Lessons Learned - October 2019

Is It Right Or Is It Wrong 10?

It is time again for my latest installment of “Is it right or is it wrong.” For the past nine months, I have been collecting photos and saving contributions from readers of things that we know are just not right, some things we know are right and sometimes we see things of which we are not sure. I thought that I would share a few of my latest observations in installment ten. I do appreciate reader submissions, as I may not see all that is right (or wrong) as I boat around the bay and the delta.

Oops, I Did Not Mean For That To Happen

We all do things that our first thought is oops, I did not mean for that to happen. Sometimes the results are costly and sometimes the results are just a lesson of what not to do. Hopefully we can learn from someone else’s costly lesson.

A client called on Monday morning and said that he had inadvertently made contact with a fixed object and did a little damage to the front of his boat. Yes it was a dark moonless night and his RADAR had decided to quit working on their voyage back to the marina. For some reason the skipper lost his situational awareness and managed to allide with a red flashing aid to navigation. A big oops and the damage to his boat was pretty substantial even at his reported slow five knot speed. Fortunately no injuries onboard and just a little fiberglass damage that needed to be repaired. Definitely wrong.

This one I spotted at a local marina and have no information on what actually occurred, however, it appears as though the port quarter came into contact with an object and resulted in fiberglass damage.

I had to include this photo as the temporary, I hope, repair with a sheet of aluminum looks very professional. The use of black electrical tape to hold it in place is not so professional. I call this one both right and wrong.

Aids to Navigation are generally well marked, usually lighted, and have RADAR reflectors on them so that just about any operational RADAR set on board your boat will see it.

This green AToN looks must have been hit pretty hard to fold over 45-degrees. To my knowledge neither of the previously mentioned skippers were involved with the realignment of Redwood Creek Green 9. Definitely wrong.

I think that just about every owner whose boat is equipped with a modern VacuFlush or Raritan head knows that you should not put anything in it unless you have eaten if first.

Flushing nylons or any other object can result in a plugged sanitation system that someone is going to have to unplug and they are not as simple as getting out the plunger. This is definitely wrong especially if I am the person responsible for maintaining a functional head.

A reader sent these photos of a nice looking older woody hauled and set for inspection and repair. Like most things there are purpose designed tools for most marine applications and jack stands that can properly support a boat while it is on the hard is among them.

I am pretty certain the result here was unintended and many of us would not have expected this result. A big oops and definitely wrong.

And while we are considering the proper method of setting a boat I received this photo from a reader pointing out all things that have been done incorrectly.

Setting jack stands at the stern of the boat on soft ground without some sort of load distribution device is a bad idea. Those 4x4 posts being used as supports amidships will sink into the ground and the boat will become unstable, perhaps rolling onto her side. This boat should also have a few stands forward to make it more stable. Additionally all of the jack stands should be tied together with chains to prevent them from slipping out from under the vessel. Definitely wrong and in so many ways.


No installment of is it right or is it wrong would be complete without a few electrical mistakes. It seems that not a month goes by that I do not get a call about a shore power problem or find one when I disconnect the ships shore power.

This connector is on the boat end and it is obvious that the owner has not been deactivating shore power prior to unplugging from the boat. It is always best to turn off the shoreside circuit breaker first and then proceed to remove the connectors from either the boat or from the shore power pedestal. Leaving the power cord energized while unplugging will create high current arc at the connection and over time it will look like this and become a fire hazard. When I cut off the connector to replace it with a new one the overheated wires went back nearly a foot into the cable. Definitely wrong and a potential shock and fire hazard.

Want to make your unused shore power cables waterproof, this is probably not the best way.

There are purpose designed devices that will keep the plug watertight and safe. Well ok, it is a heavy duty plastic bag. Wrong!

Miscellaneous And In No Particular Order

Have you ever wondered how many coasties it takes to change a light bulb?

I have and now I know the answer. While motoring up the Stockton Deep Water Channel just south of Mandeville, I saw a USCG small boat with his blue light activated. As I slowed to minimum wake speed it took a while to figure out what they were doing. Apparently it takes five; one to screw in the bulb and four to operate the boat. Definitely right, please keep those AtoN’s lighted for all of our safety.

When preparing to move a vessel from one location to another among the many pieces of equipment we check is the ships VHF radio. A quick and easy check for reception is to tune to one of the nine weather channels and listen to the quality of the reception. Generally we expect to hear three and sometimes four of the Wx transmitters. Although not perfect, if we have good reception on the Wx channels it is likely the other channels are working correctly as well. Testing the transmitter is another story however. You can key the microphone on Channel 09 (never Ch. 16 for radio checks) and ask for a radio check. I have heard this many times and the answer is almost always “I hear you fine.” The problem is how far away was that reporting station. He could be in the same marina as you and probably would have heard you just as well without any antenna. A better way to check if you are outside of Northern California is to use the automated VHF marine radio check on VHF Ch. 27 in southern California and VHF Ch. 28 for all of Puget Sound, WA.

How do I know this? We call it experience. While preparing for a delivery with a boat in Seattle we checked the VHF radio. Wx channels worked but I could only hear two and the reception was a little noisy. A local mariner on Ch. 09 sounded good, but using the automated check on Ch. 28 yielded no results. A quick check of the system and we found a poor repair of a damaged coax cable. This had to be repaired properly before leaving for a coastal voyage south. Even though we always have at least two handheld VHF radios for backups they do not have nearly the range that a properly operating fixed VHF radio should have.

Are you concerned that your ships RADAR may not be working properly? The only returns this yachtsman would ever see are power cables and airplanes.

It might be time to check the alignment of the scanner if nothing shows up on the display. The scanner needs to be aligned within a few degrees of horizontal in order to pick up returns from something on the water. Wrong, the only objects this RADAR set is going to see is airplanes.

There is no perfect way to know for sure when it is time for a haul out to check anodes and the condition of the bottom paint. In San Francisco Bay we usually have a diver check the sacrificial anodes and condition of the bottom paint three or times per year. If we find a boat going thru anodes quickly we may decrease the time between diver checks or extend the interval if the anodes are lasting longer. In the fresh water of the delta underwater checks are less frequent, usually once per year is often enough.

When you have waited too long for underwater checks and the sacrificial anodes are completely wasted the results can be catastrophic. In the case of a sailboat we rely on having a clean bottom for maximum, speed. Just a little bit of marine growth on the bottom surfaces can have a huge impact on our ability to make a reasonable speed thru the water. On a power boat our performance is impacted by not only a clean bottom but propellers that are properly tuned and balanced. In both of these examples the skippers had to know that the boat just did not have the performance she used to and probably would have better off spending a few dollars having a diver take a look at the bottom before it got this bad.

Have you been boating in the Stockton Deep Water Channel and have seen the ships heading in and out of Port of Stockton and wondered what the cargo is? You can find out if you look on the Port of Stockton web page but one thing you can be sure of is that if the ship has a USCG escort then it is hazardous cargo of some sort.

I just happened to be at Riverpoint Landing and Marina when the ship LUIGI LAGRANGE was making her way down river and had a USCG 29-foot fast response boat in the lead and the 87 -foot cutter HAWKSBILL taking up the rear. LUIGI LAGRANGE is a 600 foot long Genova, Italy flagged Liquefied Petroleum Gas, commonly referred to as Propane, Tanker. What does this mean for other marine traffic? According to 33CFR subchapter P, Port and Waterway Safety, there is a 500-yard safety zone ahead, astern, and along the sides of all Cruise Ships, Tankers, and High Value Assets operating in San Francisco Bay and the Delta. Mariners requesting permission to transit through the security zone may request authorization to do so from the Patrol Commander (PATCOM). PATCOM may be contacted on VHF-FM Channel 16 or 13 and all persons and vessels shall comply with the instructions of the Captain of the Port or the designated representative. I am pretty sure that you cannot pass this tanker and keep 1,500 feet away. The safest action is to call PATCOM and request instructions for a safe transit.

Spotted at a large Southern California marina and I just had to take a photo.

Only you can decide if this is right or if this is wrong but I can say that this was not the only boat proudly flying the Trump 2020 flag. I could see dozens of them around the marina on vessels of all different sizes and ages. Come to think about it, I did not see any on sailboats, just power boats. Hmm.

That is all for this installment. Now I can sit back and enjoy that fine cigar and glass of port as I consider “Is it right or is it wrong 11.” We are right in the middle of the summer boating season and some of the best bay and delta boating is this time of year. Be safe around our fellow yachtsmen and yachtswomen and if you do see something that you are not quite sure if it is right or is it wrong, take photos and email them to me at patcarson@yachtsmanmagazine.com. I may include them in the next edition of “Is It Right Or Is It Wrong” so that we can all learn from other’s experiences.

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