Friday, October 12, 2012

Handy Tips to Make Marina Life a Pleasant (and Safe) Experience for All Involved.

I should start my post with a link to this article on the Boat US website:

As winter creeps in to the NW, we're battening down the hatches on Kwaietek for our somewhat lengthy stay indoors. I really do like this time of year--although don't get me wrong, I'm not really excited about the infamous howling winds and long walks down our dock in the driving rainstorms!

And speaking of walking down our dock, I'd like to focus a little conversation about life on the docks.

Marina habitation is quite a fascinating slice-of-life. In the best of times it is a vibrant place where boaters from all backgrounds and interests share a passion of the water. Neighbors are there to help each other and offer advice from a vast pool of experiences, especially in the work-boat section. I really love the hustle and bustle of this time of the year. The fishing fleet is heading out for the chum salmon openings right now and the charter fleet of Grand Banks paraded past us just this morning, en route to their winter homes. Owners are hustling to winterize their boats for the season. This is the best part of marina life, (well, the second best part to spring when we all prepare for the coming sun)!

Conversely, the down-side to marina life would be the careless or inconsiderate boaters who lack consideration for others living and working around them (and yes, I fully realize that one can find these sort of people in any situation).  However, in a tight marine environment these people can be downright dangerous as well as nuisances.

For example (and I just might be heading toward a rant here), dock-hoses that are haphazardly piled around the main walkway can become severe tripping hazards--forget about trying to push a heavy dock cart down the docks. My only satisfaction comes from pushing the full pump-out cart over top of these hoses: drip, drip, drip... When the heavy rain arrives and surfaces begin to freeze, the hose issue is a rather dangerous one in a marina.

Vessel owners that fail to check the condition of their bilges when they tie up for the winter present a completely different problem. The shiny slicks that appear in the fall when boats return to dock are not only a hazard to the other boats nearby, but to the eco-system of the marina.  I'll refrain from outting a couple of the perpetrators that prefer to simply push a button and deposit their holding tanks into the water rather than motor over to the pump-out station (or attempt to push a poo-cart over the dock-hoses)... but they are back in the marina again and it's fairly obvious, if you know what I mean.

Of particular annoyance lately, the pet owners who find it inconvenient to pick up their animal's fecal matter. Now when one lives on land, poopy shoes can be a real pain in the neck, but just try tracking it onto your boat!  It isn't enough to be winding your way down a zig-zaggy obstacle course of dock-hoses, but dodging tiny piles of dog crap simultaneously, makes for a rather challenging trip to the boat.

One of our neighbors, a long time live-aboard, summed it up best when he said, "The only real difference between living in a marina and a trailer park is that most of us choose this life because of our aesthetics. And as such, we should treat each other well and enjoy it--otherwise, ya might as well live in a motorhome in a gravel lot." So, let me close my little treatise on marina life by repeating the golden rule: Please, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.


Since I'm writing about preparing for impending winter conditions in the marina, let me just jot down a few things that we've learned in the past two years of living aboard.

  • Have a safety/ security plan drawn up and practice it.   This not only applies to the big, commercial vessels like Zodiac, but to private boats as well. (All it took was witnessing the fire last spring where two people perished, to make this a mandatory drill on Kwaietek).    *additionally- ensure that ALL exit/entrances are free and clear.
  • Do not keep your water hose connected and pressurized to shore.  One of the biggest causes of sinking is allowing the onshore water to act as your main water pressure. Should the water pressure become too great without a step-down system in place; a boat can fill and sink in hours.
  • Perform an annual appliance inventory and check all UL labels.  Most land-based appliances are not designed to run in a salt-water atmosphere. Check your outlets, plugs... check your amperage draw when appliances are running. Don't leave appliances plugged in when not on the vessel (even if turned off). A friend of ours is currently replacing part of his deck house due to a refrigerator fire onboard.
  • Keep extra dock lines handy and tie 'em on early and often!  There is a reason that Marine Exchange sells out of fenders after the first big blow!
  • Have a chili locker handy. Okay, in reality, this one is a lesson learned from Zodiac... during the last few north-easterly blows, we've had to take her off the dock suddenly and hide out in Teddy Bear cove for safety... you wanna have an emergency stash of food (and beer and decent videos) on the boat for a few night's stay away from shore).
  • Draft up a call-list (and keep it current). Same scenario as above-- in cases of emergency (or even when you have to leave town for a while), make up a list of contacts that can hop aboard at a moment's notice. It is invaluable.
  • Watch those dock lines.  Remember in driver's education when they taught you that it's the "other"driver you have to think about? Well, it's the "other" boats poorly tied lines that you have to worry about. The neighbor in the slip next you can be a threat if his lines fail in a blow. Make a habit of looking at everybody's lines as you stroll back and forth on the dock.
  • Pay attention to alarms.  They call them *alarms* for a reason!... Cpt Tim chastised me last winter for ignoring a distant alarm. It was going off all day, I figured somebody had called it in or notified them. Wrong. Since then, I've called twice when one of our neighbor's alarms went off--turns out it was his high-water sensor. He was very grateful.
Ahh yes, the clinking of halyards against masts has begun and I hear our mooring lines begin to creak. Those forecasted winds arrive as I write this post. How very nice.

Well, try and keep warm everyone, and remember-- stow those dock-hoses!



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  2. We spent a winter on a ferro-cement 65-footer on Lake Union. All that weight reduced the roll but the boat NEVER got warm and we had icicles over the bunk. We even had to lasso the Center for Wooden Boats when it started to blow away, so watch those dock lines.