By Capt. Fred Davis

Mariners just getting started in boating and those who may have just forgotten often find they have equipment on their boats they are not sure they know how to operate. Let’s test your knowledge, especially if you have just acquired a used boat and are not familiar with its equipment.

1. You are taking your boat out for the first time for a shakedown. You’re running along with another boater but would prefer not to ask questions that make you look like a landlubber. As you leave the dock, your friend said to set your radio on channel 16 – Why?

A. It is the hailing and emergency channel.
B. It is the channel that works best on his radio.
C. He knows you have channel 16 because all vessel
operators are required to listen on channel 16.
D. Because he heard everyone else using it.

2. As you get underway, you call your friend on channel 16 and he responds, “Switch to channel 68.” Once you have switched you hang up the mike and wait to hear from him. A few minutes later he repeats the request. Once more you switch and put the mike back on the clip. When you look back at your radio however you see it is still set on channel 16 – Why?

A. Because your radio has no channel 68.
B. Channel 68 does not work in the area you are in.
C. Your radio is defective.
D. Your radio is equipped with an automatic switch on the mike clip that takes it to channel 16 when you hang it up.

3. As you cruise along with the radio now set on channel 68 your friend tells you are breaking up. You verify the radio is on channel 68 and you are just a short distance behind him so what could the problem be?

A. You are too close together and your signal is so strong it is going over his antenna. Turn your radio to 1 watt or its lowest setting.
B. He probably has a poor radio that can’t receive while the vessel is underway.
C. You’re not talking loud enough even though you’re speaking directly into the mike.
D. He is probably losing his hearing after all he is over 50.

4. While continuing your cruise, you notice your compass is acting up. It was ok before your radio problem and as you hang up the mike it suddenly clears up. What is wrong?

A. You hollered so loud over the radio you blew out the compass.
B. Your friend was too loud when he called and he blew out the compass.
C. When you set the mike on the dash next to the compass so it would not switch to 16, the mike distorted the compass.
D. Your friend is running in front of you and is leaving too much wake so the compass can’t stay on course.

5. Your friend said he was on a course of 271 but your compass is reading 259. Why the difference?

A. Your compass is off 12 degrees.
B. Your friend’s compass is off 12 degrees.
C. Your friend’s compass is up on his fly bridge but you have no bridge so he is closer to the sun.
D. One or both compasses are off and need calibration.

6. How can you verify the problem with the compass before you take a trip in a few days?

A. If you’ve taken a charting course and have a chart on board you can determine which compass is off.
B. If you tell your friend to go ahead and check your course after he is farther along you can tell which compass is off.
C. If you or your friend has a GPS you can check your present course and determine which compass is off.
D. You can find a new boater friend and try to check with his compass.

7. You turned on all the dash switches and none seem to work - why?

A. You failed to note which way turns the switches on – try the other way.
B. You may have a master switch on the power to the controls and it is turned off.
C. You must have the ignition key on for instruments to work.
D. Any of the above could apply.

8. While checking the boat out you note there is water in the bilge, what should you do?

A. Turn on the bilge pump switch.
B. There are more than one pump switches and you must find the correct one so try them each individually.
C. Mark or determine exactly how much water there is in the bilge and re-check to be sure you are extracting bilge water.
D. The water level seems to be going down slowly so using caution and monitoring the water level continue to the nearest port if you are not certain your bilge is ok.

9. Among the many switches on the dash you’ve found some that don’t seem to operate – why?

A. If you have no schematic, you should carefully check fuses and wiring. Make a list and mark each wire and switch.
B. Some vessels have a separate switch for the binnacle light. Since the light cast by it is so dim, you may not be able to notice it’s on during the daylight.
C. Some switches turn on the power to a float operated bilge pump. If the float is not in water, the pump will not run. This switch should be wired to a small indicator light to avoid being left on accidentally.
D. Some vessels are manufactured with extra switches for use to power an added option later.

1. A & C
2. D
3. A
4. C
5. D
6. A
7. D
8. All are correct
9. All are correct

If you missed any questions perhaps you should become more familiar with your boat before cruising alone. Study the proper manuals to fully understand the operation of your equipment.


Return to Home Page of


Copyright © Fred Davis. All rights reserved.