Keep The Water Out
There is nothing that sucks your breath from your lungs quicker than lifting the sole to find rivers of water where you usually see a barren bilge. Before you leave the dock, ensure your bilge pumps are properly sized. Unfortunately, quite a few builders install inadequately sized pumps. Install an electric bilge pump that can keep up with the inflow of water if the largest inlet fails to be safe. For many yachts, this would be the raw-water intake. I'm also a fan of yachts with raw-water sea chests and common drains that tie incoming and outgoing water into a common source, reducing the number of penetrations in the hull. Also, be sure to have properly sized built-in manual pumps on board that can continue to operate if you lose power. Install engine intakes with a bilge suction bypass, which are easy to operate. The principle is simple: If a large amount of water is coming in, a valve is turned (some systems require a plug to be removed), and the running engines suck water from the bilge, not the sea.
Setting The Anchor
Know how to drop and secure the hook for typical cruising endeavors. Ensure your boat is properly equipped with the correct anchor. Also make sure you're set properly before you turn off the engines. I was once off Sicily and we jumped in to cool off, then noticed the boat was drifting. We had to swim like hell to get out of the captain's way so he could start the engines. Next steps: Click here for a complete anchoring guide.
Current and Tide Basics
On some boats, an adverse current will not prohibit the ability to get underway. However, it may be nice to place a few knots of current behind you.
Make tide and current awareness part of your predeparture checklist. Ensure you know the time, strength, and direction of tidal currents. Most new electronic software has a very easy to use tide function. I also keep a tide table at my house to reference before I leave for the boat. Next steps: For those who have dived into the world of smartphone apps, try the Tides or Marine Tides apps.
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The U.S. Coast Guard is asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include: wearing a life jacket at all times and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence (BUI); successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons(r), or your state boating agency's Vessel Examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to "Boat Responsibly!" For more tips on boating safety, visit www.uscgboating.org.