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Boating Articles

Doug and Brenda Dawson boating on georgian bay

Every couple of weeks, Doug and Brenda write seasonal articles informing boaters of new products, regulations, checklists of things to do for summerizing and winterizing, and covering topics like canvas, head, holding tank, cleaners, upholstery, teak, ropes and numerous other boating activities.

Here you will pick up tips and tricks to help make your boating easier and more enjoyable.

thumbs downA Skating Pro knows before a skater jumps, that it will be a bad landing, by the way the skater enters the jump.

A Golf Pro knows before a golfer hits the ball, that the outcome will be into the rough, by the way the golfer stands and swings.

A Boat Docking Pro knows, when a boater enters a harbor, that it will be a bad docking.

One of the many early signs, that a docking will be entertaining is, when a crew member is on the foredeck with a boat hook.

Using a boat hook as a docking aid, just isn’t safe for a First Mate and is more often a hindrance than a help.


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first mate hatRecreational boating has been a big part of my life and all of Doug’s life. He was born and raised at the family marina, Dawson's Marina Limited on Lake Simcoe. I have had the opportunity to talk to thousands of First Mates at the marina, on the water and at the Boat Shows I’ve worked, since the mid 60’s.

Doug and I have been boating together since our teens in the 60’s. He is 5th generation and has been boating since he was tall enough to see over the windshield. During our years at the family marina, Doug and I had the opportunity to holiday in inventory boats and deliver boats both new and used—everything from daycruisers, cruisers, houseboats, trawlers, motor yachts and sailboats up to 48’. We even spent our honeymoon on a boat.

This sounds like an envious position to be in. But,

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man-questioning-use-marine-toiletBoat builders design boats to accommodate boaters’ needs; most with a head and galley. Some are small, but all are fully functioning.

Galleys have running water, cooking stove of one kind or another, frig/ice box and storage so that you can prepare meals and clean up afterwards. Galleys are meant to be used.

Heads are the same. Builders install a marine sink with running water and a toilet connected to a holding tank for the black water that is later pumped out through a fitting on the deck (similar to motor homes). Heads are fully functioning and they also are meant to be used.

Many owners of bowriders and outboards are eagerly waiting to trade up to have a boat with a head and galley, so they don’t have to use facilities elsewhere or wait.

So, why do we hear from boaters around the world that they don’t use their heads?

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friends enjoying boatingEntertaining and taking family/friends for a cruise, is part of the fun of having a boat. But, far too often, the Captain ends up doing all the work and the family/friends just get to enjoythe ride.

I’ve watched Captains bring their boats back to their slips, with guests in the cockpit texting and oblivious to all the docking preparatory work while the Captain is running around hanging fenders, preparing lines and trying to be at the helm as well as entertaining—all at the same time.

There is one tip that will make your dockings so much easier.

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jason jumping harbourKnowing where the dangers are and how to check for leaking AC electricity in the water could be a lifesaver. Spring is the time to do it, before you put boats and people in the water.

Sadly, each year there are numerous accidents in the waters around boats and docks where AC electrical power is in use.

Last year, at least six deaths and 15 near misses (where the potential victim escaped death) have been identified.

Boat US has several articles on this topic that every boater should be aware of. We encourage you to visit their site at https://www.boatus.com/magazine/2017/april/avoid-electric-shock-drowning.asp

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one legI witnessed an incident where one lucky lady gets to enjoy boating this summer instead of lying in a hospital bed without her severed foot!

I was on the other side of the harbor watching boaters come and go as they eagerly launched, docked and prepared for the season.

I am always looking for ideas for articles and to add to our docking lessons to help other boaters.

On this day, conditions were perfect for docking—no wind, no current and no audience. (I was too far away to be seen or to help).

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laughterWhen you execute a flawless performance launching your boat, you turn to bow to the crowd watching, only to find there is no one there; but the slightest screw up will almost certainly bring out one or more smart phones capturing it all on video then sharing it around the world in a matter of seconds. You will never live it down.

You can avoid all this embarrassment by perfecting your launching skills with one good lesson—just like you do to drive a car, golf, play tennis, dock your boat, play a musical instrument, etc. Be prepared before you get to the launch ramp, so you can launch your boat flawlessly.

Investing a little time in learning the procedures and tips to avoid screwing up is well worth it. “Ramping Your Boat” e-lesson covers what you need to know to get your boat in and out of the water, without embarrassment, wet feet, yelling or being laughed at. Nobody videos a flawless performance!

Ramping your Boat

Tying and Using Knots

Soaked Ego

Launch Ramp Screw-Ups


full camper enclosureLast fall, when you put your boat to bed for the winter, you were diligent, planned ahead and you cleaned your canvas getting rid of all the bugs, dirt and mildew/mold. You also checked for any tears and holes in the canvas and vinyl and made an appointment with your canvas shop to do the necessary repairs over their less busy fall and winter months; so that your canvas would be ready to put back on you boat in the spring.

Oh, but that only happens in a perfect world and we all know that during the hectic time in the fall, things get missed. Quite often, it is the dirty and sometimes damaged canvas.

Canvas has many uses on different sizes and styles of boats including; bimini tops, convertible tops, cockpit covers, tonneau covers, dodgers and biminis and full camper enclosures.

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cleatEvery time, we all hope for a pleasant docking, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Quite often, boaters depend on dock helpers when they come into a new harbor; or even their home port. Sometimes this works out okay; but, many times, it ends in disaster for the Captain’s ego. Why?

The intentions of dock helpers are good, but their level of expertise is always unknown to the Captain. The dock helper could simply be a passerby, but who knows nothing about boats; a boater who can dock his own boat, but knows nothing about the techniques required for your drive system. You could be lucky and have a dock helper, who has been trained to help boaters dock, thus knows what to do. But, how do you know when you pull up to the dock, that you can really count on this dock helper to actually help you dock?

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knotNow is a good time for you and your whole crew to brush up on your knot tying skills, to be ready for the boating season.

If you don’t use the “6 boating knots you need to know” over the winter, it is so easy to forget them. Then, you have to learn and practice them all over again. To learn all the knots suggested for boating is so overwhelming though, it gets put to the end of the “To Do” list and we all know that we seldom get to the bottom of that list.

The good news is, you only really have to know 6 knots. That is a lot easier to learn and master—and, you can use them all year so you don’t have to re-learn every spring.

But, and there seems to always be a “but”, learning how to tie the knots is only half of the battle. You also need to know when and how to use them on the boat, for knot tying to be a useful skill.

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