Boating tips for the Fourth of July holiday, and beyond
The Fourth of July holiday is a hectic time on the water.
Although experienced Anna Maria Island boaters know that the Fourth, as with all summertime holidays, is a great time to make sure your boat is safely secured at your dock, on your lift or nestled on its trailer, there are still some people who venture out on the water.
It is, quite frankly, a zoo out there during the summer weekends, and the frenzy is only exacerbated on a holiday. It always adds up to too many people, not enough local knowledge of waters, too many folks with a bit too much beer, all running around in fast boats.
Stay off the water July 4.
But BoatU.S. offers some tips on what it calls the “busiest boating holiday” that hold true for the rest of the year. These are tips that everyone probably knows, but are worth reading and remembering yet again. Holiday or not.
- “It’s a long day. A full day in the sun will increase alcohol’s effects on the body, so it’s better to wait until you’re safely back at the dock or home before breaking out the libations. Also, bring lots of water, a VHF radio and check the weather reports to avoid storms.
- “It’s a long day for the boat, too: As the fireworks end, like clockwork vessel assist call center switchboards light up like a Christmas tree with hundreds of boaters needing jump starts. Running electronics all day, such as sound systems, fans or other appliances, and failing to monitor battery usage, could leave your boat dead in the water when it’s time to go home.
- “Raft-ups, or groups of boats tied together in a protected anchorage, is a great way to spend the holiday with fellow boating friends. But you should never run an engine with swimmers in the water or near exhaust ports. Even though the boat’s transmission may not be in gear, propellers can still rotate, and odorless, colorless carbon monoxide can quickly overcome swimmers.
- “Flat tires and burnt bearings are the two biggest causes for boat trailer breakdowns. What shape are yours in?
- “Don’t overload your boat. Capsizing and falls overboard account for more than half of all boating fatalities. Resist the urge to invite more friends or family to the fireworks show than your boat is designed to carry. Heavily loaded small boats are more susceptible to swamping from weather or wake action associated with heavy boating traffic.
- “Wear life jackets. About 70 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, 87 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Accidents can happen very quickly, sometimes leaving no time to don a life jacket.
- “Follow the rules of the road. If a boat is approaching your vessel from your starboard (right) side, do you know what to do? What happens when a light on another vessel ‘changes’ from red to green? Think it through before you go out on the water.
- “The lines at boat launch ramps - in the parking lot or the water - can resemble U.S. 41 at rush hour. Be patient, ready to go when it’s your turn, and follow good boating etiquette.
- “Take your time to get home. July Fourth is the one time a year many fair-weather boaters - who may rarely navigate in the dark - venture out after the sun goes down. The most reported type of boating accident is a collision with another vessel, so it’s a good idea to keep your speed down, post an extra lookout and ensure all your navigation lights work. A spotlight is a must, and ensure all safety gear is readily available. Be extra vigilant about not running over anchor lines in crowded fireworks viewing areas, and don’t take shortcuts in the dark.”
Good tips. Be safe.
More yachting thoughts
BoatU.S. also has some good thoughts about how to get a bit more mileage per gallon for your vessel.
Fuel prices are high right now, and filling up at a marina may cost more than at your favorite gas station. Again, from the organization, are these suggestions.
- “Leave the extra ‘junk’ home. Don’t load the boat up with weight you don’t need. Do a little spring cleaning - unused equipment that has been collecting mildew in the bottom of lockers for years should be tossed.
- “At 8.33 pounds per gallon, why keep the water in the tank topped off if you’re only going out for the afternoon?
- “An engine tuneup is an excellent investment and should easily pay for itself over the summer.
- “If your boat goes 30 mph with a like-new prop and only 27 mph with a prop that’s dinged and out of pitch, that’s a 10 percent loss in fuel economy, or, you’re wasting one out of every 10 gallons you put in your tank.
- “When boating in brackish waters, a fouled bottom is like a dull knife. It takes a lot more fuel to push your boat through the water.
- “Using trim tabs or distributing weight evenly will help move your boat through the water with less effort and less fuel.
- “Consult tide tables and try to travel with the tide whenever possible.
- “A fuel-flow meter is like a heart monitor; when consumption starts to rise, it’s an early warning that something is amiss. A fuel-flow meter also allows you to select a comfortable cruising speed that optimizes the amount of fuel being consumed. If you don’t want to spring for a meter (about $300), you can calculate your fuel mileage by dividing distance traveled by gallons at fillup. Using your logbook, you can then approximate fuel flow using average speeds and time under way.
- “While their engines are miserly, a sailboat with a fouled bottom, prop or poorly maintained engine can have marked effect on its fuel economy.”
Good ideas for trimming your summer boating season.
Inland rainfall predictions during storms improving
We’ve learned the problems of inland flooding during and after hurricanes. A favorite story is a Sarasota friend who buttoned up her bayfront home while Hurricane Charley loomed on the horizon and zipped off to “safe” Sebring to avoid the weather, only to have the roof of the hotel she stayed in ripped off as the storm barreled across the state.
The landfall issues, with those wacky guys and gals on the Weather Channel getting blown around on the coast, making the news is always interesting, but the actual number of deaths caused by storms is actually greatest away from the storm. Flooding catches creek and river residents by surprise more than coastal residents, it seems.
The University of Florida has come up with a study to deal with the problem of inland rainfall during and after storms.
A UF researcher, Corene Matyas, has written a paper that “outlines new tools to predict how the storm’s intensity, distance it has moved inland and landscape topography alters its ‘rain shields’ - the bands of heavy rain so visible in Doppler radar images,” according to the study.
“Among other things, her tools proved adept at modeling observations that when hurricanes or tropical storms encounter the Texas hill country or the Appalachian mountains, their rain shields tend to line up in the same direction and with the same orientation as the underlying topography.
“Historically, hurricanes have proven most fatal at landfall, with coastal residents overcome by storm surge and high winds,” the report continues. “But over the past four decades, forecasters have become more skilled at predicting hurricanes’ tracks over open water, enabling most coastal residents to flee or prepare for the storms well in advance.
“As a result, the highest proportion of hurricane and tropical fatalities has shifted inland,” the study added. There are some chilling statistics to bear up that statement: “59 percent of deaths from tropical storms or hurricanes between 1970 and 1999 occurred because of heavy rainfall rather than wind or storm surge. As storms track inland, they inevitably ensnare more cities and towns.”
The efforts are continuing to try to nail down exact rainfall amounts for each storm as it moves inland, but it’s a start in the right direction.
Now, if we could just nail down the exact direction of a hurricane ...
On the sturgeon front, from the Suwannee River comes another “hit,” this time a 6-year-old girl.
Her leg was broken, and her aunt was bruised and cut, when a 3-foot-long sturgeon leaped out of the water into their boat.
It’s the third accident this year on the river. In 2006, 10 people here hurt by the leapin’ sturgeon.
Sturgeon, a prehistoric fish that looks a lot like Capt. Nemo’s undersea vessel “Nautilus” of Jules Verne fame, spend summers in rivers and have a tendency to jump out of the water. They can reach lengths of 8 feet and weights of 200-plus pounds and, with their hard scales, can really damage the soft skin of humans. Obviously, as the young girl can attest.