navigational aid. You could also just go straight to the source and head to the NOAA tidal website. There are, of course, four tides over any given 24-hour period (two highs and two lows), and what you are looking for is a graph-style chart with a wavy line showing highs at the top of the curve and lows at the bottom. Your best shot at the fish will be right in the middle between high tide and low tide.
GET ON THE BAIT
Much like the quote widely (and erroneously) attributed to Willie Sutton — “I rob banks because that’s where the money is.” — you need to find the buffet where your fish species likes to dine. That means tracking down the areas where smaller fish and crustaceans will be pushed along with the incoming or outgoing water. Willie knew where the money was, and your predator fish will know where they can get breakfast. Likely spots for this will be creek or river inlets or where the flow of the water is at an angle, hitting a peninsula or sandbar. This is where “flats” fisherman find their happy place, especially as an incoming tide covers up previously exposed areas.
GO WITH THE FLOW
As the tide starts to ebb, the smaller fish that had been washed up into the flats have to head to deeper water or risk getting stranded high and dry on land. That’s when you start looking for a deep channel right next to the flats. It’s usually right where the wettest area is, because that’s where the last water was. As the water continues to drop, you should be able to see where and how the outflow is moving. If you can see it, so can your target species. Make sure you’re securely anchored and start casting upstream, so your bait can enjoy the ride down into the waiting chompers of the predator fish that will be facing the current. Catch fish. Celebrate. Repeat.