Scott Marine Surveyor of Florida Blog


Posted On: August 26, 2020

10 Tips for Boating at Night

  1. Slow down, visibility is reduced at night.
  2. Share the lookout duties.
  3. Tap into your preparations list.
  4. Preserve your night vision.
  5. Don't use headlights or spotlights.
  6. Look for the red and green.
  7. Listen, listen, listen.
  8. Trust your navigation instruments.
  9. Bring along a towel—for many uses.
  10. Dock with extra caution.

1. Slow down

Visibility is reduced at night. Distances are harder to judge, obstacles are difficult to see, and moisture and temperature changes create distortion. Boats can come out of nowhere and debris and crab pots are nearly invisible on inky black water. Unless there’s a full moon, open water and no traffic, don’t run on plane.

2. Share the lookout duties

The driver has much to do including keeping an eye on gages, checking the chartplotter and actually driving. If you have someone along, keep that second pair of eyes strictly on the horizon with a periodic 360-dgree scan to ensure no one is coming up from behind or at an angle.

3. Tap into your preparations list

Before ever setting out in the dark, you should have refreshed the batteries in your flashlights and headlamps, put binoculars close to the helm and located personal floatation devices PFD'S). You may consider wearing PFDs with an attached strobe light or glow stick in case someone goes overboard.

4. Preserve your night vision

Dim all the onboard lights including courtesy lights, instrument and chartplotter backlighting and cabin lights. Your night vision can take 20 minutes to adapt back to darkness after a flash of light. Use flashlights with a vision-preserving red filter and check the plotter only when needed because even when dimmed, it will impact your ability to see out of the boat.

5. Don’t use headlights or spotlights

You’re not in a car and the reflective water kills the benefits of bright forward lights. Use docking lights only when arriving at your destination like at a dock or another boat. That’s when spotlights help you see close-up detail like cleats and handholds.

6. Look for the red and green

Running and marker lights are red and green. Entering a harbor in North America, follow the rule: Red, Right, Returning which means keep the red lights to starboard to stay in a safe channel. Consider what a boat looks like under way on the water: 

  • Red and green lights are forward on either side of the bow and a white light is aft at the stern.
  • If you see both red and green, the boat is coming head on.
  • If you see white, the boat is ahead of you and/or moving away.
  • If in doubt and you see red, stop. That means a boat is crossing your bow and it has the right of way.

Before departing on your voyage, check to make sure your navigation lights are operable so you’re visible to others.

7. Listen

Turn off the stereo and listen. You may hear fog horns, bells or other boats approaching. Use your hearing, which may seem more acute in the dark when you can’t rely on your eyes.

8. Trust your navigation instruments

Your eyes can play tricks on you in the dark so if your chartplotter is trustworthy normally, don’t suddenly decide it must be wrong. If your chartplotter hasn’t been updated or you’re not all that familiar with its use, slow down and approach with caution until you figure out whether your eyes and ears or your electronics are right.

9. Bring along a towel

A nice beach towel has lots of uses at night. You can drape it over yourself to stay warm and dry, you can toss it over parts of your console to cut down on ambient onboard light, and you can use it wipe a fogged windshield.

10. Dock with extra caution

Again, distances are distorted at night so only approach a dock as fast as you’re willing to hit it. Ask crew not to jump onto a dock but rather step off calmly when the boat is close enough. Double-check everyone’s knots and hitches before leaving the boat unattended in a slip.




Posted On: August 19, 2020

All boat models are more or less unique, but some require special attention.

Step By Step On How to Drive a Boat

  1. If your boat is powered by gasoline and has an engine compartment, run the “blower” (an exhaust fan) as per manufacturer’s recommendations prior to starting the engine, to make sure there isn’t a build-up of fumes in the compartment. This is a good time to run through your pre departure checklist.
  2. Put the key into the ignition (some modern boats have push-buttons instead), and turn it to start the engine.
  3. If the boat has a “kill switch” (also known as an engine safety cut-off, which automatically turns the engine off if you leave the helm for any reason), clip the lanyard on a belt loop of life jacket ring.
  4. Make sure all your gear is aboard and all your passengers are prepared to disembark. 
  5. Remove all the lines securing the boat to the dock, pier or slip.
  6. Engage forward (or reverse if you need to back out of a slip) by pushing the throttle handle forward (or pulling it back) gently until you feel it shift into gear.
  7. When the boat begins moving, spin the wheel just as you would turn the steering wheel in a car to determine direction of travel.
  8. Advance the throttle as appropriate to reach the desired speed.
  9. Trim (adjust running attitude) the boat as appropriate for the conditions.
  10. When you want to slow down, gently pull the throttle back towards the neutral position.


Posted On: August 12, 2020

When A Squall Comes Calling

Fortunately, most afternoon thunderstorms last less than half an hour. But even a "routine" squall can turn threatening and scary when combined with mechanical failure. You might be able to make it to a protected anchorage before the squall arrives and then be on your way afterward with no drama. Or, you can employ several effective techniques to deal with oncoming threatening weather.

First, check your weather before going boating, even for a day. If you're heading out on a longer trip, especially on a boat you're not very familiar with, be extremely conservative weather-wise. If a front is predicted, or thunderstorms, assume there will be squalls parading around and wreaking havoc. Wait it out and take a lay day. If you do set out, have a backup plan for seeking shelter quickly along your route, vigilantly check the weather. Squall lines can often be seen on the horizon, giving you time to take evasive action. If everyone is wearing life jackets, that's one less thing to worry about when the weather pipes up. Once facing deteriorating weather, you've got three tried-and-true options, depending on how far offshore you are and what kind of boat you have.

First Option: Tuck And Hide

If it's clear you can make landfall before heavy weather hits, do it. Don't wait to see if things get better. They rarely do, especially if gear starts to break. Find a harbor of refuge, cove, marina, or at least a protective shoreline with good holding for anchoring. The best choice is one that limits the fetch of storm-driven waves and blocks the worst of the wind. Put out enough line to create a scope of at least 3:1, make sure your anchor has dug in, then let out additional line to create scope of at least 7:1 — more if you're on a rode that's mostly rope and have swinging room. Secure the wheel or tiller in the center of the boat to increase stability; don't let it spin around. If you hear thunder or see lightning, go below if possible and avoid touching metal. Put on your shoes, stay low but never lie down, unplug electronics, if possible. Lower antennas. Stay out of the water. Touching two metals at the same time completes the circuit, one way people are killed by lightning.

If there's no lightning but strong winds, and your engine is in good working order, the most experienced person can stay at the helm and motor forward into the wind just enough to take the pressure off the anchor; this helps you avoid dragging, until the squall passes. In a driving rain, the helmsman may want to don swim goggles to take the sting out and wear rubber gloves when touching the wheel. Remember, lightning is still a danger for at least half an hour after a squall passes.

Second Option: Hold Station

If anchoring isn't possible, motoring slowly into the wind and waves permits most boats (power and sail) to make a bit of headway, maintain control, and take waves over the bow, minimizing the chance of swamping. The size and design of a boat, the propulsion power available, the experience level of the crew, and the severity of the squall all have their part to play in how a squall is best handled. Powerboats with open bows, such as bowriders and center-consoles, are vulnerable to swamping, so take the waves at a 20- to 30-degree angle; make sure to keep the boat moving fast enough so that the bow lifts over the waves, but not so fast that it buries on the other side. To maintain control, you may need to throttle up on the wave face, then throttle back as the wave passes under you. In this way, you can jog slowly to windward, making minimal headway, until the squall has passed.

Many sailboat mainsails have only two reef points and, in many cases, even pulling down to the second reef still may prove too much sail in a strong squall. In this case, it may be best to take all the sail down and motor slowly to windward. If you're confident in the boat, then leaving a patch of sail up on a larger, well-ballasted sailboat and motorsailing at a 20- to 30-degree angle to the wind can steady the boat and minimize the amount of water coming aboard. In smaller, lighter sailboats, it's often best to drop all sail before the squall hits and motor slowly to windward; if the boat gets even a little sideways to the wind, you risk loss of control or even capsize.

Third Option: Heave To

Sailboats can heave to, which will all but stop the boat in a controlled way, an invaluable technique — like engaging a handbrake on a car — that can be used in a short squall so long as you have room around you. Reef and sheet in the mainsail and partially furl the headsail. Then tack the boat without releasing the jib sheet (which backwinds the jib), and secure the helm; this holds the boat with the bow 20 or 30 degrees off the wind. With the sails and rudder balanced against one another, the boat will steady itself and drift slowly downwind, usually at no more than 1 knot. Heaving to takes practice, and its effectiveness and the precise tactics depend upon your boat's design. To make sure you're ready to employ it when you need it, head out on a day with strong but steady winds and practice. Your maneuverability will be limited when hove to, so don't try it in a ship channel in poor visibility. 

BASED ON ARTICLE BY  By Beth A. Leonard, Bernadette Bernon and Michael Vatalaro FOR BOATUS



Posted On: August 05, 2020


Here's a day-by-day guide to getting your boat ready once a storm has been forecast for your region.

Keep in mind that every tropical storm moves at its own speed, so treat this a rough guideline.

The goal is to finish your boat preparations well before the first big winds start to blow.

Day 0: Advance Preparations

The first round of storm preparations is best addressed at the beginning of boating season — well before any particular storm starts brewing.

  • Review your boat's insurance policy. What actions does it require of you? If you live in an area that may be prone to hurricane activity, many policies may carry a "Named Storm Deductible" that is higher than your normal Deductible.  Some  policies allow you to lower your named storm deductible by properly preparing the boat by moving it to land, lashing it down with in-ground anchors and removing all canvas and/or sails from the exterior.

Day 1: Storm's First Reports

Only a few storms are destructive in any one region; many more are supremely inconvenient. When a forecast shows a wide range of possible landfalls, it's human nature to want to assume the storm will miss you. But avoid taking that bait. The first day that your boat's location is included in the storm's possible track — that's the day to start getting ready.

  • Rearrange your schedule for the next few days to allow for storm prep
  • Gather chafe gear for docklines, mooring pendants, or anchor rode. Duct tape and rags are not sufficient. Commercial products such as Chafe-Pro have been proven to work in extreme conditions
  • Gather any tools you'll need to remove gear or electronics from the boat
  • Marina Boats: check in with the marina manager; coordinate your plans. Make sure marina staff can reach you on short notice (cell phone, email)

Trailered Boats:

Confirm that the trailer and tow vehicle are ready to go.

Moored Boats:

Locate any extra pendants, chafe gear, shackles or any other gear you'll need to beef up your attachment to the mooring.

Anchored Boats:

Choose your hurricane hole. Gather all the equipment (extra anchors, chain, rode, chafe gear) you'll need to create a storm-anchor system.

Day 2: Storm Approaches

If a whole day has passed and your boat is still in the storm's possible track, it's time to act. Some marinas require you to execute your storm plan more than 72 hours before the predicted landfall. Check for bridge closures due to the storm. This is the time to think through a storm's four threats: wind, rain, waves, and surge. What can you do to mitigate each of those?

Prepare For Waves:

If your boat remains in a marina, keep in mind that sandbars and breakwaters may be covered by the surge, exposing your boat to the waves' full force. If waves are a possible factor, orient the bow facing them.

Prepare For Wind:

That means removing absolutely everything you can: biminis, cushions, chairs, tables, outriggers, dinghies, motors, sails. If your boat will be in a slip, position the bow toward the likeliest direction of storm winds — but give precedence to the direction of waves. Tie the boat as far from the dock as you can. Each dockline should be long enough to its own strongpoint to allow for surge.

Prepare For Rain:

Ensure that your scuppers and bilge are free of debris, sludge, and any obstructions. Remove electronics or other equipment that's sensitive to moisture. Tape over hatches and dorades to keep wind-driven rain out. Check that bilge pumps are working. Top off batteries that will run the pumps and turn of un-needed items that will drain those batteries. If you have a low-freeboard boat or one with inadequate drains, it will need to be hauled out or trailered to avoid sinking.

Prepare For Surge:

The spider web of extra long docklines recommended should allow for a rise and fall of water level that may be unprecedented for your area.

Day 3: Storm Imminent

Time is now getting tight. Secure any items that you might have missed; remove any valuable items from the boat that remain. Take photos of your storm preparation in case your insurance company needs them later.

Day 4: Storm Watch

A hurricane watch indicates that hurricane conditions may pose a threat within 36 hours. By this time, you should have done all you can to secure your boat. The focus now should be on getting yourself and your family somewhere safe.

Day 5: Storm Warning

A hurricane warning for your area indicates that sustained winds of 74 mph are expected within 24 hours. Hopefully, by now, you and your family are safely away from the coastline — and your boat is just about the last thing on your mind



Posted On: July 29, 2020

Surveys and Sea Trials

A survey inspection of the boat prior to purchase can either make or break a deal.

A professional marine surveyor is an expert who should be well versed in boat construction, as well as safety and manufacturing laws, requirements and practices. Surveys cost an average of $10-$15 per foot, depending upon the size of the boat and region. The boat should be inspected in and out of the water. Although hiring a surveyor is an added cost, consider it a good investment against buying an unsafe boat or one that needs expensive repairs.

If you spend $1000 on a survey that reveals $3500 worth of damages to the boat, you can decide whether the boat is worth owning.

A surveyor's report can be a bargaining chip when it comes to negotiating with the seller. You can use the problems identified in the report as a way to lower the price or get certain items taken care of before purchase.

Remember, though, a surveyor's report is not a guarantee against defects in the boat but the opinion of a professional.

If you do renegotiate the sales price or if the seller agrees to make repairs following the surveyors inspection, make sure these changes and a detailed list of the repairs are written into the purchase agreement.



Posted On: July 22, 2020

Stainless steel can and does rust.

Whoever named stainless steel must have been an optimist. Stainless steel certainly can and does rust, though if you know why, you can avoid using it in places where it's less suitable. Most marine-grade stainless used on production boats is from the 300 series. Type 304 is a good multipurpose steel. The Gateway Arch in St. Louis is clad with 304. Types 316 and 316L have a slightly higher nickel content and added molybdenum to improve their corrosion resistance over 304 — especially with regard to pitting and corrosion in saltwater environments. There are higher grades as well, such as the type used in dental implants. Most boaters will opt for Type 316 and 316L.

The key to stainless steel is that the chromium in the steel combines with oxygen to form an invisible surface layer of chromium oxide that prevents further corrosion from spreading into the metal's internal structure. Stainless steel actually protects and repairs itself, except in areas where there is a low level of oxygen, such as a stainless-steel screw in a damp deck core. This kind of corrosion is referred to as "crevice corrosion." It can eat into the stainless, causing great weakening. In some cases, cheap plated steel or zinc fasteners are mistaken for stainless steel and then cursed when they begin to rust or crumble. Use stainless steel where it won't be starved of oxygen, and get high-grade stainless fittings from a known supplier. Stainless steel that is attracted by a magnet is not what you want to use on a boat.



Posted On: July 15, 2020

Using A Kedge To Stop The Boat

Using a kedge to stop the boat illustration

An anchor deployed from the stern is the obvious choice if we have to come alongside under sail with the wind or tide behind us and can't slow or stop the boat by any other means. Provided the anchor is big enough to dig in easily and the bottom will provide adequate holding, just drop it a couple of boat lengths from the dock, and surge out the line until you come to a stop beside the dock. Take care to control the line safely around your bollard or cleat and to avoid rope burns and hands and limbs becoming caught in the line.

Use The Main Anchor To Turn The Boat Around

Turn on anchor illustration

If you don't carry a kedge, you'll have to use the primary anchor from the bow, but the technique is a little more complicated. After dropping the anchor, give a quick bust of forward power if needed, then put the engine in neutral so you don't foul the prop with the anchor rode. As the boat continues forward you'll continue sailing over it until the cable snubs to swing the boat around, assisted by a touch on the helm — hopefully she should end up lying gently against the wall or dock if this tactic is well executed. An old sailing barge skipper told me how he did this on a regular basis, but he had years of experience and the barge had massive hull timbers to absorb the occasional bump.

But I have seen a modern boat do the same trick when a very experienced captain turned the boat around in its own length. The water was quite shallow, so he took the main anchor aft, secured it there, and ran the cable outside everything before securing the anchor rode at the bow. The length of the boat gave him the correct scope for the chain, so when he kicked the anchor off the stern, it went down, bit in, and the boat slowly turned around and lay alongside. It was a beautiful bit of seamanship. But if you don't quite get alongside and there's enough tide running, you can often sheer across the current by putting the helm over.



Posted On: July 08, 2020

Choppy Water

How you handle choppy water is a skill that you need to develop if you want to enjoy boating. This article covers the basics of boating safely through chop.

Many boats handle choppy water different, so know your boat type.

Power boats are designed with rough water in mind. Hull designs such as the deep V and even double hulls have made choppy waters less of a problem, but the burden is on the captain, that's you, to get it right. Well designed boats are half the equation; the other half is you.

Choppy Water Basics:

1. Batten down. No matter how skillfully you maneuver your boat, if loose equipment and just plain stuff litters the boat you may be in for an expensive experience, not to mention danger. Debris flying around a boat can damage the vessel and injure the people aboard. Simply stowing things into compartments is a good first step. Some experienced boaters keep a few old towels aboard as stuffing material to keep things in place. Of course there are some Items that you need to keep handy such as binoculars. Velcro fasteners are a great way to keep these things in place. It almost seems that the Velcro people make this stuff for boating.

Good seamanship dictates that you prepare your vessel for rough water even when things are calm. Boats should be ready for the water to turn to chop.

2. Watch your speed. Power boats can go very fast, but sea conditions may dictate the you go slowly. Handling power boats in chop requires careful use of the throttle—and a lot of common sense. There is no clear cut definition of when water turns from chop to just plain rough. In a choppy sea you may not encounter waves that come in regular intervals, just a mess of little waves that don't seem to go anywhere. In a chop you want to add speed; in a rough sea with large waves you want to go slow. If you have a planing hull, that is one that enables your boat to skip or plane across the surface of the water, you should "get up on plane." Planing enables the boat to avoid the worst effects of the chop and can deliver a smoother ride than going slow. Boats without planing hulls, such as trawlers, have it a little tougher. If your boat doesn't plane you handle chop by just gutting through it. This isn't as bad as it sounds because a displacement hull is designed for stability.

If the chop turns to heavy waves, slow down. You can't plane along the surface of eight foot waves at 20 foot intervals. You can kill yourself.

Boating through chop, like most things in boating, requires a strong dose of common sense.