As most of you already know, last weekend and this weekend open the season for our harbor's yacht clubs. This is the time of year boat owners should have completed their "to-do lists" and are ready for the 2013 boating season.
What, you have not completed your list? Don't feel bad; I still have 20 items on the J 109 Linstar list and five on my Harbor 20 to complete. Over the years, I have entered boats in my club's yacht inspection and worked my way down the general criteria list. This list includes checking my safety gear by making sure it's up-to date — with flares, fire extinguishers, EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacons), life rafts and ditch bags.
The typical opening-day inspection process starts early in the morning with yacht club inspectors walking though your boat asking you questions and working their way through the general criteria list. Owners are aboard to answer questions and, for the most part, sell their efforts of preparing their boat for the upcoming season.
I have always felt that something was missing in the inspection criteria, and that is the boat's first mate being present during inspection. I have watched a number of skippers' faces turn sour — yes, that's green after it turns red — when I have, as an inspector, turned to the first mate and asked them questions about the boat. Questions like: Can you show me the latitude and longitude (L&L) of the boat; can you show me the L&L of our harbor entrance; what VHF channel can you call for assistance on; what is the location of the medical kit, EPRIB and life raft? If you are the first mate, can you answer these types of questions and return your vessel home safely should something unfortunate happen to your skipper? If you can answer these questions, your vessel should receive extra points during inspection.
If you can't answer some of these questions, it's time you learn. On your next outing, ask if you can start the boat at the dock; you do not have to pull the boat out of the slip, but you should be able to steer a course from a compass. Make sure, as a first mate, you take part in your ship's routine. As a skipper, I can't tell how many times I have had to hand the helm over to my first mate, Jennifer. I am lucky in many ways, but Jennifer never has been intimidated to take the helm of our boats, and it's taken many years for her to understand how to use the safety and navigation items. Now I just need to make her comfortable with my anchoring in Catalina rather than always picking up a mooring, but that's another story.
Another opening day bug-a-boo I have is flag etiquette. There is no real pattern to dressing your signal flags during opening day or on the 4th of July and other special occasions. Most yacht clubs will follow the standard sequence, but what gets me the most bothered is timing. While driving by the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club and Balboa Yacht Club this Friday through Sunday, you will notice how many boats will be dressed for well over a week.
If I was a club inspector, I would not give out awards until after sunset on opening day because that's when your colors should be taken down. Personally, (don't ask me why), flag etiquette is very important to me. Ships' flags and ensign should be raised at 8 a.m. and drawn at sunset. I would be elated if everyone followed these standards — and how smart would that yacht club look if its members did this in unison? Can you imagine what it would be like to be at your club and watch everyone raise their flags at 8 a.m. and drop them at sunset when the cannon is shot? In my book, you would be the best-dressed club in town.
Keep in mind, opening day is all about using your boats safely and having fun while doing it. I will be at BCYC on Saturday for opening ceremonies and then over to BYC, where Linstar will be open for you to stop by and say hello. If you would like to make a difference in our harbor, the city is accepting applications for the open Harbor Commission seat up until the 15th of this month. If you are the type of sailor who yells protest when you have been fouled on the race course and flies your protest, then does not file your protest, it's time you do! If you feel you have been fouled a lot lately, it's time you take it to the room and get involved with our harbor by applying for harbor commissioner.
LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.