Tuesday, December 16, 2014

So you want to be a Captain - Required Safety Instruction and Orientation

The U.S. Coast Guard requires that all commercial passenger vessels, regardless of their size, conduct a safety briefing prior to getting underway.

This requirement is in place regardless of the number of passengers that you have on-board your vessel and also applies to OUPV/Six-pack charters. This orientation can be done by the Captain or qualified crew member.

The nature of this instruction varies somewhat among vessels, but all briefings are required to cover the following topics:
  • Stowage Locations of life preservers.
  •  Proper method of donning and adjusting life preservers carried aboard your vessel.
  • The type and location of all lifesaving devices carried on the vessel. (Life Floats, Life Rings, Buoyant Apparatus, Fire Extinguishers, EPIRB, Ditch Bag, etc.)
Since many OUPV/Six-pack charters are run solely by the Captain it is also a good idea to review the operating procedures of the VHF-FM marine radio with the passengers. As an additional safety measure install a distress call placard near the radio that includes instructions and distress channels to be used in the event that the captain becomes disabled. Also, explain where the first aid kit and flares are kept. 

In today’s world it is not a wise business practice to just meet the “minimum” U.S. Coast Guard regulations if you are running commercial charters.  Unfortunately, there is an entire industry of victims, investigators, and lawyers, whose livelihood depends solely on supposed safety violations. The more you can do to protect yourself the better off you will be in the long run. Keep accurate records of all passengers that you take out and be sure to note any special circumstances or injuries that may occur during your trip. Be sure to discuss any additional guidelines or safety rules that relate specifically to your boat that would ensure a passenger had a safe journey while on-board.

Always remember – What can go wrong will go wrong – Some day!

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

MLS Seamanship Series (Week 50) - Psychology of Survival

Headline News - Man lost at sea for 12 days rescued; Couple found alive after 22 days drifting on disabled boat; Boater found alive at sea nearly two weeks after reported missing.

Why is it that some people are more likely to survive an emergency at sea than others? To some degree it can be traced back to how a person reacts to the emergency itself. 

It has been reported that a small percentage of people that find themselves in a threatening situation feel calm during their ordeal. Being calm can allow you to make more good decisions than bad ones. However, being too calm can be dangerous, especially if it leads to indecisiveness or failure to recognize the life threatening nature of your emergency.

Fear, is not always a bad thing as long as it can be controlled and motivates you to take action. Panic occurs less frequently than you might expect, but when it does it can spread quickly. Preparation and training are two proven tools that can help reduce fear and panic in an emergency situation.  Knowing what to do and when to do it can mean the difference between life and death.

Reactions to a crisis may also include denial, anger and guilt, feeling numb or confused. These emotions can change from day-to-day, hour-to-hour and in some extreme cases minute-to-minute.
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Survival experts say that it is important to try to regain some sense of control over your circumstances. This is especially true when you focus your efforts on trying to improve your status. In long term survival situations creating schedules and establishing a daily routine can also dramatically increase your chance of survival.

Be positive, think about when, not if, you will be rescued. Live your ordeal one hour or one minute at a time if necessary. Remember your family and friends and plan your future. Do not underestimate the role your will-to-live plays in extreme situations – Act Like a Survivor, Not A Victim and Don’t Give Up!

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

So you want to be a Captain - What defines a paying passenger?

USCG Licensed Captain Steve Hale



The fines are stiff if you are caught charging passengers a fee (consideration) to go out on your boat without being a USCG Licensed Captain. How does $10,000 per occurrence sound? And to make matters worse... If you are not enrolled in an approved random drug testing program you can add another $5,000 for each day you are caught doing so. Well it’s true!

Unless you are independently wealthy and enjoy giving money to the U.S. Government this is a practice one should certainly consider long before getting caught.

“They won’t catch me” you say… Well most people running illegal charter businesses are caught because they run their operation out of a marina where there are other “legal” Captains are running their business. If they see you filling your boat while they sit on the dock you can bet it will not be long before they drop a “dime” and give the Coast Guard a call.

Now that you have this new found knowledge would you like to know how the Coast Guard regulations define a passenger-for-hire? If so read on...

On December 20, 1993, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Passenger Vessel Safety Act of 1993. This law clearly defines what a “paying” passenger is considered to be. This law can be found in Title 46 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations and in part states:

Definition of Terms
Consideration means an economic benefit, inducement, right, or profit, including pecuniary payment accruing to an individual, person, or entity but not including a voluntary sharing of the actual expenses of the voyage by monetary contributions or donation of fuel, food, beverage, or other supplies.
Passenger means an individual carried on a vessel, except
(i)                  He owner or an individual representative of the owner:
(ii)                The master;
(iii)        A member of the crew engaged in the business of the vessel who has not contributed consideration for carriage, and who is paid for on-board services.

Passenger-for-hire means a passenger, for whom consideration is contributed as a condition of carriage on the vessel, whether directly or indirectly, flowing to the owner, charterer, operator, agent, or any other person having an interest in the vessel.

What does it all mean?
If you and your friends go out on a fishing trip together they can share the fuel, food, and bait expenses without being considered a passenger-for-hire. This would also apply if you were doing a sunset cruise with your friends or family. The key element here is that in each of these cases the time spent out on the water is with friends and family who have gathered socially.

Take the “social” aspect away from these scenarios and things change significantly. Some of these differences are clearer than others. For instance, if you were to purchase a ticket to ride a ferry or fishing boat this is clearly an example of being a “paying” passenger. However, what if you were a salesperson taking clients out on their boat with the intention of building a business relationship with the expectation that they will receive some sort of “economic” benefit in the future? In this case, even though no money was exchanged during the trip; those passengers are still considered, under the rules, to be for-hire thus requiring the salesperson to be a licensed Captain.

Even with these regulations in place “sea-lawyers” love to read between the lines and argue the true meaning of these regulations. Penalties for making the wrong decision can be quite severe. The law is clear. How you choose to interpret these regulations is up to you - But why would you want to take the risk?

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Friday, December 5, 2014

MLS Seamanship Series (Week 49) - 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 (responsible for 50% of heat loss)
  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 swaet 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.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

So you want to become a Captain - Insuring Yourself

While working as a Licensed Captain on a vessel owned by a corporation, you will be covered by the company’s liability insurance policy. However, if you provide training on a client’s boat or choose to work as a self-employed delivery captain this will not be true. In this case the owner of the vessel must have their policy amended to provide the necessary insurance required to cover you. 

This insurance “Rider” provides the policyholder extra protection beyond the provisions contained in their standard insurance agreement. Current law prevents you from being able to buy insurance to cover another person’s boat. This means that you cannot insure a customer’s boat under a policy which you have purchased.

The process of being added to the vessels policy is generally simple and straight forward.  The owner just needs to call their agent and pay a small fee to have you listed as the “co-insured” Captain on their policy. In most cases you will be required to supply a current copy of your USCG license and a resume covering your boating experience. The policy holder will receive a letter stating that you are now covered by their insurance. Be sure to obtain a photocopy of this letter for your records and do not leave the dock until you have done so. In the unlikely event that something where to go wrong you need more than the owners word that this insurance is in place to protect yourself.

Here are a couple of advantages of becoming “named co-insured” on your clients policy:
  • You now are covered for liability and damage in the vent of an accident.
  • This would make it very difficult for your customer to sue you for damage if an accident should occur since he would in effect be suing himself.


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Monday, November 24, 2014

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
Boating Magazine created this list of Apps, some are free, some have $200 subscriptions, but all are neat upgrades for the sailor 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.





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Thursday, August 7, 2014

MLS Seamanship Series (Week 32) – Estimating Wave Height

An accurate estimate of wave height is subjective and sometimes difficult to accomplish, but there are a number of methods that, with practice, will give good results:
  • Height of eye – With your boat in the trough and on a level and even keel, any wave that obscures the horizon is greater than the height of a person’s eye.  One can also compare a wave to the deck edge or a structure such as the handrail.  The wave face is observed while bowing into it and in the trough on an even keel.  This is also generally the best method for judging surf.
  • Comparison with floating structures or vessels - This technique is most useful when observing from land, but may be applied while underway.  If the distance from the waterline to the top of a buoy is known to be 13 feet, that information can be used to determine the height of the waves passing it.  A buoy can also be used to determine the wave period.  One can observe a vessel underway and by estimating the freeboard of the vessel and observing its motions on the water, he or she can gain a fair estimate of the seas in which it is operating.
  • Comparison with a fixed structure - Observation of waves as they pass a fixed structure, such as a break-wall, jetty, or pier, can be very accurate and can also provide wave period.
  • Depth Sounder - Using a digital finder with a fast update speed can be very accurate for determining wave height.  By comparing the depth in the trough on even keel with the depth at the crest on even keel, an accurate measurement can be obtained.
All of these methods can be useful and fairly accurate for determining wave height, but they require practice and experience.  By comparing a local Weather Service buoy report with the crew’s observations, they can fine-tune their sense of wave height.  With enough practice, you should be able to judge wave heights simply by looking at the waves themselves.

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