Boat Drain Plugs

I have a 16-year-old nephew who, along with two of his buddies, bought an old fishing boat.  They are so excited about their purchase and can't wait to paint it camo and go duck hunting.  That dream almost came to an end when they took the boat out for the first time.  Water filled the back end and the boys quickly realized that they had forgotten a most important item...the drain plug.  Well, all ended well...the plug was put in just in time, and they're on schedule to paint this weekend

But, that got me to thinking about things that have happened to my friends and me over my boating years.  And one thing that keeps coming up are stories about the boat's drain plug.  Probably there are more funny and not-so-funny stories about the boat's drain plug than any other important boating fixture.  Most boaters have had something happen that is funny or, in some cases, expensive concerning a boat drain plug. 

I remember having a little aluminum fishing boat.  It had rained, and I needed to pull the drain plug.  Without thinking I reached down in about six inches of water.  Then I realized I had not taken my watch off--the watch that was given to me by my wife for our anniversary.   Back in those days wrist watches were not water-proof.  I realized immediately that I had screwed up.  I hoped the watch would be ok--wrong--it quit in less than a week.  That was not-so funny. 

A funny story happened to a friend of mine.  Ben had invited my wife and me to spend Memorial weekend at Lake Perry.  Ben had worked all winter restoring a boat that had sunk--not his doing.  He literally took the boat apart.  He rebuilt the motor, replaced the carpet and upholstery. He was so proud of the work he had done.  After showing us all what he had done, we hooked the boat on and trailered it to the boat ramp.  Ben got behind the wheel and gave me instructions on how to  crank it off of the trailer.  He turned the key, and the motor started right up.  You could see on his face how proud he was of what he had accomplished.  Then, all of a sudden, that look turned to panic.  The stern of the boat was filling with water--and fast.  Luckily his wife and mine were totally involved in their own conversation and had not driven off the ramp.   He made a desperate lunge toward the trailer with a wide open throttle.  He made it, and relief flooded his face. I didn't know what was going on--then I realized-- he had left the plug out.  Luckily, a good ending to a precarious predicament.

In boating, it's the little things that can make a huge difference. A drain plug is less than 3 inches long, but what an important 3 inches.  I hope all of your drain plug stories are retold with a smile and that your watch keeps ticking. 

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Boat Lifts & Winterizing Your Boat

It's October...time to think about winterizing your boat.  Rule of thumb in Missouri--winterize no later than Halloween.  But, right before Halloween, in September and October, is some of the best boating.  The summer crowd is gone; they've buttoned up their cabins and  winterized their boats.  So, this is the ideal time to see the fall foliage and to have the water all to yourself.  If you can, take some time to enjoy the last of the boating season.

Now, after the final hooray, it is time to winterize.  A lot of people take their boats out of the water and store them in dry storage facilities.  My boat sits on a lift so I boat until the first sign of cold weather.  I remember a year past when I was stretching the boating season until the last possible day when  a quick cold freeze came through. I was in a panic...I had to drive 1 1/2 hours to my slip and winterize that day.  At that time my boat was a 1982 IMP with a 350 cubic inch engine...easy to drain the water and winterize.  I was messing around with my out-drive (This IMP did not have a power outdrive) when, in a flash, the outdrive dropped on the center fiberglass pontoon of my lift.   The drop gouged a hole in the pontoon and air was hissing out. Now I was really in trouble. The only thing to do was to go to the nearest hardware store, buy a fiberglass patch and resin, and fix the hole.  Let me remind you, the weather was cold.  Not only did I have to buy the patch, I had to buy a hair dryer to dry the patch quickly.  I pumped the lift up and put a board across the width of the slip under the lift arm to keep the lift from sinking.  I patched the hole and sat there with the hair dryer drying the resin.  After more than an hour of waving the hairdryer over  the sticky resin, the resin finally dried enough for the pontoon to hold air. I finished my winterizing task and left for home tired and cold to await April 1 and a new year of boating.

Boat lifts are amazing. A small electiric motor about the size of a vacuum sweep can pump up almost any weight boat.  and keeps your boat out of the water with little effort.  Just make sure you don't punch a hole in cold weather.

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Powerboating VS Sailboating

I’ve been boating now for over 25 years and the boat always had a motor behind it.  I like the sound of a motor when I’m on a boat.  This last month that all changed.

My daughter is into sail boating.  She keeps talking about how great sail boating is. She has sailed the British Virgin Islands, Florida, and San Diego so she has some pretty good experience with sailing.  She popped the question to me a few months ago—would I like to go sailing?  As a family we have gone camping to Colorado the last couple of years which I truly enjoyed.  With little time to think, I said yes.  To my surprise she rented a 35 foot sailboat on Lake Superior.  We would sail around the Apostle Islands off of northern Wisconsin.  Being from the Midwest and wanting to get out of this awful heat, I agreed.

The first day out with sunny skies I was impressed with how she managed the sail and headed toward the Apostle Islands.  With little warning the weather changed. Rain, wind, with the water white capping I wondered what I was doing.  Where was that sound of an engine that I had grown accustomed to.  My daughter was working the main sail; her husband was at the wheel.  With 40 knot winds the sailboat was heeling and I was hanging on for dear life.  I was truly impressed with how they managed that boat—reefing the main sail (sail half up), steering the boat even though the rudder was almost impossible to turn. 

The next day the weather was better so they opened the front sail (jib).  The way they both worked the jib and main sail was amazing.  The power of the wind and the way we plowed through the water was strangely quiet.  No sound of a motor but we were going 4-5 knots.  The third day the weather was sunny and warm.  The only problem was that there was hardly any wind.  This was totally different than the first 2 days.  Watching my daughter and son-in-law working the jib from one side of the boat to the other (tacking) allowed us to sail with almost no wind.  When there was wind, we were against it (upwind)—the no go zone.  They patiently managed to pull 1-2 knots against the wind.

I have to admit I enjoyed this kind of boating--the sheer power of the wind—the sound of the boat going through the water—with no motor.  I guess you are never too old to enjoy a new experience.  And, by the way, I was able to try a new fender I designed especially for sailboats. 

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Fender or Bumper - What's the Difference?

I’ve been boating for over 30 years. I always knew protection for my boat was needed when tied to a dock. This was a major concern at the Lake of the Ozarks because of the rough water. I thought a boat fender was the same as a boat bumper. When I started my own company manufacturing bass boat fenders for Ranger bass boats and others, I called them bumpers. After all these years I have learned a fender is a protection device for a boat; a bumper is something that provides protection for a boat but is fastened to the dock.  

Just goes to show you that you are never too old to learn something new. 

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