This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life. I love it all!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dinghy Issues

Shortly after purchasing the Key of Sea I lowered the dinghy that came with it and climbed aboard to take it out for a trial run. However, stepping into the little boat it became immediately apparent that this dinghy was not going to meet our needs. With only me in it there was almost no freeboard (the distance between the water line and the gunwhale). Scary. 
We started looking around and found  a reasonably priced new dinghy down in Anacortes, WA and bought it. It was around $1,000 (a boat buck) and seemed like a good deal. 
Quillback rockfish
Fast forward 6 years later to our 3 week cruise to Canada. I took the dinghy out several times on my own to go fishing. I caught a ton of these rock fish species called Quillbacks. Great fun to catch and when I'd get into a good spot they'd be on my line almost constantly. Two problems with them though. One, they are a proteced species in a lot of places meaning you can't catch them. That's a problem if your fishing and you catch them. So, I tossed a lot of fish back. Second, take a look at the photo of the fish I posted here. Notice those spiny looking fins? Well, they ARE spines. Sharp spines. Now imagine my bringing the fish into the dinghy and wrestling with the fish long enough to get the hook out without causing too much damage to the critter or me. The fish is flopping around on the floor of the dinghy, those spines bouncing off the floor. Now for the bad news. The floor of our dingy is inflatable and made of rubber. It didn't take long before I noticed the damage done. Suddenly the air in the floor of our dinghy was leaking out at a pretty fast rate.

That dinghy is our life boat should we need to leave The Key of Sea in an emergency. With the floor constantly going flat, we had ourselves a big problem. Fortunately we didn't need it for the rest of the cruise. BUT!!!

When we returned home I found a repair place in Anacortes and took the floor, which is removable, down to their shop. A couple of hundred dollars later the floor was "fixed" and I reinstalled it. It kept inflated pretty well needing refilling about once or twice a year.

Fast forward to today. When I visited the boat a few days ago I noticed the floor was entirely flat. So I took it out and brought it home to check it out.

Our current dinghy a Mercury 310
I like to lay things across the spa cover out back because it gives me a large flat space about waist high to spread things out and get a good look at them. So I took the floor out to my shop and inflated it with my compressor. Then put on top of the spa cover. I grabbed a spray bottle I'd filled with water and dish soap and started spraying soapy water across the surface of the floor. It didn't take long to see tiny bubbles beginning to form in spots here and there, even along the seams. Tiny, very tiny.What effect this has on the inflation of the floor is apparent. The solution? Probably a new dinghy.

But what to purchase? Certainly not one with an inflatable floor.

Inflatable dinghies are the biggest sellers. They are light weight, inexpensive and hold a lot of people and or weight when compared to most other options on the market. But even the inflatables come in a wide range of models.

The least expensive are the inflatable floor versions. I now see why.  Then there are the RIBs or Rigid Inflatable Boat. These have the inflatable side tubes you are familir with if you've seen the famous Zodiak boats. But, they're hulls, the bottom of the boat inside and out are made of a rigid material, either fiberglass or aluminum. The fiberglas is usually less expensive than the metal hull. You also have the option of a single or double floor, the double floor being more expensive but more stout and heavier.

So, 3 days later, the inflated dinghy floor is still holding its pressure. So I'm thinking 1) the dinghy still has some life in it and 2) I will try and get another season or 2 out of it. Good news, for now.

The Honda 2 hp outboard that fits on that dinghy is in the shop right now as it wouldn't start when I last tried. A call the shop this morning which yielded the news that it was only one of 20 other 2 hp motors in the shop and that it would probably be another couple of weeks before it would be looked at. I suspect the slow turn around is due to the local charter fleet, which has almost all Honda 2 hp motors on their dinghies and has probably got all of them in for seasonal

This little fellow just barely works on our 10+ foot dinghy and I am in the market for a higher horse power engine. Maybe next season. It does the job of getting us to and from shore when we anchor out and works when I want to wander off a ways from the boat to do some fishing. Its two basic flaws are that, due to it being only 2 hp, the dinghy is more difficult to control at lower RPMs. So, when I am approaching the big boat to connect to the davit system, I usually have to make a couple of runs at it. At low RPMs the dingy just starts heading off on its own. Secondly, the motor only has an internal fuel tank. The small tank is okay for most applications but if you are heading off too far afield, you may find yourself running out of fuel. The dinghy has oars that work fine but rowing back to the boat in wind or waves or if you motored too far from the boat, well, it's just not
1 gal, fuel tank
much fun.

So we have begun taking a one gallon tank of fuel with us in case we run low. I also always make sure to top off the internal tank after returning to the boat and checking the tank before we leave to make sure we start out with a full tank.

Honda generator
We found out recently (a couple of years ago now) that the fuel most ffolks are using in their cars has ethanol in it and ethanol is BAD for small engines. So, we've located a couple of service stations in town that sell ethanol-free fuel and make sure that is all that goes into that little gas can. Using the ethanol fuel apparently has a negative effect on delicate systems inside the engine so my outboard motor and the Honda generator aboard are only fed this special and a bit pricier fuel. As a result we should have fewer mechanical issues and the devices should last much longer.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Boating Ettiquette 101

I must admit I didn't know about all of these ettiquette points myself when I started boating. I've always just brushed off any help from guests aboard our Key of Sea. Ahhh, no need to bring anything except yourselves was my mantra.

But after a year or two of watching guests hop off the boat and walk down the dock to their car with little more than a "Thanks, we had a great time! Lets do it again soon!", I quickly figured out that these little jaunts or multi-day fishing trips were leaving me holding a big bill--for the food, the beverages and the fuel. At $4 a gallon a boat that burns through 3 gallons an hour (and our boat gets good gas mileage), even a quick twirl around the bay can get pricey. I know, it's only $12 for an hour's entertainment. But there is also the wear and tear on the engine(s) down below that must be maintained in order for our guests not to find themselves floating around out there due to an engine failure, the maintenance and replacement of other parts and critical items aboard--life jackets, the head, the fresh water system, the electrical system, the electronics, and on and on. Boaters have taken up a very expensive hobby. They must love it or they'd sell their boat after the first season when they get a repair bill!

Then there are the traditional  points of ettiquette like #1 below. So, looking around, I found this great primer for those who might find themselves a guest on a friend's boat. It came from a blog written by Margaret Page. So read on and next time you have a chance to board a boat as a friend or guest, mind your manners!

Proper manners—the art of practicing good social graces—transcend beyond dry land with something salty dogs call “boating etiquette.”
Whether you’re going out on the water for an afternoon of sailing, or for a weekend of sea-faring adventures, the first rule of thumb when you’re a guest on someone’s boat is that the captain (or the skipper) is boss. His/Her boat. His/Her rules.
Here are some more tips to ensure you’ll get invited back the next time the boat leaves the dock:
1. Ask permission before boarding. When boarding a boat, always ask permission from the person onboard first. “Permission to come aboard” is a standard, and appreciated, boater’s courtesy.
2. Buy the fuel. If you’re an invited guest, offer to pay for the cost of the fuel. It’s the least you can do and will show your gratitude for being invited along for the ride.
3. Don’t show up empty-handed. You can bet your host was at the dock before sunrise readying the boat for the journey and will be at the boat long after you've gone washing it down and checking off a lengthy list of items that must be checked whenever you leave or return.  Offer to bring along lunch for everyone. Your skipper will appreciate having one less thing to prepare.
4. Pack light, but smart. Bring the minimum amount of clothing for the climate—to conserve space on the boat—but be prepared. Sunscreen, sunglasses, sea sickness medication, personal meds, a waterproof jacket, non-slip footer, and a warm sweater should be on your list.
5. Play it safe. Be sure you know the “rules” of the boat. If you’re captain doesn’t tell you where the safety vests are, ask. And don’t mess with the dials, buttons, gauges, radios, or anything that even resembles an electronic instrument used to keep the boat afloat.
Help the skipper. Help the skipper only if given specific instructions. This is not the time to improvise.
6. Stay out of the way. Use common sense here. The captain has a lot to think about—traffic, weather, waves, the best place to find fish. A boat is a small space so stay out of the way when you need to.
7. Ask before you “go.” Before you use the “head,” get proper operating instructions. No two marine heads operate alike and a clog caused by excessive amounts of toilet tissue can be expensive (and messy!) In some boats, “If it did not go in your mouth it does not go in the head,” so it’s better to ask first!
8. Quiet down. If you’re a nighthawk, and you’re spending the night at sea with friends, be sure to keep the noise to a minimum after the “early-to-bed” guests have turned in for the night.

9. Keep it clean. Another no-brainer here, but “If you make a mess, clean it up,” or you’re likely to be removed from the captain’s guest list the next time he sets sail. Be sure to dispose of the trash AFTER you dock.
10. Don’t rock the boat. Wait until the boat has docked to gather your personal items and make your way off the boat. The sudden shift can distract the captain as he is trying to dock.

Be a great guest and you'll probably get a return invite.