Boating Questions and Answers

If you are new to boating you probably have many questions that you are afraid to ask because people think you're a newbie.

First, lose that thinking right now! Everyone in thie boating hobby was a newbie at one time or another and they asked or had the same questions you have, but many of them were afraid to ask, because they didn't want the world to know they were new to the hobby.

So, in an effort to help, we've put together a list of questions and answers that you probably have. It is a very basic list and if you have further questions you can ask them of us here at (give website name) just send us an email to answers@( and we'll get you the answer.

Q. What is freeboard and how is it measured?

A. Freeboard is the distance between the top of your boat's body (known as the gunwale) and the water. It is measured by dropping a weighted line into the water and when the weight is immersed to the top of the string, the gunwale height is either knotted or chalked and the distance between the weight and mark is measured. This is the freeboard.

Q. I've seen what looks like another important measurement and it is measured in degrees. It is called dead rise. What is it?

A. Simply, it's the angle of your bow in relation to the water. It is measured between the centerline of your boat's bow and the water in the same manner as the freeboard. The key difference is that someone will normally line up a viewer or transit on the line that is marked in degrees and the deadrise is automatically marked off. The steeper the deadrise, the deeper he Vee of the hull which means that you can actually get more under the cabin roof because the angle of the sides is more toward the vertical and second it means you will be able to slice more cleanly through the water at speed making your boat more stable.

Q. What is a four-stroke engine and why is it important?

A. Beginning with the 2010 boating year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated very strict -- as in 0 tolerance -- for emissions oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and hyrdrocarbons. This mean that two-stroke engines were immediately gone from the market because they are inherently dirty (mixing oil with fuel). Four-stroke engines, also called Otto-cycle engines -- are cleaner because they use an intake stroke; followed by a compression stroke; followed by a power stroke; followed by an exhaust stroke in the each cylinder of the engine. Like an automotive engine, marine engine markers like Evinrude/Johnson and Mercury have made their engines virtually untouchable by anyone who is not a mechanic. They are closed systems that are computer-controlled so their emissions meet the targets set by the EPA. Interestingly, the original engines used at sea were also knwon as Otto cycle engines.

Q. What is a two-stroke engine?

A. It is an engine that uses as only two strokes, a power stroke where the piston is driven down (it combines the intake stroke) and the exhaust stroke where the nasty stuff it produces because it uses an oil/gas mixture is shot out of the engine. These engines have been outlawed although some smaller engines have been grandfathered for continued use.

Q. What is a stern drive and is there any advantage to it?

A. The answer to this is subjective. Some would say that the outboard engine is more responsive and better in terms of fuel economy. The stern drive is an all-in-one unit that is built into the boat and, again, some would say that because it can be more precisely controlled than the outboard, it is more efficient. It's like the "chicken and egg" joke, which came first? The answer is in the eye of the beholder.

Q. What is the draft of a boat and how is it measured if it is a measurement why is it important?

A. The draft of the boat is easy to measure; it is the distance between the center of the bottom of your boat's keel and the center of the side of the hull of your boat. In some boats, the draft is as little as a foot while in others it may be seven or eight feet. You must know the draft of your boat -- how much water she can ride in safely -- so that you keep your boat out of areas where there may be seven feet of water and your boat has an 8-foot draft. You're going to hang your boat up on the bottom (hopefully it's just sand and not rocks) which is a bit embarrassing. However, if you're a new skipper you can be excused, especially if it happens at low water (tide), then just wait for the rising tide to float you free.