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The Harbor Column: Boating safety is key this summer

June 04, 2010|Mike Whitehead

King Neptune is waving his scepter for good boating conditions this weekend and air temperatures returning to the upper 70s Saturday. The winds will die down a little after today to variable mild breezes around eight knots in the afternoons on Saturday and Sunday. The swells in the Pacific will be a mixed set, with up to a 2-foot south pushing against a 4-foot westerly max.

So, get out on the water whether you will be harbor cruising or cruising past the line of demarcation into the ocean. Keep an eye out for early-morning fog along the coast as the inland air temperature warms up, pulling in the cooler marine air.

Saturday is the start of National Fishing and Boating Week, which ends June 13. The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation holds this event annually to promote fishing and boating.

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Every year, more than 72 million people participate in recreational boating nationwide, according to a report from the National Marine Manufacturers Assn., and the number keeps growing.

Tip of the week relates to the boat explosion and fire last Monday involving a 24-foot motorboat fueled with gasoline at the Ultra Marine fuel dock on the Balboa Peninsula.

I have seen my fair share of boats explode or catch fire after fueling with gasoline, and all of the mishaps occurred because the boat operators did not take the necessary standard procedures to ensure that engine compartment was full of the explosive gas vapors. Gas is much more volatile than diesel, and the potentially deadly explosions are caused from spark igniting the gas vapors, which are heavier than air. This causes the vapors to seek low compartments like the engine space.

The first rule of thumb before starting an engine on any inboard gas-powered boat is to open the engine compartment and smell for gas vapors after fueling. Second, you need to run the engine-room blowers for three to five minutes to clear out any remaining vapors.

I want you to be safe on the water and it is easy to become complacent to standard safety protocol, especially when enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of boating. However, this is no joke nor time to be complacent when dealing with gasoline-powered boats, and this pre-summer boat explosion should be a wake-up to heed the theme "Boat Safe, Boat Smart."

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