Boating Safety and Navigation

Kiddie Fire Extinguisher Recall

Kiddie has recalled 134 models of fire extinguishers manufactured between 1973 and 2015. These models include plastic handle fire extinguishers and push-button Pindicator fire extinguishers.

Many marine models are included in this recall including models that were previously recalled in March 2009 and February 2015. The extinguishers were sold in red, white and silver, and are either ABC- or BC-rated. The model number is printed on the fire extinguisher label. For units produced in 2007 and beyond, the date of manufacture is a 10-digit date code printed on the side of the cylinder, near the bottom.  Digits five through nine represent the day and year of manufacture in DDDYY format. Date codes for recalled models manufactured from January 2, 2012 through August 15, 2017 are 00212 through 22717.  For units produced before 2007, a date code is not printed on the fire extinguisher.

The fire extinguishers can become clogged or require excessive force to discharge and can fail to activate during a fire emergency. In addition, the nozzle can detach with enough force to pose an impact hazard. You can contact Kiddie directly to check your extinguishers to see if they are affected and to learn more info on how to get replacement extinguishers.

Kidde toll-free at 855-271-0773 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday, or online at www.kidde.com and click on “Product Safety Recall” for more information.

This is also a good time to remind everyone to check your extinguishers to insure they are fully charged and in good operating condition. Also it’s not a bad idea to give them a shake and turn them upside down a few time to loosen any dry chemical powder that may have become compacted on the bottom of the extinguisher. If your extinguisher is rechargeable it should be recharged every 10 years. If your extinguisher is disposable it should be replaced every 12 years!

From Kiddies website:

Rechargeable fire extinguishers

According to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards, rechargeable fire extinguishers must be recharged every 10 years.

A rechargeable fire extinguisher has a metal head, and a gauge that reads Charge / Recharge. Check your fire extinguishers gauge monthly to verify that your fire extinguisher is still charged. If the extinguisher’s gauge needle is in the Recharge area, have your fire extinguisher recharged immediately.

Kidde’s rechargeable fire extinguishers all have a six-year warranty.

For more information about your specific fire extinguisher, refer to your user’s manual.

Disposable fire extinguishers

According to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards, disposable fire extinguishers must be replaced every 12 years.

A disposable fire extinguisher has a plastic head, and a gauge that reads Full / Empty. Check your fire extinguishers gauge monthly to verify that your fire extinguisher is still full. If the extinguisher’s gauge needle is in the EMPTY area, replace your fire extinguisher immediately.

Kidde’s disposable fire extinguishers all have a 10 to 12-year warranty.

For more information about your specific fire extinguisher, refer to your user’s manual.

Know Before You Go With These Free Weather Apps For IOS and Android Devices

We’ve all been there, heading to the boat for a day of fun only to realize the weather turned and it’s no longer safe to head out on the water. Or we have spent a weekend out, get ready to head back to the dock and get surprised by a storm on our way in. Luckily these days we have access to many different forecasting and live data tools to make checking the weather an easy task.

Tides Near Me is a great app to see when the next low tide, high tide or what the current tide is right where you are.

Android version of tides near me can be downloaded here.

Iphone and IOS version of tides near me can be found here.

NOAA Buoy Data app lets you see real time buoy data from and NOAA buoy that is actively reporting data to NOAA. This app also includes all the data sent by the buoy including wave height and water temperature.

Android Play store version of NOAA Buoy data can be found here.

Apple App Store version of NOAA Buoy data can be found here.

Windy is a great app for forecasts, wave height and forecasted wave height. It is used by professionals, fishermen, governments and other people who want accurate real time information. I love this app and use it almost everyday.

Android version of Windy can be downloaded here.

Apple App Store version of Windy can be found here.

MyRadar NOAA weather app is one of the best no frills radar apps out today. It does just what is it supposed to and that is show you your local radar.

Android version of MyRadar can be downloaded here.

Apple App Store version of MyRadar can be found here.

qtVlm is a navigation software designed for sailing boats. It is also a free weather grib viewer that accepts all kinds of gribs. It can read and display maps in various formats, such as Vector charts (S57), Raster Charts (kaps, geotiff, etc) and mbtiles charts. This is a serious app for serious users and it’s only available on android devices. It is a weather app, a navigation app and is able to parse NMEA data on devices fitted to GPS or Chartplotters.

Android version of qtVlm can be downloaded here.

There are many free weather apps and maybe you use one that isn’t listed here and that’s great! These are some that I use and trust. There is one marine specifict app that I left out, I use it but the reviews are terrible. If you use it you will know what I am talking about and if you don’t use it the reviews may scare you away however I would say give it a try and see if you like it. I personally haven’t had problems with it like others have had.

Don’t forget about the free weather broadcast you can receive on your marine VHF radio or on your weather radio. The over the air broadcast contains real time information and alerts concerning the listening area. Boating on the Chesapeake bay I usually listen to the marine forecast on the radio and use an app to double check conditions before leaving the dock.

Remember your weather app might not work once you leave populated areas and no longer have a reliable internet connection. The NOAA radio is a true lifesaver.

SOS Distress Light An Alternative To Flares

Flares are an important part of our vessel safety equipment and are required by law.

For boats under sixteen feet you are required to carry 3 day and 3 night flares or 3 combination day / night flares. For boats sixteen feet and larger you are required to carry three hand-held or floating orange smoke signals and one electric distress light or three combination day / night red flares; hand-held, meteor or parachute type. All Coast Guard approved flares and pyrotechnic signaling devices are stamped with an expiration date. If your flares are expired or will expire during the boating season they will need to be replaced! While 3 day / 3 night flares are the minimum it is suggested and prudent to carry more. After a few years of boating this can add up to a significant cost.

 

Weems & Plath a leader in manufacturing technical and navigational instruments has developed an electronic alternative to pyrotechnic flares and signaling devices that is US Coast Guard approved, easily activated, eliminates risk of accidental burns and fires and can be attached to the boat and left unattended while you work to fix what ever problems the boat is having or assist you passengers. The SOS Distress Light is waterproof, has a floatation ring to keep the strobe light above the water, runs for 60 hours on 3 C cell batteries, and can be seen for up to 10 nautical miles. The best part is you don’t have to pay to replace expired flares year after year. The only ongoing cost associated with the SOS Distress Light is replacing the batteries yearly or as needed and carrying an spare set of batteries on the boat. The light comes with an orange SOS distress flag for day time use to meet requirements for day time signaling.

 

Some interesting features of the SOS Distress light are it comes with a lanyard that can be hoisted up a mast or tied to a railing, the handle fits perfectly into a standard rod holder, it works in all weather conditions, it’s so simple to operate even an untrained passenger can turn it on and it floats and keeps flashing even in the water unlike a flare that may not fire after an extended time in the water.

I bought one of these as soon as they came out and were Coast Guard approved. I kept my expired flares on the boat but marked them as “training use only” in order to avoid issues with the Coast Guard safety inspections. It’s never a bad idea to have a back up when it comes to your life or someone else’s. I’m pretty happy with the construction of the light and operation of the light. The only thing I would like to see is a mount sold for it. It takes up about the same amount of space as a small flare kit but it is an awkward shape and doesn’t lay flat or fit into an emergency bag easily. Since it fits into a rod holder you can repurpose a rod holder to store it. This makes a great addition to your Coast Guard approved safety kit.

DSC Marine VHF Radios

You may be in the market for a new marine VHF radio or just bought a new boat with a new VHF radio on it. There are a lot of options today in the marine VHF radio market. One of those options that is standard on all new fix mount VHF radios and many handheld radios is DSC or Digital Selective Calling.

Marine VHF Radio With DSC

What is DSC?

Digital Selective Calling allows you to make ship to ship calls, find a fellow boater’s position, make a distress call with the push of a button and report your own position. DSC is coupled with GPS either through a stand alone GPS receiver, your chart plotter or a GPS receiver in the VHF radio. The GPS connection is a two wire connection using  NMEA 0183 protocol. Generally if you have a NMEA 0183 capable chartplotter or stand alone GPS receiver you can hook your VHF radio to it and be able to send your coordinates to other ships or the coast guard in the event of an emergency. If you don’t have a chartplotter or a standalone GPS receiver don’t worry there are DSC capable marine VHF radios with a built in GPS receiver.

Chartplotter With NMEA Capability

A DSC radio is a good investment for several reasons. You can call all the people you normally boat with by putting in their MMSI number and “ringing” their DSC capable radio. This lowers the amount of unnecessary traffic on marine channel 16. DSC transmits data on channel 70 and in a congested area using DSC rather than voice to call friend or to find a friends position is much better than tying up the airwaves and potentially transmitting over a distress call. With DSC and a chartplotter you can see where your friends are on the chartplotter and you can see any vessels in distress near you. In the event of a mayday or distress condition on your boat you can just push the red button on the radio and instantly transmit your boats position, details on the type of boat, name of boat, your name and contact info to the coast guard and any commercial ships near you. Greatly speeding up the time it takes to get help also because DSC is digital not voice you may have a greater transmitting range compared to making a voice mayday call on VHF channel 16.

If you have a new or new to you DSC radio in addition to wiring it to a GPS receiver you will need to enter your MMSI number into. A word of caution! Some radios will only allow the MMSI number to be entered once or twice. If you are buying a used radio make sure it can accept your MMSI number and if you are buying a new radio make sure you enter the number correctly. The MMSI number you register links your radio to your information. It contains your boat name, boat type and brand, size of the boat, color of the boat, your phone number, emergency contact information and your address.

Obtaining a MMSI number is easy. If you only plan on boating in US waters and are registering a private vessel you can visit one of the following three websites:

US Power Squadron MMSI 

Boat-US MMSI

SeaTow MMSI

If you are planning on boating outside of US waters you will need to file directly with the FCC to obtain your MMSI number. The forms can be found here: Form 159 and Form 605

If you are outside of the US visit this site in order to find the proper place to register for a MMSI number.

Connecting your DSC radio to GPS in such an important thing, it is literally a simple life saving step you can take to insure quick and proper notification to the authorities in the event of an emergency.

US Coast Guard Iphone and Android App

Today I was preparing to write a post about coast guard required safety equipment and I came across something I didn’t know existed. The Official US Coast Guard App for boaters. I just installed the android version of the app on my phone in order to review it for this post. When you install the app you are asked to agree to the terms of service for the app. For a government agency the terms are fairly straightforward but read them first to make sure you really want to agree to them. Since you can make reports of hazards and emergencies through the app you are reminded that false reports are illegal and waste resources. The app asks to use your location because it will give the GPS coordinates when making a report The app asks you to fill out info for a profile but you don’t have to fill out any info until you try to make a report.

In addition to being able to make a report of a hazard you can make reports of pollution, report suspicious activity and request emergency assistance through the app. The app lets you view state boating information, request a safety check, review safety equipment, file a float plan, view the rules of the road, and see NOAA buoy information. That’s quite a lot of good information right at your finger tips. It appears you will need an internet connection to view some of the information.

Check out this video for an overview of the application. 

This app is another tool in your boating toolbox and for the low, low price of free I’d recommend checking it out. The app also shows your GPS coordinates so you can quickly relay them to the authorities in the event of an emergency.

Seamanship And the Rules Of The Road For Boaters

As a former full time liveaboard and current seasonal liveaboard I am on the water quite a bit and see a wide range of boating skill and etiquette from my fellow boaters. Often I wonder if a certain boat operator has even taken a look at the ColRegs AKA the rules of the road for boaters. If you haven’t yet I suggest visiting the coast guard website and downloading their free copy of the amalgamation of the International (72 COLREGS) and Inland Navigation Rules. I will touch on the major parts of the rules here but won’t get as in depth as the official source.

First rule is avoid a collision. It is the position of the Coast Guard and the Admiralty Court that there are no accidents. If a collision occurs the navigation rules were not followed. Plain and simple.

Second, a constant watch and lookout is required anytime a vessel is underway. This is a pet peeve of mine. I’ve witnessed both power and sail boats operated in tight navigational areas by people who were not keeping a lookout. I have had a large cabin cruiser almost hit me and several others being operated by autopilot while the “captain” was sitting on the aft deck having a drink with his guests.  This is illegal and a good way to hurt or kill other people.

Stand on Vessel and Give way vessel which are you? 

The “Stand on Vessel” (the one that has the Right of Way) is required to hold course until such time that it is determined the “Give Way Vessel”  (the one that is yielding the right of way) is not going to Give Way. The Stand on Vessel is then required to avoid a collision. All maneuvers must be made early and obvious to avoid any chance of misinterpretation.

The “Give Way” vessel is the vessel that must yield (the term used on roads when you drive a car) to the other.  “Stand On” is the vessel that has the right of way.

A Stand on Vessel MAY give up it’s rights. However any maneuvers must be made early and obvious BEFORE it becomes Stand on to show the vessel that would be the Give Way Vessel that it is not required to make an avoiding maneuver.

“Obvious” It’s an important word. Let’s say you are the give way vessel approaching the stand on vessel. You make a slight course adjustment to pass the stand on vessel but that adjustment is so slight the stand on vessel is confused as to what your intentions are. I try to make it clear both visually and on the radio or horn what my intentions are when meeting or passing a vessel. This possibly means a safe yet exaggerated turn to the proper side.

The following is from the Maritime.College website and is linked here

Rules to remember when two vessels meet

  • When two power vessels are approaching head on,both vessels should alter course to starboard to pass port-side to port-side.
  • When two power-driven vessels are in crossing situation on a collision course, give way to the vessel to starboard (right).The give way vessel must take early and obvious action to avoid a collision by either stopping or altering course to starboard.
  • If the give way vessel has another power-driven vessel from the Port (left) which does not take obvious action to give way, or alter course to starboard, then the Skipper of give-way (stand on) vessel must take evasive action by either stopping, or again, altering course to starboard.
  • Every vessel (power or sail) that is overtaking must keep well clear of the over taking vessel. You are overtaking if you are approaching another vessel anywhere in a 135 degree sector at its stern.

Channels and harbours

  • All vessels must keep to the starboard (right) side of any channel.
  • Inside a harbour (normally shown on the pilotage limit on the chart) you must keep out of the way of any ship over 500 tons. (which is about 50 metres in length)
  • Do not create a wake which causes unnecessary danger to other vessels or people.
  • You must not anchor in a channel.
  • All small craft must keep out of the way of larger vessels which are restricted by their draft to maintain passage and steering within the channel.

When power meets power

  • You must give way to another vessel on your starboard. (right)
  • If you meet head on, both vessels must turn to starboard. (right)

When power meets sail

  • Power gives way to sail unless the sailing vessel is overtaking.
  • Sailing vessels should avoid sailing in a narrow channel. They have to give way to power-driven vessels restricted in their ability to manouvre in the channel.

When sail meets sail

  • The vessel which has the wind on its starboard (right) side has the right of way. The vessel which has the wind on its port (left) side must give way.
  • When both boats have the wind on the same side the windward (upwind) boat has to give way.

When things go wrong

  • If the give way vessel does not appear to be giving way, the stand on vessel must take evasive action and should turn to starboard (right). Do not alter course to port, it could place you into the path of the give way vessel.

Five or more blasts of a horn indicate immediate danger. If five or more blasts are heard you should immediately determine the source of the danger and take immediate evasive action if required.

The above are a few of the common ways you’ll meet and navigate around other vessels for a more indepth look read the ColRegs or purchase a book on seamanship. I also recommend the US Power Squadron Books and Courses to every boater. They cover everything from beginning to advanced topics.

There is so much more to boating safely I may make a few more posts in the future discussing topics like navigation and aids to navigation. This post touches on the rules of the road and is meant as a companion to truly learning the rules, taking a certified boaters course and other self study. It is in no way complete or intended as the sole source of information.