Marina Etiquette Basics: Top Five Rules for a Neighborly Boating Community

Marina Etiquette and safety

Ideally, marinas are a boater’s utopia—a place to relax, unwind and enjoy the company of fellow enthusiasts after a long day spent on the water. If you’re new to the marina environment, it’s important to first get acquainted with what’s expected from its members. The majority of marinas have set standing policies to ensure a peaceful, safe community. Although there are several rules common to generally all marinas such as keeping dogs on leashes, not swimming in the marina waters and not riding bikes on docks; some venues might have “house rules” to manage potential complications that have come up in the past at that specific location. It’s always a good idea to first get “the lay of the land” by getting in touch with the marina manager or dock master to learn about parking passes, regular pavilion events and other regulations you should be aware of to keep the marina running smoothly. Here are a few basic hard-and-fast rules to keep in mind when adjusting to the marina life:

1. Slow and Steady

You might be in a rush to make those dinner reservations after a long day on the water, but when you’re pulling into a marina be sure to slow down to 6 knots or less. Maintaining a safe speed will give you more time to react to fellow boaters maneuvering around you, prevent disturbing others with your wake, and keep noise levels down.

2. Dock Properly

It might take a little extra time, but make it a habit to always dock stern-in. It’ll be worth the effort, not only does it make it considerably easier to get on and off your boat aft, it also provides a clearer walking path along the docks for fellow patrons. Never let your bow extend out over the dock. It is a safety hazard, especially if the anchor is protruding near the walkway. Marinas are busy places, and as long everyone takes the time to dock in an organized fashion, things will flow along more efficiently, safely and with less hassle.

3. Ditch the Clutter

Nothing irks boaters more than a sloppy tenant. Always neatly coil your dock lines; organize any tangled shore utility electrical cables; stow watersports gear, uneaten food, life jackets and cleaning supplies. When the sun starts to set, it’s difficult for those walking along the dock to spot those hazards.

4. Keep it Down

Be considerate and use some common sense when it comes to noise levels—some marinas have a more active nightlife than others. Don’t get too rowdy if you see the majority of other boaters turning in early. Hitting up the marina restaurant or café for dinner? Be sure to shut down all of your gear first. Turn off all your lights, your marine radio equipment, CD players, televisions and anything else that might be a distraction to your dock neighbors while you’re away from the boat. Additionally, while marinas are a great family environment, be sure to keep an eye on your kids.

5. Don’t Drag

Need gas? Fill up and get a move on! Need to stock up on supplies or unload? Do so only in the designated areas and don’t lag around the launch ramps. Although most boaters are generally patient, friendly individuals, constantly holding up traffic at these busy communes can be a common and easily-avoidable source of friction. When taking on fuel or loading gear, move your vessel from the fuel dock or loading float as soon as you have completed the task. Do not exceed the posted time limits without the dock master’s consent. If necessary, plan in advance and develop a go-to strategy for fueling, loading/unloading and launching to minimize any extended delays.

3 Boating-Safety Steps When Celebrating the Red, White & Blue

3563866 - u.s. flag at back of boat

A nautical safety primer for Annapolis 4th of July celebrations

July 4th is right around the corner, and for many boaters this means watching fireworks, family get-togethers, barbecues . . . and a trip to the emergency room? Unfortunately, that’s the stark reality for many patriotic seafarers.

Research conducted by the Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) indicates more than half of Maryland’s annual total of boating accidents occurs between July and August. Last year, Maryland recorded 130 boating accidents that resulted in 12 fatalities and 96 injuries. These daunting statistics prompted the NRP to focus on a simple, yet obviously essential goal for this July 4th holiday: fewer boating accidents. Their game plan is straightforward, with officers deploying in full force to all state waterways from the Atlantic Ocean to Deep Creek Lake.

“Maryland has seen eight boating fatalities so far this season and that’s eight too many,” said Col. George F. Johnson IV, NRP superintendent. “Our officers will be aggressively targeting reckless and negligent boaters, and those whose judgment is impaired by alcohol or drugs.”

In 2015, the NRP conducted Operation Dry Water, a nationwide campaign to curb alcohol- and drug-impaired boating in the weeks leading up to and including July 4th. Officers arrested six people for operating under the influence of alcohol and three for drug-impaired boating while issuing 87 tickets for other violations and conducting 727 vessel safety checks. Despite these efforts, Maryland recorded four boating accidents, three of them fatal, but the NRP aren’t giving up—and they’re turning to YOU to reign in these less-than-stellar statistics.

This year, the NRP is urging Maryland boaters to take precautions to ensure the safety of passengers and those in other vessels during their 4th of July celebrations—as Johnson puts it: “When it comes to safety, you are the first line of defense, by using common sense and following simple safe boating rules you can help NRP make this a safe and happy holiday.” So avoid a citation, and more importantly, the risk of serious injury or death, by following these safety measures this holiday weekend!

1. KEEP CALM AND FLOAT ON

Before heading out, ensure your lights are in working order. Even if they worked the night before, double and triple check. With the heavy boat traffic, don’t risk your safety! Will you have enough lines and fenders for the day? Bring some extras as backup; chances are good you or a fellow boater will end up needing them!

Make sure there are enough life jackets for ALL passengers on board and that they fit well. While it may be warm and unfashionable, don’t be tempted to forgo wearing a life jacket. Remember, children ages 12 and under are required by law to wear a life jacket at all times while the boat is underway. Accidents happen quickly, and often there isn’t time to put on a life jacket once an accident has happened. Statistics consistently show that 80% of all boating fatality victims were not wearing a life jacket.

Don’t overcrowd the boat. Heed the boat’s capacity plate on the transom or by the helm, or look up the passenger capacity in the boat’s manual.

Don’t rush to get home after the fireworks display. Allow some of the boat traffic to dissipate before raising anchor.

Take the time to thoroughly brief your crew with basic emergency procedures, and show them how to contact authorities for help via marine radio or cell phone.

Ensure that you have flares and that they are up to date, but never use flares as a form of fireworks. Doing so constitutes a false distress call, which is a Class D felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines, plus the costs associated with the false rescue response!

2. IF YOU’RE A SKIPPER, YOU’RE NOT A SIPPER

Appoint a sober skipper to remain at the helm all evening and be responsible for returning the boat and its passengers safely to shore after the conclusion of the fireworks display. Simply put, boating and alcohol do not mix—in addition to impairing the operator’s ability to make sound judgments, intoxication also negatively affects the ability of passengers to respond in the case of an emergency on the water. The combined effects of the sun, wind, waves and a boat’s motion in the water can add to an operator’s impairment. Intoxicated boaters can face both federal and state charges with penalties of up to one year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.

3. BE THE MAN (or woman!) WITH A PLAN

Follow the directions issued by NRP, the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary and local police as to where you may safely anchor to view the fireworks away from sparks and ash. For Annapolis-area boaters, keep in mind that the drawspan of the Eastport Bridge will be closed to boat traffic from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Boaters must avoid the 1,000-foot SAFETY ZONE around the fireworks firing area which will be established and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. At approximately 9:15 p.m., the fireworks will be launched from a barge in Annapolis Harbor.

Also be sure to file a float plan with a shore-bound friend that lists all passengers aboard, your intended destination, what the boat looks like, and when you expect to return. Instruct them what steps to take in the event that they don’t receive notification from you within a reasonable time of when you expect to reach shore at then end of the evening. Visit http://floatplancentral.org/ for a complete plan along with instructions. Select in advance the route to your fireworks-viewing destination and use a GPS to help keep you on course. While on the water, be on the lookout for other boats in the vicinity, stormy weather, or anything that appears unusual. The Coast Guard advises the public to stay aware of their surroundings, including monitoring watching water conditions, celebrating responsibly and not misusing emergency flares as fireworks. Report any emergencies to local authorities by calling 911 or VHF Channel 16.

Sail Into Spring

2016-03-20 Spring Pic

Last month you cleaned things up and now that spring has sprung, you’re ready to set sail! Before leaving port, don’t let an ill-prepped vessel put a chill on your warm-weather plans! We know you’ve been itching to get back on the water all winter long, but those long, dreary months spent ashore can take a toll on your boat’s sea-worthiness. Follow the checklist below to avoid “springing” a leak and get your 2016 boating season off to a safe and enjoyable start.

FUEL SYSTEM:

  • Check for any obvious leaks or physical damage, paying specific attention to fuel hose connections and tank surfaces.
  • If fuel hoses appear soft, brittle, or have visible cracks, replace the affected parts and make sure clamps are secured

BELTS, CABLES & HOSES:

  • These components have a tendency to decay during winter storage; make sure belts are tightly fitted around corresponding pulleys to prevent slippage
  • Check the outer jacket of the throttle; cracks or swells in this area may indicate internal corrosion of the shift and control cables

ELECTRIC SYSTEM:

  • Make sure all electrical connections are free of visible corrosion; remove any corroded terminals and clean them thoroughly with a wire brush before replacing
  • Charge and test your battery
  • Consider getting your electrical system inspected by a qualified technician

FLUID LEVELS:

  • Ensure that oil, power steering, trim reservoirs and engine coolant levels are topped off
  • Change the engine oil and filter along with the drive lubricants

PROPELLERS & HULLS:

  • Look over propellers to make sure they’re free of excessive dents, pitting, or cracks that could cause vibration and damage the drive chain
  • Check hull for blistering, splinters, holes and cracks and ensure the drain plug is secure prior to launch

SAFETY GEAR:

  • Ensure life jackets are not damaged or frayed and there are an adequate number of appropriate-sized vests for all passengers on board
  • Check onboard fire extinguishers
  • Verify all enclosed areas have operable carbon monoxide detectors; replace batteries in these devices if necessary

Boating Must-Haves

Boat Safety

Safety First! 

Whether you’re piloting a 60-foot high-end yacht on a multi-day voyage or paddling a canoe across the bay, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) requires that every boat—regardless of size or type—has essential safety equipment aboard. Luckily, these items aren’t overly expensive or hard to find and, more importantly, they could save your life in the event of an emergency. Check to make sure your vessel has all of these items, or you could be risking both stiff fines as well as your life.

  • Personal Flotation Devices: The USCG requires you provide a personal flotation device for every person aboard. Although federal law doesn’t require the device to be worn at all times the boat is underway, certain states regulate children below a certain age have to do so. Maryland law states that all children under the age of 13 must wear a USCG approved personal flotation device while underway on a recreational vessel under 21 feet in length on Maryland waters. The life jacket must be the proper size for the child and must be in good and serviceable condition. Additionally, in states where no children’s life jacket law is in place, a USCG interim rule requires children under 13 on moving boats to wear a USCG approved life jacket that fits. Furthermore, the USCG mandates that if your boat is over 16 feet in length, a throw-able personal flotation device (ex. a life ring) needs to be available at all times.
  • Whistle/Horn: The USCG also requires that every boat carries a noise-generating device to both warn other boats in the vicinity of your presence and to use as a distress signal in case of emergency. For vessels longer than 39.4 feet, there must be both a bell measuring at least 7.87 inches in diameter and a whistle that can be heard at a distance of ½ a nautical mile on-board.
  • Visual Distress Signals: If you plan on boating at night, you must carry visual distress signals that may include emergency flares, flags, flashlights, water dye markers and smoke signals depending on your vessel’s size and the area in which you are planning to set sail.
  • Fire Extinguisher: Motored boats 26 feet and over, or less than 26 feet if there are permanent fuel tanks installed, must carry a USCG-approved marine-type fire extinguisher—although it’s a good idea to have one where you can get to it quickly and easily regardless of how big your boat is.

In addition to the USCG-required items, it’s a good idea to consider the following list of recommended items to ensure your safety while enjoying the water:

  • Blanket/Dry Clothes: You don’t have to be in the water to be at risk of hypothermia—and being stuck in wet clothes or exposed to the elements will only expedite the loss of body heat. Always keep a change of clothes and blankets in waterproof containers.
  • Oars: In case you have engine problems, you should have a pair of oars in order to remain mobile.
  • First-Aid Kit: Injuries happen. Make sure you have an adequately stocked first-aid kit and know how to use all the items properly.
  • File Plans: Even if you’re just planning a short trip, it’s always a good idea to file your route plans with a trustworthy 3rd party in case you experience trouble so any potential rescue efforts will have a starting point to begin their search efforts.
  • Tool Kit: Make sure your on-board tool kit has everything you need for any repairs you may have to make.
  • Bilge Pump: In case you start taking on water, you’ll want a bilge pump to prevent accumulation until you can repair the source of the leak.
  • Non-Perishable Food: If an emergency situation turns your ‘short trip’ into an extended ordeal, make sure you have adequate food reserves to keep your energy up.
  • Chart & Compass: Electrical navigation systems inevitably fail—have these items aboard and know how to use them if you have to find your own way to shore.

For all your equipment needs, be sure to check out The Ship Store at Port Annapolis that combines a wide selection of boating essentials and provisions with a personable, experienced staff always at the ready to ensure you find exactly what you need. For personalized attention to your specific marine supply requirements, contact The Ship Store today at (410) 286-1215.

A Checklist to Spring Into Ship-Shape

Port Annapolis Marina, Annapolis MD“The sea finds out everything you did wrong.” This invaluable truism comes from Francis Stokes, a guy who knew a thing or two about boats—he completed six solo trans-Atlantic in the early 1970’s before the advent of many technological advances sailors today take for granted. So what’s the takeaway from Francis’s advice? The open water is an unforgiving place—meaning an ounce of preparation is worth its weight in gold.

Sure, the weather’s warming up—but you’d rather not take an unanticipated dip in those all-too recently thawed waters thanks to a neglected maintenance routine to get both you and your boat up to speed for the new sailing season. To make sure you’ll be trimming the sails instead of treading water this spring, here’s a checklist to help you prep your vessel after a long winter.

Keep in mind; the advice below assumes you have previous boating experience. If you’re new to boating, or simply not technically inclined, consider hiring an American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC)-certified technician or mechanic to regularly perform maintenance inspections.

“Spring-Cleaning” Checklist

  • Reinstall and recharge all batteries and fill lead acid batteries with distilled water. Make sure all electrical connections, including battery terminals, are free of debris and secure and insulate with protective spray/grease.
  • Reopen seacocks and make sure handles move freely. All hoses should be double-clamped with stainless-steel fasteners. Replace any that look rusted.
  • Check the raw-water intake strainer is tight and free of any irregularities.
  • Ensure running lights are operational and replace bulbs if necessary.
  • Check VHF and GPS antenna connections.
  • Look for signs of leaking at trim cylinders and hoses as well as at hydraulic steering pumps and rams. Replace the O-ring or gasket if necessary.
  • Inspect port lights, hatches, and deck fittings for dirty or displaced caulking, water trails, dirt, and green corrosion, any of which signals a leak that needs to be re-caulked.
  • Check flares, fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide and fire alarms. Replace/recharge as necessary.
  • Make sure all fuel hoses are flexible, with no leaks, protrusions, or corrosions.
  • All engine hoses should fit snugly and be solidly secured in place. Replace any clamps that show signs of corrosion.
  • Replace fuel filters and clean or replace air filter.
  • Make sure your oil change is up-to-date. Check fluid levels in the transmission, hydraulic steering fluid, and coolant devices.
  • Check engine belts for signs of stress and wearing.
  • Examine exhaust manifolds for signs of corrosion and water seepage that indicate blockage. If you suspect a problem, remove the manifold and inspect thoroughly.

Remember: This list is by no means exhaustive. Every boat is unique and the work required to ensure it’s seaworthy will depend on whether it’s used in fresh or salt water, its size, manufacturer, model and the state in which it’s registered. Be sure to get the specific precautionary information you need for your vessel to ensure you prepare adequately and your boating season is safe and enjoyable.

It’s Good to be Green

Port Annapolis Marina, Annapolis MD

Port Annapolis Marina is one of the northeastern United States’ premier sailing attractions, offering quick and convenient access to the Chesapeake Bay and its many adjoining historic properties. The marina’s friendly accommodations in this regard are only enhanced further by the many amenities available on site. These include a large swimming pool, as well as the Overlook Pavilion, which is suitable for a wide range of events (including weddings, reunions, and corporate meetings). Port Annapolis also offers putt-putt golf, and features the on-site Cafe Windward and Ships Store. Port Annapolis Marina is thick with local color, but it looks positively stunning in green. It is one of the most environmentally friendly marinas in the eastern United States, a fact that continues to draw new tenants and pool members to its pristine and lovely environment each year.

How Port Annapolis Marina is Environmentally Friendly

Some of the marina’s environmentally friendly aspects will seem obvious, though no less profound, upon reflection. Others might catch you a little bit by surprise. The marina is proud of the innovative way in which it is acting, in partnership with other organizations and the community at large, to preserve the overall health and quality of the environment that is so deeply cherished by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

  • Wind, Surf, and Sail: Port Annapolis Marina offers a safe harbor for sailboats of every kind. A boat ride powered by a steady wind – with the occasional support of some manual labor – can take you from one end of the Chesapeake to the other. Or, you can spend a leisurely afternoon cruising, with no particular rush to reach your destination. You’re avoiding the use of fossil fuels, and enjoying the quiet tranquility of the open water – without the use of a noisy motor.
  • Oyster Restoration: The marina has partnered with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Oyster Restoration Project. A keystone species within the bay, oysters are a critical part of the food chain and a major contributor to the bay’s overall purity and economic viability. Their reefs offer many other species of marine life a home, and the oysters themselves help to filter sand and sediment from the water – improving its cleanliness and clarity. Port Annapolis Marina has partnered with the CBF in boosting public awareness of its multiple programs, such as the Oyster Gardening Program, which are designed to boost community awareness as to the importance of oyster conservation.
  • Vegetated Buffer Zones: In many marinas across the developed world, storm-related runoff is a major source of pollution for the water. Port Annapolis Marina has helped to reduce this problem through the planting of strategically located vegetated buffer zones. These zones are maintained with permanent, year-round vegetation. They help to trap runoff from storms and unexpectedly high precipitation. This keeps sediment, pesticides, and nutrients that are beneficial to ground-dwelling fauna (but not so much to aquatic species) from entering the water.
  • Product-Related Concerns: Port Annapolis Marina works tirelessly to educate its employees in the promotion of environmentally Shrink Wrap Recyclefriendly products. Signage and documentation available at the marina offer suggestions and advice on environmentally friendly products to use during your visit. Receptacles for trash and recyclables are widely available, and are fastidiously maintained. Only dust-free sanders are allowed for work on boats, and substances such as motor oil, antifreeze, shrink wraps, and heavy metals are recycled religiously. During the wintertime, they actually heat the service shop using 100% recycled oil. In fact, some of Port Annapolis’ still-innovative recycling programs are more than fifteen years old!
  • Community Awareness: More recently, the marina has partnered with Annapolis Green to further educate the public about how to enjoy their facilities in a more environmentally friendly way. This kind of partnership has led to events such as “Do Good Have Fun,” which took place in July of 2014. Port Annapolis Marina partnered with Bud Light, Keep America Beautiful, and Annapolis Green for the event, which involved the cleanup of the Ellen O. Moyer Back Creek Nature Park next door to Port Annapolis, and a free lunch, courtesy of The Main Ingredient! The cleanup went well, and more community events are in the works for the future.
  • Dual Pump Out Carts: Nobody wants to think about this, but here’s the deal: if you own a boat with a holding tank, at some point you’re Pump Out Cartgoing to have to empty it out. Port Annapolis Marina maintains two pump out carts for maximum efficiency, as well as offering instructions and training in how to use them properly – so as to minimize your chances of creating a very unpleasant mess. Pump out carts are an environmentally friendly solution to the handling of human waste in an aquatic environment; they convey it safely and securely to the land-based sewage treatment system. The carts are free to use, for tenant convenience.

Port Annapolis has been recognized by the Department of Natural Resources as a Certified Clean Marina. For more information about Port Annapolis Marina, including its many environmentally friendly initiatives and community partnerships, call (410) 269-1990 today. Or, fill out the convenient contact form on the website, and someone will get back to you as soon as possible. Should you feel like dropping by, directions are available through the website as well.

Boating’s ‘Great Divide’: Sailors vs. Powerboaters

Which Side Are You On? 

Ever since the advent of the outboard engine, powerboaters and sailors have largely regarded each other with disdain. Virtually every member of the boating community falls firmly onto one side or the other—with the rare exception of those who good-naturedly refer to themselves as “bi-boaters” or “transvesselites” that have the financial means and open-mindedness to straddle the party lines and practice both forms of aquatic exploration. Powerboaters equate sailors with the stuck-up bourgeois, while sailors feel powerboaters are classless adrenaline junkies. While these generalizations are perhaps a bit exaggerated, you get the idea: there’s undoubtedly some tension between the two groups. In reality, there’s nothing wrong with either form, it’s just a matter of personal preference based on what your preference is while out on the water. If you’re new to the boating scene and have yet to pick a side, here are some pros and cons of each type of boating experience to help you make up your mind.

POWERBOATS

PROS:

  • Powerboats are generally bigger across the board, and thus more suited for entertainment and extended trips. That’s because more of the boat is above the water line, allowing for multiple levels, stand-up galleys and roomy heads.
  • Powerboats have a high cruising speed allowing you to make significant headway even in less-than-desirable weather conditions and complete long trips in a shorter amount of time.
  • Since you’re not dependent on the wind, a powerboat allows you to sail any time, in any direction and be able to predict your time of arrival with considerable accuracy.
  • Powerboats feature shallower drafts, which means you’re less at risk of running aground—giving you increased access to shallow water areas and allowing you to get closer to the beach.
  • If you plan on fishing, powerboats allow you to trawl—a big drawing factor for anglers.
  • Powerboating is less physically demanding, no cranking winches or hauling sails. This more hands-off approach allows you to sit back and enjoy the company of your friends and the pleasure of being out on the water.

CONS:

  • The obvious trade-off for all that power and autonomy you get with an engine is the noise—which can get pretty intense depending on the size of your motor.
  • The engines are also highly technical, making maintenance and operation somewhat complicated if you don’t have the requisite experience.
  • Fuel—it’s EXPENSIVE!
  • Powerboats can be a bit trickier than sailboats in windy conditions because of their higher center of gravity.

SAILBOATS

PROS:

  • For those environmentally conscious individuals: sailboats are eco-friendly as they obviously don’t rely on fossil fuels like power boats do.
  • Sailboats operate on a combination of manual labor and wind: both are FREE!
  • Sailboats are quiet, allowing you to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the open water.
  • Teamwork: operating a sailboat is a highly interactive activity that requires everyone to work in unison. Sailors like to think of it as an art form and gain a sense of satisfaction from working with the elements instead of against them.

CONS:

  • If you compare a sailboat and power boat that are equal in length, the sailboat offers considerably less inside space because its lower center of gravity and design structure.
  • Winds can be unpredictable, meaning you could be stranded if that once-healthy breeze shifts or dies out completely.
  • Sailing is physically demanding and requires complete attention; this time consuming process means you have less time to socialize with your guests and relax.
  • Sails and rigging require constant maintenance and repair.
  • Sailboats have a deeper draft, meaning you have limited access to shallower waters and always be on the guard for running aground.

IN CLOSING…

It doesn’t matter which side you pick! Although there’s a healthy rivalry between the two groups, they’re united in their mutual love of the water—as Steve Tadd, director of the National Marine Manufacturers Association observes: “There’s a big difference in personalities, but it’s a friendly rivalry. I get kind of a kick out of it—like college football.” When all is said and done, sailors and powerboaters alike usually end up at the same place at the end of the day: the local marina! For a great place to rub shoulders with all types of seafarers, check out all the amenities the Port Annapolis Marina has to offer; including: family friendly pool and sun-deck, onsite restaurant, private shower facilities and much more!

Proactive Winter Boat Care—Worth Its Weight In Gold

Winter Boat Care

Many avid boaters equate off-season craft maintenance with everyday chores like doing laundry or taking out the trash—necessary, yet tediously mind-numbing tasks. While this mindset is perfectly understandable, think about it for a second: why put all that time and money into a boat just to neglect it for months? Winter weather can wreak major havoc on an improperly prepped boat, causing major headaches when prime boating season rolls around. Not only is taking a proactive boat maintenance approach during the cold months a perfect, ready-made excuse to escape the in-laws’ holiday visit for a bit (just kidding…maybe), it will also ensure you’re ready to enjoy the prime boating season. Here are a few tips on how to get started.

Apples ≠ Oranges…
It should come as no surprise the winterization process entails more than just dumping in some fuel stabilizer, draining the engine and adding antifreeze. Think of it as more of a methodical process that runs from bow to stern. Obviously, no two boats are the same, so start by checking the winterizing/storage sections of your owner’s manual—caring for a sailboat is entirely different from servicing a motorboat.

Keep Your Eyes on the Ball HULL…
Fiberglass is engineered to withstand the ravages of summer heat and corrosive salt water; so a little snow is not a problem—right? Not exactly. Ice build-up can split open hatches and window tracks, springing leaks. So outside storage demands the proper boat cover. However, before covering your prized possession, inspect the hull for stress cracks, which are especially common around the bow eye, and gel-coat blistering. Stress cracks can indicate underlying structural damage, and anything serious should be professionally evaluated. If you find blisters or punctures, drain, dry and patch them with an epoxy-based filler. For blisters in aluminum-based hulls, bang the drum slowly with a rubber mallet to knock out dents. Barnacles adhering to the bottom of your boat should have their free-ride privileges revoked by scraping and then sanding away any residue followed by a thorough pressure washing to remove dirt and sea scum. While you’re at it, go ahead and do yourself a favor: this step will be a lot easier in the future if you apply a coat of 3M’s Marine Ultra Performance Paste Wax or similar product that creates an acrylic shield over the hull to prevent dirt from penetrating into the wax—keeping the crud on the surface where it belongs and can be hosed off with minimal effort.

An Inside Job…
No we’re not talking about a heist—winter air can be either humid or dry; but both conditions can wreak havoc on vinyl interiors. Commercial gel or spray-on vinyl cleaners and protectants can prevent vinyl from drying out and cracking. More than one boat owner has eagerly unzipped his boat cover in the spring only to find the interior looking like a science project gone wrong with mold and mildew everywhere. To prevent this catastrophe, vent your boat cover for good airflow to minimize trapped moisture and take extra precaution by using mildew sprays and chemical dehumidifiers that pull excess moisture out of the air. Moisture can also corrode on-board electronics and electrical system. Remove any electronics possible, store them in a dry, temperate environment, and spray all exposed electrical connections with a moisture-displacing lubricant. Now is also the time for a thorough cleaning: vacuum and wash all carpets and the deck. If your boat has a removable head, clean and dry it prior to storage. Built-in units, including sinks and showers, should be drained and pumped with antifreeze.

Cover-Up Right…
When choosing a boat cover, ensure it protects the waterline. Although poly-tarp covers are relatively inexpensive, they should be used with a frame to distribute the weight of snow and ice evenly and away from vulnerable areas of the boat’s exterior. You can make your own frame from 2 x 4s or 2 x 2s or PVC pipe or purchase kits featuring reusable aluminum frames using special clamps that attach the tubes at any angle. Poly-vinyl covers are often used for maximum water repellency and resistance to mildew and stains—just make sure the cover is firmly tied down so air won’t get underneath the cover, blowing in snow or shredding the cover itself.

Rev It Up!
Winter poses major danger to engines via freezing, corrosion and fuel degradation. Remove the engine cover and check for frayed wires, connections and clamps and all hoses and belts, replacing those that are mushy cracked and adjusting tension if any are loose. Touch up any paint nicks to prevent corrosion and run the engine up to temperature before changing the oil and filter and flushing the engine with fresh water. Idle the engine when flushing, making sure it doesn’t overheat, until the water flushes clean and then store the engine in a vertical position to make sure the water drains completely as even a small amount of water left in the engine can freeze and cause irreversible damage. Inboards and stern-drives should be filled with propylene glycol antifreeze to prevent ice accumulation. Gasoline degradation occurs in periods of extended non-use; the lighter factions evaporate and the heavier ones form a jet-clogging and injector-sticking varnish. This harmful degradation can begin in as little as two weeks, so add fuel stabilizer to the tank and idle the engine for ten to twenty minutes to distribute stabilizer throughout the system.

Get To It!
Take note, this is far from an exhaustive list—but it’s enough to get you started for properly taking care of your prized possession during the winter months. To make sure you have all your bases covered, consult your local marina or dealer for expert advice and you’ll be ready to hit the water in the spring!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…(For Buying a Boat!)

2015-12-20

Are you eagerly compiling your Christmas letter to get it to the North Pole in time for the elves to get cracking on making your wishes come true? If a new boat is at the top of your wish list, why not make it a bit easier on the little guys and buy it yourself?

A Buyer’s Market…
During the boating off-season, boat dealers, just like car dealers, are trying to clear out last year’s inventory to make room for the incoming new models—creating the perfect situation for you to score a great deal on a new vessel. Plus, while new boat sales have been steadily increasing over the past couple years since the recession (up almost 10% in 2012), they’re still considerably below what the industry would deem “strong”—meaning dealers have an extra incentive to give you a favorable deal. As the weather grows colder, survey your local dealers—keeping your eyes peeled for mark-downs and keeping in mind that they’re likely willing to negotiate soon-to-be outdated models.

Opportunities Abound…
Winter is jam-packed with boat shows and exhibitions, which are great opportunities to meet and talk with the manufacturers and industry experts. Decide what kind of boat type and features you’re looking for before you attend one of these events and then take advantage of these experts’ knowledge to find the perfect fit for you. Boat dealers attend these events for one reason: to meet customers in person to try and earn their business. Tell them what you’re in the market for and the chances are good you can get a great deal right on the spot if you play your cards right.

Save, But Don’t Compromise…
Many first-time boat-buyers make the regrettable error of buying a boat ill-suited for their specific needs—if you’re planning on spending 99% of your time on the water fishing, why would you buy a ski boat just because you found a great deal on one? Sure, saving money is a great feeling, but even better is being ultimately happy with your purchase. A boat is an investment for the future—it’s worth potentially spending a little more to make sure you’re getting a boat that will allow you to enjoy your individual aquatic activities for years to come.

Deck the HULLS

Dreaming of a white nautical Christmas? The Eastport Yacht Club Parade of Lights is the can’t-miss seasonal event for every boating enthusiast. Whether you’ve been naughty or nice this year, we’ve got an early Christmas present just for you: everything you need to know to kick off your holiday festivities the right way—on the water!

The display consists of over forty boats of all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common—they’re decked out from bow to stern with a dazzling array of lights! The twinkling procession circles the waterfront in two fleets: one circling in front of Eastport, the City Dock and the Naval Academy seawall, the other following the length of Spa Creek, going under the Eastport Bridge.

This year, the Lights Parade will be held on Saturday, December 12th from 6:00 to 8:00 PM.  The parade is a time-honored Annapolis tradition, now in its 33rd consecutive year, and regularly draws over 30,000 spectators to share in the holiday cheer. While the impressive attendance numbers are truly a testament to the event’s quality, that many people, no matter how jolly they may indeed be, naturally presents some logistical problems—particularly when it comes to parking, transportation and getting a great view.

Lucky for you, we’ve got the details so you can get to and from the Lights Parade and see the dazzling display clearer than Rudolph’s vibrant red nose. Although parking will be restricted in the immediate vicinity of the Annapolis Harbor, adequate space will be available at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium off Rowe Boulevard. A free shuttle will run between the Stadium and downtown between 3 and 10 PM. Once you’re downtown, make your merry way to one of our suggested viewing sites to take it all in at either the Eastport Bridge, Fawcett Boat Supplies Parking Lot located at 110 Compromise St., the Naval Academy Annapolis City Dock, or Ego Alley. After the Parade of Lights, the main loading area for the shuttle buses will be at Lawyer’s Mall on College Avenue in front of the State Capitol Building to take you back to your vehicle.

Can’t make it this year? No need to worry, cozy up next to the fireplace with some eggnog and watch the EYC Lights Parade on your iPad, iPhone, Android, PC or TV via the live internet stream on LiveStream.com.