Category: Boating Tips

Zebra Mussels: What You Need to Know

There is a menace lurking just under the surface of Texas watering holes across the Lone Star State. It’s not a killer great white, moray eels or even a rogue Loch Ness Monster. No, this creature is far scarier than any Scottish sea beast of legend. It can hitch a ride on your vessel without you ever noticing and infest every lake you may travel after. This monster is known as the zebra mussel.

Though small in size, this sea creature spreads like a virus, ruining ecosystems (and good fishing, along with it). The small creature is an invasive species, originating from Eurasia and only arriving in Texas around the late 1980s. But what is the big problem with this little mussel?

Unfortunately, like many similar creatures, the zebra mussel filters water for plankton. This would not ordinarily be a problem, but they reproduce and eat at such a rate that many of Texas’s native species simply can’t keep up. In other words, the zebra mussel is essentially eating other native species out of house and home. Additionally, they have been known to clog pipes and even kill native mussels.

With this in mind, what can you do as a Texas boater to curb the spread of this lake-dwelling monster?

  • Clean Up Your Act: Boats that call contaminated waters home may need to be professionally cleaned to ensure that all signs of the creature have been completely removed from the vessel. If just visiting a contaminated lake, be sure to do a thorough cleaning of your vessel and trailer before hitting another body of water.
  • Unplug: Be sure to completely drain livewells, ballasts, bilges and engine cooling water.
  • Dry Off: If you allow your vessel to completely dry off before hitting another body of water, you reduce the risk of unintentionally contaminating other waterways.

With these three simple tips, you can help curb the spread of the zebra mussel invasion, saving your waterway from becoming a graveyard to many species of native fish and mussels. Part of boating and fishing is being conscious of the ecosystems we visit while on the water. Be safe, beware contaminated waters and, as always, have fun. If you want more information on zebra mussels and waterway protection, visit the Texas Park & Wildlife website, where we found the tips above. We’ll see you on the water.

Fall Boating Tips to Keep Your Vessel Shipshape

Let’s be honest–Florida has just about two seasons: sweltering summer and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it winter. Even well into October, it’s not out of the question to have days reach the upper 80s (and even beyond), meaning Halloween is often more sweaty than scary. However, that also means beach, pool and, most importantly of all, boating weather is with us nearly all year long.

However, if you will be boating outside of the Sunshine State or if this season surprises us with some unseasonably cool weather (or even if not), you should take the change of seasons to prep for cooler temps and complete general maintenance after a busy summer.

Fall Boating Safety Tips

  • Life Jackets are Mandatory: Yes, we all understand that life jackets can save lives, yet so many of us don’t bother wearing them when we hit the water. Whether it’s apathy, ignorance or a desire to look cool, there is no excuse for not having enough life jackets for every passenger and asking that everyone wear said life jackets. Though less a concern most of the year for Floridians, other places can see waters dip into dangerously low temperatures. A life jacket could easily keep someone above water in cold temperatures, saving his or her life.
  • Check Your Lights: Even if you plan on getting back in before sunset, make sure all of your boat’s lights are working properly. It’s very easy to forget how quickly the sun begins to set in the fall months, and many get caught off guard. The last thing you want is to be forced to navigate in dark waters without fully operational lights.
  • Complete Your Maintenance Checklist: With every season change, it’s a great opportunity to go through your maintenance checklist, checking for damage, doing a deep clean on your vessel and ensuring all safety equipment is tip-top. You do not want to have an emergency and realize your potentially life-saving equipment is out of date or too damaged to use.
  • Watch the Weather: Fall weather can be unpredictable. Make sure you check a forecast and continue to keep tabs on the meteorological outlook throughout the day to ensure you’re dressed for the right temperatures and can clear the way for any quickly forming storms.

No matter where you’re hitting the water, make sure your vessel is safe to operate, you and all passengers are wearing life jackets, you keep an eye on the weather and ensure your lights are functional before getting into some quality fall boating. Boat safely and we’ll see you on the water!

Should You Wash Your Boat After Every Trip?

There are neat freaks, clutter kings/queens and everyone who falls somewhere in the middle. Oftentimes you only need to look at someone’s car to tell where along the neat/dirty spectrum they are–from immaculately washed and waxed to “WASH ME” scrawled in caked-on dirt. Regardless, we are absolutely not judging…until you move the conversation to boats.

Not washing your boat can cause a multitude of cosmetic and, more importantly, performance and safety issues. But the question is, should you wash your boat after every trip? Is it really worth the effort? Well, yes and no.

The unfortunate truth is that water, especially saltwater, can be quite destructive to many materials and surfaces that might be found on your boat. Metals can corrode, wood can warp and fiberglass can deteriorate. You can protect these thing by regularly cleaning your vessel, including:

  • Waxing your boat every 3-4 months. The combination of hot sunlight and corrosive saltwater can quickly eat away at your boat’s protective layer of wax, so be prepared to recoat it regularly.
  • Completing a freshwater wash down with a light cleaner (dish soap works in a pinch), which can drastically reduce the chances of corrosion on stainless steel parts and should be done after every use on saltwater.
  • Flushing your engine after every use can keep it from getting clogged up by debris or corroded by saltwater.
  • Washing all windows with a water and vinegar solution to keep visibility while on the water after every trip.

There are many ways to wash your boat, but the important thing to remember is that you should make it a priority if you want your investment to last. Wash it with fresh water and mild soaps after every trip, wax at least every four months, flush your engine after every use and wash your windows regularly.

Critics always joke about just how expensive (and stressful) boat ownership can be but if you wash your boat and conduct regular maintenance, it can be (mostly) smooth sailing for you and your ship.

What is Florida’s Boating Under the Influence Law?

boating under the influence

Would you take a few shots, knock back some beers or sip on a slew of cocktails before getting behind the wheel of your car? Well, what makes driving under the influence any different than boating under the influence? Some make the mistake of thinking that BUI is somehow safer than DUI because there are fewer boats on most waterways than there are cars on the road. But the statistics don’t lie; according to the American Boating Association, the leading contributor to fatal boating accidents is alcohol.

That being said, some still decide to recklessly operate their boat inebriated. For those people, there are laws in place to add a little incentive to do the right thing.

Quick Facts About Florida’s Boating Under the Influence Law

  • Drinking and boating is not illegal unless the boat’s operator is above the legal BAC limit of .08 for those 21 years of age and older, or if the officer believes the operator is considerably impaired.
  • An officer is allowed to stop a boat if they catch the operator speeding or operating recklessly.
  • Boating while intoxicated by recreational drugs other than alcohol is also considered boating under the influence.
  • Certain prescription medications that can hinder judgment or reaction times can lead to reckless boat operation and persecution under the boating under the influence law.
  • The US Coast Guard has the right to arrest those found boating under the influence off of Florida’s shoreline.
  • All boats, from canoes to superyachts, fall under Florida’s boating under the influence law.

Consequences for Boating Under the Influence

  • First conviction: $250-$500 and up to six months of jail time
  • Second conviction: $500-$1,000 and up to nine months of jail time
  • Third conviction: $1,000-$2,500 and up to 12 months of jail time

Understand that fines and jail (or even prison time) only become more serious when arrests occur within 10 years of a prior boating under the influence arrest, or when an accident damages property or people.

Last year saw 701 deadly boating accidents. This is a lifestyle we love, but boating safety must be respected and followed in order to keep you, your family and all others who enjoy boating having fun while on the water. Though it may be tempting to indulge while taking the boat out, it is never worth risking your life and the lives of others.

Have fun, be safe and we’ll see you on the water this summer.

Oceans and Rivers and Lakes, Oh My!: Boating Tips for Different Bodies of Water

boating tips

If there’s a body of water, chances are there will be a boating enthusiast just itching to get out on it. From the vast and often unpredictable waters of the open ocean to placid lakes and rushing rivers, there are plenty of uniquely interesting ways to hit the water. However, before a frequent river cruiser decides to hit the Atlantic for the first time or a deep sea fisherman tries his luck in a lake, it’s important to identify a few important differentiators and uncover some helpful boating tips specific to each body of water.

On the Ocean

There is nothing quite like the open ocean. From crashing waves to the unmistakable scent of saltwater in the air, this kind of boating can be truly invigorating, exciting and relaxing if the weather plays along. Unlike boating on freshwater, unless in the extreme cold, oceans do not freeze over in winter months. However, dangers like massive waves, tidal changes and the isolation of the open ocean must be considered before taking it on. Always ensure you have the adequate emergency equipment, including locator beacons and PFDs. Unlike smaller lakes and rivers, if you are forced to abandon ship in the ocean, you often can’t simply swim to shore.

On a Lake

Lakes are often placid and more predictable than the open ocean, especially smaller lakes. As another benefit, freshwater is far less corrosive and damaging to your vessel and its engine components. However, due to the limited size of most lakes, they can become a bit crowded in the spring and summer, while freezing over in winter months. Just make sure your boat isn’t at risk of running aground, as some lakes are more shallow than you may anticipate.

On a River

Rivers are essentially boating roadways, allowing travel through various regions of the U.S. with beautiful sights and sounds all around you. Rivers are also frequently used for water sports. The downside? Unless you’re going downstream, you may need a powerful motor to fight against the potentially strong current. Another concern is the depth of the river. Many rivers are quite shallow, so your mega yacht may not make it far. Like lakes, rivers also may freeze over in colder months. Smaller, flat-bottomed vessels equipped for shallower waters are recommended here.

Regardless of your preference, boating, fishing and simply spending a day on the water is what it’s all about to us. Oceans are vast and unpredictable, lakes are smaller but more placid, and rivers are shallow but often scenic. Take your pick, but always remember to do your research and, as always, keep safety your priority when hitting the water.

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