The Listing of the Regal 38

This is the beginning of a set of articles addressing our involvement with specific vessels which exhibited problems we find to be common, or at least repetitive, in vessels that we have inspected.  We have had feedback from readers that they enjoy this type of article and we encourage sending in examples of problems you have had with your boat so that we might write an article to help other boaters, entertain readers or both.  We prefer problems that take a little more experience or brain power to solve, and are likely to be experienced by others. 


The degree or angle to which a vessel leans or tilts to one side, on the roll axis, at equilibrium, i.e. with no external forces acting upon it. The term typically refers to a lean caused by flooding or improperly loaded or shifted cargo, as opposed to heeling, which is a consequence of external forces. A vessel with such a lean is said to be listing.[3] Compare loll.

From the Glossary of Nautical Terms in Wikipedia

We received a call from the husband of a couple which purchased a 2011 Regal 38 express nineteen months prior.  The wise and observant wife recently noticed that the vessel was listing, port side down. 

We find vessels listing during our routine prepurchase inspections regularly, and would estimate that 5% of the vessels have a visually apparent list.  Sometimes the list is noticed while we are aboard the vessel, many times it is confirmed by the waterline either along the transom or when compared side to side.  By this we mean the distance between the visible waterline on the antifouling paint and the top of the antifouling paint, the side which is listing has a smaller gap. 

We began telephone triage by discussing the most common cause, the weight distribution caused by tanks.  We asked the client if the vessel had a list at the time of purchase, he said no.  The vessel did have a generator supplied by the port fuel tank.  If the generator consumption was significant and the port fuel supply was decreased, the vessel would have a starboard list.  Further, the client had filled the fuel tanks and had determined that both took a significant amount of fuel with the starboard side only taking slightly more.  This suggested the tank vents (and tanks) were normally functional.  We would later determine that the water tank was on centerline and the holding tank was likely more to port, though tank was not visible (not unusual in many boats).  As the vessel was hauled at the time, we decided to meet aboard and look for the cause.

Upon our arrival the transom had been painted, but there were visible waterlines in the four paint gaps between the bottom paint and the outdrives clearly showing the highest waterline to port outdrive with lower waterlines as we moved towards the starboard side.  We percussion tested the bottom of the vessel as the owner thought that a pocket of water may have somehow accumulated in the laminate or within the vessel.  We heard nothing that indicated a significant difference from side to side.  Moisture meter?  We find moisture meters useful, but difficult to interpret analytically.  You cannot adjust the depth that a moisture meter is reading and it is highly unlikely to find moisture trapped inside a vessel.  It is possible to find a wet core and some meters (mine) are advertised as being able to read through surface moisture, but the meter was not helpful in this instance.    

We decided to inspect the vessel for an imbalance in weight due to visible components.  It should be noted that most vessel designs initially utilize a computer and the manufacturer intentionally balances the weight. 

Though the designs are computer balanced, the builds are not as reliably balanced.  We have found many “pockets” of internal ballast, some encased in fiberglass, some mostly hidden and some rather obvious piles of lead ingots, in an attempt to level the vessel after it was built.  Contacting the builder or researching on owners groups’ websites is a useful option to determine if somebody else has solved this problem or gathered data towards that end. 

On this vessel we found a “pocket” under the dinette bench seat to starboard in the salon, which very well may be ballast.  A pocket of ballast on the starboard side would not explain a port side list, but it might be an attempt at correcting it.  This pocket was encased in fiberglass and percussion tested “hard”, but no destructive inspection was performed, so the content is unknown.  We suggested that the client contact the builder with respect to this specific question or open it if he was curious enough.

Our inspection revealed many differences which may have resulted in higher weight on the port side.  The vessel had a hard wood floor with more area in the galley and the head to port, the galley and the head to port are also potential sources of weight which may not have been counter balanced by items to starboard.  In the engine room we found the electrical end of the generator, more batteries, a steering control unit and a waste vacu-flush system to port, which would seem to weigh more than a fixed fire extinguisher and a blower to starboard. 

We found very few areas on the interior of the vessel where a pocket of water could accumulate and cause this list.  We consider the weight of water (freshwater is 8.34 lbs. per gallon and saltwater is 8.57 lb. per gallon) and the client had not noticed any sign of water intrusion or accumulation, no continued running of bilge pumps, no odor, etc. 

The clients sent us these two photos, taken at the time of purchase.

In this photo, notice the green discoloration at the chine on the starboard side of the transom (arrow), and lack of green to port.  The green discoloration is where the antifouling paint has been exposed to air and suggests that the vessel has a port side list.

This photo is a different angle of the transom and clearly shows the waterline between the outdrives, with a larger gap between the waterline and the antifouling paint inboard of the starboard outdrive as compared to port. 

We found an extensive amount of personal effects aboard the vessel.  The couple acknowledged that they had loaded the vessel heavily, with various components for their family, and most of these items had been stored to port. 

Our conclusion is that the vessel had a port side list when it was built, the manufacturer may have attempted to correct it and the additional list was caused by personal effects being stored aboard.  The list clearly existed at the time of purchase (though it was not noticed) and appears to have increased as the vessel was loaded over the nineteen months of ownership. 

There are many ways to resolve a list.  Once you determine if it is an issue with the operation of the vessel, i.e. it lists underway and the trim tabs won’t adjust it efficiently or it is just an irritation.   (note; if the trim tabs are used to adjust a list, they have less functionality for trimming)  If the decision is made that the vessel needs to be balanced, one can alter the level of fluids in the tanks, in this case fill the starboard fuel tank more than the port side and deal with that inconvenience.  Heavy components can be moved from one side to another such as batteries and other mechanical components.  Ballast can be added to the high side, but fuel efficiency will be decreased, storage may be reduced and its difficult to know if the resolution of the problem is preferred to the problem itself, i.e. is the juice with the squeeze.

The list is not caused by the lines on the port side being tied to tightly to the dock; this is an explanation we have heard many times.

Winterizing Boats in Southern California



My career began in Florida with a Fort Lauderdale marine surveying company and shifted to San Diego a few years later. In these areas winterizing means wearing flannel shirts or other rare cold weather clothing, such as socks. But not much changes with respect to boats.

Our business regularly assists with insurance claims and an abnormally large volume of them currently motivated this article.

In Southern California (and Northern Florida) there are “boating seasons”, cyclic weather patterns, and typical times for rough or calm seasonal sea conditions. We have handled a few freeze damage claims, such as cracked exhaust manifolds or engine blocks. These usually come from boats stored at a high elevation and these boats should be properly “winterized”. If you want advice on hard freeze winterizing procedures, please look elsewhere.

Southern California’s winter challenges are primarily storms, travel, and lack of motivation to go to our boats.

To prepare for these wretched conditions we suggest you don your Ugg boots, go to the boat and check the life support systems.

Check your bilge pumps and automatic switches for functionality. Make sure your batteries and charging system are in good condition and will provide those pumps with the power they need through the dark winter months. Clean scuppers, drains, screens or other methods that rainwater uses to leave your boat.

Consider wireless alerts, they are available now for security, battery monitoring, high water alarms and you still have time to put them on your Christmas list. Hurry!

Do not forget to check your dock lines, chafe gear, fenders and anything else critical to keeping your boat safe during our occasional storms. Check in with your boat buddies, this is a great time for mutual assistance with your dock, marina and yacht club neighbors. Let them know when you will be gone and provide them access to check on the vessel while you’re on your snowboarding trip to the Swiss Alps or on a charter in the BVI. Offer to do the same for them.

Every Spring we get a few claims that occurred over our rainy season. Some smaller boats will have suffered “trailer submersions”. Make sure these boats are stored properly, covered, bow up and the plugs are removed. We get a few heavy mold claims on larger boats. Prevention includes eliminating any water leaks into the vessel and proper and thorough drying and ventilation after any leaks. This means checking on your boat after the storms, there should only be four of them, and we already had one.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanza, New Years, Winter Solstice, Festivus or whatever you celebrate during this holiday season.

Catalina Advice

My family and I regularly charter Catamarans in various locations.  The most recent charter was planned for Croatia, but COVID redirected us to Catalina.  While not as exotic of a location for Southern California locals, it remains a lovely destination.  This article touches on the practice of mooring and one particularly humorous mooring event.

As most local boaters know, Catalina utilizes a two point mooring system.  Normal process is to grab the mooring wand from the bow, pull the line from the wand up to the mooring line, secure the mooring line loop to a bow cleat and then run down a separate line (the sand line) astern until the stern mooring line is reached and attached it to a stern cleat.  With only minimal boat handling skills, basic crew instruction, a sprinkle of patience and a dash of good luck, voila the vessel is moored.

Between day sails, trips to the water dock, mooring moves (which happened thrice in Avalon) and stays in both Catalina Harbor and Isthmus Cove, we likely moored twenty times.  We missed twice.  The first attempt began with apparent success, we grabbed the mooring line with the vessel barely moving and virtually no wind or current to deal with.  Unfortunately, the captain (and writer) failed to communicate well with the crew as to how they could provide instructions to fine tune our position when the initial attempt to secure the bow mooring line was unsuccessful.  No biggie, the second attempt was successful.

A much more challenging and eventful attempt occurred when returning from a day sail in the late afternoon.  20+ knot winds were the most significant factor as we approached the mooring from upwind.  We passed the mooring, spun the 42’ Catamaran successfully into the wind and put the port bow at the wand.  The crew was able to grab the wand but failed to secure the mooring line.

As minor adjustments failed to bring the vessel back to its necessary position, “head into the wind” was offered by what appeared to be the captain of the adjacent vessel, moving his hands as if guiding an airplane to a gate.  My initial thought was, “no shit” but I chose to respond with a verbal “thank you” and a head bob, communicating in the howling wind from 20 yards.  He was right, after spinning into the wind and missing, I was trying to walk the boat sideways back into position and the wind made it challenging.

During the next few moments, several other pieces of advice were provided, though none were requested, they were all suitable and clearly came from a knowledgeable captain.  Based on what appeared to be the owners, captain, and crew on their starboard rail, this was a regular and entertaining event for them, think boat launch ramp and “Qualified Captain” (Google it if you haven’t watched).

I had assigned one crew to grab the wand, the largest crew person to grab the mooring line and attach it to the cleat and a third crew to stand by with a loose fender, just in case.

The fender operator, a novice sailor, took the job seriously.  However, in an earnest attempt to place the fender between our vessel and the adjacent vessel, well in advance of any contact, they obstructed the more important work of mooring.  To them the adjacent captain said “You should get out the way, we have fenders if needed”.  Again, he was right and verbalized the idea prior to me.  I confirmed that the fender holder should stand down for the time being.

The mooring line had just been secured on the bow when the captain instructed us to “back down, hard”.  Another brilliant idea I thought and though we were successfully backing down (as hard as our two 30 horsepower engines would allow) the crew was not successful in the stern mooring.  The boat was too small to reach the stern mooring line (42’ boat on a 70’ mooring) and the concept of securing the sand line as tightly as possible had not been explained properly to the crew.  Even with the adjacent captain’s sage advice, our crew was ill prepared by their captain for this unforeseen event.  They struggled mightily but alas could not reach the stern mooring line.

No problem, my first mate and wife of nearly thirty years could handle the helm at this point and I was able to manage the stern mooring attachment.  We were fairly tight on the sand line and happy to have completed a more difficult mooring and one final suggestion was offered, “Call the harbor patrol and have them pull you back to tighten up your mooring.”  Crap, I thought, I had instantly shifted to margarita mode.

All of his unsolicited advice had been good, mostly unheeded, but no bad advice.  Out of an abundance of caution, I hailed the next passing harbor patrolman who took a quick look and advised that we were well moored and should take up any remaining slack in the sand line when the wind subsided.  I smiled inside as I poured the Grand Marnier floater on top of my marg.

An hour or so later, the wind subsided.  I explained to the crew that we were going to reverse hard and take up all possible slack on the sand line, tightening up the mooring as much as possible.  No one was on the deck of the neighboring vessel.  As I begin to reverse and back down, one final bit of advice emanated from an open porthole, “PULL HARD.”  I laughed inside and later joked with the crew, you had one job, pull hard, and apparently you weren’t doing so or you wouldn’t have received such sage advice.  I was extremely proud of my crew, even after I noticed that every bit of the sand line they retrieved had somehow been stored on the stern cleat, in a giant ball of confusion.

Refrigeration 101

I apologize to all my customers who I have told that their refrigerators shouldn’t ice over. In a case of repeating mis-information, I was told that early in my career (1990s) and believed it until researching for this article, that modern boat refrigerators should not ice over in normal use.
In reality the common boat DC refrigeration units do ice over in normal service.
I spoke with two San Diego refrigeration experts, Mr. Gary Flemming and Mr. Thomas Gillette. They educated me, finally, that the common AC / DC refrigeration units such as Norcold and Nova Kool will ice over in normal service. The interval between defrosting cycles is usually 1 – 2 months. They suggest defrosting when the ice reaches ¼” thickness.
AC refrigeration units such as Sub Zero or U-line have self-defrosting features. The AC electrical supply supports the heating element required for defrosting.
The most common contributing cause to icing over of refrigeration units is bad gaskets or other sources of warm air such as drain holes in built in refrigeration units. If your refrigerator is icing over faster than your neighbors, perhaps it needs a new gasket.
The proper way to defrost a refrigerator is to open the door and let the heat melt the ice or quicken the process with a hair dryer. Catch the water in a container and/or use a towel. Use of a knife or an ice pick is risky as puncturing refrigeration components is costly or potentially fatal to the refrigeration unit. Dry everything before you put it back in the refrigerator, this will reduce the moisture inside the unit and extend the time period until the next de-icing.
 AC / DC refrigeration units are equipped with a DC compressor, and an electrical converter which converts the AC source to DC for the compressor. These units do not have AC and DC compressors.  They will run on both power sources but will not self defrost.
Iced over refrigeration units lose their ability to cool and become warmer as the ice thickens. So check that refer unit, if it looks like one of these photos defrost it and make sure it is ready for the summer holidays.
We have attached a page from Norcold with some tips.
Happy July 4th!
Boat Humor

Boat Humor




“Ahh-Da-See”                                                                                     “Salty Tango”



“High Hopes”


“Riff Raff”







Halloween Fun                                                                                                                       Shark Bite out of the Hornblower


Camper? Boat? Safety Hazard?
You decide…
Sea (Doo) Tow
Boat Butt
Boatyard Railroad


Boat in a Tent


   While airborne termites do not do as much damage as subterranean termites, they are never-the-less a problem for boaters. Even fiberglass boats use wood in their construction for bulkheads, stingers, interior and core.

I find evidence of termites and / or termite damage on roughly 5% of the vessels I survey and recently received an email asking for termite confirmation (via a photo) and for a termite company referral.
Termite “kick out” is brown and black particles that are similar in appearance to saw dust. The “kick out” accumulates directly below the termites’ holes. Airborne termite wings are another indication of termites aboard the vessel.
While airborne termites eat slowly, and the damage they cause is often not of structural significance, they are often significant at the time of sale. They arouse fear due to the uncertainty surrounding them.
How much damage was done? How do I get rid of them? How much will it cost?
There are numerous methods for treating termites. Orange Oil treatment, localized chemical extermination, microwave and whole boat fumigation. Products can be purchased for the do-it-yourselfer and there are numerous professional exterminators available.
Perhaps the most important lesson is to address them as quickly as possible, limiting the damage and reducing the cost of treatment.
While there is no legal requirement to address termites, as there is in real estate, they have caused problems with sales and are fairly easily detectable. If you see “kick out” or termite wings or bodies, be pro-active. Determine the extent of damage, repair as necessary, exterminate appropriately and remove the remnants to allow detection of any future infestation.
One San Diego exterminator said the average price for taping and sealing a 100’ vessel is $4,500 but prices vary depending on the size and difficulty of sealing off the vessel.
Termite Kick out                                                                                                                Termite Kick Out
                                                                                  Termite holes from below

Hour Meters

I feel the importance of engine hours are over emphasized by the majority of boat buyers.  My opinion doesn’t change the fact that engine hours are considered important by boat buyers.  A boat deal fell apart due to a question about engine hours and was the motivation for this article.


The potential buyer rejected the vessel with his primary concern being the reported verses actual engine hours.  The current owner had replaced the tachometers, equipped with digital hour meters, when one failed.  The hours on the original hour meters were reported at 850, the new hour meters registered 300.


When this condition was discovered we explained our opinion regarding engine hours and hour meters.


The only certain information provided by an engine hour meter are the hours displayed by the hour meter, not necessarily the actual engine hours.  There is no legal requirement for engine hour meters on boats.  They are not odometers on automobiles or Hobbs meters on planes, both of which are regulated.  The only way to know that an hour meter is accurate is to have had a relationship with that meter from the beginning, logging hours and comparing those to the hour meter or otherwise monitoring its accuracy continuously through the life of the vessel.  Computerized engines provide operating hours with greater dependability, but the electronic control modules (computers) can be changed, just like analog hour meters.


We emphasize engine condition verses operating hours.  Many engines with far more operating hours are in much better condition than lesser used engines which have been neglected.


Regardless, the boat buying public cares about engine hours.  As a boat owner, and eventually a boat seller, maintain the hour meters so the operating hours can be accurately recorded and provided to potential buyers.


As to how long engines last, that is a different subject and is addressed in a prior article which can be found at

Self Driving Boats


Autopilots have been around forever, but autonomous vessel operation is currently being developed using technological advancements, and some of the same systems used for self driving cars.  Self driving boats are much easier most of the time; the ocean is big and has less traffic.


I recently drove a car with some autonomous features and while it added a component of safety, like mandating a safe distance between my car and the next car forward, I also noticed how easy it was to rely on that feature and let my guard down.


There are large scale self driving projects underway.  Japan, Norway and Holland have autonomous vessel testing underway.  The recent series of ship vs. ship accidents have been mostly attributed to human errors and many feel the outdated control technology can be improved upon.  There is a company selling sailing drones for ocean research (  These vessels are controlled from remote control rooms and by computer programs (think Olympic drones.)


On several occasions the undersigned has surveyed a multihull sailboat that was converted to a fixed wing sailing drone for the military and later sold to the private sector.  One of our jobs arose from this high powered vessel damaging its dock when the computers were removed for service and a large wind created extreme forces and ripped the dock loose.  Usually the computers would orient the fixed wing sails to prevent such a problem.


In the recreational vessel realm, there are pod drives and conventionally powered vessels with “drive by wire” controls.  For those unfamiliar with pods, both Volvo and Cummins offer drive systems that don’t include a rudder and all controls are electronic, no mechanical linkage and no hydraulics.  The pods are transmissions protruding from the bottom of the boat which spin and thrust independently at the direction of the computer.  The operator simply tells the boat where to go with either a joystick or “faux” conventional controls (steering wheel and levers) and the drive system computer decides what the pods need to do to make the boat go there.

We can all parallel park one of these boats.


This same control concept is in use on other drive systems, including inboard and outboard engines.  The evolution of electronic control systems facilitates automation.  I have spun boats in circles while moving in a straight line down the bay.  There are dynamic positioning systems that can keep the boat in one location without an anchor.  A now common test during seatrials is to push a button and watch the boat’s computer control the propulsion gear to counter the wind and current; the boat remains in one location and orientation.


And our claim files are full of problems with electronic controls, though far less now than in the early days of these systems.  Still, we must keep a look out and be ready to take action to avoid a collision and not let our guard down.





Proper Hailing Ports


There are two ways to prove ownership of a US flagged vessel, Coast Guard documentation and state registration.  All vessels over 5 net tons are eligible for Coast Guard documentation and the form of ownership record or title is an owner’s choice.  Lenders generally insist on vessels being documented so they may be the subject of a Preferred Ship Mortgage.

Registered vessels must display the registration number and a current registration decal on both sides of the bow, while documented vessels must display the name and the hailing port on the transom or on both hull sides.

Naming a vessel can be a difficult decision, often reflecting a family member’s name or referencing the business of the owner in some clever way.  Less thought is put into the hailing port, but the hailing port is a choice.  It does not have to be the place where the boat is stored, where you live nor does it have to have any actual significance or relevance to your life.  What do you think are the parameters for choosing a valid hailing port?

Recently I have seen hailing ports including Huntington Harbor, Mission Bay and Surf City.  To my surprise Huntington Harbor and Mission Bay were both the hailing ports actually on the document.  The owner of the vessel with hailing port Surf City liked Huntington Beach’s “official” nickname, but he was not in compliance with federal regulations as the hailing port on the document did not match the hailing port on the transom.  As a result of these unusual haling ports, we researched the rules for hailing ports.

Throughout my career it had been my understanding that the hailing port had to be an actual city in the United States or a US territory.  Some had told me that a hailing port had to have a post office, but I had never researched the actual rule, and I wondered what made a location a “city”?

My thanks (and a belated Happy Birthday) to Bernadine Trusso of Dona Jenkins Maritime Document Service, Inc.  Bernadine discussed this issue with an officer in the Coast Guard and they confirmed that the website used by documentation personnel is

To determine if a location is a valid hailing port, click the “Query” tab, fill in the “feature name” and the “state” and then hit the “Send Query” tab.  If the feature name comes up as written, such as Point Loma, the location is a valid hailing port.  In the case of Point Loma the class is cape.  In the case of Mission Bay the class is bay and in the case of Leucadia the class is populated place.  The class of the location is irrelevant according to our source, as long as the feature name comes up as you have searched it, without additional words.

The name and the hailing port must be displayed externally on the vessel, either on both sides of the hull or on the transom.  The hailing port must include the place and a state, territory, or possession of the United States.  The state may be abbreviated.

We often find hailing ports without the necessary state, territory or possession included.  We often find names and hailing ports from prior documents, legally requiring modifications to the current documented name and hailing port.  We occasionally find registration numbers on documented boats (a no no), documentation numbers on the exterior of boats (unnecessary) or no identifying numbers, name or hailing port (begging to be boarded by the authorities).

Registered boats may have names and hailing ports, but these boat names are decoration, an expression of individuality, and can be changed at any time as they are not legally significant.  Based on my newly found resources, Huntington Harbor and Mission Bay are in fact valid hailing ports, but not Surf City and now you have the ability to be as creative with your hailing port as with your vessel’s name.

Boats and the Gig Economy

The recreational marine industry is a small subset of larger industries.  We are a small part of manufacturing, banking, insurance, and yes the gig economy.  As with most of these industries, the boating industry’s slice of the pie is small, but to those involved it is significant.  Some of us love the progress and convenience that comes along with these new ideas and apps, some are firmly against these new types of business arrangements and many just don’t want it in their marina.

The boat based temporary rental market mirrors land based Airbnb and VRBO markets.  Both continue to pose challenges to governments, frustrate neighbors and provide opportunities and access to many.  As it is on land, some are firmly against renting a boat as a place to sleep while many are reaping the financial rewards of just such usage.  And as it goes on land, there are questions of legality, interpretations of regulations vary depending on which expert you ask, and the relative ease of finding short term rentals online.  The most common interpretation of a legal “boatel” requires the boat to be unable to operate away from the dock, but it takes very little searching to find other opinions.

Short term boat rentals are not just for sleeping and remaining in the slip.  One app,, lets you rent a wide selection of boats for short periods of time, and use them as boats, underway.  This is the closest app that I have found to Uber, Lyft or Turo on the water.  You can even get an insurance policy for the few hours of your rental.

Of course there are “legitimate” short term boat rentals, including Boat and Breakfasts, boat rentals, yacht charters and passenger vessels, available for the less daring or technically sophisticated.  These companies provide instruction, support, varieties of boats and convenience, albeit at a higher price.  All are gateways to enjoying the water onboard and all contribute to the recreational marine economy.

Social media, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, is also aboard.  I work with boat brokers who are prolific video posters.  There are tonnes (maritime allusion) of boating blogs.  The information available online regarding “how to” do something on a boat is readily available.  Like land based topics, our challenge is to sort through the BS and find the expert advice.  The sorting often takes longer than replacing the water pump’s impeller, once the right video is found.

Next up, following the theme of technological advancement: self-driving boats.

California Boater Card

On January 1, 2018 a law requiring California boaters to have a valid California Vessel Operator Card (CVOC) takes effect.  Initially only boaters 20 years old and younger will need the card.  Each year the age limit is graduated by five years and every boater will need a card by January 1, 2025.

There are eight categories of exempted boaters, including operators of rental vessels, operators from other states and other countries, boaters who hold a Coast Guard operator’s license or boaters who hold a commercial fishing license.

Currently, California Harbors and Navigation Code Section 658.5, states that nobody under 16 years of age may operate a boat with a motor of more than 15 horsepower, except for a sailboat that does not exceed 30 feet in length or a dinghy used directly between a moored boat and the shore (or between two moored boats). The law allows children 12-15 years of age to operate boats with a motor of more than 15 horsepower or sailboats over 30 feet if supervised on board by an adult at least 18 years of age.

There are several companies offering online education for the CVOC.  The law mandates that the education must be approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA (not NAMBLA:>)) and by the California Department of Boating and Waterways.

If an approved course was taken after January 2015 you can use copy of that course certificate and submit it online at  Temporary cards will be issued immediately (for both courses previously taken and newly taken course) and actual cards will be issued starting mid-January, 2018.

The online courses cost approximately $25 – $30, with some sites offering group discounts.

The first infraction of the law is subject to a fine of not more than $100.00.

I have always supported volunteers who educate boaters, such as the Coast Guard Auxiliary and Power Squadrons.  I believe the individuals who voluntarily attend these classes are more likely to succeed in becoming safe boaters, because they want to become safe boaters.  The mandatory boating education courses appear to be much like the safe driving courses that are a mandated option when one receives a speeding ticket.  It is doubtful that one stops speeding after taking such a course, though we often slow down as we gain wisdom through experience and age.

There are statistics that say states with mandatory education have fewer boating accidents and fatalities, and the low percentage of those involved in the accidents and fatalities that have a boater’s card also support the concept of boater’s education.  This process seems to be a minor imposition on boaters, likely very easy for experienced boaters and hopefully a worth benefit to new boaters and the boating community.

Sea Sickness – Controlling the body

When the eyes perceive a different movement than the inner ear experiences the result can be sea sickness for a boater.  While this is the common belief, the actual cause of sea sickness is not agreed upon by the medical community.  Approximately 30% of the population is relatively immune to sea sickness while another 30% gets very little relief from common medications.

The research supports my personal experiences with sea sickness.  While I have been sea sick, and understand the feeling, it is rare for me but three of our family of five are prone to it.   Research suggests anxiety about sea sickness contributes to its frequency and rest and hydration help prevent it.

Eating lightly, including snacks such as ginger snaps and pretzels is preferred to not eating or to eating greasy or acidic foods.  Wind across your face and staring at the horizon are proven to reduce discomfort and avoid others who are sick.  Driving the vessel (and driving the car) is also helpful.  Your senses tend to agree when you are in control of the boat and watching the seas.  The back of smaller boats and amidships near the water line in ships generally has less movement.  Staring at the horizon on deck is preferred to confusing your senses down below.  An easy rule to remember is back of the boat and front of the plane.

If one of the crew is sick, exercise caution if they are heaving over the side of the boat.  Sea sickness is bad but a person overboard, particularly in heavy weather, is worse.

There are both homeopathic and “western medical” means for prevention and acute treatment of motion sickness.  Homeopathic treatments generally have little to no side effects.  Research indicates that some treatments are extremely effective on some people, thus trying various treatments is suggested.  Unfortunately there are so many variables and unknowns in motion sickness, your personal research may take a long period of time and accurate record keeping to be effective.

A common homeopathic treatment is acupressure or electro acupuncture on the T6 pressure point.  This is the pressure point approximately two fingers up the forearm from the wrist.   There are a multitude of wristbands and bracelets which apply pressure to this pressure point.  There are electric wrist bands with variable intensity settings and both of these methods are effective on some.

There is an extensive amount of medication available for sea sickness.  Primarily anticholinergics and antihistamines are used.  Scopolamine is usually applied as a patch behind the ear and it works as both prevention and treatment for sea sickness.  Antihistamines such as Dramamine and Bonine are most effective as preventative medicines and need to be ingested one to two hours prior to departure.  The common side effects include drowsiness and dry mouth.

A non FDA approved medicine Cinnarizine (brand name Sturgeon) is mentioned in several studies and may be the most effective antihistamine with fewest side effects.

NASA and the U.S. Navy use conditioning and de-sensitization to reduce motion sickness in astronauts and pilots.  So get out there, boat more often, and stop worrying about getting sick.


Here are a two of many helpful sites:

Sea Sickness – Controlling the Sea

Most readers of this article have experienced sea sickness themselves and with families and guests. In my professional life, sea sickness is the most commonly quoted reason for not participating in boating activities. As an avid boater and boating professional I try to do all I can to minimize human discomfort, increase enjoyment of boating and overall boating activity.
This article will focus of various ways the boat can be used to control the seas. Picking the right day to boat or the right weather window is one of the critical decisions. Sometimes we cannot control when our planned Catalina vacation is but when possible understanding wave height, direction and period, and how that will affect our intended voyage, and our alternative destinations will be appreciated by your crew. Maybe going to Ensenada and returning in better conditions is preferred to beating to Catalina.
Sailboats can use sails to dampen the roll of the vessel and powerboats can use trim tabs as the most basic control. Speed also has a factor in controlling roll, yaw and pitch.
Fixed stabilizing fins can help control a boats movement underway and deployable devices such as flopper stoppers and Para vanes can be used with almost any type of vessel. Flopper stoppers are butterfly type devices which are hung over a boat at anchor and dampen the roll while Para vanes are deployed while underway for the same reason.
Active fin stabilizers, usually controlled by hydraulic components are more effective, and of course more expensive. These systems use a gyro device to manipulate the position of the fins to reduce roll while underway and depending on the size of the vessel more than one pair of active fin stabilizers can be installed.
A more recent version of active fin stabilizers can also help maintain roll stability while moving slowly or not at all. These stabilizers are extremely powerful and flap quickly to maintain stability. They also require a tremendous amount of power and are known to push a vessel forward.
A very effective stabilizing option is gyro stabilization. A large piece (or pieces) of spinning steel stabilizes the vessel using the same concept as a Segway. The amount of roll stabilization possible with gyro stabilization is truly remarkable. These devices take 30 minutes or so to spin up to speed but a properly matched gyro stabilizer is so affective at reducing roll stabilization that one really must experience it to understand the difference. There is of course a financial cost to the various components which for the more advanced devices includes not only the device cost but engineering and installation costs. Many modern vessels over 50’ in length are being designed to accept gyro stabilizers and manufactures are offering them as an option.

Shore Power Cord Problems

The photographs of the shore power cord and damage to the dock and boat were found as I arrived for a condition and valuation inspection for an owner that lived out of state. The inspection was requested by his insurance company, who apparently dodged a bullet.
As boating season winds down, our visits to our boats dwindle. Many of us live remotely from our vessels and over time we grow comfortable in their self preservation. Shore power systems are commonly found defective. Dock box circuit breakers are designed to prevent problems like this, but are notoriously unreliable.
By their nature shore cord connections are subject to weather, movement and wear. All of which increase resistance and thus temperature of the conductors.
Approximately one out of every five boats we inspect has some problem with the shore power system.
The most common problem is heat damage at the shore power cord or vessel connectors. No amount of heat damage to these components should be disregarded. A small amount of visible heat damage is often an indication of much more significant damage which is not visible. Think visible part of iceberg versus what is below the water.
Because of our involvement with damage claims, we investigate many vessel fires and work alongside origin and cause experts. Their conclusions are often that the fire was electrical in nature and initiated near the shore power inlet. While some of these fires have been localized to the vessel itself and even to just the shore power inlet area, some result in entire marinas going up in flames.
A few simple practical pointers.
Make sure all designed components for the connectors are present and functional. Shore power cords should have a means to secure the cord to the inlet and protect the conductors from weather. The shore power cord should have strain relief where necessary. If your cord dangles five feet from the inlet to the dock, strain relief should be used to eliminate the strain between the cord and the inlet.

A shore power cord should not look like these.
Always make and break dead connections. The circuit breaker at the dock should be turned off prior to connecting or disconnecting the shore power cord from the vessel. The circuit breaker should be turned back on only after the shore power cord connection has been made at your boat. This prevents arcing damage which will contribute to problems at the connector.
I am fond of a product called “Smart Plug”. The plug requires no twisting and has features which reduce several of the problems that we encounter regularly, but it is more expensive.
Besides fires, many problems are caused by shore power malfunctions. Regularly checking shore power connections is an excellent way to avoid these problems. Your boating neighbors can help.
Take a moment, like that time in church where you shake the hands of those around you, and meet your neighbors. In addition to challenging strangers you see aboard each others’ vessels, develop a mutual plan for checking shore power cords and exchange contact information, the boat you save could be yours.

Boat electrical systems in winter

Most Southern California boaters, with the exception of a few alpine lake stored boats, don’t have to worry about snow accumulation or the water freezing around the boat. We have our own set of challenges brought upon by lower temperatures, rain and infrequent visits. We addressed shore power cords in our last article, here we address other issues.
As the temperature drops, heaters come out of the lockers. We find portable electric heaters on virtually every boat we inspect. Some heaters are better suited for use aboard a vessel. Some heaters will cut their power if they tip over, some have a wide base and are less likely to tip over, but few are designed to be left unattended aboard a boat. Above is a melted circuit breaker for a built in cabin heater.
Bring aboard only the most suitable type of heater, remember the boat may be used by somebody less familiar with boats than you are. Gas heaters, wood stoves and other improvised heating devices have also been known to cause problems.
The use of heaters and decorative lights increases the amperage in the AC electrical system and this increase can cause problems to develop or become apparent.
During a recent pre-purchase survey of a 50 meter power vessel, one of the crew was surprised to learn that several of the air conditioners also functioned as heaters. The older vessel had a combination of heat pump style units and household type units which only functioned in the cool mode. They were surprised to learn that the heat pump units functioned in both the heat and cool modes. This type of heater is much safer than a portable heater.
Boat fact: reverse cycle / heat pump type air conditioning units’ function is most effectively tested in the heat mode in Southern California. Heat is distinct versus blown air which can feel cool.
Winter is our rainy season, in addition to checking deck drains, hatch drains and the associated hoses and valves, this is a good time to check bilge pumps. If you don’t know how to check the automatic function of your bilge pump, learn. You-tube has everything. Know that your automatic bilge pump will only work as long as its battery is charged.
De-humidifiers are usually much safer than space heaters. Many boat air conditioners have a de-humidifier function as well. While de-humidifiers can prevent mould and mildew, we suggest inspecting the boat after the first rain for any leaks. Your boat will eventually leak, the quicker the leak is found and fixed the better chance you have to reduce resulting damage. Leaks onto electrical components can lead to problems. A common finding is water accumulated in dome lights. It is not uncommon to find water leaking on to or near electrical distribution panels, as they are often outboard near the hull to deck joint and below deck hardware.
Finally, if you are going to keep frozen food aboard, especially seafood or bait, be aware of potential problems from a loss of shore power. Standard galley refrigerators can leak and significant damage has occurred when frozen fish thaw. Consider a deep freezer for your fish or bait, their design will capture this disgusting soup and limit the damage.

Boat Superstitions (part 1)

The most well known superstition of course is the re-naming of the boat. The origins are apparently Greek (Poseidon), continuing through the Romans (Neptune) and at least peripherally influencing the Norse (Ran, Aegir, Njord, Odin and Hagar). Boaters, fisherman, sailors, etc.… are superstitious folk.
The “bad luck” is brought upon by the God of the Sea who maintains a ledger of all boat names. Thus the first component to disable the bad luck of a new boat name is the de-naming ceremony. This ceremony causes the God to forget the name and of course requires alcohol.
All of these ceremonies require quality champagne or wine. To properly de-name the vessel, first pour a portion of the beverage into the ocean as an offering to the God and then pour some into your mouth(s). The alcohol helps the God forget.
Next gather all items emblazoned with the previous name, burn them and scatter the ashes into the sea. “White out” the “Previous Vessel Names” on your Coast Guard documentation, as you might need it later; otherwise make sure all vestiges of the old name are completely eliminated.
The re-naming ceremony begins with appeasing the Gods with more liquor and a request that they accept the new name. Following this second offering to the Gods, a glass of the quality champagne or wine is enjoyed by the captain and the first mate, in the name of good luck. Don’t bring aboard anything with the new name until the first ceremony is complete, or you’ll have to do a lot more drinking to do.
The last required ceremony is the appeasement of the four winds. This ceremony includes (yep, you saw it coming) pouring four equal amounts of the chosen beverage and tossing them in each of the primary compass directions. The remainder of the beverage is to be consumed by those involved in the ceremonies.
During my training I was taught that nudity was involved in this ceremony, however, I found no such reference in my exhaustive validation research. I did come across a reference to naked women. It is bad luck to have women aboard, because they distract sailors from their duties, but naked women are good luck because they calm the seas. Thus topless figurines of women adorn the bows of so many sailing ships.
The takeaway is that quality champagne or wine help solve boating problems. If you and/or your first mate are recovering from alcoholism, we support you. Please contact us and someone from our office will be happy to perform the ceremonies on your behalf.
p.s. we like women on our boats, with or without clothes

Boat Superstitions (Part 2)

This is the second part of a two part article. The first part dealt with renaming a boat and the necessary ceremony to avoid bad luck. One recovering reader responded, “like most of us I’ve come to accept the glorification of alcohol and drunkenness in society” and “we have found that we can have just as much fun, laughter, and happiness with diet coke and sparkling cider”. Alcoholism is a serious problem. My father had 35+ years sobriety from alcohol. Thus, let it be known the renaming ceremony will be just as effective with non-alcoholic beverages.
Since one objective of the ceremony is to make the God of the Sea forget your boat’s prior name, consider tossing (soon to be legal) marijuana in the water instead (unless you’re addicted to weed).
Now on to the lesser superstitions.
Bringing bananas aboard a vessel has been thought to bring bad luck since the 1700s. There are gross tons of theories as to why. One suggests that bananas spoil quickly and thus ships had to rush to their destinations, eliminating the opportunity for the crew to fish. Spiders, termites and methane gas are among the explanations for this obviously poor choice of sea food, as if we need any logical bases. This is most commonly adhered to now by fisherman.
Sharks following the vessel, whistling onboard and redheads (gingers) are bad luck. The shark is a sure sign of death. Don’t whistle aboard, you may whistle up a storm. Redheads are bad luck as they are just unfortunate to be a statistical minority. If brown hair had been bad luck we would have a history of bald sailors. Albatrosses are thought to be good luck if one is spotted, bad luck if one is killed. A “Jonah” is a person or crew member who brings bad luck. Dolphins swimming alongside are a positive omen, this one I can personally attest to as they always make me happy.
From the pirates comes a full booty of superstitions. Gold hoop earrings bring good fortune, gold provides healing powers and prevents drowning (unless you have too much). Tattoos have many magical powers. A North Star tattoo can help guide you home. Ducks or pigs tattooed on your feet will help you reach land if you fall overboard. Cutting hair or nails or shaving beards brings bad luck, baseball players share this one. Clearly there is crossover between land and sea superstitions.
There are many bad days to set sail, December 31, the first Monday in April, the second Monday in August, Thursdays and most commonly Fridays. I did a job for a commercial customer recently who will not begin a voyage on Friday and his business is doing well.
Red sky at night a sailor’s delight, red sky in the morning sailors take warning. Brief research suggests this has scientific validity and is alluded to in the Bible (Matthew 16:2-3).
Historically sailing was (and is) a dangerous occupation and superstitions helped sailors deal with the unknown. Today we have weather satellites, hair dye, man overboard drills, steel ships and refrigeration. Thank God (of the sea) for steel ships and refrigeration as Dole brings ship loads of bananas to the 10th avenue Marine Terminal in San Diego regularly; imagine the load of bad luck we might otherwise have suffered?

When Size Matters

“Hatteras’ specifications list the boat length as 50’ 3” and that is what I would like on my survey”. This was a recent request from a client who had just purchased a 2003 Hatteras 50 convertible. “And I would like to be referred to as Sir Kells, bring peace to the world and arouse women when I walk into the room”, I thought, though I responded “well let’s see if I can help”.
“I measured your boat and usually I am close. I measured 53’ 4”. I would be happy to measure it again”. I continued, “Boats are rarely the length that the manufacturer specifies or the broker lists”. Of this I am certain. But why? How are boats measured?
Per the 2009 version of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Simplified Measurement Tonnage Guide (, the overall length is the horizontal distance between the outboard side of the foremost part of the hull and the outboard side of the after most part of the hull. It does not include bow sprits, rudders, outboard motor mount brackets, swim platforms that do not contain buoyant volume and other similar fittings and attachments that are not part of the buoyant hull envelope.
We measure vessels length overall (LOA) and we do include swim platforms and bow sprits. This is the most useful length, as it is the length used by most marinas and yacht clubs. For our purposes we do not include the anchor hanging over the bow or the tender hanging on the transom, these can always be removed. While permanent fixtures such as swim platforms can be removed, it is not simple.
We rarely refer to length on the waterline (LWL) or length on deck (LOD) as these lengths are generally only useful when discussing designs and theoretic hull speed.
The Coast Guard defines overall breadth as “the horizontal distance taken at the widest part of the hull, excluding rub rails. This measurement is rarely disputed. Another important measurement of a boat’s width is the breadth at the waterline, as most boats are much wider at their rub rail (flair) than they are in the water and can thus fit into a slip which is not as wide as the boat.
The Coast Guard defines overall depth as the vertical distance at or near amidships from a line drawn horizontally through the uppermost edge of the skin (excluding the superstructure) to the bottom skin of the hull, excluding the keel. This length is not the vessel’s draft. Thus the depth on your Coast Guard documentation should not be confused with your vessel’s draft. We measure draft as the distance between the waterline of the vessel and the deepest submerged part of the vessel, be it keel, propellers or rudders. This is the minimum depth of water your boat needs to remain happy.
The Coast Guard allows simplified measurement for the calculation of tonnage. A discussion of the meaning of tonnage was addressed in a prior article and can be found on our website ( it is not a measure of weight.
The boat’s length thus can vary, but it only varies based on the specific definition of the length that is sought. It is neither shorter when you are paying for a slip (or marine survey) nor longer after a couple scotches.

Keeping Water on the Outside – Siphons

Keeping Water on the Outside – Siphons

“Nothing good ever comes from water in the bilge.” Jim Merritt, marine surveyor and mentor.

All of the submersion claims we have ever handled have the same cause of loss… too much water on the inside. In order to maintain a boat without water inside we employ valves, loops and siphon breaks, but sometimes this simple concept is misunderstood. The systems that normally require these measures are engines, heads and bilge pumps.

Vented loop anti-siphon valve
First let’s begin with the basic concept of a siphon. Simply put this is the transference of a liquid from a higher point to a lower point through a level higher than the source reservoir’s liquid. In a boat this usually means water entering a through hull and discharging at a point lower than the through hull through a hose run above the waterline.

To prevent siphoning we install siphon breaks, usually in the form of vented loops where the top of the vent is above the maximum healed waterline and the break is a way to allow air into the top of the loop.

Bilge pumps should discharge above the waterline, but those that do not require a siphon break. A vented loop is acceptable per A.B.Y.C. standards but a check valve is not. A check valve can only be used to prevent cycling of the pump, but configuring the pump and float to eliminate the cycling is smarter.

Heads mounted below the waterline require means to prevent flooding. If you leave the intake valve open and the head overflows, this is not siphoning, this is flooding (unless your through hull is higher than your head). In this case a simple loop, unvented, would have prevented the flooding as water seeks its level. A simple trick to know the waterline on the interior of your boat is to have a hose full of water contiguous to the sea, the water level in the hose is the water level in the sea.

Heads that discharge above the level of the top of the head do require vented loops and the vents only work if they allow air into the loop. Vents require maintenance, a clogged vent in a vented loop is just a loop and does not prevent siphoning.

Engines installed at or below the waterline require a loop in the exhaust discharge to minimize the possibility of inflow of raw water, whether the engine is running or not and a siphon break to prevent siphoning through the raw water pump when the engine is stopped. The water lift muffler is below the raw water intake through hull and in certain situations a solid column of water can form between them, eventually filling the muffler and engine with water. A functioning siphon break, usually between the engine and the muffler prevents the flooding. Over cranking this type of engine will also flood the engine with water. If the engine won’t start, shut the through hull while you remedy the problem but remember to open it when the problem is solved.

This is not meant as a “how to keep water out of the bilge” article nor does it address thalassophobia (fear of the sea). There is apparently no name for fear of water in the bilge, perhaps boataquaphobia.

Motor Mounts

Motor Mounts

118213_BUS_DF-100_PPM[1]As a marine surveyor, I occasionally encounter problems with motor mounts, and I wondered if there was a more analytic (and less subjective) way to determine their condition. I spoke with several experienced marine mechanics, a distributor and a manufacturer.

The vulcanized rubber in flexible or soft motor mounts provides sound and vibration dampening. It is this rubber that is most commonly damaged. Apparently, a visual inspection is the only way to determine the condition of the rubber in the mounts. One mechanic mentioned using a durometer, but he had never used one. Petroleum products, heat and age cause damage to the rubber. The metal is most commonly damaged by corrosion. Mounts also suffer damage from improper installation, under-sizing, hard shifting, groundings and hard landings (for those of you with boats that fly).

Separation of the rubber from the metal, sagging and distortion are the usual indications of damaged rubber. High performance boats and some older yachts use solid mounts, with no dampening rubber.

Occasionally we find broken motor mount studs; a much more definitive indication of a problem mount. Amazingly of all of the broken studs we have found, none of the operators were aware of a problem as the other three mounts supported the engine load. We commonly find the “jam nuts” not properly secured against the adjustment nut. If there are two nuts on one side of the engine’s mounting flange, they should be touching.

So the next time you are “messing about” we encourage you to inspect your boat’s motor mounts. Some may need a mirror and a flashlight. Inspect the rubber, the stud, the nuts and the bolts securing the mounts to the engine bearer. Damage claims involving catastrophic motor mount failures are few, but they usually include significant water intrusion about the propeller shaft seal and chaos. A brief check of mounts along with your normal pre-start check may prevent something much more catastrophic.

Replacement mounts and/or mount parts are available from engine manufacturers and sometimes only from the OEM$. The largest US based motor mount manufacturers are Barry Controls and Bushings, Inc. While there are no age specifications for motor mount life expectancy from the engine or motor mount manufacturers, the military specifications for many marine motor mounts is seven years.

The bad news, there is no objective inspection or test for motor mounts. The good news is if you keep the mounts clean and free of shock loads, they may outlast you.