Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tips for Docking Your Pontoon

You’ve spent a great day pontooning on Lake Sinclair and it’s time to head back to the docks. Getting back should be a breeze, but docking your pontoon, maybe not so much. Pontoons catch wind more easily and can be more difficult to dock than other boats because of their shape and size. Here are a few tips to help you successfully dock your Sun Tracker Pontoon with ease.

Minimize damage with fenders. Especially if you're still getting the feel for docking your pontoon, there's no harm in tying on 2 or 3 fenders. Better to have fenders hanging out than scratches from the dock.

Come in at an angle. Even just knowing this is preferred will make your docking life easier. More often than not, it will be impossible to line up straight to the dock. So don't put that pressure on yourself! Once you get closer, straighten up and aim for a particular spot on the dock.

Slow and steady wins the race. Don't race into the dock. Go as slow as possible, preferably spending most of your time in neutral and bumping it into gear for seconds every so often. The best way to turn is with power, but the best way to execute a sharp turn is with the lowest amount of power possible to minimize skidding.

Use reverse. Don't be afraid to knock the engine into reverse! That's actually the best way to slide up next to the dock. Once your front end is close, turn the wheel all of the way and slide into reverse for a moment (give it a little oomph) so that the rear will slide into place.

Practice makes perfect. Every boat handles differently, so it will take awhile to learn exactly how to handle your boat in order to dock it gracefully. Just remember: don't use excessive speed. That can cause a little mistake to turn into a big problem.

How comfortable are you with docking your pontoon? What other tips could you add to our list?

5 Labor Day Boating Tips

The unofficial last weekend of summer is just around the corner. Yeah we know. It's hard to believe that summer is has come and gone so quickly. Like many boaters, you will want to take advantage of the long weekend to spend quality time with family and friends (and maybe some alone time too) aboard your boat. So we have 5 tips to help you and your loved ones stay safe while boating this Labor Day weekend.

Wear a life jacket – Life jackets save lives, but only if you wear them. Don’t forget that children under the age of 13 are required to wear life jackets by law.

Designate a sober skipper – Drinking alcohol or taking drugs (even some over-the-counter or prescription medicines) decreases reaction time and the ability to think clearly at the helm.

Carry a VHF radio – Cell phones can be unreliable on the water where coverage is often spotty or nonexistent. A VHF radio lets you broadcast a call for help to anyone in your area monitoring Channel 16. Before heading out, make sure your VHF is operational by performing a radio check.

Don’t overload the boat – The number of seats available on board is not always the best indicator of capacity. Look for the weight capacity plate on the transom or by the helm, or look up the passenger capacity in the builder’s manual.

Stay in tune with the weather – Storms can sneak up on you, especially when you’re having fun on the water and not paying attention. Appoint weather watchers for your boat and ask them to listen to the VHF for the latest reports.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What You Need to Know About Grilling On Your Boat

Do you enjoy grilling on your boat? It’s part of enjoying time on the water aboard your boat right?! And plus, grilled food is healthier for you too! There are special grills made especially for boaters. So make sure you pick one out that is best suited for your boat and space limits. Grilling on a boat can be a hazard – not necessarily always because of the grill, but because of the limited space on a boat and the constant movement of being on the water.
Here is what you need to know about grilling on your boat.
Plan Ahead
First of all, plan ahead. Before you step foot on your boat, make sure you have planned out everything that you’ll need – be it food items, pots and pans, drinks, etc. Remember, you have a small space to work with, so try to only bring one of everything that you need (unless, of course, it’s eating utensils, etc). This won’t only make it easier for you to grill, it will also be easier for clean up.  You should take some time to pre-plan your meals and stick with those meals that you already have the cooking items for onboard. Never count on catching fish, if that is indeed what you want to fix. Fish should always be considered a ‘bonus’ meal or something to eat in place of a non-perishable meal. Also, check your propane tank for leaks or damage before setting off. Nothing could be more frustrating than trying to start your meal without gas for your grill — or worse, having a leak and lighting a match nearby.
Grill at the Dock or at Anchor
It’s safer to cook when the boat is docked. You won’t lose your food or have to worry about someone falling on the grill should a random wave come along. Speaking of which, make sure all of your cooking utensils and pans are in a zippered bag/backpack or secure cabinet, whether you’re docked or not.  Your boat’s movements are unpredictable and loose items can be a potential hazard! If you must find that adventure out in the open water, make sure you’re anchor is set to help keep you from moving about.
No Glass Allowed
Don’t bring glass on board! Many bowls, cups, and drink or cooking bottles (such as olive oil) are glass and should not be brought onboard. Should you find that you need a bowl or container, always use something that is plastic – put condiments such as ketchup or cooking oils in portable plastic containers. This would go along with the ‘planning ahead’ point above. When making sure you have all of the proper cooking equipment or extras, if you find that you have something glass, run to your nearest store to find a plastic alternative. It’s not worth the risk of having that glass break or having someone step on a loose glass bottle – especially if you’re hours away from land.
You’ll Have a Limited Supply of Water
Conserve water as much as possible while cooking and cleaning. Remember, there are a lot of different uses for water on your boat. Bring hand sanitizer to wash your hands with periodically, and sanitizing wipes to wipe down surfaces. Don’t run the faucet while cleaning up after your meal. Reuse water where possible, and bring bottled water to drink and use when needed.
Have a Great Meal
Be safe on your boat and take all precautionary measures, including an up to date fire extinguisher. Anything can go wrong in under a second on a boat, whether you’re playing with heat or not! Check at you have a small first aid kit with burn cream. This will come in handy for sunburn or an accidental burn from the grill. Always be prepared and always plan ahead – and don’t forget the food!
What is your favorite food to grill on the boat?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Taking Kids Fishing

Do you love fishing? Well, why don't you share that passion with kids? Fishing can give you the opportunity to bond, teach them a new sport, and best of all, create lasting memories that they will remember forever.
It all starts by getting the kids involved. Kids love to feel included and teaching them a sense of responsibility can go a long way. Give them simple tasks they can be responsible for. Make a list of supplies you will need for your fishing trip; sunblock, insect repellent, hats, sunglasses, extra clothes, water shoes, personal flotation devices, first aid kit, simple tackle and bait. Also, bring along a cooler filled with snacks and plenty of liquids. Go down the checklist and have the kids make sure you have everything. Bring along your fishing license too.
Choose a location that you know will result in fishing success. Nothing is more disappointing than not catching or seeing any fish. Also teach kids that fishing is not only about catching fish but trying to catch fish. Be patient with them and give them lots of encouragement. Give them frequent breaks so that they do not get bored or discouraged.
Teaching kids how to fish is also important. Keep it simple by teaching them the three basic techniques:
Tying a Fisherman’s Knot
Insert the fishing line through the “eye” of the hook.  Pull out about 10 inches of line. Use those extra inches of line and wrap it around the primary fishing line about five times.  Gather the end of the 10 inch line and loop through the eye of the hook once again.
Baiting Your Hook
Instead of threading the worm through the center, it is best to thread the worm lengthwise on to your hook. This will help your worm stay on your hook and prevent a fish from coming and stealing worms off your hook.
It’s easier for kids to cast over their shoulders. Have them hold down the reel button with their thumb. Get ready to cast the line. As they cast the line have them let go of the button. Reel in the slack line. You want the line tight so you can feel when a fish is tugging on it.
Take time to practice these techniques before heading out for a day of fishing. Also, make sure to talk to kids about the importance of safety skills while fishing. Emphasize not playing with the hook and being safe in and around water. Keep the kids involved and make this experience as fun as possible.