A new year in boating

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 26, 2004

The presents are open. The wrapping paper, so carefully folded and taped has been ripped to shreds like an extra from the latest horror movie. The Christmas feast has been consumed, after taking the participants hours to prepare. You have watched &uot;The Grinch&uot; and &uot;It’s A Wonderful Life&uot; multiple times. A multitude of toys have been pulled out of their collective boxes only to find out that batteries were not included! Most importantly you have taken time to give thanks and share the enjoyment that comes with celebrating a very important day.

For boaters, especially those that have new equipment, the next week or two can be a very useful time. New equipment, especially systems like GPS trackers, electronic charts and some of the new safety equipment has gotten increasingly sophisticated.

However, this news is really a two edged sword. On one hand, boaters are getting all sorts of new capabilities, on the other, it does require time to understand the capabilities and use them to their full extent. So often, new equipment is simply installed without the owner/operator taking the time to break out the manual and understand how the equipment is designed, etc.


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So here are some recommendations for boaters with shinny new pieces of equipment:

Before you take the equipment out of its box please take the time to break the manual out and read it. Don’t just read the overview – actually take the time to go through operation, troubleshooting and installation.

Look and understand the diagrams. This may sound juvenile but trust me, people get new equipment and suddenly they think they are electrical engineers! The worst situation is to have your radio die during an emergency and you have no idea how to even begin to fix the problem.

Make sure you have a good understanding of the installation requirements, particularly for radios, GPS Navigation systems, electronic chart systems and radars. In many cases it is well worth the money to pay for professional installation.

If you are going to install equipment yourself make sure you have done a &uot;self check&uot; for the Marine environment.

I make this recommendation based on a boarding I conducted about nine years ago off of St Thomas, USVI while still on active duty in the Coast Guard. We boarded a vessel that had a battery, with all cables, connections, etc. exposed to sea, in this case salt water. During another boarding we saw exposed wires which were arching and sparking near a radio. Both of these were &uot;self&uot; installations.

Before getting underway, test your equipment fully.

Each manual provides some very good recommendations for testing pierside, and take full advantage of these. If there are any concerns use the 1-800 or 1-888 Customer Service number to get immediate assistance. If this fails to correct the problem, consider the advice listed under #2.

New equipment, especially some of the new safety equipment that is on the market, is great stuff. Knowing how to properly use it, when to use and how to install it are also important. Until next time Boat Safe and Boat Smart!