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TowBoatUS Lake Lanier Ready to Assist 24/7/365 Tue, 09 Apr 2019 12:57:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What to Do When a Guest Falls on Your Boat Tue, 07 May 2013 21:00:02 +0000 A friend of mine recently took a pretty bad spill from the flybridge of a boat into the cockpit.  She slipped on the top step and fell forward, landing on her head and neck in somewhat of an incomplete somersault on the hard cockpit about 6 feet below.  She was unconscious for approximately 7-10 minutes, and when she awoke, wanted to simply return to the party.  Luckily, the captain had his wits about him and would not let her move.  He called for assistance and ultimately, she was airlifted off of the boat and to the hospital.  My friend got lucky.  She’s alive, though in a brace and  looking forward to surgery on her broken vertebrae and a lot of recovery time.

What should you do if this happens on your boat?  I spotted a good article on the topic on a website I follow that caters to Yacht Captains and Crews, The Triton.  It’s not a long article, and well worth your time to read, but before sending you off to their website, I’ll add the “local spin”.

Lake Lanier is not an “offshore” environment, but there are challenges specific to our boating environment you should be aware of.  First, there is no Coast Guard here, and no helicopters to basket-lift injured people from boats.  Patients must be transported by water to the nearest dock that can accommodate an ambulance or life-flight air ambulance for transport to the hospital.  Boat rides on a busy weekend day on the lake can be rather bumpy which is the last thing a patient with a potential spine injury needs.  The message:  Stay put!  Call for help on your VHF radio (Channel 16) and/or a cell phone.  The paramedics that respond on the lake have the necessary equipment and training to properly immobilize a patient for the ride to shore.

Next, know how to be found in an emergency.  Do you have a GPS on your boat?  Leave it turned on so you’re not stuck waiting for a position fix when you need it.  If you call 911, give them your GPS coordinates, or ask if they can get your position from your phone.

Don’t rely on “common names” for coves, islands, creeks and other areas of the lake.  As a Towboat Captain, I’ve probably heard three to four names for every one of them, and I’ve heard the same names used to refer to several different islands.

Make yourself visible!  The consumer grade hand held flares you are likely carrying aren’t as bright as you think.  Flare guns help, but aren’t precise enough in a crowded environment such as Sunset Cove.  Invest in a few SOLAS flares, and even better, orange smoke signals.  It’s much easier to find your white boat, anchored in a cove with 100 other white boats, when there’s orange smoke rising from it.  If you don’t have a signaling device on board, a brightly colored beach towel works great.  I’ll go into more detail on “getting found” in a separate post, but for now, take a few minutes and read this relatively simply, but critical advice on how to deal with a potential spine injury on board your boat:  What To Do if a Guest Slips and Falls on Your Boat


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As the Waters of Lake Lanier Rise….. Sat, 26 Jan 2013 21:07:07 +0000 What a difference a month can make!  On December 26th of 2012, Lake Lanier was at 1057.5 feet of elevation and as I sit here and draft this entry one month later, we’re at 1062.3 feet, almost 5 feet higher.

Two of those feet came in a single week of time according to this Gainesville Times article: 

This is of course, wonderful news for Lake Lanier users from lakefront residents, to campers, fishermen, sailers, cruisers and everyone that’s part of the huge social and economic circle of life that is Lake Lanier.  While water is most certainly good, when it rises as quickly as it has in the last 30 days, there are things to consider when enjoying the lake that might not normally be on the top of your list.

The Icebergs of Lake Lanier!

The inspiration for this post came the other night, as I stood at the end of my dock watching a bass boat stalking a popular hump on the lake.  It was a cloudy night, in fact raining at times.  As the fisherman pointed his craft up the lake and brought the boat on to plane, I thought about the three “icebergs” that I had seen floating around as I left the dock that morning, and how hitting one of these at speed in a small boat is a recipe for disaster.  The icebergs of Lake Lanier are actually dock floats made of foam, some uncovered (illegal to use these days)  and some encapsulated in hard plastic.

When the lake loses water, lots of things settle on the shoreline.  Docks that aren’t being monitored or run out of space to be “pushed out” settle on the bottom, which often isn’t flat and accommodating.   This can loosen the floats attached to the bottom of the dock frames.  The docks and floats twist and torque until they find a comfortable spot to rest, often at odd angles.  When the lake rises, the reverse happens.  Dock flotation is designed to spread the weight of the dock evenly, keeping the dock level when it’s fully afloat.  When the water rises to reach docks that have settled on uneven ground, the first floats to begin floating take all of the stress until the water rises to meet the rest of the dock.  Floats are often torn from docks and ramps during this cycle, and become the Icebergs of Lake Lanier.

The icebergs then travel the lake at the whim of the wind.  If there is moon and/or starlight on the lake, you can often make out their shapes ahead of you, if you’re paying close attention.  They appear as an “anomaly” in your vision….a break in the pattern of the light on the water, or a symmetrical shadow in an asymmetrical world.  If you’re one of the few boaters on the lake with radar, you can often see them as returns that come and go, particularly if there is any wave action on the lake.

While a glancing blow would likely cause nothing more than momentary panic, a square encounter with one of these blocks, designed to float from hundreds to over 3000 lbs depending on their size, could become an unwelcome launch ramp for your small boat, or easily damage the running gear of a larger yacht.

Other “Stuff” that can sneak up on you

Dock floats are not the only thing to find their way into the lake when it rises rapidly, especially if the storm that brings the water includes wind.  Logs, large tree branches, general trash, plastic bags, life vests, floating “islands” and even lawn chairs have been spotted in the lake after a storm having been coaxed from docks, boats and the shoreline into the water by wind.  None of these would make for a fun encounter in a boat, so your level of caution should be raised whenever storm waters are filling the lake rapidly.

So what’s the most interesting thing you have encountered floating out there?



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Independence Day Weekend Boating on Lake Lanier Tue, 28 Jun 2011 17:55:52 +0000 Independence Day weekend is one of our busiest of the year.  This holiday weekend seems to attract more boaters to Lake Lanier than any other, rivaled only by the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.  Lake Lanier offers a lot of activities for the weekend, with fireworks displays by University Yacht Club and Lake Lanier Islands.  There is no doubt that Sunset Cove will be packed with reveling boaters all weekend as well.

With a steady stream of business all weekend, the “fun” really begins after the last mortar has been fired in the fireworks shows, when everyone cranks up and takes off at once, all determined to be the first boat back to their dock.  The tips below are based on the things we experience out on the water, and hope you might learn from, to make the weekend a safe and fun event for you, your family and guests.

Boats Don’t Have Headlights

You’ve probably noticed this posted on our Facebook page.  Every time there is an “incident” related to this issue, you’ll see it again.  Docking lights have become standard on a great number of the boats sold for use on the lake.  Pontoon boats, Wake Boarding boats, even Cruisers are now coming equipped with docking lights. Each year, the numbers of boats we encounter running Lake Lanier at night with their docking lights on grows.  There are a number of reasons that this using your docking lights as headlights is a bad idea.  The risk they cause to you and your fellow boaters far outweigh any benefit or “comfort” you might feel having them turned on while underway.

They add little to your visibility

Docking lights are designed for the purpose their label indicates, docking your boat.  While bright, they are not as strong, or focused as your auto headlights are.  Add to this, the ever-changing running angle of your boat, and they are generally not pointing in a direction that you want them much of the time.  There also isn’t much to illuminate within the range of these lights.  Let me assure you, they are not putting out enough light to see an obstacle in the lake, in time to react.

They blind other boaters

You might think you are more visible to other boaters with your docking lights on.  Think again!  Yes, other boaters will certainly see two bright lights blazing in the darkness, but that brightness reduces the night vision of the boaters in their path.

They obscure your navigation lights

The brightness of these lights often overwhelms your nav lights, which “disappear” to other boaters, leaving them with no clue to your course relative to their own vessel.

They reduce your night vision

That extra light out in front of you reduces your night vision as well.  This means that you won’t see the navigation lights of other boats as far off as you could without the extra light pollution.

A quick flash will do

If you believe another boat doesn’t see you, a quick flash or two of the docking lights can get their attention, and with the docking lights off, give them a shot of making our your navigation lights.


Speed Kills, Especially in the Dark

Slow down at night!  Running wide open to get home after the fireworks is akin to trying to maintain highway speed in a busy parking lot.  There will be a lot of boats of all kinds, slow, fast, big and small, all racing in all directions to seek their home port.  Take it easy, and get home in one piece.

Navigation Lights

PLEASE check your navigation lights before leaving for the fireworks.  In fact, check them early so you have time to repair them if necessary rather than make a dangerous call to run without them rather than disappoint your 4th of July guests.  The number of boats this writer has encountered running the lake at night without working navigation lights has always amazed me.  There are too many boats on the water after the fireworks to assume that you can safely just stay out of the way of other boats when your lights aren’t operating.

Several years back, while returning from a washed out fireworks display, this writer was using radar to help navigate as it was raining fairly hard, and extremely dark.  I noticed a “blip” that popped up where there should have been nothing, and disappeared a couple of times.  I slowed down, tried my spotlight, and didn’t see anything through the rain/mist.  As I got closer, the blip appeared and stayed.  I turned hard to starboard, cut the throttles, missing an unlit pontoon boat floating in the middle of a traffic area outside of Cocktail Cove, by feet.  I turned back to check on the boat, to find an intoxicated couple caught in the act of making their own fireworks.  There was not a single light on the boat as they cranked up and sped off back toward Cocktail Cove, quite fortunately alive by virtue of encountering a boat with radar before encountering one navigating without that benefit.

Flashing Emergency Lights

If you see any type of emergency strobe out on the lake, please use caution and try to avoid approaching them.  Each of our towboats is equipped with red and amber

Spring Boating on Lake Lanier Sat, 19 Mar 2011 15:29:05 +0000 Spring Boating on Lake Lanier

Another beautiful spring is upon us on Lake Lanier.  After a tough winter, the weather has seemingly broken just in time for the inaugural Full Moon Party at Sunset Cove.  While it’s too early to get complacent about freezes, this weather is too tempting to leave the boat winterized “just in case”.

It’s a busy time for TowBoatUS Lake Lanier.  We’re moving boats that are leaving, or arriving on the lake, from docks to service centers, and of course, picking up the “usual suspects” that have suffered the misfortune of breaking down on the water.

The short version of this post is a simple reminder to check the boat out a bit before heading out for the first time.  Run it at the dock until it comes up to normal running temperature to be sure the batteries are charged, the block hasn’t frozen over the winter, or the fuel system hasn’t been fouled.  A quick check before heading out on the lake can avoid problems with a boat full of family and guests.

While not exhaustive, below are some items to check over and to be aware of before you head out on the water for the first time this season based on TowBoatUS Lake Lanier’s experience of what goes wrong most frequently.



n.  1.      a. Wreckage or cargo that remains afloat after a ship has sunk.

b. Floating refuse or debris.

2. Discarded odds and ends.

The lake is full!  Over-full in fact.  Recent rains brought the lake to levels just above full pool, which is of course great news, but it creates problems for boaters that you may not have thought about.  There is debris floating in the water that’s been picked up from the shoreline as the lake rose.  Debris we’ve seen includes logs, branches, boards from docks, foam billets (blocks) from broken docks, and items that have blown off docks (mostly plastic chairs).  Many of these items do not float high enough to see from a distance and hitting one of them can quickly ruin your day.  A soggy plank that has fallen off of a dock can take out your prop at best, and at worst, damage your running gear or hull.

Spring Commissioning Checklist

Before heading out, check a few things that are capable of turning your outing on the water into a tow home:

Your battery (or batteries)

Whether your boat sat on a charger all winter with little load on the batteries, or sat comfortably on your lift or trailer without a charge, it’s worthwhile to check your batteries beyond the “will they start the boat test”.  Check the cable connections for corrosion, and make sure they are secure, especially if you have wing nuts holding things together, which have a tendency to loosen up over time.

If your batteries have caps, check the water level in them, and use only distilled water to top them off.

Check the voltage with a meter.  If your batteries have been drawn down below 10-10.5 volts, they have likely been damaged and will not hold a charge as well going forward.  Fully charge them, and check them again after a resting period of no charge current.  A fresh battery should deliver about 13.5 volts.  The “full” capacity will go down as the battery ages.  Anything under 12.5 for a fully charged battery would lead me to replace them.

You can also check them with a hygrometer, (only for batteries that are not of the sealed variety) a big name for a device that costs just a few dollars at the local auto parts store.

If your batteries are over two years old, consider replacing them.  You might get a third season out of them if they were well cared for, but don’t count on it unless your TowBoatUS Towing card is up-to-date.


Before starting your engine, make sure you’ve done the following checks as they apply to your type of boat:

Drain plugs

Frequently removal of engine block drain plugs is part of the winterizing process.  Some folks (mechanics, dock buddies or owners) drain the engine block and replace the plugs fully tightened.  Others put them in just finger-tight, and yet others leave them out altogether.  Make sure yours are in place, and tight.  If you have petcocks (small valves) instead of plugs, make sure they are closed.


On larger boats with inboard motors, water is taken in through the bottom of the hull.  A thru-hull fitting is capped by a seacock (aka ball valve or on older boats, gate valves), after which you will likely find a strainer before the water gets to the engine, generator or air conditioner pump.  Since the water in these strainers can freeze, cracking the glass or plastic seacocks should be closed as part of the winterization process.  If you have seacocks on your boat, there is generally one for each engine, one for the generator, and you may have one for your air conditioner intake or even a live well on fishing boats.  Make sure they are open before starting up.  If not, you will damage the water pump impeller(s) and the motor(s) will quickly overheat.  Speaking of water pump impellers, if you haven’t changed them in a couple of years, it’s time.


Since the introduction of Ethanol into our boat fuel supply, we’ve seen a sharp uptick on the number of fuel related tows we handle.  It’s possible to find fuel on the lake that doesn’t contain ethanol, which is good news for boaters, but even before ethanol was introduced, spring has always offered us a good number of fuel related issues.  Fuel ages as it sits in tanks over the winter.  This happens faster if the tanks were not topped off before storage.  Old fuel doesn’t burn as well, and airspace in the fuel tank allows an amazing amount of water to accumulate through condensation.  Fuel sitting in carburetor bowls evaporates, leaving sludge and varnish behind.  Replace your fuel/water separator filter (you do have one of those, don’t you?)before starting up for a little extra peace of mind, and check your fuel lines for signs of aging, such as harness or cracking at bends.

Electrical System

So you checked the batteries, how about the equipment they power?  OK, so the stereo works, what about your navigation lights?  Bilge pump(s) and float switches?  Blowers?  Horn?  You don’t want to find out that your nav lights don’t work when you crank up to head home from the Full Moon party, and you don’t want to find out your bilge pump isn’t working by discovering a foot of water in the engine space.  Your marine VHF radio is also worth a check.  Call for a radio check before heading out.  TowBoatUS and Lanier Harbor monitor channel 16 and are happy to help out.

Free Safety Inspection

The Atlanta Sail and Power Squadron offers free safety checks for your vessel, as does the Coast Guard Auxiliary.  The local Lake Lanier Coast Guard Auxiliary organization is Flotilla 29.  Trained members will check over the safety equipment on your boat, and provide you with a list of items you may be missing or may be in need of maintenance.  The service is free, and the providers are enthusiastic boaters that you might want to get to know.  The results are not shared with law enforcement or insurance companies, just you, in an effort to keep the lake and it’s boaters safer.

The Power Squadron can be found on the web here:

The USCGA Flotilla 29 can be found online here:


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Sunset on Lake Lanier Thu, 17 Mar 2011 23:37:51 +0000 image

A beautiful sunset on the lake this evening

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Winter on Lake Lanier Photo Contest Fri, 14 Jan 2011 04:02:35 +0000 The TowBoatUS Lake Lanier Winter Photo Contest is On!

It’s safe to say we’re going a little stir crazy here, trapped for nearly a week now by our recent snow/ice storm!  The Atlanta Boat Show started today, and we’re there, while still keeping you covered on the lake, of course.  So, how to have some fun during the cold and snow we’re facing?  In conjunction with the show, we’re announcing our first photo contest.  The theme is Winter on Lanier.  The photos should be of or about the lake, in Winter of course.  Submissions will be taken through 11:59pm, March 19th, the official end of Winter.  Entries should be posted to our Facebook wall.  We’ll gather them to a gallery to collect them for all to see in one place from there.  Read the rules and submission guidelines below as by submitting a photo, you are also agreeing to them!  Best photo wins $100 from TowBoatUS Lake Lanier.

Stay warm out there!

TowBoatUS Lake Lanier Winter Photo Contest Rules

By virtue of your submission of one or more photos to this contest, you are indicating your agreement to the rules of the contest as outlined below


1.       Submitters must be residents of the USA and BoatUS members.  TowBoatUS membership isn’t required, but for $34/year more than your base BoatUS membership, why wouldn’t you be members of both?  Give us a call, or sign up here:

2.       Photos submitted must have been taken by and be the property of the person submitting them (no copyrighted material of others)

3.       Submitter agrees that photos will be displayed in TowBoatUS Lake Lanier’s online galleries, on Facebook and the TowBoatUS Lake Lanier web site.

Submitting Photos (entering the contest)

1.       Photos may be edited for quality (color correction, brightness, cropping, etc), but must remain photographs, i.e. no “photoshoping” of objects into scenery or composite images.

2.       The subject of photos submitted should be Lake Lanier.  This may include the lake itself, objects, structures, landscape, people or wildlife on the shoreline, activities such as boating, fishing or boarding, lake structures such as bridges, marinas, boats, etc.

3.       Photos should be made during the winter season of 2010/2011

4.       Photos should be submitted to the wall of our Facebook page:

5.       Photos must be submitted directly to our page, by the owner of the photo.  No links to outside websites or photo sharing services!

Contest Dates

The Contest begins on 1/13/2011 and will run through the end of the winter season, 3/19/2011 at 11:59pm.  Submissions must be time stamped before then.


1.       Judging will be performed by representatives of TowBoatUS Lake Lanier.

2.       Photos will be judged on:

a.       Image Quality

b.      Originality

c.       Scenery or Subject matter

d.      Best representation of the “spirit of Lake Lanier” and the winter season

e.      Anything else that catches our eye!

3.       Winners will be announced via Facebook and/or our website.

TowBoatUS Lake Lanier Winter Photo Contest Rules

By virtue of your submission of one or more photos to this contest, you are indicating your agreement to the rules of the contest as stated below


1. Submitters must be residents of the USA and BoatUS members. TowBoatUS membership isn’t required, but for $34/year more than your base BoatUS membership, why wouldn’t you be members of both? Give us a call, or sign up here:

2. Photos submitted must have been taken by and be the property of the person submitting them (no copyrighted material of others)

3. Submitter agrees that photos will be displayed in TowBoatUS Lake Lanier’s online galleries, on Facebook and the TowBoatUS Lake Lanier web site.

Submitting Photos (entering the contest)

1. Photos may be edited for quality (color correction, brightness, cropping, etc), but must remain photographs, i.e. no “photoshoping” of objects into scenery or composite images.

2. The subject of photos submitted should be Lake Lanier. This may include the lake itself, objects, structures, landscape, people or wildlife on the shoreline, activities such as boating, fishing or boarding, lake structures such as bridges, marinas, boats, etc.

3. Photos should be made during the winter season of 2010/2011

4. Photos should be submitted to the wall of our Facebook page:

5. Photos must be submitted directly to our page, by the owner of the photo. No links to outside websites or photo sharing services!

Contest Dates

The Contest begins on 1/13/2011 and will run through the end of the winter season, 3/19/2011 at 11:59pm. Submissions must be time stamped before then.


1. Judging will be performed by representatives of TowBoatUS Lake Lanier.

2. Photos will be judged on:

a. Image Quality

b. Originality

c. Scenery or Subject matter

d. Best representation of the “spirit of Lake Lanier” and the winter season

e. Anything else that catches our eye!

3. Winners will be announced via Facebook and/or our website.

Fuel Your Boat Safely Fri, 12 Nov 2010 18:04:47 +0000  

According to the US Coast Guard, most fires and explosions on boat occur during or immediately after fueling.  I’ve witnessed several fires close to or at fuel docks, all of which cause at least minor injuries, and in a couple of cases, pretty serious injuries, not to mention the property damage.  I’ve also witnessed a few near-misses, one where a boater pumped about 10 gallons of fuel into his waste tank, which was not fuel resistant.  The fuel ended up in the bilge of the boat, a dicey situation with all of the potential ignition sources in the cabin area.

Fueling a boat is different than fueling your car in a number of ways.  As with anything, a little common sense goes a long way, however, not everything in the list of fueling tips below may be obvious to everyone, so it’s worth a read.  I’ve always preferred to learn from the mistakes of others, rather than my own!  How about you?

If you are filling portable fuel tanks, particularly plastic tanks, take them out of the boat and refuel them on shore or on the dock. This prevents dangerous fumes from building up on your deck and around your boat.  Fuel tanks on the dock are also “grounded”, which will prevent static discharge from igniting fumes.  You should keep the fuel pump nozzle in contact with the tank at all times, so there is no gap for a static spark to “jump” across.

Before fueling inboard tanks, close all hatches, doors, and other openings to prevent fumes from getting into the cabin interior spaces of the boat.  While components in the engine compartment are for the most part ignition protected (though it is fairly common for owners to add non-protected devices), the boats cabin space is full of potential ignition sources.  Switches, lights, heaters and appliances are all potential sources for sparks that can ignite fumes.  What many people do not realize is that it is quite normal for unprotected interior switches or circuit breakers to produce a spark when making or breaking internal contact.  A dangerous proposition in an area of concentrated gasoline fumes.

To avoid air locks and sudden spills, be sure your boat is level when refueling. Put passengers ashore or level your trailer if refueling at a service station.  Once, while delivering fuel to a stranded boater, I found it quite difficult to get fuel into the boat.  After pouring about a half gallon into the filler, the tank would “burp” a large amount back through the fuel fill.  This was due to the way the boat sat in the water, and the weight distribution, which caused the fuel to fill the hose, compressing air into the tank on the way down.  This air, then vented with enough force the fuel back up the hose.

It may sound like overkill, but any potential source of a spark should be considered.  While putting out cigarettes or that big Cuban cigar, may seem obvious, don’t forget the romantic candle on the aft-deck table.  Turn off engines, all electrical equipment, including radios, stoves and other appliances…anything that can cause a spark.

Don’t count on the automatic shut-off feature of the gas pump.  I’m not sure why, but these just aren’t as reliable when filling boats as they are when filling your car.  Attend the nozzle at all times.

Don’t fill your fuel tank completely to the top. Fuel will expand as it warms up, so leave a little room for this natural expansion.  If you don’t, you will likely end up watching fuel escape out of the vents, into the water, on a warm afternoon.

As mentioned above in regard to portable tanks, maintain nozzle contact with the fill pipe of your inboard fuel tank to prevent static spark and spills. It also helps to hold an absorbent sheet under the nozzle, or wrapped around it, to catch any overflow or drips

After fueling, be sure to secure the filler cap to prevent fuel from leaking or water from entering the tank.  Check the gasket or o-ring seal periodically to make sure it is in good shape, and water/fuel tight.

And the final tip today, one you have heard before:

Before starting the engine, run the blower for at least four minutes and check the bilge for any fuel vapors. Open all ports, hatches and doors to ventilate. Do the “sniff” test to make sure there is no gasoline odor anywhere on the boat and DO NOT start the engine if you detect any odor – continue ventilating and checking for possible leaks.

The above tips may not be intuitive if you are a casual boater, but they are not rocket science either.  It doesn’t take much to prevent fueling related fires and explosions, yet they are much more common than they should be.  Take a extra minute or two to do it the safe way and if you see someone at the fuel dock doing something improperly, let them know in a helpful way.  The life you save might well be your own.

Be safe out there on the water!

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Fall Boating on Lake Lanier Wed, 27 Oct 2010 17:32:46 +0000 It’s a Beautiful, but Potentially Dangerous Time of Year on the Lake

About a month ago, around 9:30pm or so, responding to a call, and noticed a law enforcement vessel spotlighting the shoreline. My call was canceled, and I was able to attract the searcher’s attention. They were looking for a boy that had become separated from his father while out on their PWC’s and was reported missing a couple of hours before. I decided to help with the search as the local authorities have pretty limited resources for the lake, particularly at night. Before I go on, in this case, the boy was found, well after midnight, by law enforcement officials, and the situation ended well. The news stories indicate that the search involved multiple agencies on the water as well as a helicopter with IR imaging, and of course, a TowBoat captain.
There was a moon intermittently covered a bit by scattered clouds, so visibility across the water was decent, but it still took a spotlight to light up the shoreline enough to see if there was a stranded vessel. There was a chill in the air, which bit harder as the night wore on, and got me thinking about the topic of this entry.
Fall is a wonderful time of year on the lake. Temperatures are warm enough to enjoy an outing during the day, the lake is less crowded, and the leaves are starting to turn making the scenery even more breathtaking than usual. By all means, go out and enjoy Lake Lanier in the fall, but please be prepared for the unexpected, and understand what you’re getting into if you run into trouble out there.

Fewer Good Sam’s (Good Samaritans)

When school is back in session, dark comes earlier, football season arrives, and baseball playoff season is kicking off, the number of people on the lake drops dramatically. There are fewer people out there to find you should something go wrong and your vessel become disabled.

Evening Temperatures are Lower

Our temps that night dipped into the 50’s. Next week, the lows will be in the 40’s. That doesn’t sound like much of a problem, and it isn’t, unless you left the dock dressed for warm daytime temperatures and didn’t bring warmer clothes because you “knew” you would be home by dark. Pack a sweat shirt, just in case.

A Working VHF Radio can be a God Send – Keep it Turned On

Your cell phone can reach out to your friends, and of course to TowBoatUS Lake Lanier if you have our number (you do have our number on your boat, right?), but your VHF radio can reach out to anyone on the lake with their radio on. Keep your radio on, and tuned to channel 16. You aren’t the only one out there that might need a helping hand. TowBoatUS Lake Lanier monitors channels 16 and 10 24 hours/day.

Have an Anchor Ready to Deploy

We’ve said this before, but in the fall, this tip becomes even more important, as it is a season of increased wind for us here on Lake Lanier. Your anchor is the best defense against drifting ashore while waiting for assistance.

Make Sure You Have a Working Flashlight Onboard

Many of our evening and overnight calls are for boats that have depleted their batteries over the course of the day, due to running stereos, or leaving cabin lights on. We’ve had a number of folks that were difficult to find as they had nothing to signal us with. A flashlight is a great way to let us know where you are at night.

Aeriel Flares

Aeriel flares can be seen over great distanced on a dark night, and are likely to be spotted by shore side residents as well as folks in marinas. They don’t take up much space, so carry a good supply. Fire two at a time, 15 to 30 seconds apart, and you are more likely to be spotted. The first will catch someone’s eye and cause them to look in the direction of the light. By the way, please don’t fire flares in celebration as it is the equivalent of “crying wolf”. The responder that takes time to respond to your party, might skip the next one assuming it’s another false alarm.

Be Prepared and Enjoy the Lake!

With the tips above, and a little extra preparation, you can enjoy Lake Lanier with peace of mind, during what is perhaps the most beautiful time of year on the lake, with confidence that your fall leaf cruise won’t turn into a miserable wait for help on a cold, dark evening.

Have Fun, Boat Safe

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Soft Grounding Wed, 15 Sep 2010 14:04:17 +0000 Over Labor Day weekend this year, we had an unusually large number of soft groundings.  A couple of factors played into this “bubble”, mainly wind and wave action over the weekend.  All of these incidents could have been prevented fairly easily.

First, let’s cover what a “soft grounding” is, by way of example.  Lets say you have beached your boat on an island, and decide to take a walk.  You return an hour later to find the boat has been washed sideways against the beach.  It’s still floating some, and perhaps bumping on the bottom, but with the wind working against you, and boat wakes pushing the boat further ashore, you and your crew can’t quite push it off.  There is little or no damage to the boat, no leaks, you’re just stuck.  This is a classic example of a soft grounding.

In contrast, a hard grounding, is one where the boat is either out of the water completely, or stuck on a hump, rocks or an object such as a tree or piling.  The boat has typically suffered damage, and may be leaking.  A common example here on the lake is when a boater crosses between a vertically striped marker and the closest shoreline.  There is little or no water there, and when boaters go through these areas at cruising speed, momentum carries them far enough ahead that they often end up hard aground.  We have also seen inattentive boaters simply run their boats up onto a beach, momentum carrying them a good distance from the shoreline.  In these circumstances, it is not uncommon for an outdrive to be knocked completely off of the boat, letting water in, and we have seen the struts of inboard powered boats driven through the hull bottom as well.  Once water is entering the boat, you have crossed another line, into the world of salvage, but we’ll save that for another article.

In this article, we’re dealing Boats that end up “softly” on the beach one of three ways.  They are either beached on purpose, run aground by accident, or drift ashore after a breakdown.

When beaching your boat on purpose, say to enjoy a swim on the beach or an island picnic, there is some thought and preparation involved and a couple of approaches.  One is to approach the beach bow-in.  If your boat is a stern drive, or outboard driven model, as you get close to the beach, you can trim, or raise your motor up.  If the drop-off is steep enough, you may still have a little water behind the boat when the nose bumps the shoreline.  If not, you can kill your motor, raise the drive or outboard all of the way up, and let momentum carry you to the beach.  The idea here is to get enough of your bow into the sand, that the boat is relatively stable, but floating in the rear.  An anchor line from the bow to the beach will generally keep the boat in place.  If wake action is pushing the boat around too much, a stern anchor with a little scope may help hold the stern perpendicular to the beach, but be careful with this, as large wakes could come right over the stern, swamping the boat.  As with anything in boating, it takes some personal judgment to beach safely.

Another popular way to enjoy the beach is to anchor with your bow out, backing up until you’re close and then running a line to shore to keep the stern from swinging to far in either direction.  The advantage of this is that the bow is better able to handle the wake action coming ashore, and the forward anchor will keep the bow into those waves, preventing the boat from being washed in.  The disadvantage is that your drive or outboard should be raised completely out of the water iif you are very close to the shoreline, exposing the prop to folks behind the boat.  Anchoring a bit further off and wading to shore can mitigate this.

When boats break down and begin drifting, they will end up wherever the wind and waves decide, often against the shoreline and not always on a soft beach, but potentially on damaging rocks.  If your boat stops running while underway, your anchor is your best  safety device.  It’s OK to drift for awhile, and it may actually be a good idea to let the boat drift out of a channel or traffic area, but it’s never a good idea to let the boat drift ashore.  If your boat drifts onto rocks, or is driven up onto the beach, you’re risking damage and additional cost to get her home.  What if you don’t have an anchor?  A bucket tied to the end of a line off the bow of the boat may slow your drift while you’re waiting for a tow to arrive.  If the boat does reach shore, and it’s safe to do so, jump in and try to get the bow aimed at the beach to minimize damage to the running gear and make it easier for us to pull you off.

Why is any of this important?  Well, the potential damage to your boat is a biggie, but it also affects the cost of our assistance.  TowBoatUS Lake Lanier charges $10/foot for soft ungrounding, in addition to our normal hourly charges.  For a 22 foot boat, that takes us an hour to come out, unground and tow, that’s $270 for a non member.  If you are member with unlimited coverage, this is a covered expense.  If you hold limited or no coverage, costs can add up quickly.  Why do we charge for this service?  To get you off the beach, we have to put our boats into the same shallow waters that have you trapped, risking damage to our vessels.  It is not uncommon for us to damage the hull, a propeller, or draw sand or mud into our cooling systems performing this work, taking a boat out of service.

The best advice we can give, is to carry an anchor and sufficient anchor line, even when you don’t plan on anchoring.  If your boat becomes disabled, deploy the anchor sooner rather than later, and keep yourself off of the shoreline.

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