Thanks to technological advances, small-boat skippers today can venture 20 or more miles offshore. Outboards are more reliable, and sophisticated electronic navigation and safety equipment is easy to use.
With a pair of new 4-strokes, a GPS/chart plotter, radar and VHF radio with digital selective calling, why not take your 23-footer 40 miles offshore? All of the high-tech mechanical and electronic technology that boaters rely on has something in common, though: It needs electricity to function, which means proper maintenance and care of a boat’s electrical system has become much more important.
• Carry spare parts, such as wire and electrical connectors, fuses, bulbs, engine belts, distilled water for the batteries and engine fuel filters.
• Carry electrical tools, such as crimpers, a wire cutter and a voltmeter.
• Be sure all battery terminals are tight, clean, corrosion-free and sealed against moisture.
• Avoid using wing nuts for battery connections because vibration can loosen them and they are difficult to adequately tighten. Use nylock hex nuts. Loose connections create resistance arcing and heat, and can lead to overheated wires and possibly a fire.
A container ship and a fishing boat collided in May at night in a ship’s channel eight miles south of Gulfport, Miss., with the loss of three of the fishboat’s 16 crewmembers — another tragedy that raises concerns about ships steaming through waters where fishing vessels are at work.
The 660-foot Eurus London, en route to Freeport, Texas, with a load of bananas, and the 163-foot Sandy Point collided about 8:45 p.m. May 18 in the cut between Cat Island and Ship Island on a night that was dark but not foggy, the Coast Guard says. The Sandy Point, a menhaden boat based out of Omega Protein Corp.’s processing plant in Moss Point, Miss., took on water and sank.
The March 2009 sinking of the fishing vessel Lady Mary off Cape May, N.J., with the loss of six crewmembers inspired a 20-page Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper account of the tragedy and, with the loss of five other fishermen off New Jersey in 2009, raised an alarm that helped push far-reaching fishing vessel safety measures through Congress.
At the press of a single button, DSC radio technology can put a Coast Guard rescue helicopter overhead within minutes. But in the 12 years since the government required manufacturers to include this technology, only a small fraction of U.S. boaters have done the two things to enable their VHF radios for digital selective calling.
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