Lessons Learned – by Pat Carson
Is It Right Or Is It Wrong 14
It is June, it is summer and it finally appears that the pandemic is nearly past us. I thought it would be a good time to start out the summer boating season with a new installment of “Is It Right Or Is It Wrong,” recapping the hits and misses of the past year. I have been collecting photos and saving contributions from readers of things that we know are just not right, some things we know are right and some of which we are not sure. I thought I would share a few of my latest observations in installment 14. I appreciate reader submissions since I may not see all that is right or wrong as I boat around the Bay, Delta and Pacific Coast.
If we consult the United States Coast Guard Navigation Rules, Part C – Lights and Shapes Rules 20 through 31, we will find that there are very specific day shapes that are to be displayed for vessels engaged in various activities. The rules also specify the characteristics of each day shape. All day shapes are to be black. Balls must be a minimum of 23 inches in diameter, cones must have a base diameter of 23 inches and a height equal to the diameter and diamonds shall consist of two cones. However, vessels under 65 feet in length can have smaller day shapes.
How many of these day shapes do you recognize and how many have you actually used? A vessel engaged in fishing, whether underway or at anchor, shall exhibit lights and shapes as prescribed, two all-around lights in a vertical line, the upper being green and the lower white or a shape consisting of two cones with their apexes together in a vertical line one above the other.
The shapes on this vessel are pretty close. Looks like the cones have a bit of a sag to them, but probably good enough to get the message across.
The day shapes on this boat are closer to what the rules prescribe, black and almost a cone.
Here we have a perfect example of a crane barge that is restricted in its ability to maneuver. It is displaying the proper day shapes consisting of three shapes in a vertical line where they can best be seen. The highest and lowest of these shapes shall be balls and the middle one a diamond.
A vessel proceeding under sail when also being propelled by machinery shall exhibit a conical shape apex pointing downward at the forward section where it can best be seen. A sailing vessel of less than 39 feet in length is not required to exhibit this shape, but may do so.
Just about every day I see electrical issues that are obviously unsafe. The following are a few of my favorites.
I came across this at a local marina and thought the owner to be a bit creative with the use of liquid tape. On closer inspection I found that the wire from the pedestal was completely covered in liquid tape and the two connectors were mated together. Although there appeared to be locking rings and a sealing collar, the wire was wrapped in black electrical tape. Of the two wires from the other end, one was going to the boat and the other just cut off and left dangling but covered in black electrical tape. The cable connected to the boat appeared to be a repurposed home extension cord and was not a marine rated cable. This is wrong and unsafe. It is better to use the proper connections and terminate the unused cable with a receptacle of correct design.
This shore power cord has the proper connector, however it has pulled free from the watertight boot. Besides providing strain relief to protect the wires and connections, the boot is designed to keep water on the outside. Surprisingly, this is fairly easy to repair with basic hand tools. If we ever get any, rain water will make its way into this connector and over time it will fail. Wrong.
How many things can we see wrong here? There is a power connection made that has no locking collars or sealing rings. These are necessary to provide mechanical strength. One should not rely simply on the current carrying twist lock pins to maintain electrical and mechanical connections. The split in the cable covering is very visible and will surely allow water intrusion, making this both a shock hazard and allowing the internal connections to corrode and potentially overheat and burn. Wrong.
I see some of the same issues with this shore power connection. The cord to the boat is a household grade extension cord with a standard 15-amp non-locking connector plugged into a marine grade shore power receptacle. At least the owner recognized the need for a watertight seal and repurposed a sandwich bag and some blue painter’s tape to keep the moisture out. I’m not sure this connection is at all reliable, and I am pretty sure that it is not weather tight. Wrong.
While wandering the docks at a local Stockton marina I spotted the work of a safety conscious boat owner. The life ring was well positioned and even had a substantial length of floating polypropylene line attached. I could not help but wonder if this was placed because of experience in needing a throwable type IV life preserver at the dock or if they were just erring on the side of safety. Right and well done.
One of the reasons we always perform an engine room check is that you just never know when some mechanical parts will decide that it is time to fail. Having been underway for several hours I went to take a look in the engine room and was surprised to see that the secondary filter on a large diesel engine had a tear in the seam and was leaking diesel at an alarming rate.
I tossed a diaper to help contain the spill, took a photo and went back to the pilothouse to shut down the engine. Replacing the filter was an easy fix. Fortunately, we had spares on board. Wrong and real happy that we found it before it became a major issue.
Early in the morning a few months ago I came into the Delta Marine Service boat yard in Stockton. As I walked past the quay, the DMS team was busy setting straps to haul an older Chris Craft out of the water while the large pumps attempted to dewater the vessel. I am still not clear why they worked so hard to save this boat. It did not look like there was much there to save. Right because we would not want the boat to sink and become a real hazard.
Here is another case of it is not supposed to do that. I saw this before I started the engines and prepared the vessel to get underway. I tossed a diaper under the engine and checked every hour or so to make sure the leaks did not get any worse. They did and the owner had the oil pump removed and the gasket replaced. No more leaks.
When in the Seattle area you must take a car ferry ride at least once.
I had not been on the ferry to Bainbridge Island for a lot of years and decided to welcome some different scenery rather than taking the usual Bremerton ferry. It seems that we found the Washington State Ferry bone yard with at least a dozen of the familiar green and white car ferries secured to the dock. It appeared that they were not going anywhere anytime soon.
Like a rest stop along the freeway, this apparent “rest” barge had a lot of traffic.
Along the Stockton Deep Water Channel just downriver from Stockton there has been quite a lot of activity along the shore. On this particular day there appeared to be more than the usual activity at the potty barge.
You have to wonder, is this skipper accredited for commercial assistance and professional towing? There appears to be a smallish line attached from the ski tow pylon to the anchor roller of the workboat. Wrong. Need a tow, call Phil Delano at TowBoatUS.
That is all for this installment. Now I can sit back and enjoy that fine cigar and glass of port as I consider the start of the summer boating season and hope things continue to get back to something resembling normal. Be safe around our fellow yachtsmen and yachtswomen. If you see something of which you are not quite sure whether it is right or wrong, take photos and email them to me at email@example.com. I may include them in the next edition of “Is It Right Or Is It Wrong” so that we can all learn from your experiences.
As we approach the spring and summer boating season in San Francisco, remember that this is the time of year where we get higher winds and colder days.
When the winds are gusting north of 45 knots, you should plan your docking strategy well before approaching the berth.