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Now Is The Time…

For so many things! If you own a boat, winter is a great time to take care of simple tasks like checking your safety gear, getting your toolbox in order and getting the fishing tackle squared away. It’s also a great time to get yourself taken care of.
This is my time for my yearly Public Service Announcement. Get yourself to a dermatologist for a skin check. We go out in the sun having fun on our boats and many of us never think about what the sun is doing to us. That we are exposed to the sun double what our land lubber friends are because of the sun reflecting off the water. I have been told much of the skin damage that shows up when we are adults happens when we are children. So, make an effort to protect them from the sun. Use sunblock, wear sun-protective clothing and a hat. Get in the shade when you can. I have had three types of skin cancer, Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Melanoma. Getting help early is the best bet to limit the chances of spreading in your body. None of the surgeries are pleasant either. You can see my latest one attached. I was told it was a little one too! Many thanks to my doctors at Stony Brook Dermatology, I have been a patient there since about 2000.

Over the next couple of months, I have a bunch of projects to keep me busy. A few projects at home include gutting one of our bathrooms for a makeover and removing the wallpaper I put up in my son’s bedroom about thirty years ago. After that I have my other son’s bedroom to remove wallpaper from, and that my friends will be the last time I ever even say the word wallpaper! Although I am told it is coming “back in fashion”.
Back to the boat stuff. Now is the time I take care of all my safety gear. I check all my life jackets, checking the straps, zippers or clasps, and material making sure they are still useable. I have two life rings with lines attached so I check the condition of them and the line. I use yellow polypropylene line since it floats and can be seen by a person in the water. When we anchor up to go swimming, I like to put one of them out about twenty-five feet behind the boat, so the swimmers have something to hold onto if needed. I also have a throwable cushion, I check the straps and overall condition of that. One of the life rings is mounted out on the deck, and the life jackets are stowed in a bag kept on deck when we are out. That bag also holds man overboard flags and an electric SOS signal. This takes the place of flares so no more expired flares to get rid of. But you do need to make sure the batteries are good, so I replace them yearly. I have a large battery-powered strobe light that can be attached to a life ring and smaller individual lights that get attached to life jackets, so those batteries get replaced now also.

Next up is my toolbox that I keep down between the engines. That gets pulled apart many times over the boating season and some of the supplies in it are depleted so I need to organize and re-supply. I keep wire ties, electrical tape, assorted crimp connectors, gloves, duct tape and even some nuts, bolts and pipe plugs in there. There is a good assortment of tools that I have come to need over the years, those get looked at and the tool selection gets updated as needed.
Docking lines and canvas issues are also addressed during the off-season. I made up a set of oversized dock lines for my boat years ago, and they are in very good condition. During the season they do start to get stiff and harder for my crew to get them on the cleats. What I do in the spring before launching is to soak the lines in a bucket of water mixed with a small amount of fabric softener. I stir occasionally and then rinse them thoroughly. Good as new.
The canvas is another item that many people overlook. I clean the canvas at the end of the season and take the cockpit cover home for the winter. The side curtains get special care. After washing them with soap and water I dry them with a soft towel. Once dry I use a product called “Plexus” made for plastics. It does a fantastic job of cleaning them and even removing small scratches. Do not use Windex or other harsh cleaners or you will turn that plastic yellow in no time at all. Another idea you might want to try with your side windows. Like most setups, I had to roll up the side curtains and strap them up. But that always scratched them, and little by little they were ruined. Years ago, when I replaced all my canvas, I installed snaps in the overhead and when I unzip the side curtains, they snap up overhead. No more rolling and scratching. The cockpit cover gets washed and stored, but before taking it out to the boat in the spring I open it up and spray it down with silicone waterproofing spray. It’s a good feeling when it has rained to see the water all beaded up on the cover.
Last on my list of items I have at home for the winter is the often overlooked first aid kit. Luckily, we have not had to use it often, but it is there when we need it. We keep it stocked with the typical supplies, bandages, tweezers, tape, etc. But we also keep it stocked with sunblock, first aid spray and anti-itch cream and a small amount of ammonia for jellyfish stings. I can tell you from firsthand experience, which is a good item to keep stocked!