Monthly Archives: May 2016

  • 5 Tips for Safe Boating

    This is Day Six of National Safe Boating Week here in the USA, when the National Safe Boating Council highlights ways to stay safe on the water. Whether you're venturing out on the high seas or sticking close to shore, a few simple steps can help you get home in one safe piece.

    Everything shipshape? Before you leave the dock, check over your boat to make sure everything is working properly. The US Coast Guard Auxiliary has a safety checklist you can print out and keep handy.

    Wear it! As everyone should know, a boat is required by law to carry a personal flotation device for each passenger; PFD laws vary from state to state, many requiring a life jacket to be worn by children age 12 and under (age 6 and under in Florida). The Safe Boating Council recommends that all boaters, regardless of age, wear a life vest while boating. A properly fitting life jacket can make the difference between life and death. There are PFDs for all ages and sizes, even infants and pets.

    Make a plan. It's always a good idea to tell someone where you're going and when to expect you back when you take the boat out. For longer boat trips, make a float plan. Unlike a flight plan, a float plan isn't filed with any government agency. The float plan from the US Coast Guard Auxiliary is a form where you can list your passengers, your itinerary, emergency supplies on board, contact information, and more. Even if you don't make such a formal plan, do make sure someone on land knows your plans. And be sure to check in if those plans change.

    Be prepared. Does your boat carry an emergency kit? Three blasts of a horn or whistle is the universal distress signal. Some boaters carry an emergency SOS flag for day use. For short trips on inland lakes, a charged cell phone with emergency contact numbers programmed into it is enough; just make sure you've got a way to charge it up if the battery gets low.

    Boat sober. Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is both illegal and unwise. Alcohol slows reaction time and lowers inhibitions, increasing the likelihood of accidents, and if you're caught operating a boat while intoxicated, you face heavy legal penalties. Don't drive drunk, and don't let a drunk friend take the helm.

    Here's to a fun, safe boating season!

  • The Good Kind of Trolling

    When trying to sneak up on the fish in your favorite spot, your regular boat motor might be just too much. A well-chosen electric trolling motor can give you the edge needed to catch your limit with relative ease, but where to begin?

    The power of trolling motors is expressed in pounds of thrust, not horsepower. How much thrust do you need? That depends on the length and weight of your boat. The chart below gives an idea of the minimum thrust requirements for boats of different sizes. You might want a more power than the minimum, of course.

    Chart: Chart:

    What about shaft length? We've seen recommendations in the neighborhood of 20 to 24 inches below your boat's waterline, so that's a good place to start. Some boaters calculate shaft length based on the distance between the transom or bow and the waterline. A longer shaft is better in rough, choppy water because it keeps the propeller below the water when the boat bounces on the waves.

    Obviously, salt water is, well, salty, and salt is corrosive. If you're a blue-water fisherman, choose a trolling motor designed for use in salt water. Such trolling motors are better sealed against water than ordinary motors. Look for props and mounts made to withstand salt water, too.

    Because it's clean and quiet, electric propulsion is one of the most attractive features of trolling motors. Without noise or fumes, you can glide along silent as a fish - but only if you have adequate battery power. The higher powered the motor, the more power it draws. A 12-volt motor runs on a single battery, but more powerful motors need two or more. A trolling motor strong enough to power a pontoon boat or a biggish sailing craft will probably require three 12-volt marine batteries. Multiple batteries take special wiring configurations, so read your manual carefully.

    Bow or stern mount? Where you mount your motor depends on where you hang out in the boat. A transom mount doesn't make much sense if you fish from the bow, and vice versa. If you add a remote control, though, you can control your trolling motor no matter if you're fore or aft.

    Once you've selected your motor, you can also choose extras like foot-pedal controls, chargers, adjustable mounts, and tie-downs. Find trolling motors and accessories for less at Great Lakes Skipper!