Boat Safety and Your Dock

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Rick Fender My name is Rick Fender and I am a marine contractor, this blog’s topic will focus on boat safety. I thought that describing some safety measures that can be taken on your dock would be an appropriate subject. If you are anything like Lucy and I, you probably spend more time on your dock than you do in your boat. We enjoy on our beautiful Lake Holden located in central Florida. The water at our dock varies from 4’ to 5’ deep depending on water levels so there is plenty of water around in which to drown.

I recommend that you have a ladder on your dock so that if someone falls in the water (this happened to some visiting wine drinking friends at our dock a few weeks ago) they can climb out of the water rather than trying to wade back to shore through plants and such. A toss ring with a 50’ rope is required on our marine construction projects, and is also a great item to have on your dock in case of emergency. Another must have on your dock is a fire extinguisher. Our boats carry fuel, people smoke and sometimes cook on their docks. If you have a 5 gallon bucket on a rope for dipping water out of the lake to put out a fire, that would probably work but not on an electrical fire-uh oh.

If you have a boathouse with a boatlift installed inside, do not lift the boat with anyone inside the boat. Several things could happen including a lifting cable breaking and dropping the boat and occupants. If you become stuck or incapacitated inside the boat during the lifting operation, there are not normally any safety brakes that will preclude the lift from crushing you and the boat into the ceiling. Machines don’t have emotion. (At least not yet.)

When approaching a dock in your boat, it is best if the dock has fixed fenders/bumpers on the support pile along the mooring sides of the dock. This way, if you approach too fast and hit the pile with your boat, at least there is some cushion there to limit the damage to your boat and the dock. Further, ask all occupants (even the first mate) to be seated when approaching the dock as they could be injured if you come in too fast or at a bad approach angle and hit the dock. I gave Lucy and our son Xuan quick baths using this technique. Lastly, dock fenders and cleats are great for protecting your boat as well as visiting boats from the big waves created by passing boats and particularly the tidal waves caused by the wake board boats. For the fenders, I like Flexmaster Standard Dock Fenders available at http://www.dockbuilders.com along with all kinds of other dock accessories.

Lastly, keep an eye on your decking and framing on your dock. A rotten board could result in a serious injury for you, one of your family members or a guest (potential lawsuit). Replace any bad deck boards and make sure to use at least pressure treated Pine lumber. If you noticed a part of your decking dipping from level, this usually means that the framing underneath is compromised. If this happens, you can install new framing under the decking to support the failing area. Always use at least hot dip galvanized fasteners when repairing your dock.

Be safe this summer!
Rick Fender

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