The Small Stuff 4
Philip Osborne - Naples Boat Mart
Adventures into unknown waters with your boat can be simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. Expanding the boundaries of our exploration is human nature, so it is only natural to have a desire to go somewhere and see something new. Doing this successfully aboard your boat requires only a little preparation, common sense and confidence. Modern technology has greatly improved the navigation process from the days of outdated paper charts and Loran readings. With modern marine electronics on board or a little research online before you leave the dock, you can go confidently into previously unconquered waters.
Begin your research by picking a destination and doing a few searches on the internet about boating in the area. Often there are blogs or forum posts from boaters who frequent the area containing reviews of local marinas, fuel docks, fishing spots and restaurants. This information will help you determine which stops along the way make sense and which are "must see" items. They can also warn of local pitfalls like recent sandbar movement or a bad shellfish lunch.
While you are clicking around the internet, check out one of the many websites that provide tide information for the area you wish to travel. This information can also be found on most modern GPS devices installed aboard your vessel, but it's great to know in advance. Tides have a bigger impact than simply knowing if you will have enough draft to float your boat or enough clearance to sneak under that low bridge. Trying to traverse some narrow channels or passes in the midst of a large tidal swing can introduce a host of challenges to mariners who lack the local knowledge of those waters. The same goes for your final approach into a new dock if you were looking to spend the night at your destination.
The web also provides beautiful and detailed satellite images of our entire state and beyond. Often a look at the satellite image of the area you are hoping to explore can yield lots of useful information. Deeper water and sand shoals are easily visible from above, and channels are often marked by boat traffic the day the photo was taken. You can also get a feel for what sort of conveniences are near the marina or dock you had anticipated using. Proximity to grocery, laundry, and restaurant facilities are all important considerations. You can also be well prepared for the layout of the marina's slips which eases anxiety when trying to line up for docking.
No pre-trip homework would be complete without a look at the weather. Again, modern electronics help considerably as many boats have the ability to monitor VHF weather transmissions, satellite weather updates, radar and cellular phone based weather information. Travel plans on the water often need to be flexible to work around the weather windows provided by mother nature. Wind and wave height are obvious considerations, but keeping an eye on the weather can determine how fast you run to a given destination or if spending an extra day at your newly discovered island get-away makes complete sense.
The first aspect of any trip on the water is to do a proper pre-trip inspection of your boat and equipment, but doing the navigation research ahead of time will give you confidence both in your vessel and your plan. A trip to a new destination on the water doesn't mean doing "The Great Loop", so start small with bite-sized day trips to endpoints slightly beyond your normal comfort zone. You'll find an amazing world of waterfront destinations within a day's run from your home port. Click around the internet a little bit in advance and establish the confidence you need to go it alone, or tag alone with one of the many cruise clubs that call Southwest Florida home. You'll soon find that slipping away to a new destination can easily become a favorite past time and a great excuse to turn off your cell phone for a while.
The Small Stuff 2
Philip Osborne - Naples Boat Mart
Last month this column focused on a "big picture" maintenance issues around your boat that are potential pitfalls to shorten your day on the water. This month, the trend continues by focusing on some tips and tricks to extend the life of your "out of sight, out of mind" equipment and keep your boat looking better longer!
- The bilge pump is a modest little device that is taken for granted until called upon to fight off the effects of water in places it should not be. This small plastic pump lives a hard life buried in the darkest confines of the boat fighting off rising water and debris with infrequent attention from most boat operators. In reality, your bilge pump should be treated with as much attention and regard as the main engine(s) tasked with getting your vessel home at the end of the day. When other dominos in the system fall, your bilge pump's primary job is to keep you afloat. Depending on the size and construction of a vessel, there may be more than one bilge pump on board, so consult your manufacturer or dealer for specifics if you are unsure of the number of pumps or their location.
- Chances are that if your boat is more than a few months old, your bilge area is likely home to a few foul odors, mold, mildew and a host of other science experiments. The good news is that these bilge areas are very easy to clean up with very little effort. Step one is to have a good look and identify any oil or oily residue that might be in the bilge. Use an oil absorbent pad or sock to capture the oil before starting any cleanup work as the discharge of oil or oily bilge water overboard is strictly prohibited. At this point, you may want to find the source of that oil as well, as this is usually indicative of another problem.
- Since the first two bullet points already have your head below decks and your bilge is now clean, this is a perfect time to put some eyes on the rest of the thru-hull penetrations on the boat. These fittings feed all sorts of things on the boat including but not limited to: air conditioners, livewells, washdown pumps, coolers, engines, generators, and anything else that benefits from a steady supply of raw water. Best practices in the industry mandate that each of these penetrations below the waterline are fitted with a seacock valve, allowing an operator to shut off the flow of incoming water for service, or in the event of a burst hose or similar. In order for that to work as intended, one must be able to move the seacock valve handle - a task that is more difficult than it sounds after months (or years) without exercise in a saltwater environment. If the valve is not free at first pull, carefully attempt to free it up with a little spray lubricant and a wrench. If it still won't move, it is time to replace the seacock valve.
- A few hours into your day and your bilge is clean and dry. This is a perfect time to run all the equipment on the boat and check for any leaks. Boaters with inboard engines are especially susceptible to problems here, but livewells, pumps and cabin plumbing can all contribute water to the bilge area if not operating properly. By flipping a few switches while at the dock and monitoring the water level in the bilge area, boat owners can quickly identify any sources of additional water inside the boat. This also provides a perfect opportunity to inventory any pumps, lights or switches that are not operating as intended and mark them for future repair. While you are at it, drain and flush your freshwater tank too if you can't remember the last time it was done. The next person to use your shower or sink will thank you!
Exercising your boat regularly is a great start, but taking for granted that the equipment will function as intended just because it did on the last trip will not last forever. Some boaters are more comfortable asking the professionals to care for their needs, and often that can be a great solution. Spending a few minutes looking under the hatches of your boat can be a great benefit in a moment of need. Happy boating - I'll see you on the water!
The Small Stuff 1
Philip Osborne - Naples Boat Mart
If the thermometer and recurring afternoon showers had not already clued you in, then the absence of traffic might let you know it is summer time. The off season brings an opportunity for rest and relaxation to the local crowd. At the dealership, we have already seen an uptick in local residents bringing their boat in for an annual tune-up before hitting the water this summer. With lobster season on the horizon and the recent announcement of a Snook season, sportsmen have added incentives to get on the water.
Before heading off to the boat ramp, it would pay big dividends to do a little preparation on your rig. For the trailer boaters in the audience, spend a few minutes inspecting your trailer. Verify proper tire inflation and check for dry rot or cracking on your sidewalls. Trailer wheel bearings live in a very difficult environment, so jacking up your trailer and wiggling your wheels will indicate if you have excessive play in the bearings. If you are not sure of how to check these items, visit a local repair shop and have them checked. The process is quick and inexpensive and can save you the embarrassment and frustration of being stuck on the side of the road. Lights, straps and couplings are also worth checking. Nylon straps can lose a significant portion of their strength from sun exposure, so if your straps are more than a few years old it may be time to replace them.
Once the trailer is road worthy, it's time to turn your focus to the boat. A systems check can easily be performed by flipping switches at the dash and verifying performance of the corresponding system. Lights, pumps and other 12 volt systems can quick be assessed this way. Making sure your battery is well charged before heading to the ramp eliminates a frantic search for a jump - or worse. If your boat was prepared for storage, re-prime your fuel system and run the engine on a hose for a few minutes to check fluids, temperatures and a smooth running condition. Better to discover a minor issue now than Saturday morning at the ramp with an anxious family standing by.
If the boat is ready to go, you might also evaluate your safety gear and necessary paperwork. Is your registration current on the boat and trailer? Are your flares expired? Would you actually put that life jacket on if you needed to and rely on it to save your life? It's easy to overlook a fishing license in the mix as well, so check the expiration date. Besides, the renewal will give you a good excuse to visit a local tackle shop and pick up a few other important items before you hit the water.
Last but certainly not least, check on some local boating regulations. Speed restrictions, navigation markers and local sand accumulations can and have changed in recent months. Ease back into the water with a hint of caution and hopefully you won't have to reach for the radio to summon SeaTow - you are still a member, aren't you?
Service Team Trains For Top Results
Philip Osborne - Naples Boat Mart
A tradesman with pride in his product is always striving to improve his skills and reach the top of the field. With that in mind, Naples Boat Mart is proud to announce Master Technician Michael Murray's graduation from the Yamaha Outboard training academy in Kennesaw, Georgia.
The Master Technician certification is only extended to professionals who have accumulated all the necessary prerequisite courses and passed complicated real-world testing. After multiple visits to the Yamaha training facility which can take years to complete, the applicant has a fantastic working technical knowledge of the entire spectrum of Yamaha products. From here, it is on to the testing phase.
"Bugged" engines are used within a live test cell where they can be run as if they were installed on a boat in the water. The applicant must then correctly identify all applicable failures with the engine. Finding just some or most of the problems won't cut it. Once the engine is fully diagnosed, the technician graduates as a Yamaha Master Technician.
"Having a Master Technician on our staff expands our already impressive depth of knowledge and credentials. The service side of our business is critically important to customer satisfaction and more extensive training is an area we have identified as a great investment for our whole team," said Philip Osborne, Vice President of Operations at Naples Boat Mart. "We are exceptionally proud of Mike's accomplishment".
The worldwide fraternity of Master Technicians is a small one. In order to keep their status current, Technicians must re-train a minimum of every two years and re-pass the most current testing for the certification. Michael Murray has been with Naples Boat Mart since 2006 and has over a decade of marine industry experience. Through all the other certifications he has every achieved in his career, the Yamaha Master certification holds a special place in his heart because of the ongoing personal and professional commitment it took to achieve. Please join the entire team at Naples Boat Mart in congratulating Michael Murray for his exciting accomplishment.
Naples Boat Mart is a full service marine dealership specializing in boats from 15-40 feet. Established in 1989, Naples Boat Mart operates two sales and service facilities at 829 Airport Road and at Naples Harbor Marina (behind the Naples Airport). Naples Boat Mart represents new boats from Grady-White Boats, Jupiter Marine, Hurricane Deckboats, and Key West Boats as well as engines, services, and parts for Yamaha, Mercury, Mercruiser, and dozens of other top brands. www.naplesboatmart.com
"Customerizing" Your Rig
Philip Osborne - Naples Boat Mart
We live in a gadget-filled era. A quick check of your pockets would probably reveal more technology than the entire campus of M.I.T. thirty years ago. For many of us, the fascination with gadgetry and technology does not stop with handheld electronics though. Our cars, homes, and offices are all Wi-Fi enabled, battery fed displays of what the microprocessor can offer! With the rapid progression of today's electronics, we are also seeing a major push toward modern technologies in boating. With some relatively inexpensive upgrades, your vessel can easily be modernized to take advantage of the newest trends.
The natural assumption is that a discussion of marine electronics technology would center specifically around navigation and fish finding. While the "big three" navigation manufacturers certainly have invested heavily in new products and amazing features, there are equally impressive advances in smart technology for battery charging, steering, lighting, and audio to explore.
Battery charging might not be the most glamorous function that your boat executes while you are away, but it certainly has the ability to ruin a trip if the engine won't start. Worse yet, aged chargers can cook batteries lifeless or be a fire hazard. The newest microprocessor enabled chargers from industry upstart PowerMania have the ability to sense the charge condition of all batteries they are connected to. Charger output is directed only to the batteries that need amperage, and the charge automatically switches to a "float" mode when the batteries are topped off. Several other brands offer similar functionally, but PowerMania is the only manufacturer who combines that with on-going battery monitoring that can instantly switch back into "charge" from "float" as soon as a load is applied and back again. It can also do all of that while operating on input voltage as low as 90 volts AC -- a common condition at the end of a busy floating dock. The units are fully potted and sealed for water resistance and are priced well below conventional "analog" chargers of comparable output. Models range from 2-4 banks and up to 40 amps of output.
Marine steering is being pushed on a revolution all its own as the ease of power steering or electro-mechanical steering in our automobiles beings to make its way to the water. If you can remember they eye-opener you got the first time you climbed into a car with power steering, you'll identify well with new power-assist options from Seastar Solutions (formerly Teleflex). Found on an overwhelming majority of hydraulically steered vessels, Seastar products now has a modular power assist pump that can be installed to reduce steering input force needed for vessels of all sizes. Better yet, these units can directly integrate with a compatible autopilot head unit, giving you both power steering and autopilot navigation all with just one pump and simplified plumbing. These systems are a fantastic upgrade to older boats - especially those with twin or triple engines capable of speeds over 30MPH. The reduction of steering force needed from the driver frees you up to better adjust engine trim or trim tabs to maximize ride comfort and will reduce fatigue after a long day on the water.
The LED light revolution has gone marine and in many cases, these products are just as easy to retrofit as they are in the home. Swapping a halogen cabin bulb for LED will save power, reduce heat output, and dramatically cut replacement costs. Better yet, smart LED technology from a few manufacturers will allow the user to configure lighting in, around, and under the boat in a variety of colors right from your compatible phone or tablet. Still want more wow-factor at the docks? Link it to your Wi-Fi capable stereo system and synchronize the lighting with your music! While looking cool certainly has a place, underwater lighting can serve a practical purpose as well. From increased visibility to other vessels at night to increased strikes while fishing, more and more boats of all sizes are taking advantage of the LED revolution. You would be hard pressed to find an offshore tournament fishing boat today that was not making use of LED lighting above and below the water. Many teams are even using their underwater lighting during the day to provide better visibility of their trolling bait spreads. Underwater or interior LED lighting is an easy and inexpensive boat upgrade that ranges from "do-it-yourself" to "consider hiring a pro" difficulty depending on where and what you might install. Even with professional installation, this is a cost effective upgrade that can shave years off the look of your boat.
Music has also benefited from the technological revolution. On board music systems have progressed with the introduction of digital music files. Streaming audio from your phone or other mobile device directly into on-board receivers is commonplace on all of our new products. If your older marine head unit doesn't sound as good as it used to - or doesn't power-on at all - consider an off-the-shelf package that will plug in its place and provide you Bluetooth capability for your tunes. Expanded further, many modern stereos can be networked into marine navigation systems so that a user at the helm can remotely access music files and control volume levels separately in various parts of the boat. Satellite weather technology from your GPS also carries the capability of bringing satellite audio to your speakers with the addition of a few wires on your existing subscription. Best of all, the latest batch of marine speakers from FUSION audio can be color matched to your boat and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes to fit virtually every installation -- all with water resistant housings and optional internal LED lighting for added effect.
If you are considering a total vessel makeover, or just want to look into the newest gadgets to dress up your ride, consider some of the products in this article as a great start. All brands mentioned are sold and serviced locally by Naples Boat Mart, and in many cases a boat owner could purchase, install, and enjoy all in the same day. Stop by for some friendly advice and make sure your boat is more modern than an old flip phone!