Ethanol vs Butanol

August 31st, 2015

“ETHANOL COULD BE ON ITS WAY OUT THIS DECADE……” (Fortune Magazine 4/2013)

 

In a world that’s increasingly turning its attention toward sustainability; we are constantly looking for better ways to expand our energy supplies.

 

In recent years we have all become familiar with the term “gasohol”  We see stickers on the pumps of our local gas stations the advising of the possibility that the gasoline we are buying could contain up to 10% alcohol.  And some of the new cars have stickers indicating they will operate on E-85, which is a 15% alcohol blend.

 

What does it all mean to you and me???

 

The governments have gotten involved:

 

Back in 2005, here in the USA, Congress established the “Energy Policy Act” (RFS1).  This Act initially began by setting percentages of “renewable” fuels that must be used in the production of fuels, including fuels used by you and me to operate our cars.

 

The Energy Policy Act has been modified and refined since its introduction, with current goals extending out to the year 2022.  Impacts of the Act are intended to be:

 

  • Reduce consumption of petroleum based gas and diesel fuel
  • Reduction in imports of foreign oil
  • Lower the cost of gasoline and diesel at the pump
  • Reduce Green House Gas emissions (GHG)
  • Increase farm income
  • Decrease corn and soybean exports

 

So far, the most popular option alternative to accomplish these escalating goals has been to add ethanol alcohol to the fuels we use.  Ethanol is most commonly produced from cereal grains, corn, sugar beets, sugar cane, etc.  There are over 200 plants across the USA, currently producing ethanol.

 

What about all the bad stuff we’ve heard about gasoline with ethanol additives? 

While it’s true that the automotive industry has made good progress keeping up with the changing fuels we buy at the local pump, there are other products in our lives that are struggling, such as lawnmowers, small gasoline power tools, powerboats and more.  Ethanol can be destructive to some machinery, and can be detrimental to fuel tanks, fuel lines and injection systems as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Another type of alcohol, called “butanol” has been undergoing tests by several agencies, as a substitute for ethanol, as a fuel additive.  Butanol is known as a “4-carbon molecule” alcohol versus ethanol, as a “2-carbon molecule”.  In layman terms, this is explained as the number of atoms in the carbon molecule of the chain-structures that make up the final product of butanol or ethanol.

 

When blended with gasoline, butanol becomes “bio-butanol” and has some advantages over ethanol blends, when used as a transportation fuel.

 

ADVANTAGES OF BUTANOL INCLUDE:

  • 85% blends can be used in un-modified gasoline engines without modification.
  • Bio-butanol can be transported more easily than ethanol blends.
  • Bio-butanol doesn’t separate from gasoline, as does ethanol in extended storage.
  • Bio-butanol’s energy density is closer to that of gasoline; meaning better MPG
  • A 16% blend of bio-butanol yields the same fuel economy as ethanol (E 10), while providing 2X the energy from renewable resources, and 2X the green house benefits.*

 

A 16% blend of bio-butanol will displace usage of 16% of the hydrocarbon fuel we buy at the pump.  This calculates to approximately 17 million gallons per year; more than the current annual consumption of the entire state of California.*

 

*Per Butamax; a joint venture company owned by BP and Dupont, and producer of bio-butanol.

 

DISADVANTAGES OF BUTANOL:

  • Although the energy density is higher, the yield per bushel of corn is lower than when producing ethanol.
  • Currently there are very few plants, set up to produce butanol; converting an ethanol plant costs $15M

 

Most recently, a group of boating manufacturers formed teams to analyze the effects of bio-butanol on their respective products.  Testing was performed on outboards, inboard engines, etc.  The competing manufacturers shared information and results of their tests, finding bio-butanol to be a better alternative than ethanol in the marine industry.

 

It is no secret that ethanol has caused some heart-ache in the marine environment.  I have first-hand experience in damages caused from using ethanol in a boat.  An interesting note is it continues to show up in trailer-able boats.

 

While marinas have done a good job, keeping alcohol away from the gas docks, some smaller boat owners tow their boat to the corner gas station to purchase fuel as a lower price.  Although they save at the gas pump, the end result is they are putting ethanol in the marine fuel tanks.

 

The bio-butanol testing results have been positive thus far, and there remains hope for the future.  Butanol is still made from farm products (i.e. corn), so the farmer still wins.  The switch to butanol appears to be a possibility, and is worth watching.

Electric Shock Drowning

December 21st, 2014

Recently, I attended a presentation which was sponsored by ABYC (American Boat and Yacht Council), entitled ESD (Electric Shock Drowning). The seminar was presented by Kevin Ritz, a highly qualified expert in marine electrical systems.

I have put together some of my own thoughts along with Kevin’s to share with you, regarding this silent killer; Electric Shock Drowning (ESD).

ESD is a phenomenon which many times goes un-recognized in many accidents which occur around water, and marinas. So often an accident victim is pronounced “dead-by-drowning” when in reality, there was no drowning at all. ESD doesn’t always present itself as an electrocution on dry land, with burning of the flesh, due to the victim being in water. Many times there are no clues at all. The reality is it requires a very small amount of electrical current to induce muscle paralysis, which can stop the heart.

Boats, irrigation pumps, fountain pumps and other equipment which are connected to a source of land-based power, are potential threats to a swimmer. Technology is available to greatly reduce the threat. But, in the event of a breakdown in the system, an electrical current flow can begin passing through the water.

HOW DOES IT HAPPEN ?

Let’s use a boat in the marina as our example:

Aboard the boat, the basic 30 amp/120volt AC shore power receptacle is (or should be) wired with three wires; Black/Hot, White/Neutral, and Green/Ground. Many times a non-electrician will refer to the white wire as a “Ground”. But in reality, it should be referred to as a “Current-Carrying Neutral”. The Green wire is a “Safety-Ground”.

When working as designed, an appliance or piece of AC electrical equipment on the boat will work just fine, with only a Black/Hot and White/Neutral connection. The Green wire is often neglected by the amateur electrician, as a nuisance, and is not always installed properly. Electrical current enters the boat on the Black wire, passes through the appliance (load) such as a water heater, or battery charger, and then returns to the shore power supply; all is good. (always wants to return to the source.) The Green wire appears to have done nothing in this scenario, except take up space in the electrical panel.

The Green Wire (Safety Ground) is (or should be) connected to all cabinetry and frames of the on-board electrical equipment. is also supposed to be connected to the “Bonding” system if one is installed. A Bonding system ties all of the under water through hull equipment together electrically, to reduce corrosion; that’s another topic we can discuss later.

But, what if we have a failure in a piece of 120 volt AC equipment, or wiring, that provides an electrical path for current to bypass the normal White Wire return to the marina supply ? Imagine the failure of a 12 volt battery charger, which puts 120 volts AC, on the DC ground wire, which connects to the engine block, prop shaft etc. Or, what if the water heater fails, and puts AC voltage onto the metal cabinet frame, which is Green wire connected to all of the thru-hull fittings……… Etc…. Etc….. The “What-If’s” can go on and on. But wait. There is good news. We have a Green Wire Safety Ground. The Green Wire will join into the circuit, and low resistance path for the leakage current back to the shore power post. All is good.

But, what if there is a failure in the Green Wire Safety Ground. Or, what if the weekend do-it-yourselfer, didn’t install a Green Wire ? In this scenario, we have AC current, returning back to the marina’s supply, not only on the White wire, but now through the prop shaft, and thru hull fittings into the water and down to Mother Earth, or possibly to another neighboring boat with a Bonding System and a good Green Wire Ground.

THERE IS NOW ELECTRICITY IN THE WATER. And worse yet, everything might still be working on the boats, and nobody even suspects a problem. In a perfect world, we have some control over the environment. But, the fact remains: We don’t know what’s inside our neighbor’s boat.

Although this problem exists in ALL waters, this is more of a PROBLEM in FRESH WATER environments. Why is that ? We all know that salt water conducts electricity better than fresh water. We learned that in high school, and it’s true. But, what we are over-looking is the conductivity characteristics of the human body. We as humans, have the same conductivity as ocean salt water. (It varies from person-to-person.) But in almost all cases, we are better conductors of electricity, than is fresh water in the lakes and rivers.

Now, let’s go back to the boat. Let’s say we have a boat putting AC electricity into the harbor. If we probe the water with a volt meter, we will see the areas closest to the boat will read a higher voltage in relation to shore power ground, than areas further away. This can be drawn on a piece of paper, like the bull’s eye of an archery target, with the offending boat as the eye of the target. Each ring of the target will read less voltage than it’s neighboring ring which is closer to the eye. The diminishing values in adjacent rings of the “target” are called the “Voltage Gradient” or the voltage difference between one ring and it’s neighbor.

The US Coast Guard has done studies on this phenomenon and have determined that a “Voltage Gradient” of 2 volts AC, over 1 foot of distance (2v/ft) is enough to cause 12 milliamps of AC current to pass through the human body. That’s .012 amps.

Remember ? We humans conduct electricity better than the fresh water. A human body in the field of electrically charged fresh water becomes the path of least resistance for current to flow. We don’t even have to touch bottom…… or the dock ! (either of which could increase the problem for the swimmer) Suddenly the human body can become an easy conduit for current to flow.

 

12 milliamps (ma) of electrical current is enough to induce muscle paralysis – “can’t let go, or release your grip“. At 18 to 22 ma, the diaphragm contracts and you can’t breathe. At 50 to 65 ma we experience heart fibrillation, and at 100 ma (1/10th of an amp) death.

This is not an uncommon accident. In 2012 so far, there have been 7 fatalities which can be directly attributed to ESD. And, another 15 which are questionable, and most likely related to the same problem. As I said earlier: It’s often “mis-diagnosed”.

So, what should we do ? How can we check our boats ? What if we see a swimmer in the harbor having a problem ?

I’ll start off by simply saying: Don’t get in the water in a harbor….. Period.

A quick check of the boat can be accomplished with a “clamp-on” amp meter on the shore power cord. It should read zero (0). All current entering the boat, should leave the boat on the same cable; hopefully all on the White Wire. Current flow in cancels current flow out on the meter. It should read zero. If the meter reads something above zero (0), then some of the current is leaving the boat another way; probably through the water. This test should be taken with all of the appliances running; can be one appliance at a time, but test with each one operating. It’s no guarantee, but it’s a good place to start. Beyond this simple test, you should probably get a qualified marine electrician involved.

SIGNS OF TROUBLE:

Dead fish and birds in the water. Excessive corrosion and rapid loss of zincs on the boats. Boats operating with an extension cord, instead of a marine shore power cord, should be suspect.

Use marine grade battery chargers and appliances. National Electric Code (NEC) specifies that the White and Green wires are tied together within the fuse box at the main electrical panel, in dry land installations. This is NOT the case on mobile vehicles, such as RVs and boats. Never tie the White and Green together aboard the boat or RV. The Green Wire Safety Ground should go all the way back to the source (dock supply post), before connecting to the Neutral White. Many non-marine type small appliances, such as small refrigerators will have a jumper wire in the power supply which ties the White and Green together. These “jumpers” are supposed to be labeled so as to be removed if installed in a mobile vehicle.

If you see a swimmer in trouble: Our first instinct is to dive in and help. BEWARE ! He may be getting an electrical shock. If you dive in to help, you too will suffer the same fate. Get the power turned off ASAP on nearby boats and if possible to the entire harbor. Watch for tingling sensations in the water. If present, stay out ! Warn first responders. They may not be familiar with electricity over water environments.

There are devices on the market which can help. One such device is an isolation transformer. The transformer eliminates the physical connection of the boat, to the shore power post. With an isolation transformer, the boat becomes the original source of power. As I said earlier: the electric current will always try to return to the source. So, instead of radiating through the water, in an attempt to return to Earth ground, the fault will stay aboard the boat. There are still dangers aboard the boat, but the current will not try to flow through water in the harbor.

Ground Fault breakers and outlets will help. A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) will monitor the ebb and flow of current on the white and black wires, and “trip” if the two don’t match. The theory here is if it’s not all coming back where it’s supposed to, then it’s leaking somewhere else. In December of 2013, the boat manufacturers will be required to install an ELCI on all boats before they leave the factory. The ELCI will be installed in the main electrical panel of a boat, and monitor the IN/OUT flow of current, as described above in the GFCI. Meanwhile, we still have a whole bunch of boats out there, without protection.

NEVER NEVER NEVER SWIM IN A MARINA HARBOR.

 

Ron Smith

 

Accredited Marine Surveyor #459

SAMS (Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors)

The Trouble With Progress

November 14th, 2014

 

Maybe I’m just getting old.  I’m reminding myself of comments and conversations with my parents and grandparents, back in the ‘60s.  But, I see a growing phenomenon in our society that I would like to draw to your attention.  It’s called progress. And I must say that am proud to have contributed.  The technology around us is growing exponentially.  We are living in an age that’s changing so fast, that the average person cannot begin to imagine what tomorrow will bring.  An age that was only depicted in sci-fi comic books, as recently as twenty-five or thirty years ago is now upon us.  We now carry more power in our smart phones than was inside a main frame, state of the art computer that launched our space programs and put a man on the moon.  And what’s more…  These same phones are in the pockets of our young kids !   The kids take it for granted; it’s all they have ever known.

Look around the mall or any school yard.  The kids are walking around with ear buds connected to their smart phones, or similar device.  They’re face-timing and texting each other for simple entertainment today while many of us still remember listening to the “party-line” ring-pattern  to see if it was a  phone call intended for our house.  How many of us still have a phone book in the house?  Do you even know your friend’s number, or do you just select his/her name from  “Contacts”.

We have ALL become dependent on technology.  Think of how many ways you use a computer (or smart phone) in your day-to-day activities.  It has crept into our lives, and we enjoy it.  We use it to keep our appointment calendars, take family photos, it’s an encyclopedia and dictionary, and we even conduct banking, and navigate our travels.  We always have it with us, and we no longer have to wait for someone to return home to communicate with them.

I recently was driving my car on Interstate highways when I came upon a road blocked by the state police, for what I assumed was an accident ahead.  I was in unfamiliar territory and there were no detour signs posted; only a road block which took all traffic off the highway.

It quickly became clear to me that I didn’t know which way to go.  I (like many of us) no longer carry a paper road map in the car.  Why should I ?  My smart phone tells me how to go anywhere I desire, and how long it will take me to get there.  The problem is……    The smart phone program is stubborn, and it kept telling me to make a U-turn, and get back onto the highway I was just forced to leave !     I was a victim of technology.

My point here is our society is no longer honing skills which were once part of our everyday lives.

 

 

How about navigating the boat ?

Not only do we have GPS and RADAR systems on our personal recreational craft that would have amazed the ship captains of World War II; we now have helm stations available to drive the boat with a joy stick.  Joy stick operation is so simple, that even a child can make a 100’ yacht walk sideways to the dock.

I sincerely hope we are not losing the skills to navigate and operate our cars and boats due to our dependency on technology.  What if the computer breaks?  Imagine what a mess we would have if an enemy was to destroy the satellite systems over our heads?

As a marine surveyor, I frequently run across boats that are not outfitted with even the basic navigation equipment, such as a compass.  That’s a pretty basic tool !  I had a conversation recently with a friend who described getting caught in a heavy rain storm while fishing on a lake.  He said the rain was so heavy, the visibility was only 30 or 40 yards, and the sun was going down.  He became disoriented, and although not far from his home port; he was lost and called 911…..  A simple compass would have helped !

 My point here is: We should all make an effort to develop and maintain the skills required to operate our vehicles and lives without the high tech conveniences of which we have become accustomed.  Prepare for technical failure.  The “Baby Boomers” among us remember paper maps, dictionaries in hard-copy, putting film in a camera, and charting a course over land for the family vacation, or at sea on a paper chart.  But how about our younger generations?  Kids of today are becoming more and more dependent on technology, and many cannot survive without it;  a dangerous exposure, to say the least.

For the boaters seeking more knowledge and skills, there are numerous education opportunities available.  The US Coast Guard Auxiliary, and United States Power Squadron offer classes that range from simple “Safe Boating” to “Celestial Navigation.”  And, there are many, many other seamanship schools out there.  All of these classes advertise heavily.  A good place to find them is in the back of almost any boating magazine.  And, the good news is:  Many insurance companies will offer discounts for completion of these classes.

Captain Ron Smith

BOATING AND THE ECONOMY

October 10th, 2014

Boating and the Economy
I’ve noticed an upward trend in my business as a marine surveyor in the state of Florida over the past couple of years, and it sparked my curiosity as to the overall health of the boating industry. I’ve done a bit of research, and the thought occurred to me that it may be of interest to some of you as well.
Fifteen or twenty years ago, while living in Illinois I made an observation that younger folks in that area seemed to have interests other than boating. If they had any boating interest at all, it seemed to be in a jet ski (personal watercraft / PWC), or bass boats. The days of the younger generations buying ski boats and eventually moving into family cruisers seemed to be dwindling. This could be seen through simple observations of boater-age demographics. As owner of a propeller and canvas products business, at that time, this was a concern. The cost of new boats was soaring, and so was the cost of fuel to operate them. Then came the housing crunch and recession, which imposed even more woe onto the boating industry.
I wasn’t the only one watching the health of recreational boating however. NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association), USCG (United States Coast Guard, and a few private statistical companies all offer some insight into boat sales, trends, number of registered boats, and what they are being used for.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the industry is once again enjoying a growth period. But, the data (like all data) can be adapted to support your individual point of view or goal. If you’re wanting to report a nice healthy growth in the boating industry, then quoting the total dollar value of “boats-sold” over a time period (usually a calendar year) will make your point a little more dramatic, than the actual number of “units-sold”.
The industry enjoyed peak periods of sales in the early years of the 21st century (2001-2006), reaching a peak number of new recreational boats sold* in 2006 at a bit over 912,000. Then a downward trend developed, which found a “bottom” on our graphical representations in 2010, of around 518,000 units. The “units” refers to the actual number of boats that were being sold each year. This annual “unit” number has fluctuated only slightly, showing a general upward trend through 2013 of the 530k –to- 546k range. Good news ! It’s going the right direction, no matter how you look at it.
• This number includes power, sail and paddle boats
If you quote the growth, using dollars instead of units, it looks even better. Why? Because boats are getting more expensive; according to NMMA: the retail price of new boats (power boats in the $40k price range) rose 9% from 2012 to 2013. Used boats went up as well, at about 5% year over year. But, more good news: The ratio of new boats sold versus used boats sold each year is beginning to change as more buyers are opting for new instead of used, and the dollar values of each (new/used) is on the rise.
Americans spend an estimated $37 billion dollars on boating products each year. It’s an American industry of about 35,000 companies, employing nearly 340,000 people that will over all create $40 billion in annual labor income.
According to the US Coast Guard, Americans took 300 million boating trips in 2012, spending 3 billion hours on the water. Nearly 88 million people in 2012 and 88.5 million in 2013 participated in recreational boating at least once during the year; that’s over 35% of the adult population. Slightly over 70% of boat owners have a household income of less than $100k. The largest sector of boaters are fishermen, who accounted for nearly 60% of the market in 2013.
So, you ask: Where are these boats?
Most of them are in Florida (surprise…..surprise) and Florida boat dealers are enjoying the greatest market share of boat sales, at nearly $2 billion in 2013, up 16% from 2012. Florida was followed by Texas, Michigan, Delaware, and Minnesota in 2013 new boat and accessory sales. 93% of the boats sold in the USA are made in the USA, and 95% of them are less than 26 feet in length.
But, I opened this article with a statement that boating statistics can be reported differently, depending on how you approach the subject. According to the US Coast Guard, the number of registered boats is declining, from a peak of around 13 million in 2005, to a 2013 number of around 12 million. Then, how are the above statistics possible? The short answer is: Boats are becoming more expensive each year. While all of the data is true, with annual industry growth and increase in the number of boaters each year, the story is still a good one. There seems to be a renewed interest in boating, and folks appear to be feeling a bit more comfortable with spending.

Captain Ron Smith
Tri-State Marine Services, Inc.

Winterizing your boat.

October 9th, 2014

The kids are back in school and Summer is winding down.  Another boating season is coming to an end, in geographic areas that enjoy changing seasons.

Having worked as an insurance adjuster of boat claims over the past 19 years, maybe I can share a few common mistakes I have seen fellow boaters make in the past, when laying up for the Winter.

Remember to remove all foods and freezable liquids from the boat.  Do yourself a favor, and do a thorough Spring cleaning this Fall.  If you have time, put a coat of wax on the hull.  (You’ll thank yourself next Spring.)

The following paragraphs talk about sterndrives (Inboard-Outboard).  But the first paragraph also applies to outboards as well.  Sail boaters will also find some applicable tips, as you read on.

First of all, consult your owner’s manual.  Most recommend changing the lower unit lube on an annual basis.  (Most DIY folks don’t do it.)  If you’re one who runs the lube for more than one season, then, at least drain an oil sample from the lower unit’s lower drain plug, after the unit has been sitting in a vertical position for a few hours.   Oil floats on water.  So, if there’s water in the oil, you should see it in the drained sample.  Look for a clear oil sample with no signs of metal glitter in the oil or metal filings stuck on the drain plug magnet. (Not all plugs have magnets.)  If the oil is “milky” or “brownish-grayish” in color, you probably have a leaking shaft seal.  The unit will need service and an oil change BEFORE freezing weather.  The water must be removed from the unit prior to freezing, to prevent further damage.

Now it’s decision time.  Just how thorough do you want to be in this project?

To do a complete job, you should really pull the sterndrive off.  This isn’t a real difficult task, although I recommend either reading a technical “how-to” article or inviting a friend who has done it before to help with your first attempt.  (To be honest about it, most do-it-yourselfers I know, don’t pull it every year.)  But…..

If you decide to remove the drive, it’s a great opportunity to check several components:  The gimbal bearing and input shaft of the lower unit:  The input shaft (splined drive shaft) is supported by a roller bearing assembly called the gimbal bearing.  The gimbal bearing lives inside the intermediate transom unit of the drive train, which means it is still with the boat after you remove the drive.

With the sterndrive removed, you can roll up your sleeve and reach through the drive shaft boot to the gimbal bearing.  Roll it about with your fingers and see if it rotates without binds or excessive noise.   If all is okay, you’re good to continue.  If the bearing is rusty, or makes grinding sounds and feels rough through a rotation, then it should be replaced.  The gimbal bearing isn’t a real expensive part, but it requires proper tools to replace it; a puller (slide hammer) and a pilot to bump the new one back in place.  (You might want to talk with a service center.)

This is a good time to check and/or replace the rubber drive shaft and shift cable boots.  If the drive is removed, they’re easy to inspect.  Poke at them with your finger, and try to spread the bellows to see the bottom of the pleats.  There should be NO weather checking and/or cracking.  If the rubber boot shows any sign of deterioration, then replace it.  (Most manufacturers recommend annual replacement.)  Some brands of sterndrives require the proper pilot tool to re-install a new boot.

Now, with a flashlight, look all the way through the gimbal bearing at the splined hub, which is bolted to the flywheel of the engine.  The female splined socket should have nicely formed “square” edges on each raised spline.  A worn spline will have worn the squared edges to “pointed tops that will begin to resemble a triangular shape when viewed from the end.

Most folks don’t realize the drive shaft actually slides in and out of the gimbal bearing and hub slightly as the helm is turned.  This movement creates wear on the hub splines.  It’s important to apply a light coating of waterproof grease to the shaft and splines periodically.  (Some intermediate units have a grease zirk or cup inside the boat for this purpose.)  Replacement of a failed hub is labor intensive.

If you removed the sterndrive, you should obtain a new gasket set to replace it.  It’s not expensive and is available from your dealer.

If you didn’t remove the drive unit, you can still check the boots:

To check them, raise the drive to the trailer position and turn the helm fully to one side.  Now with a flashlight, from below, you can see the drive shaft boot; a black rubber accordion bellows tube.  The shift cable and boot can usually be seen protruding through the transom unit, near the pivot points of the sterndrive tilt mechanism.  Of course the shift boot is smaller than the drive shaft boot, but it is also a black rubber pleated tube.  Check it, using the same criteria as with the drive shaft boot: no cracking or weather checking.

A word of caution here:   Don’t try to save a buck by running a weathered boot just one more season.  Failure of boots (shift & shaft) can sink your boat

Another tip regarding outboards and sterndrives, is to store them either in the “down” position, or “bag” the prop shaft area with a plastic garbage bag to prevent rain water from collecting in the exhaust hub behind the prop.  Of course, if you’re storing in a dry building, this isn’t as much of a concern.  The point here is to ensure there is NO water remaining in the exhaust hub.  It will freeze and expand over the winter, and the result can be a cracked gear case housing.  Your insurance adjuster will recognize it as freeze damage, which is almost never a covered loss.

If you store your boat outside, here are a few more tips:

Remember to remove all foods that could attract “critters”.   All animals are going to be looking for a winter home.

Remove the drain plug.  If any rain water or snow-melt gets inside, you want it to run right on through, and not collect in the bilge.  And, along that same line of thought, you should ensure the attitude of the blocking, or highway trailer is supporting the boat in a manner that water will run toward the drain plug, and not get trapped in a low end of the bilge.  If the boat is resting on stands or foam blocks, make sure there are enough to provide proper support.  The keel should be well supported.

Support your winter cover, ensuring there are no low spots that will collect an accumulation of snow and water.  Once the pooling begins, it only gets worse with each passing storm, until it either rips the cover, or creates a very large pool.  (Remember, water weighs 8 lbs./gallon.)

Secure the winter cover well, ensuring it is snug against the hull in all areas.  You don’t want to leave an opening for the “critters” like raccoons and mice to enter.  Also, don’t leave any loose “flaps” that will blow like a flag in the wind.  “Flagging” covers don’t last very long, and re-covering a boat on a cold winter day is not a pleasant task.

 

 

 

HOW ABOUT THE GAS TANK?

First things first:    You should be using a marine grade of gasoline.  This means no alcohol.   If you have been buying gas at the local gas station, then you most likely have a blend of gasoline and alcohol.  If that’s the case, I recommend running it out and/or draining the system prior to winter layup.  The gas and alcohol will separate over long layups, and the alcohol can absorb water (humidity).  What you could end up with in the Spring is a tank of useless fuel.

There are two schools of thought on storing fuel through winter layups:

Some folks like to fill the tank to eliminate the collection of moisture through condensation of heating and cooling temperatures, while others like to empty the tank to prevent the gas from going “flat” over the layup.

There are pros and cons to both sides:  If you store with an empty tank, it is true; the air in the tank could create condensation inside the tank.  But, if you store it full of gasoline, then many times as the temperatures begin to warm  in the Spring, the fuel inside expands and runs out the over flow; a fire hazard and also a waste of money.

I typically stored my boats with about ¾ tank of fuel for two reasons.  1)  Sometimes the gas dock wasn’t up and running in the early Spring, when I wanted to launch the boat.  And 2) I reduced the condensation risk.

My reasoning was the tank had room for expansion, as it was only ¾ filled.  And I reduced the amount of air inside the tank to collect condensation.  There are additives on the market now a days to stabilize the gasoline for extended storage.

 

How about the engine?

This one gets a little tricky.  I can only tell you what I’ve done in colder climates.  The bottom line is you have to either get ALL the water out of the engine, hoses and heat exchangers, or replace it with antifreeze.

My line of thinking was similar to the guy who wears a belt AND suspenders !

I always did my own winterizing in Central Illinois, where it would typically hover around zero, or a bit below for a week or so each year.  It was indeed cold enough to damage an unprotected engine and plumbing system.

My procedure was to start with a warm engine, ensuring the thermostat was open.  (This can be done by running on a garden hose and “ear-muffs” for a while, until the temperature gauge at the helm indicates a warmed-up engine.) Then I would drain EVERYTHING related to the cooling system of the engine.  Open petcocks, remove drain plugs, and hoses.  (Always use a small wire to probe into each drain hole to ensure there isn’t some debris creating a blockage.)

I used RV antifreeze to winterize, because it wasn’t harmful to the fish, when I started the boat in the Spring.  I would then find a way to introduce the antifreeze into the engine’s cooling system intake.  A simple method for an outboard or I/O is to make up a short piece of garden hose connected to the service ear-muffs.  Put a funnel into the end of the hose and begin pouring the antifreeze into the funnel as the engine idles.  The engine will draw in the antifreeze, filling the cooling system.  Somewhere near the end of the 2nd gallon, you will see the pink antifreeze coming out the exhaust.  This tells you the system is filled with antifreeze.

Now, drain everything again.  (This is the suspenders part.)

No guarantees from me, but, I’ve done it for years, and it has always worked for me.

BATTERIES

A charged battery will not freeze in winter weather.  A dead battery will freeze and break the case, causing the internal acid to leak out.  It used to be standard procedure to remove the batteries over the winter to prevent freezing, although today, most folks leave them in the boat.

At the very least:  Ensure the batteries are fully charged, when the boat is laid up.  If in doubt as to their ability to hold a charge, then I recommend removal during the freezing season.

 

DON”T FORGET THE PLUMBING

Start by emptying the tanks; Fresh water tank and black water holding tank.

Now, disconnect the fresh water supply line, at the fresh water pump.  With a piece of hose, make up a funnel-feeder that will enable you to pour RV antifreeze into the pump intake port.  Turn on the pump and begin opening the water faucets one at a time until you see pink.  Don’t forget to flush the head until it runs pink as well.

If your boat has other water pumps feeding live wells, or ballast tanks, then treat them as well.

I always poured a little antifreeze down the sink drains, just in case there were any low spots, holding water.

If your boat has a shower, with a sump, be sure to pump it dry and/or fill it with antifreeze, making sure the pump has antifreeze inside as well.

 

If your boat has an air conditioner:

Do the same as above with the funnel and RV antifreeze, feeding the A/C raw water pump this time, until you see pink at the discharge opening. (Usually above the water line on the hull topsides.)

PROPELLER(S)

Look over the prop.  If it needs service before the next season, then do it now.  If you take it to a shop in the off-season, you will avoid delays in the Spring rush; and you may get a discount because the shop is looking for off-season work.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS:

  • Do what you can to keep the rain and snow from accumulating on or in your boat.
  • Remove anything of high value that can be easily carted off by thieves.
  • Remove all freezable items, and protect the power train and plumbing.

Some boaters leave the boat’s cabin door unlocked over the winter layup.  The theory here is a thief will get inside no matter what you do, if he wants to.  If the door is locked, then he will break something in the process.  The negative side to this theory, is some insurance policies require you to lock the door.

CHECK YOUR BOAT PERIODICALLY.  Ensure the cover remains secure, and all is well.

GPS and LORAN-E

July 23rd, 2014

 

 

GPS and LORAN-E

Forty-some years ago the US military worked a project to aid in navigation, which has become known to all of us as “GPS” (Global Positioning System). Initially developed for military use, the system has since been opened up for commercial and civilian usage as well.  The basic premise of GPS involves reception of electronic radio signals from a network of satellites, by a navigation receiver here on Earth, whether it be on land, sea, or in the air; world-wide.

A forerunner to the GPS navigation system, called LORAN-C had already been developed, in the WWII era but had some short comings due to land-based signal towers.  If a navigator was too far away from the land-based tower, the signal was lost.  Therefore, LORAN-C, as the system was known, didn’t help a ship or plane in the middle of the ocean, or in a geographic area which was not well populated with radio towers to transmit the signals.  LORAN is an acronym for “LOng RAnge Navigation”, and was planned to be phased out as the end of the 20th century drew to a close, and was decommissioned in 2010.

Domestically, the civilian population takes GPS for granted.  We’re using it for everything from tracking our family pet, to checking-in on Face Book, and guiding us on vacation.  The military has obviously found valuable uses as well.  The manufacturing cost of a GPS receiver has been reduced to a level whereby the GPS chip is installed in the phone of almost everybody in the country.  That brings us to today, with GPS dependencies never fathomed by the developers.

GPS is the acronym for a system developed by the US military.  Other countries such as Russia, the European Union, China, India and Japan, have developed their own similar networks, known by different names.  These systems are all based upon the same basic principle of receiving radio signals from outer space.  The concept is referred to as PNT (Position Navigation and Timing).  The systems belong to a family commonly referred to as GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems).

 

 

GPS systems work, there’s no doubt about it.  But……  They’re not infallible.

The radio signals used by GPS-type receivers, come from satellites, forming a constellation-network in space, high over our heads.  Initially, the satellites were projected to have a life expectancy of 7-1/2 years +/-.  There exists today, a network of some 30+ satellites, the oldest of which was launched in 1990.  Nineteen others in the network are also past their life expectancy.  They run on solar power, and focus their valuable (25 watt) signals toward Earth, into a soupy mixture of background interference, made up of solar radiation, and ground clutter.  The signals are weak and must be filtered out of the background.  Our equipment manages to do so efficiently, in a manner that is transparent to you and me.  Our everyday dependency on this amazing system continues to grow, and to be taken for granted, as if it was simply “always there”.  Every day, more and more applications are developed with dependencies on GPS.

Lately however, GPS signals have been proven to be vulnerable not only to solar-flare-radiation, but  to man-made radio signals known as “spoofing”.  You may recall a news item a wile back, whereby one of the US drones landed on the “wrong side of the fence” in Iran.  This was due to a deliberate effort of the “other-guys” to interfere with the GPS signals which guided the drone…..    they “spoofed” it.

You don’t have to be a terrorist to dabble in electronic sabotage.  In New Jersey, a truck driver plugged a $20 “privacy-protection” device into the dashboard of his truck.  He was attempting to prevent the boss from tracking his movements.  Unfortunately, his little jammer disrupted the GPS-based navigation system at nearby Newark Airport.  And, in another recent incident, a professor from the University of Texas and his grad students were able to alter the guidance of an auto-pilot system in a yacht, causing he crew to follow a different course than they believed they were on.

 

The shortcomings of GPS are recognized and undisputed.  The question becomes:  “What are we going to do about it?”

South Korea has been dealing with GPS interference from North Korea for quite some time.  Their solution has been to adopt a refined version of LORAN-C, known as LORAN-E.  This newer version of LORAN, developed in 2006, is more powerful than it’s predecessor.  It operates on different frequencies and carries an additional data signal, making it almost un-jam-able”.

Europe, Great Britain, Russia, India, S. Korea, China……….     They have all adopted the new LORAN-E technology as a compliment to their versions of GPS.  The intent is to use both systems simultaneously; each operates independently, and compliments the other, forming a more fool-proof navigation system.  All of these countries have begun the enhancements.  The US had also begun converting the old LORAN-C towers to the new “E” versions, until a budget cut in 2012 took all the funding and the project was stopped.

 

But the good news:

So, you ask, “Why don’t we just do it?”  And, the answer is:  They’re working in it.  The DOD (Dept. of Defense), the DOT (Dept. of Transportation) and DHS (Dept. of Homeland Security) have all expressed interest.  But it’s a budget thing; whose pocket will the funding come from?  Now, some groups in the private sector have also proposed a plan.

Where we stand: 

The problem (threat) has been identified and defined, and a solution has been proposed.  All we have to do is implement the plan.  The USA appears to be slow to react when compared to other countries around the world, but pressure is building from several sectors who are very interested in LORAN-E as a compliment to GPS.  It’s a matter of time.  But, the clock is ticking.  Let’s hope it doesn’t take a disaster to draw enough attention to this exposure for our government to take action.

Latitude / Longitude and Your GPS

May 5th, 2014

A SHORT HISTORY OF NAVIGATION
Since the beginning of man’s time on Earth, he has recognized the need to “navigate” whether it be on dry land or on the sea (and now in outer space). Early man started with a list of waypoints, augmented with crude estimates of distance and time. These lists, when used at sea were known as “Sailing Lists”, and have evolved to a modern form still in use. Of course today, a modern captain makes use of charts and an array of electronic tools to find his way.
Successful navigation requires an understanding of speed, direction and time, and at sea, it requires knowledge of water depth. Techniques to measure these requirements have evolved over centuries of mathematicians, engineers, astronomers, and sailors. Earliest reference to a compass-like device can be traced back to Hannibal in 203 BC. Norsemen of the 11th century are recorded to have used a direction-finding device, and records of a compass have been found, dating back to the year 1200.
Early man made use of the stars, sun and moon to aid in finding his direction. It’s interesting, that the original “North Star” was not Polaris. Rather, a star called Draconis was used (17th century BC). Using early forerunners of the sextant, the navigator was able to find his latitude position along a north-south meridian, by measuring the angle of a celestial body above the horizon. He soon learned to also find his east/west position as well.
The age of iron ships brought on a problem for the compass, which was addressed by the invention of what we know today as the “gyro-compass”; originally called the “Rotascope”. However, a method of keeping the rotating gyro in motion was a problem which wasn’t resolved until the use of electricity, some 50 years later.
Early man initially measured his speed through the water with the “Log” which eventually became known as the “Chips Log” or “Ship’s Log”. It initially involved throwing an object overboard, and observing how much time passed as the vessel moved by. Simple math computations converted the results to “Speed”.
Then came the idea of tying a line to the object, with equally spaced knots tied into it. The object was thrown it over the stern, and as the line passed through the hands of the seaman, he would count the knots as he recited a script. The script was used to measure time. Thus the term “knots” entered the picture. Eventually, other mechanical methods were developed to measure speed as well.
All this time, another group of folks was observing the sky. They discovered (and documented) movement of the planets, the sun and the moon. Eventually, they were able to measure the size of the Earth. The accepted value for the circumference of the Earth, or length of the Equator, varied over the centuries. For purposes of creating charts, the length of the Earth’s Equator (circumference of the Earth’s sphere) was divided into 360 equal parts, which represented degrees of a circle when viewed from above the North or South Poles. If a line (meridian) is drawn from the North Pole through the Equator, and terminating at the South Pole, through each of the (360) degree markings of the Equator, and terminating at the South Pole, we would see 360 lines of “Longitude.”
The same logic was used to draw parallel lines to the Equator. Only this time there are 90 numbered lines in the Northern Hemisphere starting with zero (0) at the equator and ending with 90 at the North Pole, and the same on the Southern Hemisphere. Each number-label represents a degree of “Latitude”. If we were to draw these lines on the globe in your family room, they would form a grid of squares on the surface of the globe.
Each degree of Latitude and Longitude is further divided into 60 “minutes”. Each minute is further divided into 60 seconds. A value of distance was then assigned to each Minute of a degree of Latitude, to be one (1) Nautical Mile.
But as the chart-maker folks began seeking a value for their Nautical Mile, which is based upon the size of the Earth, they found a variety of cities in ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire were using different values for the length of a statute mile (over land). This became a problem.
This is a short version of why we have “Statute Miles” and “Nautical Miles”, and as it turns out:

1.15 STATUTE MILE = 1.0 NAUTICAL MILE

Speed on nautical charts is calculated in “Knots”, whereby

ONE KNOT = ONE NAUTICAL MILE PER HOUR.
Therefore, Miles Per Hour (MPH) on your car’s speedometer is not the same as Knots (Kn) on a boating instrument.
There were various methods used to chart (map) what was discovered on our planet Earth. But, the spherical shape created in-accuracies when drawn on a flat piece of paper. Eventually all of these obstacles have been dealt with.
Units of measure continued to be vague over the centuries of early civilization. Man used what he had to make measurements, such as the width of a finger, the span of his hand, the distance from his elbow to the tip of his middle finger (Cubit), or the distance between his outstretched arms (Fathom).
Today we have overcome the confusion of measured values. We have standards for weights and measures that are well documented over the world, and we have accurate machines and instruments to measure with.
BUT WAIT ! A NEW PROBLEM HAS ARISEN. Remember the discussion of Latitude, Longitude, and how it’s documented in degrees, minutes and seconds? This all works really well, until the introduction and mass distribution of land-based GPS devices, such as your car’s navigation system and your “smart-phone”
I personally downloaded a couple different “apps” on my smart-phone which are advertised to provide Latitude and Longitude of my position, here on Earth. Turns out, some of these “apps” work differently. Some provide my location in degrees plus the decimal portion of the next degree.
For example: 28.500 degrees N This would be 28 degrees plus ½ the distance to 29 degrees. (Remember, a degree is divided into 60 minutes, and each minute equals one nautical mile.) So….. This location would be 30 miles North of the 28th degree of Latitude.
But, what if we read the 28.500 N as a trained navigator, would normally refer to a latitude position? The navigator is trained to work with coordinates written in degrees, minutes and seconds: 28 degrees 50 minutes 0 seconds This position is located 50 nautical miles North of the 28th Latitude; a full 20 miles difference ! If you are seeking assistance from a rescue crew, they won’t find you here.
The point is………. If you are giving your position coordinates to request assistance, or any other reason, then know (and understand) what you are reading. The new phone “apps” and automotive navigators are not necessarily intended to be used at sea.

Know Your Insurance Policy

April 2nd, 2014

A good portion of my job, as a Marine Surveyor, involves working as the “eyes ‘n ears” for insurance claims adjusters, when a boater has an insurance claim.  My job task is to verify serial numbers, take photos, and assess the damage in terms of being accident related, versus normal wear and tear.  I sometimes run across an insured boater who doesn’t have a clear understanding of his or her coverage, and how it works.

The 2014 season is upon us.  Now is a good time to touch base with your insurance agent, and ask a few questions regarding the insurance policy you have purchased.  An insurance policy is an agreement between you and the underwriter, whereby you will be reimbursed (indemnified) for a loss as described in the agreement (your policy).  It is important to understand the policy’s description of a loss, and how you will be reimbursed.  There are terms used in these agreements that should be understood, prior to the day of a loss.  Different types of policies are available, and they work in different ways.  There could also be restrictions of where, when, and how the boat will be used.

First of all, let’s discuss the definition of an accident, or accidental loss.

An accident is defined as a sudden and unexpected event taking place without expectation, upon the instant, rather than something that continues, progresses or develops.  An accident is an event that takes place without ones foresight or expectation; an un-designed, sudden and unexpected event.

There are two basic types of recreational boat insurance policies: 

There is an AGREED VALUE policy:  With this policy, you have made an agreement with the underwriter that your insured property (your boat) will be insured at some predetermined value.  In this policy, the insurance company agrees to repair or replace your boat for a dollar amount, up to the value agreed to on the policy.  There is no consideration of depreciation.

Then, there is the ACTUAL CASH VALUE (ACV) policy:  The primary difference between the two policy types is how depreciation is handled.  Where an AGREED VALUE policy covers the boat based upon it’s value when the policy was written, an ACV policy factors depreciation into the replacement value; the amount you will be reimbursed.  Agreed Value policies generally cost more, up front, whereby ACV policies usually will have a lower monthly premium.

It is important to understand your policy type, to avoid an unpleasant surprise in the event of a loss.

Other factors to consider when buying an insurance policy:

What does the policy cover?

Just because your policy may say it is an “all risk” policy, you should be aware of any exclusions.  Read them carefully.  Typical exclusions are Wear-and-Tear, Marring, Denting, Animal Damage, and Manufacturer’s Defects, and Freeze Damage.

Most policies will cover items which are permanently attached to the boat, such as a marine radio.  They may also cover items such as anchors, oars, trolling motors, tools, seat cushions and life jackets.  You should discuss coverage of these items with your agent.

Does your policy cover towing?

Will it pay to salvage a sunken boat?

Are there specified dates in which you can use the boat?  (winter lay-up periods)

What geographic areas are you allowed to cruise?  Great Lakes?  Near Coastal?

Are discounts available for education courses such as the Safe Boating Courses offered by the Coast Guard Auxilliary and Power Squadron?

These are just a few considerations I wanted to bring to light in the beginning of a new boating season.  We all hope to never make an insurance claim.  But in the event of a loss, it can save a whole lot of frustration to have a good understanding of your coverage.  A good place to find these answers is to consult your insurance agent.

SHOULD I DO A SEA TRIAL?

October 29th, 2013

In my capacity as a Marine Surveyor, I am often asked, “What’s a sea trial?   And do you think we need one with a pre-purchase survey?”

To address the first question:   A sea trial is a ride in the boat, whereby the surveyor is a passenger; a very busy passenger.  The surveyor is not aboard for a pleasure cruise.  Rather he/she will be directing the pilot to perform a series of maneuvers to demonstrate critical functions of the boat.  All the while, the surveyor is observing a variety of check points, and taking notes.  It may not be apparent to the pilot or others aboard the boat during the sea trial, that the surveyor is doing much.  But trust me……..  The surveyor is watching and listening to multiple checkpoints at any given moment.

 

IT ALL BEGINS AT THE DOCK:

The surveyor will check a variety of items, even before the engine starts.  If he/she hasn’t done it already, then now is the time to check all fluid levels of the engine(s) and transmissions, making note the existence and quantity of any fluid leakage in the bilge.

Then the engine(s) is started.  Right away, several observations are made.  Was it difficult to start?  How fast does the starter crank? Is it smoking more than normal?  Is it pumping water?  Is the alternator working?  What’s the oil pressure?  What’s the idle RPM?  How’s it sound?

At this point the surveyor might ask to take the helm for a moment, prior to casting off.  He/she may feel the shift lever going briefly in/out of forward and reverse, and turn the helm from port to starboard; all the while listening and feeling the operation.

If the boat has a generator, the surveyor may ask to start it up, and begin testing air conditioners, and appliances.  Most likely, the generator will not be started until after the engine(s) have been started, and it will be left running with a load applied, such as an air conditioner, during the remainder of the sea trial.

 

 

 

 

 

THEN WE RIDE:

Under direction of the surveyor, the pilot will begin driving the boat.  All the while, the surveyor will be looking over his/her shoulder at the instruments; checking both helms if more than one is present.  Then, periodically the engine cover will be raised to observe the engine.  The surveyor is making note of the oil pressure, voltage/amperage of the alternator output and temperature at the helm, while noting any vibration and unusual sounds, condition of the exhaust, and over all attitude of the boat as it moves through the water.

 

The ride will be conducted at a variety of engine RPMs, as the surveyor continues to take notes.  If the boat has an inboard engine, he/she will probably scan the engine and exhaust manifolds with an infrared thermometer, while underway.

Engine RPMs will be noted at wide open throttle position(s) as the surveyor listens and observes.  The speed will be checked with a GPS, against the helm speedometer (if present).

It should be understood from the onset; the boat will most likely be run harder under direction of the surveyor, than the owner or buyer would ever run it.  But, it should also be noted that it will not be abused.  By that I mean it will not be expected to perform beyond the design specifications of the original manufacturer.   The surveyor will most likely order a back-down test, and a variety of maneuvers.   After all……    You, as a buyer or owner are expecting the surveyor to give a statement at the end of the trial, indicating whether or not you can trust the boat to bring you back home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SHOULD WE DO A SEA TRIAL? 

If you are doing a pre-purchase survey, my answer is always “Yes”.  As a potential buyer, I recommend looking at the boat from every aspect, before you own it and become responsible for repair costs, from your pocket.

If you are doing a re-insurance survey, and you are familiar with the boat, then I leave it up to you.  Most folks calling me for a re-insurance survey are not really interested in the actual survey, beyond satisfying the conditions of the underwriter for a policy renewal.  If the underwriter doesn’t require it, then the boat owner usually doesn’t want it, in an effort to hold down costs.  Of course a sea trial could be beneficial, and save some “grief” in the future by uncovering a potential problem.  But, there is the additional cost issue of the sea trial, which is over and above the basic re-insurance survey.

This short article is not intended to train you as a “sea trial expert”.  It has merely been a brief overview, touching only on highlights of the procedure.  A sea trial is not a “joy-ride.”  Coolers and fishing gear are left on the dock.   The pilot and surveyor are kept busy throughout the sea trial, and the boat is continually under scrutiny.  Typically, there is much crew activity throughout the trial, as engine hatches are raised and test equipment is passed from hand-to-hand.  Time seems to pass quickly during a sea trial, as the checklist is long, and quarters are usually cramped.

A sea trial provides an opportunity to test aspects and functions of a boat that cannot be performed in a basic “in-the-water”, or “out-of-water survey.”

LOOK LIKE A PRO AT THE DOCK

June 27th, 2013

With over 50 years of boating experience on inland lakes and rivers as well as blue water; both commercial and recreational, I have witnessed many fellow boaters at the dock. It fascinates me at times, to watch a fellow captain or mate secure his or her vessel to the moorings. Many times a well experienced boat owner or crew member will confidently carry the line to a mooring cleat and then begin a series of entanglements, one atop the other until the line is all used up, then stand there admiring the job as if he is really wondering if it will hold.
Others sometimes carry an old ski rope, or short piece of cordage which is not sufficient to do the job. It can be confusing at times when outfitting your boat with mooring lines. After all, the catalogs are chocked full of options.

What’s a body to do? Let’s start with a bit of background:

Rope has been around since before Christ was born. Historians have evidence of our ancient ancestors using ropes to lift and drag heavy items for many years. Man quickly learned the benefits of rope. A rope has tensile strength to drag and lift. But, due to the flexibility, it has no compressive strength, and therefore cannot be used to “push” a load.

In the beginning, man used naturally occurring ropes, such as vines to meet his needs. Quickly, he realized the length of his rope was limited to his degree of success in finding a long vine. Then he found a way to make ropes. Early ropes were made with organic fibrous materials derived from plants. The fibers were twisted into yarns and then twisted into groups to form a rope. Commonly used materials for these ropes were hemp, cotton, jute, straw and sisal. Some ropes of these materials are still available today. Modern technology has found new materials to make ropes, such as nylon, rayon, Dacron, polypropylene and even metal.

Dacron and other synthetics are colorful and easy on the hands, but they don’t hold up well in the sun. Polypropylene floats on water, but is best suited for ski ropes, as it is not as strong as nylon, and it deteriorates from ultraviolet rays of the sun.

Commonly used ropes we are used to working with are twisted (laid) generally with 2 or 3 strands, or braided with a number of strands woven together to form a tubular, or soda straw like configuration. There are advantages and disadvantages of each.

Now, let’s think in terms of mooring and anchoring your boat:

Nylon is a big winner in this category for several reasons.
1) STRENGTH Nylon is very strong
2) ELASTICITY Nylon will stretch slightly to absorb stresses caused from wave action.
3) UV RESISTANT Nylon is more resistant to deterioration from the sun
4) COST Nylon rope is generally the least expensive choice.

As stated earlier, the type of rope design can be laid (twisted) or braided. A laid rope can be made with either a left-hand (“S”) twist, or a right-hand (“Z”) twist. The center-slant of the letters “Z” and “S”, when superimposed onto the rope. (The most common design is the “Z” right-hand twist.) A laid, or twisted rope will have a natural direction it wants to coil when stowed. A right hand laid rope will want to coil in a clockwise direction

When manufactured, the fibers are twisted into a yarn, which is twisted in the opposite direction of the final lay of the strands to form the rope. This opposing twist prevents the final product from unraveling when completed. The ends of a twisted (laid) rope must be must be secured in some fashion such as taping, or whipping to prevent fraying of the strands, which will soon begin to resemble a horse tail if not dealt with.

This topic is vast, and we can easily go off in many directions with this discussion. Let’s stay with mooring your boat:
So then, what’s the difference between a laid rope and a braided rope?
1) Both laid and braided designs are strong.
2) A braided rope is more attractive, cosmetically and is many times color-coded.
3) A braided rope is easier on the hands, with a smoother outer shell.
4) A braided rope will “snag” easier on wooden pilings, whereby a laid rope will slide across.
5) Braided ropes tend to cost more than twisted-laid rope designs.
Often, experienced boaters will use braided lines at their home slip, and carry a set of mooring lines of the laid design for traveling to other moorings. This way, they have the cosmetic advantage of braided lines at home, along with the snag-resistant laid lines at visited docks.
A manufacturer produces a “rope”. Once the rope has a designated purpose, it’s called a “line”. E.g. Mooring line with an eyelet, anchor line, halyard or sheet on a sailboat, etc. Ropes of large diameter and used for towing or mooring large ships and barges are referred to a hawsers.
For recreational boaters, the generally accepted rule of thumb is to have mooring lines nearly equal in length to your boat. This allows mooring with a “spring-line”. A spring line is used to tension the mooring either fore or aft, in a parallel direction of the dock face. A spring cleat is usually mounted amidship, whereby a line will connect to a forward or aft mooring cleat, to hold the vessel in tension against the dock wall in opposition to the mooring at the opposite end.
So far, we’ve said nylon is the best overall choice for mooring, and the lines should be about the same length as the boat. But how large in diameter?

A good rule of thumb here is to use a nylon mooring line of:
DIAMETER FOR BOATS UP TO XX FEET IN LENGTH
3/8” ……………………….25’
½”………………………… 35’
5/8”………………………. 45’
¾” …………………………55’
7/8” ……………………….65’
Using too large diameter to moor the boat, reduces the elasticity of the mooring line, as well as creates a misfit onto the smaller cleats of smaller boats.
For anchor lines (rodes) I recommend stepping up one size from the mooring line diameter in the chart above.

So how do I tie it up and look like a pro?
 SECURE TO A HORN CLEAT:
1) Run the line from the boat, across the boat side of the cleat base, and back in the opposite direction around the base, passing beneath the horn of the opposite end. At this point you should have simply passed the line under each horn of the cleat and now have formed a loop with both ends of the line on the same side of the cleat.

2) Run the rope up and over the top of the cleat’s center section in a direction away from the boat and toward shore, crossing over the cleat’s center section, then back under the horn.
3) Now loop down and under the horn of the opposite end of the cleat, and back over the top-center section of the cleat.

4) With the end of the rope in your hand, and while holding it over the top-center of the cleat, form a loop in the rope and give it a half twist, such that the loose end of the rope crosses under the taught end at a 90 degree angle.

5) Slip the loop over the cleat’s horn and take the slack out by pulling on the loose end in your hand. You should see two lines across the top of the cleat forming one leg of an “X” with a third line over the top, forming the other “X-leg” and locking them down. The harder the boat pulls, the tighter the “lock” draws down on the loose end of the line.

6) Your line is secure!
(With  a bit of practice, this mooring can be easily accomplished in 2 or 3 seconds.)

SECURE TO A PILING OR RAILING WITH A ROUND TURN AND TWO HALF HITCHES:
1) Take the line around your post or railing, two times.

2) Pass the end of the line around the standing part, and back through the opening it forms, forming a “half-hitch”.

3) Do it again. Form another half-hitch by passing the loose end of the line around the standing part and back through the opening formed.

4) Tighten the knot; a round turn with two half hitches.

ANOTHER TIP:
Many times I see the mooring lines, of a boat slip, all coiled into a neat spiral on the dock. This takes time and looks nice. But it’s not good for the lines or the deck, as the coil tends to hold moisture and never gets an opportunity to dry out from sea water, rain water and last night’s dew. The moisture attracts bugs and discolors the decking of the dock as well.
Another method to shorten and stow the tail of a line is to form a simple “chain” as we did when we were kids playing with string. Simply start with a loop of some sort, where the line is attached to the dock. While holding the tail of the rope in one hand, reach through the loop and grab the line, pulling it through the loop, forming another loop. Now again reach through the new loop and grab the line again, pulling it through the newer loop, and forming a third loop. (Always keep the tail of the line in your other hand, never pulling the loose end of the line all the way through the loop.) Now keep doing this, over and over, forming a loosely made chain, until all the line is used up. This will greatly shorten the pile of line at the dock, and allow air to pass through at the same time, allowing the rope and decking an opportunity to dry out.