For recreational boaters, being on the lake the first couple of times of the season, is like navigating Fairmount Avenue on Christmas Eve. It can be exhausting, especially if you haven’t driven your craft in nine months or so. Remember the learning curve that we all experience after the first snow. For folks that don’t spend that much time at the helm, it can be an interesting curve.
Proper maintenance is important for anything and with a boat it’s imperative. You all don’t want to be the one being towed into a dock. This likely means more use as well as wear and tear on the boat. Some boats that may have been recently launched are simply not up to snuff yet. You don’t need to be that guy. Regardless, now is the time to address the things that still need fixing, with extra attention paid to the electrical (battery, charging system, navigation lights) and fuel (fuel lines, fresh gas) systems. With boat trailers, check tires for wear, bearings for grease and ensure all lights work.
Recently I found myself in the middle of a conversation regarding boat batteries. While I personally swear by one brand of battery and one only, Interstate, this isn’t a commercial for Interstate. It is just the one I use and it has never let me down. In fact, you’ll find them in my boats and in my vehicles.
For me and mine there is no better battery on the market today. While they aren’t the least expensive batteries on the market, I haven’t found any that will stand up to the use and abuse I put batteries through.
For example, this past fall while heading out for a late-season duck hunt, I waited for two boaters — in the dark — at the launch trying to start their boats with no luck. I backed in, turned the key and the Merc fired up and off we went in the darkness while the other hunters were still on land trying to jump-start their boats. I am sure at least one of them cursed at us as we made our way off into the darkness but we had the advantage, a good solid battery.
In the years that I call BI — before Interstate — I found myself spending many an ice-cold evening after a day of hunting, attempting to start a truck with a dead battery. I wish I had a nickel for each time I sat at a launch attempting to start a boat with no juice.
The couple extra bucks I’ve spent since those BI days, I have saved in trips, and time and energy taking care of something that I have control over.
The Christmas tree light effect we see each Fourth of July is exciting but can be dangerous. Each year after the fireworks shows end and boaters head home, traffic on lakes such as Chautauqua is very busy. Having spent many a Fourth of July watching fireworks on Chautauqua Lake, I know first-hand the boat traffic is at an all-time high.
Most folks keep their lights on — as you are supposed to — while at anchor or floating during the evening hours, and often the batteries on your boat will run down.
While enjoying a great day relaxing, playing music is fun but remember your battery. It’s important to run your big motor off and on throughout the day, just be careful to avoid anchor lines when you turn the motor on — I am just saying. If you are heading in after dark always have your lights on and post extra lookouts. Don’t take shortcuts. Be patient at the launch ramp. Powerboats need to watch their wakes. With nightfall, the chance of accidents increases, so it’s a good idea to have everyone in life jackets.
While it’s always fun to have company on the lake when you do, remember the extra guest factor. Many boating guests are likely to be kids, but some vessels won’t have the right-sized life jacket aboard. For safety, and because it’s the law, all youth need to have a properly fitted life jacket on. Also, smaller boats are prone to overloading, leaving just a precious few inches of freeboard to prevent wakes and waves from coming aboard.
Just as much, alcohol use is a safety issue when you are on the water. Remember the same rules of the road are enforced on water as are on land. Waiting to drink until you safely get back home ensures everyone will have a good time.
One of the most overly basic problems folks have when boating is often overlooked: fuel.
With the official start of boating season locally just around the corner, Memorial Day weekend, it’s important for boaters to be mindful when selecting fuel for their boats, especially as the federal government’s Renewable Fuel Standard is increasing the risk of consumer misfuelling. Even one mistake at the pump can be the source of expensive, warranty-voiding repairs and dangerous engine failure.
Boaters can’t assume that every fuel sold at gas stations will work in marine engines. Boats can only run on 10% or less ethanol content (E10) fuel — and we know many boaters prefer to use ethanol-free (E0) when possible. Unfortunately, as a result of the RFS, boaters may face a much harder time this summer finding the E0 fuel they want. And with more E15 (gasoline with 15% ethanol) forced into the fuel supply by the RFS, the threat of accidental misfuelling, especially at gas stations with blender pumps is growing.
By increasing the share of fuels in the marketplace that are unsafe for marine engines, the federal government’s RFS is putting boaters at risk. Research shows the costly price of accidentally misfuelling a boat with E15 can include stalling, corrosion, fuel leaks, damaged valves and complete engine failure each of which could put boaters and their safety in jeopardy. Now more than ever, with E15 on the rise, the threat of misfuelling is real.
An estimated 95% of boats are filled at retail gas stations, but a few years back a poll commissioned by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute found a startling 60% of consumers believe any gas sold at retail stations is suitable for all engines and products. Further, only 36% know E15 is harmful to some engines with just 5% aware that its use in those engines is also illegal.
The federal ethanol mandates require increasing amounts of biofuels including corn ethanol to be blended into the U.S. fuel supply every year. This growing mandate forces higher quantities of fuels such as E15 into the marketplace, often at the expense of E0 ethanol-free fuel, and even though fuels with more than 10% ethanol are illegal to use in marine engines, motorcycles, outdoor power equipment and cars model year 2000 and older.
With boating season here it’s important to remember safety should always be at the top of your mind. Make sure everybody has their proper licenses for fishing and operating whatever craft they are. Lakes, ponds and streams are a great natural resource for all to enjoy, make sure you respect them as such.