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How to Avoid Common Boating Mistakes

Posted By Gail Kulp, Sunday, January 6, 2019
Updated: Friday, February 7, 2020

How to Avoid Common Boating Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes, even the most seasoned boaters. They don't have to be the end to a great day on the water. With these tips from the Sea Tow® captains, you can be back on the water in no time!

Shifter in Neutral?
Sea Tow Captains ask the operator of a stalled boat a very simple question: Is the boat’s engine in neutral when they try to start it? “It can be something as simple as the boat being in gear or the safety lanyard not connected,” explained Capt. Ryan Bayley, owner of Sea Tow Great South Bay in Oakdale, N.Y. “With kids running around and people going back and forth on board, the shifter and the safety lanyard are often the cause of a boat not starting.”

Out of Fuel?
Boaters don’t always top off their fuel tanks—and that can lead to confusion over how much gas or diesel actually is in the tank. “The gas gauge is notoriously unreliable on a boat,” said Capt. Gary O’Reilly, owner of Sea Tow North Chesapeake out of Galena, M.D. “The gauge says half and before they know it, they are out of fuel.”

Keeping a fuel log will help you keep tabs on your boat’s fuel level. By knowing the capacity of your fuel tank, how many hours the engine has been run and the average number of gallons you burn per hour, you can get a rough idea of how much fuel is left or how many hours you may continue to run until empty. And always remember the golden rule for how much fuel you should have and how far you should go: Use 1/3 of your fuel for your trip out and 1/3 for your trip in, while keeping 1/3 in reserve for the unknown.

Be Weather-Wise
Knowing the current weather conditions and the forecast for your boating area can help you avoid problems when bad weather threatens, either by altering the float plan, bringing along extra gear, or postponing your outing. “It might be warm and calm at your port but blowing hard where you are going,” said Capt. Bayley. “Once you get everyone down to the boat, it’s harder to call off the trip. Make sure you’ve done the research on the weather so you can make a good decision in advance.”

Battery Switch Savvy
“Knowing how your battery charger works, and whether to have the switch on 1, 2 or “All” (or “Both”) is a big deal,” said Capt. O’Reilly. “A lot of people think “All” is the place to be, and then they run down their batteries and can’t start the boat.”

Boaters should start off with two fully charged batteries, then choose one of the two available battery switch positions for running, either 1 or 2. Only use the “All” or "Both" position if it is an emergency when both batteries are discharged to the point that neither of them alone will crank the engine over but two can do it together. How do you know which battery switch setting to use? One way is by alternating their use, using 1 for odd-numbered days and 2 for even-numbered days.

The Sea Tow Foundation also reminds boaters to make sure that they keep boating safe and fun for everyone by always designing a Sober Skipper before every boating trip. For more information on Sea Tow or to subscribe to their blog, please visit them at

Tags:  Education  Fuel  Sea Tow Great South Bay  Sea Tow Northern Chesapeake  Sober Skipper  Tips  Weather 

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Tow Bee Boating Safety Tips: Choose the Right Fuel for Your Boat!

Posted By Michael Wesolowski, Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2020

Tow Bee Boating Safety Tips: Choose the Right Fuel for Your Boat!

Do you ever pull up to the fuel dock and wonder to yourself what all those numbers mean? Much like your car or truck, your boat has specific needs when it comes to fuel. While your typical fuel pump at the gas station down the street has options for Regular, Mid-Grade and Premium gasoline for your car, the pump down at the local marina is a bit different.

These days, nearly all gas, whether it’s for your car, truck or boat, contains a chemical called ethanol. When mixed with gasoline, these ethanol blends help to reduce carbon emissions and limit environmental impact caused by traditional fuel. In fact, they are often sold for Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFV).

The problem comes when introducing ethanol into marine engines in boats. When ethanol comes into contact with water, it will create a corrosive mix that can harm the boat’s engine, which could leave you stranded in the middle of your favorite waterway.

While some areas around the country may still have access to the ethanol-free gasoline that was the norm decades ago, most will have some sort of blend. Keeping the ethanol content at or below 10% is critical when purchasing fuel for your boat.

For example, gas sold as E15 has 15% ethanol whereas E85 is 85% ethanol, so both of these options would provide too much ethanol for your boat’s engine. E10 fuel is right at the 10% mark and would work on most gasoline boat engines, but it is important to check with your boat and engine manufacturer to be sure.

The next time you pull up to the fuel dock, remember to use either an ethanol-free gasoline or an E10 blend in your boat. Making sure you use the correct fuel will save you the headache of having to call your local Sea Tow captain for a tow when your boat’s engine stops working and it will also save you thousands of dollars to repair or replace a damaged motor.


Click here for more Tow Bee Boating Safety Tips

Tags:  E15  E85  Ethanol  FFV  Fuel  Tow Bee  Tow Bee Boating Safety Tips  Tow Bee Safety Tips 

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Tow Bee Boating Safety Tips!

Posted By Michael Wesolowski, Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, February 25, 2020
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