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Written by Carlos Alvarez   
Monday, 31 May 2010 00:00

My goal with this quick list is to cover a wide variety of topics very quickly.  There are so many things you learn over the years of being on a cruiser, and many don't need a long article.  If you have more to add here, send them to me.

1.  A boat's job is to keep water out.  If you find water in your bilge on regular basis, find out why.  Small amounts are normal on an inboard, but IO (sterndrive) boats should never have water in the bilge.  V-drives may or may not drip water, depending on the design.

2.  Everyone, yes, everyone, has some challenges when docking.  Stand by to help those coming in, and graciously accept those offering to help.  Even if you don't need it.  One day you will.

3.  Simple Green and Castrol Superclean make great bilge cleaners.  They smell great,  cost 1/3 the price of the products labeled "bilge cleaner," and work better.

4.  Heavy deodorant chemicals will make your head smell worse in the long run.  What you want is an enzyme/bacteria-based additive such as KO, the chemical-free version of Campa-Chem, and various others.

5.  Poop stinks.  Some amount of odor will always leave the tank when you flush.  Get over it.  You're never going to make it all go away.

6.  Keep spare screws and nuts on board.  Buy a multi-pack of stainless hardware so you have a variety.

7.  Everything on a boat is in a state of "not yet" broken.  Carry spares for critical systems.  The head is a "critical system" if you're on a week-long bluewater cruise.

8.  Most insurance limits how far you can go offshore.  Some are as low as 10 miles.  Check your destination against your policy, and increase it if needed.

9.  Follow the rule of thirds for fuel level.  One third to get there, one third to get back, and one third reserve for unforeseen circumstances such as bad weather.

10.  Frozen water jugs keep things cold much longer than ice cubes.  Use them for multi-day food storage when you can't buy ice daily.

11.  Your first aid kit needs to be stocked relative to your distance from help.  If you're two hours from land, you should be able to splint a broken limb, stop major arterial bleeding, and generally handle any life-threatening emergency.

12.  The first aid kit should include basics like aspirin and ibuprofen, cold/allergy medicine, and anti-seasickness medication.  Even a basic problem can cut a trip short or make it miserable.

13.  YOU are the captain and YOU are responsible for everyone you bring aboard.  Don't be embarrassed to ask frank questions about peoples' medical conditions and needs while they will be on board.  Ask in advance of the travel date.

14.  Since you are the captain, you should give everyone an intro to the basic boat systems and tell them what they should expect.  Don't assume people will know or figure it out.  Point out lifejackets, how to use the marine head, where emergency supplies are (first aid kit, flare gun, radios).  Remind them to ask if they have any questions about anything, and to keep hands in the boat and stay seated until told otherwise.  Tell them you'll ask if you need help docking, but they shouldn't do anything on their own.

15.  NEVER EVER put anything in the marine head that didn't go through a human first other than dedicated marine/RV toilet paper.  This means no female sanitary products.  Tell every woman who comes aboard.

16.  Dock lines wear out and even break unpredictably.  Always moor your boat with a thought towards what would happen if there was a storm AND you lost a line or two.

17.  Every marine part is rated for the size of boat it can probably serve.  The rating is always optimistic.  Buy a size or two bigger.  Nobody ever wished their fenders weren't so protective or their dock lines less secure.

18.  If it's electrical or fuel related and goes in the engine room on a gas-powered boat, it must be marine rated (ignition protected and/or fire rated).  People ignore this all the time, and boats blow up all the time.  Coincidence?

19.  Fueling is the time when most boat explosions happen.  Get everyone off the boat.  Send them to the store or for ice, or whatever, just take everyone off the boat until you're properly fueled, vented, and restarted.

20.  Bilge blowers.  Run them.  Period.  Every boat explosion seems to go along with failure to use the blower.  Coincidence?

21.  Practice good situational awareness.  Don't focus on your guests, your own boat, or that pretty horizon.  Look around and think about the other boats around you, the waves/wind, and everything that affects your safety and comfort.  Just as importantly, how your actions affect other boaters.

22.  The fuel dock is for fueling, and the pump-out dock is for pumping out.  Nearly all marinas have separate courtesy docks.  Don't leave your boat at a busy fuel or pump-out dock while you go buy supplies or hang around.  Move it then do your other business.


Last Updated on Friday, 04 June 2010 13:43
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