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Seasickness: How not to Feed the Fish

Seasickness is a wicked spirit, always haunting those of us who love the sea. I've seen it make grown men crawl into a fetal position and cry for their mothers to relieve their wretched misery.

Boat and waves By Canva | seasickness | marinalife
Boat and waves By Canva

The insidious condition we know as seasickness is not limited to the motion of the ocean. It can come from any similar type of movement, be it the back seat of a car, airplane turbulence or the Tilt-A-Whirl ride at a summer carnival. Seasickness is the earliest known form of motion sickness, which was well documented by the Greeks and Romans. The word nausea comes from the Greek word naus, an ancient type of sailing ship.

Seasickness results when conflict occurs between what your inner ear senses and your eyes see. Inside your ears are three tiny semicircular fluid-filled canals, part of the vestibular system. When your body experiences motion, liquid inside the canals moves around interacting with tiny hairs lining each canal. These hairs translate the movement of the liquid into nerve messages that are sent to your brain. The brain reads these signals and compensates with counter movement, enabling you to keep your balance when moving.

When you are inside a boat or reading in the backseat of a car, your ears sense the motion, but your eyes don't register movement, because what you see is moving with you. Your brain responds with a series of stress-related symptoms such as profuse sweating, chills, nausea, vertigo and vomiting. But why vomiting? What's up with this business of throwing up when your internal sensors are conflicted with different signals of movement? Would you believe it was once meant to keep you alive?

Thousands of years ago when humans lived in small hunter/gatherer societies, people foraged for part of their diet. Beyond watching what animals ate and avoided, finding safe food was largely trial and error. Many poisonous fruits and berries had a hallucinogenic effect, causing dizziness and disorientation.

It's theorized that when people ate poisonous berries, their bodies attempted to save them by expelling the poison. Even though you may not forage for food anymore, your body has retained that life-saving response. Motion sickness mimics that disoriented feeling of ingesting poison, and vomiting is your body reacting to those ancient memories by trying to expel it.

A curious thing about seasickness is the varying degree to which people are affected, with some more susceptible than others. It is certain that everyone with a working vestibular system is capable of suffering from some type of motion sickness. If you boat long enough, you will fall into one of two categories: those who have been and those who will be seasick.

Underlying the sweating and vomiting phase of seasickness is a little known and potentially more pernicious type of seasickness, called Sopite syndrome. As reported by Dr. James R. Lackner in an article for the National Center for Biotechnology Information, sopite syndrome comes from the Latin word sopire which means to lull or put to sleep. It differs from the more common motion sickness symptoms and may occur before the onset of other symptoms.

Some of the first symptoms of sopite syndrome could be yawning, drowsiness, apathy and decreased ability to concentrate, among others. These symptoms may exist in addition to nausea and may persist. According to Sigurd W. Hystad, in a paper published in Safety and Health at Work, boaters underway for extended periods of time are especially susceptible to sopite syndrome. Hystad claims, Noise within the vessel, vibration caused by the engine and motion caused by harsh weather are all known to be significant stressors that can lead to sopite syndrome.

Prevention over Cure

It's well known that looking at the horizon or out the window causes the feelings to subside. The reason for this relief is that you've eliminated the conflict. Your ears still sense the motion, but by looking at a stationary object in the distance, your eyes now validate what your ears are sensing, and all your systems get green lights.

Unfortunately, boaters don't often seek relief until they already feel the effects, and this may be too late. Once your brain thinks it needs to save you by giving up your breakfast, you may have a hard time talking that back down. It's more effective to stop it from happening in the first place, than to address symptoms once they begin.

Woman with seasickness By Canva | seasickness | marinalife
Woman with seasickness By Canva

Numerous over-the-counter drugs are available that intend to minimize motion sickness symptoms such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), meclizine (Bonine), cinnarizine (Stugeron), along with the prescription drug scopolamine, but most have negative side effects. For centuries sailors have used non-pharmaceutical solutions like ginger, which is well known to quiet an upset stomach.

Chewing gum is also beneficial, but curiously, research has shown that it doesn't appear to be the gum that makes the difference; it seems to be just the act of chewing. Acupressure bands strategically placed on the wrist have also proven effective for some people. While all these methods may calm the stomach, they can leave the other symptoms of seasickness untreated. It may also require a combination of these techniques to provide an acceptable amount of comfort.

Research into why certain people are more susceptible than others could hold the most promise in helping boaters enjoy the water without becoming seasick. Studies have shown that within variations of susceptibility lies a willful factor. As reported in the Journal of Applied Psychology: Seasickness as a self-fulfilling prophecy, researchers told an experimental group of naval cadets that they were unlikely to experience seasickness and that, if they did, it was unlikely to affect their performance at sea. At the end of a five-day training exercise at sea, the experimental cadets reported less seasickness and were rated as better performers than the control cadets.

Having the mind occupied with a task also helps to combat seasickness. A boat's helmsman is less prone to motion sickness than a passenger, because the helmsman is controlling the vessel and can predict the motion. Taking over the helm for a while may quiet a queasy stomach.

Whether passenger or captain, a positive mindfulness offers proven results. It is known that women are more prone to suffering from seasickness than men. Beyond any underlying physiological reasons for this, in recreational boating it is also more likely for men to be driving the boat and women to be the passengers. Simply sharing the responsibility of operating the boat could go a long way toward minimizing seasickness for everyone on board. Any activity that keeps the mind occupied with a purposeful and positive attitude offers a big benefit.

Remember it's called sea sickness, but you're not really sick; your brain is just confused. Boaters will tell you that time on the water cures many of life's ailments. Seasickness is no different. The more time you spend on a boat, the better it gets; allowing your mind to adjust to the movement helps your subconscious realize a new normal.

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Monitoring Systems

Modern marine engines have come a long way from the sputtering, oil-dripping beasts they used to be. Electrical systems with smart chargers, inverters and advanced sealed batteries are light years ahead of the leaky blocks of energy that used to start our engines and power our coffee makers. Today is the age of Monitoring Systems.

Despite improvements, items still wear, and parts break down. The challenge for vigilant boaters is to monitor a vessel's systems in a measurable way, so you know something is wrong before getting stuck at the pier on a beautiful weekend morning or calling for a tow when you're broken-down and adrift.

Early detection is the key to keeping small problems from becoming catastrophic aboard a boat. It's one of the reasons engine room checks are an important habit. Performing engine room checks while underway helps find small problems before they grow into larger ones, potentially causing serious damage.

Most problems aboard a boat are the culmination of a series of events. The alarm indicating an engine over heated began with a failing alternator, which caused it to over heat, which caused the alternator bearing to seize, which stopped the alternator from spinning, which caused the serpentine belt to break, which stopped the sea water pump, which ultimately made the engine overheat. Had you known early enough that the alternator was failing, you could have prevented the rest.

The Heat Is On

Your body has a normal temperature, and when you're sick you may run a high fever. Many components on your boat are the same. Knowing items' normal operating temperature will help you monitor performance. Alternators, hydraulic systems, transmissions, battery chargers and

Temperature Monitoring | Monitoring Systems | Marinalife

pumps are a few of the items whose temperatures can be monitored with a small handheld infrared temperature gun, which are inexpensive and readily available. I consider those so important to our boat's operations that I keep an extra in the spares kit.

Regular engine room checks with an infrared temperature gun can uncover many problems before they turn into large ones. It's best to develop a list of items to monitor in the engine room and perform them in the same order every time. You should do the first engine room check within the first 30 minutes to one hour after getting underway. This gives everything in the engine room the opportunity to come up to normal operating temperature and the chance to discover problems before you're miles offshore or while it's still easy to return to your marina.

On long runs, repeat checks on a regular basis through the entire trip. Some engine rooms are easier to access while underway than others. If you don't have a walk-in engine room, one of the advantages of the infrared temperature gun is that you can read the temperature of important items just from lifting a hatch. Always make sure you follow safe engine room practices, such as wearing hearing protection and removing loose clothing or sunglasses when near a running engine.

From the Engine Room to the Helm

The next level of performance is to bring as much of this engine room information as possible to the helm. In doing so, your systems' status does not solely depend on engine room checks. Large yachts and commercial vessels often have sensors permanently attached to critical components. These sensors send information to a display at the helm, programmed with alarm parameters, and give early notification of a problem. Several manufacturers have introduced similar systems for easy and economical installation on small and medium recreational boats.

The big benefit of these centralized monitoring and alarm systems is that you can easily configure them to suit a specific boat. From the temperature of a bearing to the cycle times of bilge pumps, the systems monitor a vessel's critical components and alert you when any piece of monitored equipment is outside its defined running parameters.

The systems allow you to set early warning signals at thresholds relevant to the specific equipment that needs monitoring. This improves alarms' accuracy and avoids nuisance notifications. When an alarm is activated, the unit at the helm will accurately pinpoint exactly what the alarm pertains to, and you can take corrective action immediately, with no wasted downtime trying to identify the problem.

Research the systems available carefully to select a system best suited to your boat. Some only operate on the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) network aboard a boat. More versatile systems are designed to also operate without a NEMA network by having analog and digital inputs allowing direct connections to sensors. These systems allow for installation on older or smaller vessels without a NEMA network but can also be coupled with a NEMA network to enhancethe installation.

Beyond monitoring engine data, many systems allow complete monitoring of all aspects of your boat's operation including navigation lights, fuel levels, battery voltage and DC charging systems. A critical piece easy to monitor with a helm-based system is coolant water flow. Most power vessels would destroy a sea water impeller and possibly even the sea water pump if they sucked up a plastic bag or otherwise blocked an engine coolant thru-hull. A simply installed water flow sensor would immediately sense a loss of water flow, potentially saving the impeller, pump and an over heated engine.

Who hasn't pulled anchor in the morning and run through the day, only to realize later that the anchor light stayed on all day? With multiple fuel tanks on many boats, more sophisticated systems allow you to total all the fuel and provide a single read-out of available reserves. You can program cycle times into many units to notify you if a bilge pump comes on more frequently than normal. Shore power can be monitored for voltage drops, giving a warning before sensitive equipment is damaged.

Helm-based monitoring systems offer an early warning that can prevent an otherwise simple problem from resulting in an expensive repair, downtime and the lost enjoyment of your boat. Voyages are more enjoyable knowing you are prepared to handle small problems when they arise. Protect your investment and the safety of those on board with a complete monitoring protocol for your boat.

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Shore Power Paradox - Captain's Tips

New code requirements are causing marinas around the country to update their electrical service and address the risk to life safety caused from faulty or incorrectly wired boats. As a result, some boaters are experiencing trouble by tripping newly installed, more sensitive shore power breakers.

Understanding Electrical Safety Devices

Most people are familiar with a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlet. For many years, we used them in home kitchens and baths or anywhere something plugged into an electrical outlet could come in contact with water. You know them by the small reset button built into an outlet. They are mandated in residential wiring by building codes for personal safety against electrocution.

Shore Power Diagram | Shore Power Paradox | Marinalife

Electricity flows from an outlet to an appliance and back again in a loop along the hot and neutral wires in a power cord. The GFCI monitors the electricity flowing through the loop. If the device fell into a bathtub or got wet, and allowed electricity to flow into the water, the GFCI would detect the loss or current imbalance in the loop and trip a highly sensitive breaker in the outlet. GFCI outlet receptacles detect an imbalance of as little as 4 or 5 milliamps and react quickly in as little as 1/13th of a second. Boats built to American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) standards also have GFCI outlets installed in the boat's heads, galleys and exterior spaces.

The updated code requires marinas to install devices called Ground Fault Protection (GFP) which are like GFCI outlets in your home. The GFP can detect electricity leaking from a circuit the same way a GFCI does and cut off the boat's electricity supply. The code requires ground fault protection not to exceed 100 milliamps of ground fault current leakage. However, most marinas are opting to install even more sensitive Ground Fault for Equipment (GFE) breakers at individual boat slips, which disconnects electricity to the boat at 30 milliamps of ground fault leakage.

Shore Power Electricity

When you link your boat to shore power, it's like connecting an appliance to an outlet: a flow of electricity travels in a loop between your boat and the shore power pedestal along hot and neutral wires in a shore power cord. A third wire in your shore power cord is the ground wire. If anywhere in the boat's wiring, or in an appliance on the boat, the neutral and ground are connected, current will be diverted from the loop, creating a leak of electricity from the circuit and into the boat's bonding or ground system.

Due to a prior lack of standards or variances in how a boat's appliances are wired, this condition could occur in many recreational boats. Electricity flowing through a boat's bonding system through the ground wire results in electrical current possibly flowing into the water around the boat. One of the primary reasons marinas post signs prohibiting swimming in the marina is the potential for electricity in the water and the risk of drowning by electric shock.

ABYC Boat Safety

ELCI Protects Tripped Wires | Shore Power Paradox | Marinalife

At the same time marinas are instituting new safety standards, ABYC is also recommending that boat manufacturers install a similar safety device at the boat's shore power entry point, called an Equipment Leakage Circuit Interrupter (ELCI). The ELCI monitors the electricity flow in a circuit in the same way as the previously mentioned devices. If the device senses an imbalance of more than 30 milliamps, it cuts off the electricity supply to the boat. All new boats should comply with this ABYC recommendation; however, an ELCI can also be installed in an existing boat's shore wiring circuit.

Frustrated Boaters

Boaters connecting to renovated marinas are becoming aware of their boat's wiring issues due to this newly installed, more sensitive equipment. Older boats aren't the only ones with problems; many late model boats have similar wiring issues. Finding the exact problem in the boat can be difficult, which elevates the frustration of boaters and marina staff.

Michael Giannotti, an ABYC-certified electrician and master technician from Hartge Yacht Yard who has investigated these problems, has discovered several likely causes including:

  • Inverters
  • Household appliances, such as washers and dryers
  • Ice makers and refrigerators
  • Generator transfer switches
  • Older or faulty galvanic isolators
  • Air-conditioning control boards
  • Corroded electrical connections
  • Faulty power cord, splitter or smart Y adapters.

Discovering the actual cause makes it especially important to follow the correct steps when connecting a boat to shore power. First, turn off the primary breaker in the shore power connection, then turn off all branch circuit breakers in the boat. Once the shore power cord is connected and locked into place, turn on the shore power connection at the dock pedestal with the boat's main AC breaker still off. If the breaker trips immediately, the problem is likely the shore cord or Y adaptor.

Next, turn on the boat's main AC breaker with all the branch circuits still off. If the shore power pedestal breaker trips, the problem is likely an improperly wired transfer switch or inverter. If the dock pedestal breaker trips after an individual branch circuit breaker is switched on, it is likely a device connected to the breaker or defective control board in an HVAC or refrigerator circuit. This procedure works in diagnosing at least where the problem lies for most boats, assuming they have two pole main breakers for 30 amp/125 volt inlets and three pole main breakers for 50 amp/250 volt inlets.

Whether investigating an electrical problem or installing new electrical equipment, all the work should be performed by an ABYC-certified electrician or with complete knowledge of and following ABYC standards.

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Buddy Boat - Who's your buddy? The Myths of Boating with Friends

Anchored off Rodriguez Key in Florida, we were waiting for sunrise to make the 10-hour run to Cat Cay, Bahamas, when the radio crackled to life. The voice coming over the VHF politely asked if any seven-to eight-knot boats were interested in a buddy boat crossing of the Gulf Stream that day.

This sounded like an innocent request, as many boaters making an ocean voyage, especially for the first time, seek the company of another boat. After all, there's safety in numbers, isn't there? On the surface it appears so, but if we explore scenarios of how boats traveling together assist each other, that feeling of safety may turn out to be an illusion.For as long as ships have been at sea, boaters have felt a moral or legal obligation to help a ship in need. The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 46, Section 2304 states, A master or individual in charge of a vessel shall render assistance to any individual found at sea in danger of being lost, so far as the master or individual in charge can do so without serious danger to the master's or individual's vessel or individuals on board. The penalty for not complying with this law: A master or individual violating this section shall be fined not more than $1,000, imprisoned for not more than two years, or both.The strong history of boaters aiding others comes not out of fear of the law but from human decency and the knowledge that the tables could be turned one day. However, accepting responsibility to assist another vessel at sea should not be taken casually especially when you agree to travel with recent acquaintances but know nothing of their experience or their boat's condition.

My wife and I meet the nicest people boating and frequently travel with boater friends. However, we do it purely for the social reasons, not for a perceived sense of safety.

Boaters can assist or support each other in three ways when traveling together:

Sharing Information

Nothing beats local knowledge when traveling to new places aboard your boat. If friends were there before, they can share their routes and knowledge of the area's unique features. Following other boaters who are familiar with an inlet or channel can also provide a safe way along a new course.

Comforting Company

This is an important and understandable aspect of buddy boating. When making a long passage across open water or an overnight run on a moonless night, you might find comfort in seeing your companion boat's radar echo or AIS symbol on what might otherwise be your radar's dark blank screen. It's reassuring to call your buddy boat on the VHF during a long offshore run.

Lending Physical Support

Being physically able to assist fellow boaters provides many with the feeling of security they seek in buddy boating. But the idea that you can help each other if one boat experiences a problem is potentially the most problematic aspect of buddy boating.

The most obvious assistance that comes to boaters' minds is towing the companion boat after a mechanical breakdown. However, most recreational boats are not set up to tow another boat, and specialized knowledge is required to do it correctly and safely. First, consider the risk of two boats getting close enough to each other in open water to pass a line from boat to boat. Second, select the proper line to tow safely. Experts recommend a line 8 to 10 times the length of the boat being towed, which could be 400 to 500 feet long for a medium-size pleasure boat. Most boaters don't carry lines that long aboard their boats.

Having the correct type of line with the proper strength is also unlikely. Three-strand nylon, the most common dock line, is also the most dangerous tow line.

Tow Line | Buddy Boat | Marinalife

It allows too much stretch and can break with explosive results. Last of all, unsuitable attachment points aboard each boat can be a problem. Cleats may not be reinforced sufficiently or located properly to act as tow points. Towing is best left to professionals with the knowledge and hardware to do it correctly.

What if your buddy boat doesn't need to be towed? What if they only need help repairing an item on the boat or a spare part? What if they need first aid or medical care? All of these require transferring a person from boat to boat, which comes with great risk in any large open body of water.

The most extreme scenario would be losing a boat and retrieving people from the water or a life raft. Think carefully about how you'd accomplish this before assuming it's easy. Coast Guard rescue vessels are designed with a special area to bring someone into the boat, and its personnel train and rehearse techniques to perform this safely. Of course, we'd all attempt to rescue a stranded boater, but don't assume it's simple and without risk to everyone.

Organized ocean crossing rallies that specialize in long-distance travel in the safety of fellow boaters often identify and outfit specific boats to perform towing and rescue functions. Rally organizers typically require vessel inspections to reduce the chances of a breakdown.

We certainly don't mean to discourage boaters from traveling with companions. Instead we encourage boaters to have realistic expectations of what they can reasonably and safely offer each other. When traveling with friends, discuss ahead of time what each would do if one boat has trouble along the way. Go fully prepared with spare parts and the knowledge to handle emergencies on your own. Utilize a pre-departure checklist for every buddy boat traveling together to hedge against the chances of a problem occurring. Then enjoy the best part of traveling with fellow boaters the bonds of friendship built through shared experiences and an evening toast to each other on a successful arrival at your destination.

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Tools to Save the Day

We find many reasons to enjoy boating, but working on the boat usually isn't at the top of the list. Keeping the multitude of systems aboard a boat in good working order brings great satisfaction to many boaters. You may be the type who satisfies that need with a proven list of qualified mechanics. But if you're the type who doesn't mind or even enjoys getting your hands dirty, then nothing is better than a well-stocked tool kit to help complete the job.

When a day of fishing is threatened by a leaking water pump or a broken alternator belt prevents you from going home, it's reassuring to know you can save the day by performing a repair to get underway again.

Boats come in a variety of sizes and levels of complexity. That's why the tool kit in a 34-foot express cruiser could be very different from one in a 60-foot trawler. Beyond the common wrenches and screwdrivers, here are unique tools that are quite valuable for a special job.

ADJUSTABLE PLIER WRENCH: A bolt or a nut that won't budge can be the ultimate frustration. Handled improperly, you can round off the flats, and then you're in real trouble. When that happens, forget the vice-grip locking pliers, because of this adjustable plier wrench grips the bolt or nut tighter the more force you apply. They are widely adjustable and come in a variety of sizes. Available from Snap-on Tools. (

COMPRESSED AIR: Alternative to heating, freezing may loosen a reluctant nut or bolt. If you hold compressed air in a spray canister upside down and allow the propellant to escape the nozzle, you quickly bring something to freezing temperatures. Be careful to keep it away from your skin when using. The compressed air used in the upright position is also helpful for cleaning small debris out of components before reassembling.

SPECIALTY DRIVES: The variety of items that need to be fixed on a boat is as wide as you will find collected in any one place, from engines to electronics or appliances. In the past, screws holding all these items together came in primarily two types, slotted or Phillips. Today you encounter a dozen different kinds of screw heads in fasteners, including Allen/ hex socket, Robertson/square recess, Double Square, Torx, Polydrive, Spline, the list goes on and on. Having a variety of drive tips to accommodate all screw types is easy today, as they're sold in pre-assembled kits in exchangeable screwdriver handles or a small socket wrench. (

BUTANE TORCH: Applying heat can go a long way to help the grip wrench above. Enabling items to expand and contract can help break them apart, and a small butane torch is the best way to apply heat in a very precise way. These torches come with a variety of tips, so you can use them to heat shrink-wrap tubing on an electrical connection and solder wires together. MagTorch 780 (

CLAMPTITE TOOL: Spare parts are as important as good tools to get the job done, and spare hose clamps are among the essential items to keep on a boat. However, if you're caught without the right size or you're assisting another boater without spares, the ClampTite tool allows you to make a hose clamp out of any kind of wire, even a coat hanger. (

FORMABLE FUNNEL: Pouring fluids can make a mess on a boat, whether it's oil, coolant, hydraulic fluid or just distilled water into a battery. Frequently the opening is behind or under something that prevents you from pouring into it without spilling. A formable funnel is perfect for shaping around obstacles to get liquid into the opening without pouring half of it into your bilge. (

MAGNETIZER/DEMAGNETIZER: Holding different types of screws in place when installing or removing them can be a challenge. Magnetizing the screwdriver or drive tip may be the solution, but you may not want it to stay magnetized for every application, especially when working on electronics. This handy item magnetizes and demagnetizes tools quickly and easily. (

BORESCOPE: Frequently what you need to see on a boat is behind or under something else. Smartphone technology has made this simpler with small flexible borescopes that you connect to your phone or tablet via a Wi-Fi connection. These enable you to place a high-quality camera in places previously impossible to reach. (

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Wi-Fi Update: How Boaters and Marinas Can Create a Better Wi-Fi Experience

Oh, how times have changed. If you look closely at older power pedestals at some marinas, you may see a connection point for a telephone and cable television. The TV jack might still be used, but not many boaters today look for a telephone dial tone through a copper wire. Today your phone and television need a strong Wi-Fi signal more than being hardwired.Most of us use Wi-Fi today, but exactly what is Wi-Fi? In 1999, several leading technology companies came together to form the Wi-Fi Alliance, a nonprofit organization with the goal of creating a universally accepted protocol for a global wireless networking system. Their visionary plan has succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams.

The very term Wi-Fi is now understood in every language around the world, with billions of Wi-Fi devices in use.The number of devices aboard your boat using Wi-Fi has grown exponentially over the past few years. Smart phones and tablets use Wi-Fi to connect wirelessly to chartplotters and radar. You can know the conditions aboard your boat remotely with sensors monitoring high water and battery voltage, all transmitting their information to your phone or tablet wirelessly. When aboard the boat in a marina, phones, tablets, computers and TVs connect to the outside world through a Wi-Fi network.Which brings us to the question: Is it reasonable to expect from a marina, a fast, dependable Wi-Fi, just like they provide connections to power and water? The answer is yes, but making that a reality requires effort from the marina and the boater.

The first step to better Wi-Fi is knowing a little about how it works. Wi-Fi is the technology standard used to create a wireless local area network or WLAN. It is the protocol for placing radio transceivers in your devices that allows them to share information and data wirelessly between the devices and a network.Your devices look for a Wi-Fi signal from an access point or AP, which is the link between your Wi-Fi enabled devices and a wired network. A small marina may have a single AP on a building pointed toward the piers or a mooring field. A large marina will likely have multiple APs positioned around the marina, so each boat is near one.

Your ability to acquire a good Wi-Fi signal is not just dependent on the marina; you control some of that in the type of hardware you are using. If you only use individual devices like your phone, TV or your computer to access the Wi-Fi network, you are limited in the quality of your connection. The small antennas within your devices have limited ability to access signals from distant APs. Add to that the interference of all the boats and marina structures and you might get a good signal.This isn't necessarily the marina's fault. The best way to access a marina Wi-Fi is to install a Wi-Fi antenna at or near the top of your boat. This antenna will have a clearer view of the marina's AP. These antennas are also helpful or even necessary to access a Wi-Fi from an anchorage or mooring field.

Your Wi-Fi antenna can then be connected to a router, creating your own mini network within your boat.APs transmit Wi-Fi signals on varying channels. Individual devices such as phones or tablets have no way of knowing those channels or giving you the ability to select them. However, software within a router allows you to find those channels, along with the strength of the signal. Utilizing a router gives you the option of selecting the AP with the best connection and setting your system to that AP's channel.

All this increases the quality of your Wi-Fi performance.A fringe benefit of using a dedicated router within your boat is placing an additional firewall between your information and the marina's network. All the devices on your boat, such as TVs and printers, can now communicate with each other on your secure network.

Without getting too technical, you should understand a few numbers and units of measure for getting the best Wi-Fi performance. When you think of a good quality Wi-Fi connection, you probably think in terms of speed. How fast will a page load? How quickly can you upload or download an attachment in an email?

Many marinas have been slow to realize that having good Wi-Fi is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity just like power and water. To meet this need, some technology companies have become specialists in marina Wi-Fi networks.

Installing Wi-Fi in a marina environment is different from a hotel or office building. Hiring a company with proven marina experience is essential to building a successful network. Also, a company that offers technical support for boaters saves the marina staff from taking technical calls outside their expertise.

Read reviews of a marina's Wi-Fi service when making reservations. Ask how recently their system was installed or updated. Ask boaters about their Wi-Fi experience with other marinas. Only if marina owners hear that boaters expect a good quality Wi-Fi and when they realize it affects their business will they take seriously the investment required to offer dependable Wi-Fi service.Fortunately, many have heard and answered with successful networks that enhance the boaters' stay, connect to work, read a good book downloaded to your device, or stream a movie through the TV.

Wi-Fi works better when everyone does his part, when the marina offers dependable high-speed service, and boaters know how to access service in the most efficient way. This speed is measured in megabits per second or Mbps.

To get fast service over a Wi-Fi, you must first have good quality signal strength, which is measured in dBm. It is represented as a negative number from -0 to -100. That means the closer the value is to zero, the stronger the signal. For example, -40 dBm is a stronger signal strength than -60 dBm. It's key to measuring the speed at which data is flowing and the signal strength of your connection. Free speed test apps downloaded to your smart phone or tablet make it easy to measure download and upload speeds.

Armed with this information and the proper tools enable you to make selections in your Wi-Fi connection that you cannot see connecting directly to the network with your devices. You do not need a mega yacht's budget or a degree in computer science to install a Wi-Fi network within your boat. The cost of equipment and ease of installation continue to improve with technological advances.

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Captain's Tips - Boat Repair

Long-distance boaters like to say cruising can be defined as working on the boat in exotic locations. Hopefully, it's more than that, but unexpected breakdowns happen. Even without emergency repairs, if you travel over long distances or time, stopping for regular maintenance during a trip is almost guaranteed. At home, most boaters have favorite service providers, the knowledgeable mechanic who knows their boat or the electronic technician familiar with the boat's wiring. But how do you find trustworthy services when traveling? You can try several steps to getting repairs done successfully when you travel. The first is to compile detailed information for major components on your boat.

Today's manuals are easy to keep digitally. Gone are the days of a cabinet full of binders with all the system manuals. They can be downloaded from manufacturers' websites and stored in PDF format on a laptop, tablet or phone. File storage and management apps like GoodReader make them a breeze to categorize, access and read. Kept electronically, they don't depend on an internet connection to read. Backed up to an external drive or cloud service, they are not lost if the device is missing or malfunctions. Some manuals are generic, so it helps to have the specific model and serial number for your equipment and components.

PDF format makes it possible to keep manuals for everything on the boat. The engine manuals are obvious, but at a minimum, add manuals on the transmissions, generators, heating and cooling systems, water pumps, marine heads, windlass, all navigation electronics even appliances. PDFs can even include drawings, wiring schematics and plumbing diagrams. We have more than 100 manuals on our iPads and backed up on a cloud server. Every manual for every conceivable item on the boat is included from the toaster to the transmission.


If you're MacGyver, all you need to keep your boat running is a Swiss Army Knife, some wire and duct tape, but lacking that resourcefulness, keep a complete set of spare parts aboard the boat. Like so many things in boating, how a boat is used drives many of the decisions. The list of spares kept aboard is different for a day boater in confined water versus a boater who intends to travel days at sea in the open ocean. But all boaters should have common items on board, including but not limited to belts, filters, fuses, navigation light bulbs and necessary fluids, oils and coolants. Having the part on hand eliminates the time and cost of shipping repair parts. Many manufacturers provide a list of recommended spares, and some sell spare part kits preassembled.


A wealth of information is available in forums and on other online sources of people who may have experienced your same trouble with a system. You don't have to understand how the generator converts mechanical energy to electrical current, but when it's not working, searching the internet with the symptoms of the problem can make you better informed to speak with a mechanic. It also prevents a poorly trained mechanic from misleading you as to a cause or solution.

If you're MacGyver, all you need to keep your boat running is a Swiss Army Knife, some wire and duct tape, but lacking that resourcefulness, keep a complete set of spare parts aboard the boat.


If you are going to travel far or for an extended period, identify authorized service companies in that area for the boat's major components. You can find general engine mechanics or electrical technicians knowledgeable in their trade, but it's better to have a factory-trained person with specific knowledge of your engine or radar brand. If you plan to take the boat to Newport for the summer or Miami for the winter, call ahead to service providers in that area. Speak with service managers and ask about their capabilities. Do they have mobile service, or will you need to bring the boat to them? Making connections ahead of time could expedite your call if you need service.


Look for service centers or boat yards that employ American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) certified technicians or ones affiliated with organizations such as the American Boat Builders & Repairers Association (ABBRA). These groups provide training and standards for their members, adding another level of assurance you're hiring a knowledgeable technician. Wherever possible look for a boatyard or service company with multiple locations. Your favorite company at home may have another location where you will be traveling. Now you're not a stranger calling with a problem; you're an existing customer who should be treated to a higher level of service. Traveling to distant places by boat is an exciting way to enjoy boating; however, breaking down away from home can ruin the adventure. A little research and preparation ahead of the trip can keep the adventure alive.

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Smart Boater - Bilge Pumps

Most boaters agree with the simple but truthful adage: Keep the water out of the boat, keep the boat off the bottom, and everything else can be worked out. Unfortunately, many boaters neglect an essential way of maintaining this condition properly working bilge pumps. Bilge pumps are a necessity aboard a boat, yet they often get the least attention. It doesn't help that they can be located in the deepest darkest places.

A controlled amount of sea water is allowed through the hull of the average boat for numerous reasons, from cooling engines and equipment to stuffing boxes on propeller shafts and rudder posts. For these reasons, boaters have accepted some water in the bilge. Bilge pumps are installed at the lowest point to clear excess water that accumulates, so it's not uncommon to install cycle clocks to monitor how frequently the bilge pumps come on. If they come on with increased frequency, that would indicate a problem worthy of attention.

Smart Boater | Bilge Pumps | Marinalife

Just the word bilge has a negative connotation, and for good reason. It's often a smelly cocktail of more than just water, including oil, coolant and a variety of living organisms. It's understandable why boaters tend to avoid the bilge areas.

First Things First

Clean and dry the bilge area regularly, and you reap a range of benefits. Hazardous liquids won't get pumped overboard, and you reduce odors from emanating into the rest of the boat. And it helps in finding sources of leaking water or fluids. Don't assume the bilge has to be wet. As construction methods and components have improved, it's not a given anymore that water will be present in the bilge. Dripless seals have largely replaced traditional stuffing boxes, eliminating one of the most common sources of bilge water.If your boat's air-conditioning condensate drains into the bilge, consider capturing it in a sump box and pumping it overboard. Make sure under-engine areas are sealed catch basins preventing engine fluids from being pumped overboard. Line under-engine areas with absorbent pads. This not only helps to contain leaks, it may also help you find a leak by containing the drip directly under source. With a little effort, you can maintain a clean and possibly dry bilge.Keep pathways open. Limber holes are drain holes through the framing or other structural members of a boat. They prevent water from being trapped and allow water to pass through to the lowest point where the pumps are located. On new and old boats alike, debris consisting of screws, wire ties or other construction materials can fall into the low points throughout the boat, possibly blocking the limber holes and preventing water from reaching the pump.

Even if the debris doesn't block the opening, it can be washed toward the pump. One of the most frequent points of failure in bilge pumps is ingesting foreign objects.

Double Duty

Over the years, bilge pumps have evolved in the minds of many boat manufacturers and boaters to also serve as emergency pumps for a component failure or breach in the hull's watertight integrity.

There are enough holes through the average boat's hull to sink it quickly, but we control these openings with valves to allow the water to pass in a controlled manner. Unfortunately, through-hull fittings and associated connections are neglected as well. Boat flooding due to poorly maintained through-hull components are consistently a leading cause of insurance claims.

Even on a new boat, don't assume the manufacturer has sized the bilge pump to handle all the water that could enter an area. A surprisingly large amount of water will enter through the smallest of holes. Aided by pressure, a half-inch hole at only 1 foot below the waterline allows about five gallons of water per minute into the hull. Increase that to a 1-inch hole at 4 feet below the waterline, and you can expect seawater to enter at an astonishing rate of nearly 40 gallons per minute. Regrettably, many bilge pumps are undersized to perform as emergency pumps. A prudent boater installs or carries a portable high-volume de-watering pump for emergencies.When adding or replacing a bilge pump, don't forget to factor static head pressure into the equation. A pump's capacity is reduced by a factor related to how high the pump must lift the water above the level of the pump.

Power to the Pump

Bilge pumps on most recreational boats have some type of water sensing switch activating the pump when water reaches a certain level around it. These require equal attention, as failures can also occur in the switch, and no power means no pumping. Switches can be a float style, with water lifting the switch to activate the pump, or they can be water sensing by electrical conductance. Inspect your boat's float style switches to be certain nothing interferes with lifting the mechanism. For switches that use electrical contacts, be sure contacts remain clean and free of corrosion.

Inspection Is Perfection

Smart boaters keep bilges clean. Inspect regularly for the following items. 1. It's best to maintain a completely dry bilge, but if not, monitor the amounts of water and be sure to know the water's source. 2. Clean the area to stay free of scum or microbial growth. 3. Look for corrosion and rust. 4. Inspect wiring and electrical connections on pumps and switches. 5. Activate the switch to ensure it turns on the pump automatically. 6. Be certain lights or alarms at the helm are working and notifying you of a bilge pump on high water. 7. Exercise seacocks to be certain they can open and close.

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Man Overboard

The call coming over the VHF radio was normal because boats following another in the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) often request permission to pass along narrow stretches. Joyce and Dave were used to being passed after years of traveling the ICW in their slow trawler. However, Joyce was not expecting the boat trailing them that morning to ask if they had a dog on board.

She answered, Yes, we have two. The boat then asked if one possibly fell overboard. Joyce responded no, because their trawler had tall sides that the dogs couldn't jump over. Joyce called out to Piper and Maggie, their two golden retrievers, to make sure, but only Maggie came into the pilot house wagging her tail. The boat then radioed that a golden retriever was swimming toward it. Joyce dashed around looking for Piper, disbelieving he had tumbled overboard, but the pup was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. The boat following Joyce and Dave that day pulled Piper from the water and reunited the couple with their pet at a nearby marina.

Boaters frequently hear stories of people or dogs falling overboard, but no one believes it could happen to them. Take the story of John Aldridge, a professional lobsterman with years of nautical experience. It only took the simple act of trying to move a heavy cooler when the handle broke, he lost his balance and suddenly found himself in the water, watching his boat and sleeping partner slowly leave him in the cold dark Atlantic Ocean. Fortunately, the Coast Guard located John the next day after he spent the night floating on his overturned rubber boots and a large lobster buoy.

A primary skill in all boating courses is learning how to handle a man overboard (MOB) situation. We need to know how to turn a boat as quickly as possible to return along the same course line and why it is someone's sole job to keep an eye on the person in the water. Most GPS chart plotters have a MOB feature that allows you to fix a position on the GPS screen at the point where someone goes overboard. That's very useful information, but it makes a dangerous assumption that someone knows a crew mate has fallen overboard. All too often, as in the two examples above, those on the boat are not aware someone had fallen into the water.

Quickly locating and bringing someone back aboard is the surest way to rescue a crew member. Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) and Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) are the gold standard for alerting search and rescue personal of someone in distress.

Transmitting to an international array of satellites, these devices activate a response network of government organizations to initiate a rescue. While highly valuable to many types of boating, these devices do not alert boaters that someone has fallen overboard.


Another category of devices was invented recently to serve this important role. Using radio frequencies, these devices activate on-board equipment that alerts a crew that someone is in the water or is separated from the boat. The devices fall into two categories: those with Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) and others with an electronic tether between a base station and individual monitors.

AIS has grown into a wonderful safety feature. It was originally designed as an accident-avoidance tool for commercial vessels, but electronic equipment manufacturers and recreational boaters quickly adapted it to their use. By transmitting a packet of information with the boat's name and movement over VHF radio frequencies, boaters equipped with AIS transmitters and receivers see exact boat activity around them.

This technology has now been adapted into MOB devices. Personal AIS MOB beacons operate on the AIS system. Small AIS beacons are designed to wear on an inflatable personal flotation device (PFD). When the PFD inflates, the unit opens an antenna and begins transmitting a unique MOB identifier. This signal is received and sounds an alarm on all boats within a three- to five-mile range with an AIS receiver, thereby increasing the number of boats aware a person is in the water and the chance of a speedy rescue.

Some AIS personal beacons also broadcast an alert over the VHF DSC (digital select calling) system. While extremely helpful and dependable, AIS personal beacons only alert and guide vessels to a person in the water if the boat is equipped with an AIS receiver. Those with the DSC feature notify all VHF radios in range of a person in the water. A built-in GPS broadcasts latitude and longitude coordinates with the DSC signal.


Realizing not all boats have or need an AIS, the second category of units that work on the electronic tether principal are suitable for all vessels and can have other valuable functions. Some models use a smart phone or tablet application along with a low-energy reliable Bluetooth link to monitor individual MOB devices. If the devises lose contact with the phone app or if the units become submerged in water, the app sounds an alarm indicating a man overboard. Using the phone's internal GPS and compass, the app directs the boat back to the separation point.

Be sure to note, these units do not use Bluetooth to locate the lost device. This is done solely with a smart phone's GPS and compass. By continuously monitoring individual MOB devices, these systems repeatedly run tests for connectivity. The apps can monitor up to five MOB devices simultaneously, making them suitable for crew, pets or even a dinghy being towed. With the water activated feature, some are even suitable to use as a bilge high- water alarm.


The absolute best way to keep your crew safe is keeping them in the boat from the beginning. Review man overboard and safe practices specific to your boat with family and friends each time you go out. Make sure all boarding gates and lifelines are securely closed or latched. Insist everyone moving around an exterior open deck area of the boat is wearing a life preserver and where necessary secured to the vessel with a lifeline. Make sure swim ladders are easy to deploy, especially by a person in the water.

We do everything possible to prevent fires aboard, but we still carry fire extinguishers. We go to great lengths to keep water out, but our boats still have bilge pumps. Do everything you can to keep passengers in the boat, but please utilize a man overboard device for everyone on board as well.

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