Boaters: Ounce of precaution can prevent heavy grief

On The Outdoors

September 16, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

For the second time this month, Maryland boaters and fishermen are faced with the dangerous potential of a tropical weather system, as Floyd moves north from the Carolinas.

Whether Floyd passes through as hurricane, tropical storm or tropical depression, boaters and anglers should be cautious, because in all cases, heavy rainfall, high winds and storm tides or flash floods are possible.

According to U.S. Coast Guard guidelines, the first rule of safety when a hurricane or storm surge approaches, is to "get off the open water, as far away from the storm as possible, and never stay with your boat."

For boats that can be put on trailers, the best option is to store the craft ashore and in a garage or sturdily covered area, if possible. If it must be left outside, be sure to secure it to strong trees, or tie it to anchored posts.

On a boat with an outboard motor, the Coast Guard suggests filling the bottom of the boat with about 6 inches of water to increase its weight. Afterward, the drain plug can be removed, and the bilge will clear.

Inboard boats stored on land should be left with the drain plugs out so water will not accumulate and damage the power plants.

For those boats that must be left in the water, the Coast Guard suggests moving to the strongest and most sheltered dock or mooring available.

Also, double up all mooring lines, but don't forget to provide enough slack to allow the boat to rise with higher tides. Put out as many fenders as possible to avoid damage from piers, pilings and other boats as the vessel moves about in its slip.

For moored boats, check over chain, shackles, pins and pennants before the storm arrives, and add as much to the scope of the mooring as possible. The swing of the boat still must be short enough to keep it from banging into other nearby vessels.

Boats at anchor should be put in the most sheltered anchorage available, and the best-holding bottom should be chosen. If possible, set two anchors at a 45-degree angle off the bow, and set the maximum scope possible for your location.

In all cases, strip off everything that might be blown away or damaged by high winds. On sailboats, that should include furled jibs and mainsails, which can add incredible windage should they become unfurled.

Close all hatches, ports and through-hull valves, check hose clamps -- especially below the waterline -- and, if possible, lightly plug the engine exhaust outlet and any other through-hull fittings that are not fitted with gate or ball valves.

When the boat has been prepared, take copies of the insurance and registration or documentation papers ashore, in case they are needed later for damage or recovery claims.

In no case, the Coast Guard warns, should you venture out on the water unless your boat can be navigated safely under the forecasted sea and wind conditions.

Fishing updates

Upper Chesapeake: Once Floyd passes, it will be anyone's guess where the good fishing will be. But before the tropical storm approached, bottom fishing was very good at the mouth of the Chester River for large spot, croaker, sea trout and flounder. Bluefish from 10 to 24 inches have been scattered throughout the area. Chumming was producing lots of rockfish off Swan Point Bar, but many were smaller than the 18-inch minimum. White perch, spot and some croaker were hitting over the oyster humps and bars from Gibson Island to Man O' War Shoals off the western shore. The Susquehanna River had been a good choice for rockfish on trolled tubes and smallmouth bass on crankbaits and spinners. There was fair action for catfish in the Elk and Northeast rivers.

Middle Chesapeake: Bottom fishing should pick up again from Hackett's to Thomas Point Light, where white perch, croaker and spot have been plentiful and flounder and sea trout also may be caught. At the mouth of the Choptank River, large schools of medium spot have been at The Diamonds, Cook's Point, Castle Haven and Todd's Point, along with lesser numbers of croaker, bluefish, sea trout and flounder. Chummers have had the best success for rockfish at the Gas Docks, Diamonds and the Hill. Trollers have been catching fewer, but larger, rockfish and blues. Spanish mackerel appear to have moved farther south.

Lower Chesapeake: Bluefish in the 4- to 6-pound range have moved into the area from the Virginia line to the Middle Grounds, and chummers and trollers have been catching them along the eastern edge of the main channel. Best chumming for rock has moved south to the eastern edge from buoy 70 to 68. Spanish mackerel apparently are still in the area, but fishing for them has been slow. Bottom fishing for spot, croaker, sea trout and flounder has been good on shell bottoms southwest of the Target Ship, at Cornfield Harbor and the Mud Leads. In Tangier Sound, the northern edges of Loon Hill and Kedges Straits have been good locations for spot, sea trout and some croaker.

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