From The Boathouse: Set some boating resolutions


Well the new year is here. I know all good boaters have made their new year resolutions, which will be broken before the spring thaw. Oh wait, Orange County harbors do not have a spring thaw, so how many resolutions will be broken before the yacht clubs' opening days?

Just what kind of resolutions do boaters make anyway? Well, I thought I would list those I think boaters have made this year.

Let's start with one that should always be on the forefront: Be courteous to everyone while on the water, whether a sail or power boater. Kind of reminds me of let there be world peace, but it can happen.

Another worthy resolution is always display the correct navigational lights at night. This will be more difficult than being courteous as many boats run with their anchor light brightly shining and many sailboats under engine power cruise at night without the masthead light lit. Check your navigation lights every time you plan to cruise at night during your pre-cruise vessel check.

A good seamanship resolution is to not cruise with your fenders hanging over your side, commonly referred to as the Del Rey stripes, named after Marina del Rey boaters. What is a fender you ask? A fender is the cylinder shaped vinyl "thing" that you place between your boat and the dock that most Sunday sailors call a bumper.

On that note, resolve to learn the nautical nomenclature, and as such, use the proper terminology when referring to "boating things."

Lastly on the resolutions list is to not yell at your spouse when docking or launching from a trailer. I wonder how some marriages have stayed together after watching the transformation of Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde when the boat nears the dock. Dr. Phil would have a field day.

Yes, tensions can get high when docking, but the skipper should not take out his stress on the crew. Slow down, get the boat under control, and remember, any docking you can walk away from is a good docking. I will give tips on docking in a future column.

Some of my other favorite resolutions begin with introducing someone new to boating and performing a safety check on your vessel every time prior to going underway, including checking flares, fire extinguishers and other safely equipment to be certain all is in good condition and up-to-date.

Check the weather and use the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's online weather service so it becomes a routine part of your pre-departure planning. Knowing the weather and potential conditions before leaving the dock is an important part of a skipper's job.

On the environmental side, boaters need to remember to fuel up without spilling even a drop at the self-service stations. This includes containing engine room oil drips and any spills with bilge pads and socks so they won't be sucked up by the bilge pumps. The effects of a little drop here and there add up.

Tuning and maintaining your engines to run at top performance helps reduce harmful exhaust or oil emissions and you'll get more miles to the gallon. Plus, you will be able to visually see any leaks beginning before the leak becomes major.

For safety, now is the time to wear a lifejacket or even try the new inflatable ones. I wear an inflatable lifejacket almost all the time when out on an open deck. I have mixed thoughts about my docking crew wearing PFDs on the size of boats that I skipper. I do not want to have someone fall in the water and be bobbing between the vessel and the dock. Rather, I want them to have the ability to swim down and under the dock as not to be crushed.

The skipper should not drink alcohol before or during the cruise for guests and other boaters' safety. Wait until you arrive safely back at the dock. The majority of all boating fatalities are alcohol related. Of course, commercial captains and crew cannot drink four hours prior to being on duty.

And don't forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead's "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network at noon Saturdays and replayed throughout the weekend.

Safe Voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to

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