Resolutions that Work

Make 2018 the best cruising year ever by implementing some or all of these boating oaths.

 When occasionally finding myself stuck in very uncomfortable sea conditions, I’ve vowed not to make the same idiotic choices that led to the situation in the first place. Boaters know how it goes: I promise I will never again start an offshore passage on a Friday. Or, I will never again let a guest’s airline reservation determine my boat’s course and speed. Or, I will never again … You get the picture.

This year, as always, we get to start with a clean slate, so here are some potential resolutions and promises for Not-Always-Prudent-Mariners, to preserve us from uncomfortable and icky situations.

Speak More Spanish. Using Skype and a new online service called Speak Shop (, people can take private one-on-one Spanish lessons. Speak Shop’s certified online teachers are all native speakers in Guatemala. Users can set their own daily or weekly schedule and customize a curriculum to focus on specific needs — nautical terminology, boating conversations, weather reports, fishing jargon, etc.

For example, who knows what “remolcador” means? One was crossing my path in dense fog once and happened to be towing a barge at the end of a 1,000-foot cable. Yikes! This was one of many situations that encouraged me to learn more Spanish.

My resolution for 2018 is to master 10 new nautical verbs — including “remolcar” — and to improve my future tense.

Mark the Hull’s Sling Spots. Last time the boatyard hauled our friends’ 53-foot Selene, it took 45 minutes (and two false starts) to correctly position the Travelift’s fore and aft sling straps under the hull before they were able to hoist it — safely and levelly — out of the water.

Stabilizer fins, transducers, throughhull fittings, keel coolers and other modifications below the waterline can be damaged if they’re squashed by the boat’s dry weight resting on those straps.

Once the yard got it right, we temporarily marked the four correct sling locations in chalk on the side of the hull, right below the hull-to-deck joint, two on each side, fore and aft. After the bottom work was complete but before the boat was put back in the water, we replaced the four chalk marks with four tiny painted graphic arrows. The yard can do this with topside paint or a vinyl graphic material such as that used for boat names.

Bless the Dinghy. Especially in Mexican waters, a dinghy replaces the family minivan and becomes the primary errand-runner — bless its heart. This January, promise to bless your dinghy and outboard with an MPT: a major preservation treatment. Clean and buff the inflatable collar with whichever preservation treatment the manufacturer recommends. Scrape all the tiny calcified worm cases off the rigid bottom, and sand them lightly so they don’t cut anyone’s bare hands during dinghy launch and retrieval.

Scrape and sand those nasty worms off the dinghy’s outboard prop and lower end. Service the outboard and replace worn parts.

Have canvas covers made, to protect the flexible material from tropical sun damage and keep the sizzling material from scorching bare legs and feet. If the dinghy already has covers, now’s the time to desalt them by soaking them in fresh water overnight and hanging them flat to dry. While the canvas is drying, treat each set of snaps with a Q-tip soaked in a rust inhibitor such as LPS or WD-40. Doing so preserves the life of window screens’ snaps and toggles too.

Kill the Quagga. A single female zebra mussel can release 1 million eggs each year, so trailerboaters should promise to kill the invaders — quagga and zebra mussels — each time they retrieve their boat in Mexican or U.S. waters. At the top of the ramp, scrape off any mud and plant life, then hose out and drain livewells, the anchor locker and all wet compartments. To make sure invasive species don’t tag along to the next launch, try these steps:

Give the boat a hot-water (140 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) high-pressure washdown followed by five days of desiccation (drying out).

A 20-minute bath of 100 percent white vinegar is recommended for gear such as docklines, nets, tow ropes, skis, wakeboards, SUPs, inner tubes and inflatable toys. (Splash straight vinegar over contaminated parts of the rig as well.)

A 40-minute bath in a detergent solution kills them dead: two and a half gallons of water with two cups of dish detergent.

Both baths are easy to manage in a driveway, but folks who store their boat and rig elsewhere should resolve to always have on hand a one-gallon jug of white vinegar or a bottle of dish detergent and a five-gallon bucket and brush.

More Fun, Less Work. Boat owners should resolve to spend at least half their time on the boat having fun, not just working on maintenance projects. A January voyage out to an island to have fun on board is also a chance to improve one’s anchoring skills. Anchoring somewhere overnight where there’s likely to be a change of tides and current, maybe a change of wind direction too, will give boaters the chance to feel through the chain if they got the anchor well set the first time. To see if they swing too close to shore or other boats overnight. To see if a stern anchor would have helped. To set, monitor and measure the effectiveness of the radar perimeter alarm. To see if they need to add a rubber snubber to quiet chain noise in the V-berth.

Deepen Cultural Awareness. For boaters already in Mexico, Jan. 6 is Day of the Kings, Dia de los Reyes, when children receive guests and gifts in parks and at backyard parties. In traditional rural villages, gifts received from Santa on Dec. 24 might not be opened until Jan. 6. Boating visitors are welcome to join Dia de los Reyes street parades, where locals carry statues from the church to a festive plaza. Along the parade route revelers can buy holiday foods made by the church ladies and artisan gifts at street-market stalls.

Boaters who buy a wreath-shaped Rosca de Reyes (Kings’ Bread coffee cake with a baby Jesus figurine baked inside) and share it with locals who invite them in are sure to pump up their cultural status. As the bread is divided and shared with each person present, someone will get the baby, which means he is supposed to host an Easter party.

Finally, boaters should anchor off a remote panga village during January, go ashore and try out their best Spanish on the first person they meet. Wish everyone Feliz Ano Nuevo en Dos Mil Diese Ocho: Happy New Year 2018.