Monday, February 1, 2016

MLS Seamanship Series - Selecting an Anchorage

There are many reasons to anchor perhaps the most important being for safety.

Nautical publications often have useful information on the locations of suitable anchorages.

Local knowledge is valuable but you should always refer to your charts when considering your anchoring options.

There are several characteristics to look for when seeking a safe anchorage they include: 

Good Bottom Structure - Try to pick bottom structure that best suits your anchor gear. Clay or mud bottoms are often the best choice. Avoid rocky areas that will hang up your anchor. You can confirm the type of bottom by using the appropriate chart of the area. 

Shelter from Weather - Pick an area that is sheltered from the wind and strong currents. If possible you should select an anchorage that is protected from the wind on all sides, regardless of wind shifts. Another good option would be a cove offering protection from at least the existing wind condition. 

Ample Water Depth - Choose a location that provides adequate water depths through all stages of the tide. An area that is too deep will allow the anchor to drag and an area too shallow poses the risk of going aground. It important to also be aware of any strong or reversing currents that may occur during high or low tide. 

Nearby Navigational Hazards - Avoid anchoring near known navigational hazards. If an anchor drags, your vessel will be that much closer to danger. 

Location to Adjacent Vessels - If possible, try to anchor away from other vessels. This will reduce potential incidents arising from an anchor dragging or accessing the anchorage. 

Proximity to Other Traffic - Anchor outside and away from traffic lanes and vessel movement areas. The risk of collision will greatly be reduced. 

Available Navigational Aids - Choose an anchorage that has several navigational aids available to it. These could be prominent landmarks, lighted navigation buoys or lights. These aids can be used to ensure that your anchor is holding properly. 

Room to Swing - Pick an anchoring site that allows sufficient room for your boat to swing on its rode. Many boaters calculate a drag circle based on the length of their vessel and rode deployed. Using this information, a position fix can be taken periodically or an alarm set on electronic navigation equipment to warn of a dragging anchor.

Having selected a suitable spot, you should run in slowly, always approach the anchorage by heading into the wind or current whichever is stronger, preferably  on some range ashore selected from marks identified on the chart, or GPS data to aid in locating the chosen spot. Use of two ranges will give the most precise positioning. Later, these aids will be helpful in determining whether the anchor is holding or dragging.

Monday, January 25, 2016

MLS Seamanship Series - How Your Body Gains and Loses Heat

Your body operates at its prime within a very narrow temperature range of only two or three degrees. It has only three ways to gain heat but five different ways to lose it.

High Heat Loss Areas

Your body has five major heat loss areas:
  1. Head
  2. Neck
  3. Armpits
  4. Sides of chest
  5. Groin
Although your hands and feet may be the first to feel cold, they are not major heat loss sources.

Heat Gain - Your body gains heat three ways:
  1. External Sources: The sun, fires, and other heat sources warm your body.
  2. Digestion: Heat is produced as your body digest food.
  3. Muscular activity: As you move, your body produces heat, but activity in cold water may cause you to loose more heat than you gain because cold water is constantly flowing past your body's high heat loss areas.
 Heat Loss - Your body can lose heat five different ways:
  1. Radiation: Radiation occurs when heat is emitted from your body. Clothing is the obvious answer to preventing heat loss through radiation.
  2. Respiration: You lose heat by exhaling air that your body has warmed. Some of this heat loss can be prevented by covering your mouth with a loose knit scarf, hat, or other fabric.
  3. Evaporation: When your sweat evaporates, your body looses heat and moisture into the air. This explains why wet clothes make you cooler, which can be a good thing in a hot climate but deadly in a cool one.
  4. Conduction: Being in direct contact with cold surfaces - either solids or liquids - takes your heat away. Insulating yourself from these cold surfaces will stop or greatly slow conductive heat loss.
  5. Convection: Why does it feel cooler on wind days? Convection! This happens when your body's heat is taken away by moving air or water.
The combination of conduction and convection is the reason your body looses heat 25 times faster in water than in air of the same temperature.

Not being able to control your body's heat loss can lead to hypothermia, the lowering of your body's core temperature, which is one of the leading killers outdoors.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

MLS Seamanship Series: GPS – Entering Waypoints

There is nothing magical about a waypoint: it is simply a position that has been stored (‘entered’) into your GPS memory. Usually a waypoint is either your intended destination or some intermediate point that you want to pass through on the way there – hence the name ‘waypoint’.

When entering waypoints it is important to be aware that many GPS receivers require latitude and longitude to be given in a very rigidly defined format. It is quite common, for example, for a GPS to require that the degrees of longitude be given as three figures. So if you enter 1°26’. 10W as ‘1 26 1’, the GPS may store this as 126°10’.00 W.
Your receiver may also require that the minutes be given in two (or three) places of decimals, in which case the same entry would be stored as 0°12’.61 W. So whichever process your GPS requires make sure you have a clear understanding of how the data needs to be input.

Another very common mistake is to forget to enter the direction of latitude (N or S) or longitude (E or W). If you are on your way to New York City, for instance, you probably take it for granted that it is west of the prime meridian, but your electronic GPS does not.

One or more waypoints that you intend to pass through in a particular order are called a route or sail plan. Some of the simplest GPS receivers require that you enter your waypoints in the correct order, but most units now allow you to pick, choose and rearrange your waypoints. This is particularly useful for fishermen who want to store the lat and long of all the local fishing holes in their GPS memory during the fishing season and quickly assemble the relevant ones into a route when fishing a tournament or on a weekend trip.
In planning a route for waypoint navigation it is easy to concentrate solely on the waypoints and to forget that the only reason they are there is because you are intending to travel from one to the other, and that – circumstances permitting – you will be doing so in a series of straight lines. Rather than putting a waypoint off each main cape, peninsula, or bluff along the way, and at a few buoys in between, it is much better to draw the route as a series of straight lines first and then put a waypoint at each corner.

Monday, January 11, 2016

MLS Seamanship Series - Emergency Voice Communications

When an emergency occurs, the proper prowords should be used to show the degree of urgency when using your marine radiophone. Hearing one of these urgency calls should trigger specific responses in a listener, such as, preparing to collect information on an emergency or refraining from transmitting on the frequency until all is clear. The meaning of each urgency call is outlined below:
  • MAYDAY is a distress call of the highest priority. Spoken three times, it shows that a person, boat, or aircraft is threatened by grave or imminent danger and requires immediate assistance. Broadcast on 2182 kHz or Channel 16. A MAYDAY call has absolute priority over all other transmissions and shall not be addressed to a particular station. All boat operators hearing a MAYDAY call should immediately cease transmissions that may interfere with the distress traffic, and continue to listen on the distress message’s frequency.
  • PAN-PAN: Broadcast on 2182 kHz or Channel 16, this urgency signal consists of three repetitions of the group of words “PAN-PAN” (pahn-pahn). It means that the calling Station has a very urgent message to transmit concerning the safety of a ship, aircraft, vehicle, or person.
  • SECURITY: “SECURITÉ” (SEE-CURE-IT-TAY) is a safety signal spoken three times and transmitted on 2182 kHz or Channel 16. It indicates a message concerning the safety of navigation, or important weather warnings will be transmitted on 2670 kHz or Channel 22.
Many marine radios offer an additional audio means of sounding an alarm which consists of two audible tones of different pitch sent alternately, producing a warbling sound. If used, the alarm continuously sends the signal for not less than 30 seconds or more than one minute, and the originator of the signal should follow the signal by the radio distress signal and message. There are two primary reasons to use a radio alarm signal:
  1. To attract the attention of listeners on the frequency.
  2. To activate the automatic listening devices found on large ships and occasionally at shore Stations.
When a distressed boater is in your vicinity, receipt of the distress message should be acknowledged at once. However, if the distressed vessels position is determined to be a long distance away, boat operators should pause a few moments to allow other boats or vessels closer to the distressed vessel to reply.

In areas where communications with one or more Coast Guard shore stations is possible, you should wait a short period of time to allow the Coast Guard to acknowledge receipt of the distress signal. When involved with a distress situation on channel 16, do not attempt to change or shift to a working channel until enough information is obtained to handle the distress in case communications are lost during the change of channels.

Using your boats marine radio proficiently and knowing proper radio protocol speaks well of you the boat operator and your crew. By simply understanding how to properly use your marine radio it can alert you to safety to navigation issues, NOAA weather alerts or other emergencies in your operational area. Being aware of the basic protocol to proper marine radio operation significantly increases you and your crew’s chance of survival in the event of an emergency.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

MLS Seamanship Series - Boat Nomenclature and Terminology

As with any profession or skill, there are special terms that mariners use. Many of these terms have a fascinating history. Fellow mariners will expect that these terms will be used in routine conversation.

The front end of a boat is the bow. Moving toward the bow is going forward; when the boat moves forward, it is going ahead. When facing the bow, the front right side is the starboard bow, and the front left side is the port bow. The central or middle area of a boat is amidships.

The right center side is the starboard beam, and the left center side is the port beam. The rear of a boat is the stern. Moving toward the stern is going aft. When the boat moves backwards, it is going astern. Standing at the stern looking forward, the right rear section is the starboard quarter and the left rear section is the port quarter.

Starboard is the entire right side of a boat, from bow to stern and Port is the entire left side of a boat, from bow to stern. A line or anything else running from side to side is athwartships. Inboard is from either side of the boat toward the centerline. However, there is a variation in the use of outboard and inboard when a boat is tied up alongside something (e.g., pier or another vessel). In this example, the side tied up is inboard; the side away is outboard.

Going topside is moving from a lower deck to a weather deck or upper deck. Going below is moving from an upper deck to a lower deck. Going aloft is going up into the boat’s rigging. The weather deck is the deck exposed to the elements (weather). Lifelines or railings, erected around the edge of weather decks, are all technically called lifelines, although they may have different proper names. Windward is moving in the direction from which the wind is blowing; toward the wind. Leeward is the opposite point from which the wind is blowing; away from the wind. The term is pronounced “loo-urd”.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

MLS Seamanship Series - Safe Speed

The Navigational Rules of the Road (Rule 6) states that you need to set a safe speed in all conditions of visibility. This obviously does not mean the same “safe speed” applies in good as well as restricted visibility. The first requirement of this rule is to consider what the state of visibility is because safe speed in any condition must be closely related to the immediate circumstances and conditions at hand. A boat at high speed has a large amount of force.  With an untrained operator, this force can be dangerous.

The following different factors should be considered to determine safe speed:
  • Heavy seas:  Slow down as winds and seas increase; the boat will handle more easily.  Pounding or becoming airborne fatigues the hull and could injure your crew or cause them chronic body aches and pains.
  • Traffic density:  Do not use high speed in high traffic density areas.  A safe speed allows response to developing situations and minimizes risk of collision, not only with the nearest approaching vessel, but with others around it.
  • Visibility:  If conditions make it difficult to see, slow down.  Fog, rain, and snow are obvious limits to visibility, but there are others.  Visible features and obstructions (river bends, piers, bridges and causeways), along with heavy vessel traffic, can limit the view of “the big picture.” Darkness or steering directly into the sun lessens ability to see objects or judge distances.  Prevent spray on the windscreen (particularly salt spray or freezing spray) as much as possible and clean it regularly.  Spray build-up on the windscreen is particularly hazardous in darkness or when you experience glare.
Besides Heavy Seas, Traffic Density, and Visibility, there are additional external factors that will have an effect on your vessels ability to run at a safe speed.

In shallow water, the bottom has an effect on the movement of the vessel.  Slow down in shallow water.  In extremely shallow water, the vessel’s stern tends to “squat” and actually moves closer to the bottom.

In narrow channels and canals, a vessel moving through the water will cause the “wedge” of water between the bow and the nearer bank to build up higher than on the other side.  This bank cushion tends to push the bow away from the edge of the channel.

When meeting another vessel close aboard, bow cushion and stern suction occur between the vessels much the same as bank cushion and suction.  Helm corrections should be used to compensate.  As both vessels move through the water, the combined effect is greater than what a single vessel encounters from bank interaction.  Caution should be used so the bow does not veer too far from the intended track and the stern swings into the path of the other vessel.

All vessels are responsible for their wake and any injury or damage it might cause.  Only a poorly trained or ignorant boat operator trails a large wake through a mooring area or shallows, tossing vessels and straining moorings. A large, unnecessary wake, particularly in enclosed waters or near other smaller vessels, is unnecessary and can cause damage or injure others.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Five Great Gift Ideas for the Boater in Your Life

There are a few things no boat captain should be without…A boat, a little buddy, and much more.
This holiday season, you likely can’t help with the boat (unless you’ve recently won the lottery; and in that case, can we be friends?) or the little buddy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give gifts that make the sailor in your life go “ooooh!”

1.  Accessories: Brass Megaphone 
Sure, you could cup your hands around your mouth and yell, but sailors look much better saying “Ahoy matey” with this sleek and antique Brass Megaphone.
2.  Safety: Captain in a Box™
This is the perfect gift for anyone who has been boating for a while and realize that there is more they need to learn. Captain in a Box™ is an all-inclusive learning solution designed to teach boaters all of the ins and outs necessary to become a USCG Licensed Captain; this is the gift that will continue to give for years to come! Click here to learn more.

3.   Emotional: Acknowledgement Plaque
Where it was getting their captain’s license or setting sail on their first boat, this elegant mounted bell rings with sentimental memories.

4.   Functional: Binoculars
Whether a replacement or a first, the military-grade, Steiner Commander 7x30c marine binocular is a must-have for any serious boater.

5.   High TechSea Faring Apps
Discover Boating has created this list of Apps & Tools, some are free, some are not, but all are neat upgrades for the boater in your life.

Because our clients are the foundation of our success, it's our pleasure to take time this holiday season to say "thank you." All of us at Mariners Learning System wish you and your loved ones a season filled with peace and happiness and the warmth of family and good friends.