A boatload of precautions
we in Hawai`i need not take

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (09/16/00)
By Ray Pendleton

BoatU.S., the nation's largest recreational boaters' organization with over a half-million members, periodically sends out informative notices to its members and the media regarding a broad spectrum of boating issues.

Whenever those notices seem somewhat applicable to boaters in Hawai`i, Water Ways readers can always depend on reading about them here.

On the other hand, this month's release from BoatU.S. is, in general, so far removed from anything our state's boaters need to know, it occurred to me that it is more like an eight-point list of reasons why we are lucky we boat in Hawai`i.

To begin with, the release is titled, "Eight most overlooked chores when putting boats up for winter."

(That's right. Boaters all over the upper U.S. virtually mothball their vessels for a good part of the year due to inclement weather. Maybe that's why most of Hawaii's boats look a bit worn - they are used year-round.)

BoatU.S. advises boaters not to forget the following when they winterize their crafts:

  • Drain the engine intake sea strainer. Water left in the strainer can freeze and break the watertight seal, then, when the ice thaws in the spring, the boat will flood.

    (This is so far removed from local experience, it's almost impossible to imagine.)

  • Store canvas biminis and dodgers inside. Otherwise, they can get ripped apart by winter winds, and accumulated snow often bends their aluminum support frames.

    (In Hawai`i, it's the June-through-December hurricane season most boaters worry about, rather than winter winds. And, with our snowfall confined to the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, support frames are more likely to bend under the strain of a heavy-handed sailor.)

  • Close all sea cocks - except for cockpit drains. Leaving sea cocks open is like leaving your front door open when you go on vacation.

    (Actually, this is a recommendation that has merit for Hawaii's boaters whenever they leave their vessels. Operating the sea cocks also helps to insure they will work when they are needed.)

  • Clear all cockpit drains. Every winter, boats are damaged or sunk by nothing more than a few leaves blocking drains.

    (This too is a good idea for boat owners anywhere, at any time of year.)

  • Add extra dock lines and chafe protection (fenders). Blustery winter winds can tear a dock line apart faster than gentle summer breezes.

    (If Hawaii's boaters have coped with 20- to 30-knot tradewinds all summer, they have probably already been using enough dock lines and fenders to deal with anything up to a hurricane.)

  • Have the right cover for the boat. Protective covers need to be well supported so they don't accumulate snow and rain.

    (For most boaters in Hawai`i, a boat cover is more for sun protection than rain, and certainly not for snow.)

  • Check the boat regularly during the winter. Don't rely on bilge pumps to guard the boat.

    (Or, like here, just use your boat year-round.)

  • Don't think below freezing temperatures "can't happen here." In 1998, California had more winterizing claims than any other state.

(Like I said - lucky we boat in Hawai`i.)

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