Very boaty New Year’s Resolutions

In 2017, I Resolve to...

It’s time to make boating resolutions for the New Year.
Here are a few to get you started.

Boat helmIs your helm not quite this sophisticated? Add a little something!

I thought it would be appropriate to list some boat-related New Year’s resolutions. And since most of January’s promises to ourselves are quickly forgotten, along with change-of-boating-lifestyle decisions, I’m including specific things to do during fit-out this spring, before everything gets relegated to the lazarette of lost intentions. (You lucky readers in year-round-boating territory can get started on these right away.) New Year’s resolutions are hard to keep—how did that weight-loss thing work out for you last year? Me neither—but boating resolutions are easier, more fun, and don’t force you to cut back on cheeseburgers. 

Resolution: Don’t Do It Yourself

When brainstorming different resolutions I conferred with the always reliable Capt. Bill Pike, and as you’d expect, his resolution for 2017 is spot-on: Let the boatyard do more work, rather than trying to do it all yourself. If there’s one thing that will make boating more fun, this is it. Boats are complex creatures, requiring myriad skills to maintain and repair—that’s why we have engine mechanics, marine HVAC specialists, electronics experts, fiberglass technicians, and so forth. You can’t do all these things well if you have something else to do, like work or live a life beyond the boat (why you’d want that, I don’t know). And who wants to spend so much time working on the boat anyway? Write the check and cast off.

Underwater lights on a boatResolution: Add Something Cool

Make life aboard more fun this year by adding something cool, something you maybe don’t need, but just want. This resolution was suggested, in a way, by Harrison Macris, president of Macris Industries (www.macrisindustries.com), maker of low-drag, polycarbonate-housed underwater lights. Based on the number of boats I’m seeing with underwater lights these days, often in an array of colors, these things are the new must-have item. Macris says his resolution for 2017 is to “create new and innovative technologies ... and problem-solving products and services.” 

OK, that’s business jargon you’d expect from a guy who manufactures things he wants to sell you—but I read it this way: New, interesting products hit the market all the time, developed by people like Macris, and many of them simply make boating more fun. Nobody needs underwater lights, but they make your boat look cool. If you’ve got ’em, and the guy next to you doesn’t, where do you think the party’s gonna be? Same goes with 3-D nameboards backlit with neon and concert-quality sound systems. You can probably think of other stuff you want. Go for it.

Resolution: Upgrade Your Electronics

A couple of weeks ago my phone rang; I grappled it out of my pocket, flipped it open and took the call. Yeah, you read that right: It’s the 21st Century and I’m using a flip phone, technology right out of Y2K. Even my wife, who wrings the Nth degree of utility out of everything, suggests maybe it’s time I invested in something more up to date. (And, she adds, get rid of the tie-dye T-shirts, too.) If you haven’t upgraded your electronics in the past couple of years, you may be riding with me in the wake of technology. Now’s the year to get back on board, by adding at least one new thing. Maybe you’d like a bigger multifunction display, excellent for aging eyes, or a second MFD so you can display more data simultaneously. What about AIS? It’s great for areas crowded with commercial vessels; you can input it to the MFD. Or maybe a new digital HD radar and a bigger scanner? Or a security camera that shows who’s climbing onto the swim platform while you’re below? Or a thermal-imaging camera that monitors the engine room? Whatever you choose, don’t be a Luddite like me—in 2017, invest in state-of-the-art electronics. 

Resolution: Give Your Safety Equipment a Checkup

It’s been fun spending money on fancy lights and new electronics, but here’s a resolution that won’t cost you anything, or at least not much: Check your safety gear. Pull all your PFDs from their lockers, lay them out and try to destroy them. That’s what the U.S. Coast Guard does when they inspect passenger vessels, and that’s what you should do, too. You don’t want to discover broken straps or rotten fabric while you’re floating in the sea awaiting rescue. Any PFD that’s not 100 percent, replace it. If you carry inflatable vests, inflate each one; if they’re the automatic-inflating type, replace the bobbin along with the CO2 cartridge. You can buy re-arming kits at most chandleries, or order them from www.westmarine.com.

Flares never get love until you need them, so make sure yours haven’t passed their use-by date. If they have, replace them and keep the old ones; chances are, they’ll still work. Don’t go cheap on flares—when you need them, you really need them. If you’re going offshore, think SOLAS flares, they’re more expensive but much more visible. If you can remember to change the batteries every year, the Weems & Plath SOS Distress Light (www.weems-plath.com) takes the place of flares, in the eyes of the U.S.C.G. The manufacturer says the device operates for 60 hours on three C-cells; it costs only $100.

Finally, check CO and smoke detectors, handheld fire extinguishers, and built-in systems. Smoke and CO detectors have a finite lifespan, so figure on replacing them every five years. CO detectors will chirp or otherwise warn you when they’re about to expire. Don’t ignore this.

Resolution: Read the Manual

There are maintenance practices that require neither esoteric skills nor special tools nor the flexibility of a contortionist to perform, so resolve to keep up with basic maintenance in 2017. You can pull oil samples from your engines and generator and have them analyzed; it’s easy and cheap, and can alert you to a small problem before it becomes big. Change the anodes in your heat exchangers, and the impellers in your raw-water pumps. Service your watermaker, thruster, stabilizers, davits, and other systems at the intervals suggested in the manual. And reread your owner’s manuals. Then make a list of maintenance items for each system and follow it; you’ll save money on repairs long term, and stand less chance of finding yourself sweating under the July sun when the A/C craps out because of a minor issue, or having the bow thruster fail just when you need it most.

Resolution: Breathe Easy

Sarah Brandon, the “Lettering Goddess” from Steuben, Maine, we profiled back in March 2016 sent me a resolution. She’s vowing to cut down on waste in 2017, reusing paper and other materials whenever she can and—here’s what counts for boaters—being more “proactive and consistent with preventative health precautions such as wearing a respirator around fumey/toxic products.” Brandon uses paints and solvents when lettering boat names (if you want your boat to look sophisticated, lose the vinyl lettering and have the name painted on (see “Letter Perfect,” in Boatyard, December 2016), so she knows about breathing toxins. You should, too. The resolution? Breathe fresh air, not fumes. When you’re painting, varnishing, or using strong cleaners—in short, anywhere you can smell something that’s not air—use a respirator or, at least, a disposable mask. Your lungs will thank you.

Use one (or more) of these resolutions, or create your own, and make this the year. Worry about cutting back on cheeseburgers in 2018.


This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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