All Hands on Deck for Cal Boating!

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The Recreational Boaters of California is asking all boaters to let your voices be heard in opposition to the proposal to eliminate the state’s Department of Boating and Waterways. Cal Boating is a self-sustaining department that is paid for by boaters’ dollars and not from the general fund. The Little Hoover Commission may recommend merging Cal Boating in the Department of Parks and Recreation and eliminating the Boating and Waterways Commission.

This is merely a money-grab – to use your boating-related dollars on operations other then boating-related projects such as loans and grants for marinas, pump-out stations, and boaters’ safety materials. Past attempts to eliminate Cal Boating have been scuttled by letting your state legislators know how you feel on this matter. You can go to where there is a link to the BoatU.S. page for you to submit the sample letter electronically or print out the page to send by mail.

Time is of the essence, so go to the website today.

Tip of the week is that you never know when something is going to happen on a boat, and that is why, as a professional Captain, I train and prepare for the unexpected on a regular basis. It reminds me of an incident when I was skippering a 58-foot motor yacht – I heard a loud thud after pulling out from the slip. My first thought was that my crewmember had fallen while securing the fenders and dock lines, however, I could see him still working in the cockpit. The boat started to radically veer off course to the starboard side, so I thought that a dock line had fallen in the water wrapping the starboard prop, but I still had throttle but no thrust from the starboard prop.

Now to earn the paycheck. Since we are very close to the dock, I will back the boat into its slip on one engine, and most boaters know this will be difficult. A few attempts and finally the boat is in the slip enough that we can walk the boat back with the docklines.

My crewmember decides to jump in the water to check the prop for anything wrapped, and at the same time I went in the engine room to check the propeller shaft. Well, there was nothing wrapped on the prop, but I found that the shaft had separated from the transmission, and the loud thud was the shaft slamming against the boat’s hull. So off to the boatyard to have the vessel hauled out of the water and repaired.

Do you know what you would have done in this same situation?

When I ask boaters in casual conversation if they have recently reviewed emergency producers, their typical comment is, “I have been boating for over 10 years and do not need to worry about that.”

That brings numerous questions to my mind, one of which is, did you ever take a class in the beginning of your boating days? Also, how many times in a year does this person get underway, a few weekends maybe?

You can easily tell a person’s skill level by first just looking to see if the boat is in shipshape condition and then by how the skipper docks the boat. If you see the boat approaching the dock at a high rate of speed with no dock lines ready and no fenders down while the guests are sticking their legs and arms out to fend off the dock, then that is a good indicator that person needs help.

How many times do you see a boat dock and then put the fenders down? However, if the boat approaches with lines and fenders in place, guests positioned, and a slow calculated approach into the dock, then that is a proficient skipper.

If the skipper is experienced, what about the crew or guests (remember the term passenger is atechnical term referring to charter boat operations) aboard the boat? If the skipper should fall overboard or become incapacitated, could one of the guests stop the boat or know how to radio for help? Take the time before getting underway each trip to remind all guests of the safety procedures, where the safety equipment is stowed, and show someone the operating controls on the vessel. Follow a few easy steps in the beginning and the pleasures of boating become more enjoyable because the potential for calamity has been lessened and “Goofy Goes Sailing” can be avoided.

I hope to see you on the water with a smile on your face.

And don’t forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead’s Boathouse Radio Show, broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network every Saturday at noon, Pacific Time and replayed on Sunday at 10 am Pacific. Join Chandler Bell and me as we talk about “all things boating.” You can find the station listings, cable TV channels, live streaming on the Internet, and now available are apps to listen to the show for your iPhone, Blackberry, iTouch, Android, Palm, and Windows Mobile at or

Until next week, Safe Voyages!

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