Floating Docks: Good Choice for Coastal Waters

September 21st, 2009

EZ Dock

by Joyce Deaton

With a variety of styles and materials hitting the market, floating docks are becoming a popular choice with many Cape Fear area waterfront homeowners.

Floating docks perform well in areas where extremely deep water makes it difficult to drive pilings, where a soft, mucky bottom threatens the stability of a fixed dock, and where there are significant fluctuations in water level. In areas subject to constant changes from tidal effects, floating docks seem to hold up better, say their manufacturers, some of whose web sites show the floaters surviving coastal storms while nearby fixed docks go under.

“Some people in coastal areas think the water is too rough for floating docks,” explains Jerry McEntire, territory manager for EZ Dock in Shelby. “In the Intracoastal Waterway, you can easily get waves of 4 to 5 feet. Most people think they’d rather have a fixed dock, but the truth is the EZ Dock actually can handle rougher water. Storms lift up a fixed pier, but the floating dock sits on top of the water, so it actually does better.”

Floating dockMost manufacturers recommend floating docks with a T or L shape for stability – except for areas with heavy waves or wakes, where a U-shape works best. Floating docks are now available in styles with wood or aluminum decking, as well as those made entirely from polyethylene, which require the least maintenance.

Floating docks can be anchored with deadweight anchors, galvanized pipe or pilings in the water or with cables, chains or stiff-arm pipes on land.

Here’s a brief look at a couple of brands of floating docks available in the Cape Fear area:

EZ Dock

These beige-colored floating dock sections are made of slip-resistant rotomolded polyethylene with hollow flotation chambers that create pressure and suction to keep them stable in the water. Foam filling is not required, so they’re environmentally friendly. Dock sections are attached in modular fashion so you can design your own shape and easily add sections or change the layout later. A half-hexagon module adds to the design possibilities. Connection couplers are made of recycled composite materials, so there’s nothing to rust, and sections can move independently under stress. Self-floating modules are easy to connect; so two people can install a typical dock in a day.

ShoreMaster

Floating dockThe Floating PolyDock, made of non-slip rotomolded polyethylene, is similar in style to the EZ Dock, but with a brick-patterned deck surface. Modular sections can be attached at any point along their perimeter, so they can be quickly and easily reconfigured if requirements change. The PolyDock’s slip-resistant surface requires virtually no maintenance.

The GalvaFoam steel floating dock is built with galvanized steel members, braces and reinforcements and sits on high-density polyethylene flotation chambers filled with encapsulated foam. It offers a heavy-duty, permanent structure and can be completed with any type of wood or synthetic decking. Available in kit form, it can be assembled by knowledgeable do-it-yourselfers, though ShoreMaster’s marketing manager Gary Johnson says dealers do most installations.

The FTS-9 floating dock is made of lightweight aluminum. It’s a good choice in areas where docks must be removed in winter, and it requires very little maintenance, even in salt water. Decking options include aluminum, wood and synthetic materials. All decking is recessed slightly below the frame’s edges to add durability. Rotomolded polyethylene chambers filled with encapsulated foam provide flotation.

Floating Ports for PWCs and Small Craft

Along with their floating docks, both EZ Dock and ShoreMaster have introduced drive-on floating lifts for PWCs. These use a system of rollers that allow PWC riders to idle up to the lift, ease into throttle and roll on. To launch the PWC, they simply hop aboard and roll backwards into the water. With modular extensions, some of these ports can even accommodate small boats.

EZ Dock’s EZ Port models range from the EZ Port II, for PWCs up to 800 pounds, to the EZ Port IV Boat Lift, which can hold a 23-foot boat. The EZ Port MAX offers tandem installation and inline parking for multiple PWCs, and there’s also a specially designed Sea Doo Port.

ShoreMaster’s ShorePort, with three adjustable polyurethane rollers and a cupped front, can adjust to any hull design and accommodate both two- and three-seater PWCs weighing up to 1,150 pounds.

The Glide-N-Ride floating PWC lift, manufactured by Jet-Port, offers an economical alternative with its drive-on port that uses greased rails instead of rollers. Users simply apply a specifically formulated marine grease to the lift a few times a season.
The company’s companion product, the Roll-N-Ride lift, uses more conventional rollers and can accommodate PWCs up to 1,100 pounds and small boats up to 12 feet. An extension hitting the market in late spring will enable either Jet-Port product to handle boats up to 18 feet.

More information on floating docks and lifts is available from these area dealers: Alpha Marine Contractors (EZ Dock) and West Docks (Jet-Port), both in Wilmington. For ShoreMaster products, contact Atlantis Underwater Service in Stokesdale, The Lumber Depot in Mooresville, or Dock Masters Marine Construction in Lake Wylie. Glide-N-Ride products are available online at www.carolinadocks.com.

Clean Your Boat Like the Pros

September 21st, 2009

by Joyce Deaton
Part of the fun of owning a boat is taking care of it – keeping it clean and polished, with windshields sparkling and every seat cushion soft and shiny. But if you’re like most of us, that’s the ideal. When reality sets in, it’s often hard to find time to care for your boat the way you intended when first you met on the showroom floor.

To make matters worse, you often hear a litany of what products not to use on boats, along with dire warnings of decaying fiberglass, weakened canvas and scratched windshields. To find out how to clean CJ's Boat Worksyour boat quickly, safely and effectively, Pilot talked with Cindy Spencer of CJ’s Boat Works in Wrightsville Beach, which offers mobile detailing services all along the Cape Fear Coast.

Spencer says not to worry too much about all those warnings. While special boat-cleaning products are necessary for some materials, she says, many clean-up tasks can be done with products you already have around the house. Here are her tips.

• Wash your hull with diluted Ivory liquid soap. It’s gentle and won’t remove wax like many other dishwashing liquids. If you haven’t waxed the hull in awhile, add a mild auto soap such as Turtle Wax or Kit wax containing carnauba to add a little wax as you wash.

• For decks, use scratch-free Comet or Bon Ami cleanser in liquid or powder form. For stains, add a little bleach. For rust stains and yellow discolorations, use FSR (fiberglass stain remover) gel, available at marine stores.

• Wash windows with soapy water or a vinegar and water solution. If you have hard-water spots, use a water spot remover such as Star Brite, available from marine supply stores. Allow to dry and buff until smooth. Use a hand mitt with soapy water and a soft cloth for drying – not paper towels, which can scratch. Don’t use Windex or similar cleaners, which can drip and leave a streak on surrounding fiberglass.

• For isinglass and similar materials, use Pledge wax on a very soft rag, rubbing until the wax disappears.

• For cushions, check the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning products. For vinyl, use Collinite vinyl cleaner and conditioner from marine stores. Use vinegar or bleach to remove mildew from cushion bottoms, but go easy on the bleach with fabric cushions. While most boat fabrics can stand up to bleach, it will eat the stitching. Use a solution of about ½ cup bleach to a gallon of water.

• Scrub unvarnished teak trim with powdered Tide and a little bleach, using a medium-grade Scotch-Brite grill cleaning pad. Using a little bleach every time will keep the teak light tan, while the Tide alone will allow it to age to a soft gray. Oil if you like, but remember that oil attracts dirt and gradually darkens the wood. If your wood trim is varnished, wash with soapy water, rinse and dry thoroughly, renewing the varnish about six times a year.

• For cleaning toilets, use a marine-approved product that will protect rubber seals or use vinegar, a good all-purpose cleaner for most areas of your boat. Diluted, it’s good for spraying lightly on rugs to fight mildew.

“The key to keeping your boat in good shape is washing it regularly,” says Spencer. “Wash it weekly, or at least biweekly, and wax it at least four times a year. After every outing, clean off the salt water, which is very hard on boats, especially metal parts. It can cause pitting or anodizing in aluminum parts, and of course will ruin electrical and metal parts of your motor.”

A boat that’s rarely washed will build up a chalky powder that has to be compounded off before it can be waxed, and metal parts may have to be specially cleaned and treated. That’s a lot of work that could be avoided with regular washing.

CJ's Boaat WorksDon’t have time to do it yourself? Have it done regularly anyway and your boat will last longer and look better. You’ll also save money. Spencer’s average prices for cleaning go up by $10 per foot for boats that need compounding and heavy cleaning. “We’d rather meet you at the dock and clean your boat up after every trip to keep it looking brand new,” she says. “That way you protect your investment in the boat, and you’ll enjoy it more, too.”

What’s In Your Tackle Box? Part II

September 21st, 2009

by Joyce Deaton

Tackle boxBeen fishing lately? Pilot has – and how. Last issue we launched the first in a three-part series designed to aid the novice fisherman. We’ve been contacting experts at tackle shops throughout the Cape Fear area asking what gear they’d recommend for fishing the coastal waters – inshore, near-shore and offshore. This time we bring you the second installment of that feature, aimed at near-shore fishing from about 10 miles to 30 miles out.

For advice, we went to Wes Barbour, owner of Island Tackle and Hardware in Carolina Beach, and Capt. Brant McMullan, owner and manager of Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle. Avid fisherman themselves, they shared their tips for tackle and technique in this richly populated area of the Atlantic. There’s even more at their shops’ web sites, islandtacklehardware.com and oifc.com. These experts say the best fishing for this distance calls for two techniques: bottom fishing and trolling.

Wes BarberWes’s Tackle Box

Bottom Fishing

Target fish for bottom fishing include red grouper, gag grouper, pink snapper, black sea bass and scamp. Rocky bottoms and ledges are the best spots for finding plenty of these fish.

You’ll need some 10- to 16-oz. bank sinkers, 7/0 to 8/0 circle hooks and 150- to 200-pound leader line, plus 80-pound monofilament or 100-pound test Circle hookbraided line on your reels. You’ll also need some 150-pound test barrel swivels to connect your line and leader to make sure the line swings free and doesn’t tangle. Use 4/0 reels and 5 ½ to 6-foot stand-up rods. For bait, use cigar minnows, Spanish sardines or squid.

Secure a good spot by anchoring your boat directly above a ledge. Drop your lines straight down and wait for a bite. “As soon as you feel a bite, pull up with the rod to set the hook and immediately start reeling,” says Barbour. “This ensures that the fish doesn’t go back under the ledge and break your line or get you hung. Keep reeling hard, and you should soon land the fish.” If you aren’t getting a bite very soon, you should move to another spot. “Sometimes even if you are off by 10 feet, it can make a difference,” he says.

Trolling

By trolling, you can land challenging fish such as king mackerel, mahi mahi, cobia and amberjack. Take some live bait such as menhaden, blue runners, bluefish or threadfin herring. For these, of course, you need a live well on your boat or a cooler that can keep the bait alive. Use live bait rigs and 60-pound braided wire, 4x treble hooks for nose and tail hooks, and 75-pound test barrel swivels. You can also add king busters or beads to make your rig even more appealing to the fish.

If you prefer, you can use “hardware” instead of live bait. Barbour recommends 3 1/2-inch drone spoons as well as #5 planers on downriggers to help the lures dive.

You’ll need 25 feet of 150-pound leader line and a 150-pound coastlock swivel connecting to the planer. The swivel will make it easier to take the leader line on and off and will allow for movement. For surface lines, use a skirted-type lure with strip bait or ballyhoo and #2 planers on a 150-pound class rod.

You’ll need reels capable of holding 500 yards of 20-pound test line with a retrieval ratio of 6 to 1. And you’ll need 12- to 20-pound 7-foot rods.

Look for your target fish above ledges, wrecks, rocky live bottoms and weed lines or patches. Most trollers use six lines, with two of the six on downriggers adjusted for the water depth. Keep a very light drag on the reels to allow the fish to strike the bait and run with it in his mouth without knowing there’s a hook and line attached.

Once the initial run is completed, you can set the hook and begin reeling. “Finesse is the name of the game here,” says Barbour. “Remember you are using very light line compared to the hopefully heavy fish on the other end.” Let the fish run and tire itself out as you continue to retrieve your line. If the fish wants to run, let it run with a loose drag, maintaining minimal pressure.

“The team effort comes into play then, as you must choreograph the angler and the mate with the gaff,” he says. Be sure you communicate the direction of the fish’s movement and his energy level with your gaffer. “Once you have this synchronized, hopefully a nice fish will be sliding into a chilled icebox,” Barbour says with a smile.

Brant McMullanCapt. Brant’s Tackle Box

Bottom Fishing

For grouper and snapper, you’ll need some 8/0 circle hooks, 150-pound test monofilament leader and 150-pound three-way swivels. Also take along some long 2/0 or 4/0 long shank hooks and some bank sinkers in 6, 8 and 12-ounce sizes to get your bait down to the bottom. Use this tackle on a Penn Center 4/0 Redface reel with 80-pound test PowerPro braid line and a Star EX-7040 rod.

You can find charts showing the location of wrecks at tackle shops and online. Anchor over the one of your choice, bait your hook with frozen cigar minnows, half of a Boston mackerel or any hand-size live fish, drop your line to the bottom and wait, says McMullan.

Trolling

For king mackerel, use Eagle Claw L774 treble Shimano Speedmasterhooks, #4 piano wire for leader and #8 SPRO power swivels. McMullan recommends the Shimano Speedmaster reel with 400 yards of 20-pound Sufix line on a Star DLXKF 7-foot live bait action rod. For bait, use frozen cigar minnows or live menhaden.

For cobia and dolphin, use a 2-ounce chartreuse bucktail jig and 30-pound fluorocarbon leader. Using squid for bait, put all this on a Shimano Trevala 58XXH rod with a Shimano Sustain 8000 reel and 300 yards of 80-pound PowerPro braid. If you like, you can use the bucktail jig for sight fishing as well. Otherwise simply troll slowly until your target takes the bait.

“Use local knowledge to find the fish,” says McMullan, who also operates a charter fishing service through Ocean Isle Fishing Center. His shop, for example, posts a fish report every day on its web site. You can also call tackle shops or talk to charter captains, who are generally glad to share what they know.

“Fish to the seasons,” adds McMullan. “June through July and October through November are best, but you can catch fish all the time at this distance.” The width of the coastal shelf off the North Carolina coast creates a rich environment. “In South Florida, you go two miles offshore and you’re at the Gulf Stream, while here we have 50 miles with lots of structures to work with. This makes for very good coastal fishing.”