• The Wake Surfing Revolution

    With the right boat and a wake surfboard, the surf’s up whenever you want! No one knows for sure who was the first brave soul to try surfing a boat's wake, but the sport has come a long way since the 1960s, with specially-designed boats and boards. Continue reading

  • Boating in Bad Weather

    Summer! It's finally time for long, sunny days, warm weather - and storms, which can cause more damage than just wet clothes and dampened spirits. Strong winds can whip up waves to dangerous heights, and lightning can be lethal.

    Continue reading
  • 4 Things We Love About Boating

    Tuesday is Valentine's Day, and we've got love on our minds. What do we love most? Boats, and all the good things about the boating life. Continue reading

  • Fall into Late-Season Boating

    There's so much to love about autumn: the beautiful colors on the trees, the crisp air, the special blue of the November sky. There's no line at the boat launch, lots of space at the docks, and open water as far as the eye can see. It's nice to have the beach and water to oneself.

    With the end of peak boating season, marinas scale back services. You might not be able to refuel late in the day if the pumps close early, and you can't count on bait shops to stay open in the evening, either. Take enough bait, snacks, water, and supplies with you, and fill your gas tank before you depart. If you carry a spare gas can, fill it, too, and be sure to store it safely (not in the engine compartment or cabin).

    How are your lights? The days grow shorter, which means you might be getting back to the dock after dark. Replace burned-out bulbs when you find them. Cold temperatures shorten battery life, both in your boat's system and in flashlights, so carry extra batteries for your small electronics, charge your cell phone, and be sure you've got a full charge on your boat's battery.

    Temperatures fall after sunset, of course, and sunset comes early this time of year. Check the forecast and dress accordingly. Layer up! you can always shed a coat or sweater if you get too warm, but you can't add one if you don't have one on the boat. Bring along an extra sweatshirt or jacket just in case.

    Speaking of jackets, where's your life jacket? Carry a personal flotation device for everyone on board, and insist that children wear one. The Skipper recommends that every passenger wear a life jacket, but the law requires that kids under 13 wear theirs.

    A bimini top with side curtains or a camper top can help hold in warmth, whether that heat comes from a heater or just passengers' body heat. Be sure the driver can see all around while in motion, though, and keep the boat ventilated; carbon monoxide can't be smelled and can make you sick before you realize it's building up.

    Now, fill your travel cups with hot cocoa, buckle on your life jackets, and have some fall fun!


  • Accidents Will Happen

    With several high-profile boating tragedies in the news lately, we wonder: when something goes wrong, will you be ready? Thorough preparedness for marine disasters is beyond the scope of a blog post, so the Skipper suggests taking a boater safety course. The Boat US Foundation has free boating safety courses for each state, and the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary has a list of safe boating classes, both fee-based and free. Here are five points for preparedness.

    File a float plan. Make sure someone knows when you're leaving, where you're going, and when you intend to return. This form from the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary can be filled out online and printed, or printed as is and filled out by hand. Leave a copy with a trustworthy person on shore. A float plan helps searchers know where to start looking for you if something goes badly wrong.

    Show 'em the ropes. Before casting off, show your passengers where the fire extinguisher, first-aid kit, and emergency signals are. Have a quick lesson in operating the bilge pump, the anchor, and the radio and other communication equipment.

    Wear it! We cannot overstate it: wearing a life jacket can make the difference between life and death. Merely carrying personal flotation devices aboard your boat is not enough. The law requires children to wear life vests while boating, and the North American Safe Boating Campaign recommends that all passengers wear life jackets. If your adult passengers won't wear a PFD, have them at least hold onto one or keep it within easy reach. Consider clipping an inexpensive signal whistle to each life jacket; whistles can aid rescue if the worst happens.

    Man overboard? As soon as someone accidentally goes in the water, alert the person driving the boat and keep your eyes on the person in the water. If you're the one driving, stop the boat immediately. Throw a ring buoy or PFD to the victim and carefully bring the boat close to pick him or her up. If another person needs to go in after the victim, he or she must wear a life vest and be connected to the boat by a safety line. In calm water, recovering a conscious fallen passenger need not be very difficult, but water temperature and the passenger's health can complicate matters. Read more on handling man-overboard situations at the Boat US Foundation.

    Keep calm. So much easier said than done, right? Freaking out can make a bad situation worse, so take a breath, and then take action.

    If your boat tips or swamps, get your passengers into their life vests right away. Take a head count and stay together. Call for help using your radio or cell phone. If you can't get the boat righted and you wind up in the water, stay with the boat. Don't exhaust yourself or your signaling devices; take turns signaling and try to do so only when another boat or aircraft is within sight. Instead of shouting, use a whistle and save your vocal cords.

    As we said at the beginning, being prepared to handle a boating accident takes more than reading a short blog post. Take a look at the resources below from the Boat US Foundation, and do consider taking a boating course. It's an investment that might save a life someday.

    If You Run Aground Dealing With An Accident

  • 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!