Even if New Year’s resolutions aren’t really your “thing,” I’ve always found the start of the year offers fresh beginnings and a great time to assess old patterns and initiate new behaviors. For boaters, even in Southern California, cooler winter temperatures usher in a slow time for recreational boating. This down time is ideal for considering what changes to make in your boating activities.
If you haven’t already completed a basic boating safety class, consider enrolling in a class taught by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadron. Both offer advanced classes throughout Southern California.
Check out The Log’s listings for additional training opportunities. Some marinas and yacht clubs, such as the Chula Vista Marina, offer regularly scheduled sessions to help boaters upgrade their knowledge. If you’re ready to take your skills to a higher level, consider signing up for a captain’s license course, such as the San Diego-based Maritime Institute’s program (offered widely in California). Even if you have no interest in obtaining your captain’s license, the knowledge you’ll gain from the course will benefit you while operating or maintaining your boat.
Do you have an up-to-date copy of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Navigation Rules & Regulations Handbook (the Rules of the Road)? The Coast Guard requires every boater to keep one on board. Make sure the handbook is in your boat.
In terms of maintenance goals, have you gone over your boat thoroughly and determined your current and upcoming needs? January is a great time to do it – and probably an easier time to locate and engage the skilled craftsmen you’ll need to undertake any work. Consider engaging a knowledgeable and reputable yacht maintenance professional who can assist you if you’re not sure how to develop and set priorities for your maintenance checklist. Ask your marina and respected boater friends and dock mates for recommendations – and always check references and insurance.
If you know what deferred maintenance is required, make a plan and get it done. It’s far better to deal with mechanical, electrical, plumbing or other problems when you’re safe in harbor than in distress at sea.
Don’t neglect doing an overall assessment of your electrical system, especially if you’re adding new electronics, including computers, advanced displays and navigational tools, which increase the electrical load on your system. Examine your electrical cables, connectors and receptacles for any damage, especially burn marks from arcing, and replace anything showing signs of wear, damage or deterioration. Remember electrical failures are the chief cause of boat fires – and a dockside boat fire would likely destroy your boat at the least (and potentially your neighbors’ boats as well).
Make a point of getting to know your neighbors and the best way to contact them. Making friends along the dock not only adds to the pleasures of dockside living, it also increases everyone’s safety. It’s important to look out for each other and each other’s boats. On several occasions, when we’ve noticed something awry with a neighbor’s boat, we’ve been able to contact them directly because we had phone numbers. Other times we’ve contacted the marina office with our concerns – and we’ve also benefited from an alert neighbor’s warning of a constantly running bilge pump when we’ve been away from the marina. Being alert to potential problems helps everyone.
Most importantly make plans to have fun during the upcoming boating season. Do a little dreaming and figure out how you’d like to use your boat and where you’d like to cruise. Scheduling fun on the water is just as critical as laying out a maintenance plan. Never lose sight of why we love our boats and being on the water.