Things to know about weather and its effect on your boating (Southeast Florida)

Prestige yachts cruising out of MiamiWeather effects most of us on a daily basis, some more than others. However, in the boating business it is a very dominant factor. In this article I will focus on weather during the summer months in our boating area (South Florida and Bahamas) for local day outings and Bimini crossings.

Day Trips

20% Chance of Rain
I don’t usually expect to see rain chances under 20 percent during the summer. If you do see a 20% chance, you can count on a very dry day.

40% Chance of Rain
The “chance of rain” during the summer can be as high as 40% and chances are 1 in 4 that you will encounter a brief summer rain shower or thunderstorm. This is normal and I would not cancel a trip under this scenario

50% Chance of Rain
The jump between 40% and 50% is not significant in my book, but it does mean that there is a higher than normal likelihood that you will see some rain.

60%
Anything over 60% means that the day will most likely be a wet one but not a washout.

70% Plus
Most likely be a washout day.

Wind Strength and Direction
Prevailing wind direction in this area is SE at about 5 to 10 mph during the Summer. East winds usually blow a bit stronger and create more chop out in the ocean but this is not unusual. Any shift to the West or North are indicative of a change out of the norm and additional monitoring is warranted before departure. Boats cruising in the ICW or Biscayne Bay are not affected as much by wind and seas as a boat out on the ocean.

Bimini Crossings
The ideal conditions for Bimini Crossings is a South wind of 10 mph or less. If the forecast calls for “variable” winds you can pretty much count on very light or no wind. This does occur during the summer at times, mostly early mornings. My “No-Go” threshold for Bimini (unless I’m running a delivery with no customers on board), is Winds in excess of 15mph from any direction. A North wind in excess of 15 mph can make for a rough crossing as you enter the Gulfstream.

Hope this helps anyone that is not familiar with our weather patterns here in Southeast Florida. If you have any weather or boat related questions you can always call me at (954) 894-9895.

Happy Boating!
Capt. Tony

Hiring a Captain – What to expect

It is that time of year again when many yacht owners retain a Captain (and crew) to run their yachts to the Bahamas for a weekend or longer. It was recently brought to my attention the importance of having a clear cut understanding on what each of the parties should expect from each other. Below are some guidelines that I use when placing a captain:

Pay
Pay rates for Captains vary greatly from $200.00 per day to over $500.00. The average pay for an experienced Captain is 400.00 / USD per day.

Tips / Gratuity
Captains do accept tips and it is customary in the U.S.A to tip approximately $100.00 – $200.00 per day on top of the Captains pay for a job well done. If no tip is given, it may be interpreted as the captain did not perform to your satisfaction.

Working Hours
Captains are responsible for the safe passage of valuable equipment (the yacht) as well as the guests. To this effect, it is important that a Captain be well rested and alert while he/she is on duty. I always recommend that the Captain’s working time (either running the yacht or tending to guests at the dock or at anchor), be limited to eight hours per day. Rest time should be at least ten hours for every 24 hour period during the cruise.

Accommodations
Captains should be provided with private air conditioned quarters (cabin) with a private bathroom and shower. A cabin with its own private entrance is always better.

Food and Drink
It is the yacht owners responsibility to provide the Captain with meals and beverage (no alcohol) during the voyage. The Captain can prepare his own meals if this is what the yacht owner prefers.

Tasks
A Captain is responsible for the safe passage of the yacht as well as guests safety as well as the following:

  • The Captain should be able to troubleshoot and repair minor mechanical and electrical issues.
  • Clogged toilets are not something a Captain is trained or should be obligated to troubleshoot or repair unless he/she agrees, so it is of utmost importance to brief all guests on the proper use of a marine toilet.
  • Boat Washing is not normally part of what a Captain does, however most captains do not mind giving the boat a fresh water rinse at the end of the day.
  • Cooking / Serving: This is not the Captains job, Those expecting food service should also retain a cook and/or server for this.
  • Child Care: Captains are not responsible for child-care, neither are first mates.
  • Customs and Immigration: Captains should be able to guide guests through the process of clearing through Customs and Immigration in the Bahamas as well as back in the United States. The Captain should also make sure that all guests have a valid passport on hand (before departure) if travelling to the Bahamas.
  • Fishing / Diving / Water Sports: Captains normally partake in these activities but it is best to have an understanding of the Captains experience in these activities before hiring him/her.
  • Captains will inspect the yacht before departure to look for any issues that may affect the operation of the yacht. This includes; fuel status, fresh water status, engine room inspection, fluid levels, electronics, septic (toilet) system etc. However, it is the owners responsibility to have the yacht maintained in “turn-key” condition at all times, especially prior to a long trip.
  • Please remember that a Captain is primarily responsible for the yacht and guest safety so it is important to heed his/her advice regarding route, destination, weather and water activities.

On voyages to the Bahamas and other non-U.S Destinations, the Captain is responsible for meeting all the requirements of the local immigration and customs regulations. It is important that all guests have a valid Passport if visiting the Bahamas. The Captain is also the only person allowed to disembark in order to clear customs and immigration for the passengers. Once this is completed guests are allowed to disembark. Not following these simple rules may result in vessel forfeiture and jail time.

Below are some other positions that you may wish to have on your yacht

Deckhands / First Mate

On small recreational yachts (typically under 100 feet), the deckhands perform all deck operations handling ropes and fenders, ensuring the exterior of the yacht is in a condition fit for sea, as well as keeping it in immaculate conditions at all times.  Preparing and operating water toys is also part of this job. Deck hands earn about 150.00 to 250.0 per day plus gratuity.

Stewards

Stewards are responsible for maintaining guest cabins clean, beds made and laundry as well as cleaning and maintaining all common areas of the yacht. Stewards earn about $150.00 to $250.00 per day plus gratuity.

Servers

Servers are responsible for taking care of guests needs as they apply to food and beverage as well as maintaining common areas clean and clear. This position typically costs between 100.00 to 250.00 per day plus gratuity.

Chef

Chefs prepare food for guests (and crew). Chefs may bring food already cooked and prepared or cook from scratch on the yacht. This position typically costs between $250.00 to $500.00 per day plus gratuity.

Following these guidelines can help ensure proper communications between you and your hired crew so that everyone is treated fairly and has a positive experience.

Happy Boating!
Captain Tony

Keeping your boat bottom clean

Living in South Florida we are fortunate to have relatively warm waters year round. However, for boats living in these warm waters it means dealing with organisms that if left alone will grow to a point where the boats performance is affected.

In order to make your bottom paint last longer we always recommend that a diver be retained to clean the bottom once a month. When hiring a diver to perform this function make sure that he/she is experienced. Many inexperienced divers tend to use abrasive pads or scrapers to do the job. The problem is that the abrasive tools will also remove a layer of the bottom paint which is needed to retard barnacle growth. The trick is to clean the freshly painted bottom frequently enough so that a sponge (or similar soft tool) is all it takes to remove the slime. Once barnacles take hold the diver has no choice but to use more aggressive/abrasive tools and its downhill from there.

Bottom paint should last you about 12-24 months here in South Florida but this depends on where the boat is kept. Boats that are docked in areas where there is a strong tidal flow tend to need cleaning more frequently than boats docked in areas where there is little to no current / tidal  flow. The side of the hull that faces the sun will tend to have more growth at the waterline than the side that faces away from the sun.

IPS systems tend to be more sensitive than conventional propulsion systems to any growth on the propellers and pods. One way to help keep growth at bay is to apply PROP-SPEED on the pods and propellers during the annual haul-out and bottom painting. Prop-Speed works best on boats that are run often rather than boats that sit unused for long periods of time. The reason for this is because the product prevents the growth from sticking to the underwater running gear therefore, the growth will slide off the gear when the boat is underway.

If your boat is due for new bottom paint please contact our service department and discuss your best options.

Happy Boating!
Captain Tony 

Skippers Corner: Hurricane Season is here

boats stacked up after hurricane

Don’t let your boat end up here! Photo belongs to boat-history-check.com

If you’re a new boat owner you may have read the reports that the Hurricane Forecasters are predicting a slower than normal season of storms this year and consequently, the risks are lower than normal. However, one must not forget that Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida during one of these “slow” periods so we must not leave our guard down.

Most insurance companies require that the boat owner provide them with a Hurricane Plan. Hurricane plans should include consideration of the security of your marina or dock location. When formulating a Hurricane Plan either the boat owner or his/her captain needs to understand these storms, specifically, what their affect will be on the location where the boat is located, anticipated storm direction, strength and forward speed. A well done Hurricane Plan addresses all of these factors.

Hurricane season started on June 1st so if you haven’t already developed a Hurricane Plan, now is the time to do so.
For boats that are in (inside) dry storage, they stand almost no chance in an older dry storage building above a Category 2 Hurricane. However, some of the newer buildings are constructed to withstand winds of up to 200 MPH so check with your marina/storage manager for construction and ask if the building can stand Hurricane Force winds up to x MPH.

If you want your boat to survive a Hurricane and are willing to spend time toward understanding how to best protect your boat then you stand a fair probability of avoiding extensive damage to your boat.

Don’t be a procrastinator when it comes to Hurricane Preparedness. The time to prepare is now.

Here is a very useful source of information from the United States Power Squadron

Being a Captain with Intermarine

Headshot of captain Tony P

 — Written by Captain Tony Pedraja

It has now been three years since I started my career with INTERMARINE and working with this team has been a very fullfilling experience.  Having worked in the marine industry as a self-employed Captain for the past 19 years, I was a bit nervous to transition into a role with an industry leader such as InterMarine.

I knew that any this change would present its own set of challenges, but from day one I realized that this company is operated by true professionals under the direction of General Manager Rick Dubois and co-owners Patrick Galipeau and Luc Thibault.

The staff at Intermarine, from yard crew to boat washers and marine techs, are all glad to be here and happy with the way they are treated. Sure there are hurdles here just as in any company, but it is easy to have a positive attitude knowing that management and coworkers are always willing and able to jump in and save the day for, or with you.  From Techs jumping in to help troubleshoot an engine, to a a fellow captain going that extra mile to make sure our customer gets his/her boat back in time for the weekend. Our team is highly dedicated to pleasing our customers to the best of our ability.

The boats we represent come from quality time-tested manufacturers, but as we all know, not all boats are perfect, especially for those that reside in this tropical environment, but I am continually reminded that I made the right decision when speaking with our customers and seeing how pleased they are with their newly purchased boats and our ability to serve their needs. In fact, I receive calls just about every day and weekends from customers asking a variety of questions such as if we have any captains available for a cocktail cruise,  fun destinations in the Florida Keys, good snorkeling spots, or if the weather is good for a Bimini crossing….and the infamous “why won’t my boat start!!!” (engines will not start if in gear).

One of my favorite things about my job is meeting and getting to know our customers. Many have become friends and often we go boating together, rafting up at sandbars or taking weekend trips to Bimini or the Florida Keys.  My friends constantly say that I am very lucky to have a job that involves working with a great team, running boats and making new friends. I am very lucky indeed.

Capt. Tony Pedraja
Intermarine, Inc.

Skipper’s Corner: Emergency Signaling Devices

Hello Intermarine Customers,

As some of you know, one of the recommendations I make when asked which equipment should be placed on board a boat, I always suggest an Emergency Signaling Device (amongst some other items) for those that venture offshore by themselves.  I wrote the following article to explain a bit about the difference between the two types of Emergency Signaling Devices used by recreational boaters. There are more differences than what I address in this article however you may find it helpful as you launch into more personal research on the subject.

Happy Boating!
Captain Tony

Emergency Signaling Devices
EPIRBS (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons) and PLB’s (Personal Locator Beacons) are emergency signaling devices designed to pinpoint (within 150 ft MOL), a location where a rescue is needed. Both of these devices go a long way towards accomplishing that goal when activated by transmitting a coded message on the 406 MHz distress frequency relayed via the Cospas-Sarsat global satellite system to the nearest rescue coordination center.

Which one is best for you – EPIRB or PLB?

Personal Location Beacons (PLBs) and Personal Location Beacons (EPIRBs) work using exactly the same technology however there are some differences between the two.

  • PLBs transmit for a minimum of 24 hours, EPIRB’s transmit for a minimum of 48 hours.
  • EPIRBs can be configured to automatically deploy and activate in the event of an emergency at sea. Category I EPIRBs are designed to float free from a sinking boat and turn on automatically when it comes into contact with water, while a Category II rating denotes those that are manually activated and deployed, much like a PLB.
  • PLB can be registered to a person so it can be taken and used anywhere such as white water rafting, hiking, camping etc. Conversely, an EPIRB is registered to one boat, and should only be used on that one registered boat.
  • PLB’s are smaller and lighter than EPIRB’s.
  • PLB’s cost less than EPIRB’s, about 250.00 versus 500.00 plus dollars for an EPIRB.

Federal law requires that 406 MHz EPIRBs and PLB’s be registered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), so if your EPIRP goes off, search and rescue organizations will know who they’re looking for. Registration can be done online at sarsat.noaa.gov/beacon.html.

Marine Batteries

Maybe this has happened to you. The weather is perfect, your family and friends are ready to go, the key is in the ignition and when you turn it to start the engine(s) nothing happens. Sound familiar? Well, you’re not alone. You may be a victim of dead batteries that all too often result from poor battery maintenance. This can also happen to your generator battery, even your tender or jet ski battery. A dead battery, or one with low voltage, can even affect some of your electrical components from operating correctly.

It is with this in mind that I have put together a short article on the care and maintenance of marine batteries. I hope that it will help you better understand how to prolong battery life so you can better enjoy your boating experience rather than deal with unexpected down-time.

Virtually all of the maintenance illustrated below can be performed by the average boat owner or  captain with basic mechanical skills and tools. However, InterMarine offers dockside service and maintenance as needed.  If you need help or have a question, call our service department at (954) 894-9895.

Types of Batteries:
There are two types of marine batteries available for recreational boats; wet (lead acid) and dry (gel).

Wet batteries have been around for a long time. They’re efficient, long-lasting and, with proper maintenance, will serve the boat well for 24 to 36 months, even in South Florida’s tropical environment.

Dry (Gel) batteries are newer to the market and require limited maintenance primarily keeping the connections and casing clean.

Battery Maintenance:
Batteries to a boat are like the heart to a human being. Not much on a boat can function well without adequate 12 VDC power. To this effect, all batteries need good and regular maintenance to achieve maximum performance and long life regardless of type, wet batteries or dry. The good news is battery maintenance is easy.

A clean battery is a happy battery. Wet (lead acid) batteries may at times splatter liquid (distilled water/acid) which can cause the battery to discharge faster than normal. The best way to clean a battery is with a mixture of fresh water and baking soda. This mixture will neutralize the effects of the acid.  It is also important to check for corrosion at the battery terminal posts and cable ends.  I recommend doing this once every four to six months. Also it’s a good idea to check for any greenish residue that indicates that corrosion has, or is setting in.

To clean the battery posts and terminals simply disconnect the terminals and clean them with a wire brush or battery terminal cleaner (available at marine or automotive supply stores). After cleaning apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly to the terminals then reconnect the cables to the appropriate posts – Black to Negative, Red to Positive. Make sure the terminals are clean and tight and you are done.

IMPORTANT NOTE: For newer boats or boats with complex electrical systems, sensors, joystick etc., it is recommended that an alternate source of 12 Voltage power be connected to the boat electrical system BEFORE disconnecting the battery terminal(s) for maintenance. The best way to do this is to connect a fully charged battery jumper pac (in ON position) to the terminals/battery POS and NEG clamps leading to the boat electrical system in such a manner as to provide constant source of DC power to the boat when you disconnect the battery.

Distilled Water vs. Non-Distilled Water:
For wet batteries you should check the level of the electrolyte in each cell.  If the level is low then you need to add liquid.  Top off  (1/4 inch below top) using distilled or de-ionized water ONLY.   Adding anything other than pure distilled water to the electrolyte will introduce impurities into the battery (such as chlorine and fluoride) that can cause adverse chemical reactions inside the battery and shorten its life span.

I suggest the battery fluid should be checked every two to four weeks in South Florida depending on several factors, which include weather (heat/cold) and whether or not the batteries are on a constant charge. Batteries on trickle or constant charge should be checked more often as the distilled water tends to evaporate faster.  A good way to add distilled water is with a small plastic funnel. Using a flashlight will help you get a better view of the level inside each cell and prevent you from overfilling it. Sealed batteries (dry) gel or AGM batteries do not require this.

When to Replace Batteries:
Older batteries tend to lose their charge at a faster rate than newer batteries. The typical life of a marine battery is two years. When you replace a battery it’s important the new battery(s) is of  good quality and appropriate size and type.  Using sub-standard batteries may be less expensive at the time of purchase but can cost you much more in the long-run.

While most of what I have touched on is relatively easy for those with basic mechanical skills, replacing batteries, can be difficult due to their heavy weight and placement. But don’t fret.  All you have to do is call InterMarine service and they will do the heavy work for you.

Keep Records:
It’s important to maintain good service records your batteries and for your boat.  With good records and documentation you can avert the inconvenience of poor or dead batteries by knowing when it’s time to replace them.

BATTERY SERVICE CHECK LIST
Here’s a handy checklist I developed to assist with your battery service or replacement.
___  Check terminals and connections for tight connections. Tighten as needed.
___  Clean with wire brush/terminal cleaner then apply light coat of petroleum jelly as needed.
___  Check fluid levels (wet batteries only). Add pure distilled water as needed.
___  Clean and dry battery and area around battery.
___  Log date when battery was checked and/or serviced and what was done.

Following these tips will result in more fun on the water with less down time.

Happy and safe boating,
Captain Tony