Monthly Archives: June 2010

US Coast Guard news release regarding Tropical Storm Alex.

The Coast Guard is urging the maritime community and boating public to track Tropical Storm Alex’s progress and take early action to protect themselves and their vessels.  Extremely high seas, heavy rains and damaging winds that accompany tropical storms and hurricanes present serious dangers to mariners.

Dangerous weather conditions generated by a hurricane can cover an area hundreds of miles wide.  Even those recreational boaters and the maritime industry that fall outside of the direct path of the storm are advised to be aware of dangerous weather conditions and take appropriate precautions to stay safe and minimize damage.

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More On Hurricanes – High-Wind

With several storms recently announced in the Pacific, it can’t be long before they begin to pop up in the Atlantic. In our ongoing series of Hurricane Education we thought we would address high-winds.

The intensity of a land-falling hurricane is expressed in terms of categories that relate wind speeds and potential damage. According to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, a Category 1 hurricane has lighter winds compared to storms in higher categories. A Category 4 hurricane would have winds between 131 and 155 mph and, on the average, would usually be expected to cause 100 times the damage of the Category 1 storm. Depending on circumstances, less intense storms may still be strong enough to produce damage, particularly in areas that have not prepared in advance.

Tropical storm-force winds are strong enough to be dangerous to those caught in them. For this reason, emergency managers plan on having their evacuations complete and their personnel sheltered before the onset of tropical storm-force winds, not hurricane-force winds.

Hurricane-force winds can easily destroy poorly constructed buildings and mobile homes. Debris such as signs, roofing material, and small items left outside become flying missiles in hurricanes. Extensive damage to trees, towers, water and underground utility lines (from uprooted trees), and fallen poles cause considerable disruption.

Burger King CEO's Office Miami

High-rise buildings are also vulnerable to hurricane-force winds, particularly at the higher levels since wind speed tends to increase with height. Recent research suggests you should stay below the tenth floor, but still above any floors at risk for flooding. It is not uncommon for high-rise buildings to suffer a great deal of damage due to windows being blown out. Consequently, the areas around these buildings can be very dangerous.

The strongest winds usually occur in the right side of the eyewall of the hurricane. Wind speed usually decreases significantly within 12 hours after landfall. Nonetheless, winds can stay above hurricane strength well inland. Hurricane Hugo (1989), for example, battered Charlotte, North Carolina (which is 175 miles inland) with gusts to nearly 100 mph.

The Inland High Wind Model can be used by emergency managers to estimate how far inland strong winds extend. The inland wind estimates can only be made shortly before landfall when the windfield forecast errors are relatively small. This information is most useful in the decision-making process to decide which people might be most vulnerable to high winds at inland locations.

Be informed by asking the following questions:

  • Does your community building code set standards that will help buildings withstand winds in a major hurricane?
  • Where are emergency shelter facilities located?
  • Do your shelter facilities include long-span roofs or unreinforced masonry walls (such as gymnasiums) that are vulnerable in high winds?
  • What are the evacuation routes in your community?

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$900,000 Lost Why? – No Fishing License

A one-year fishing license for North Carolina residents costs $15. For out-of-staters, it’s $30. A crew member didn’t have one in the Big Rock Blue Marlin Fishing Tournament and it will apparently cost the winning boat $912,825 in prize money.

“It hurts,” said Andy Thomossan, whose Citation boat caught an 883-pound blue marlin. “We didn’t do anything wrong. But one of our people did. He failed to get a fishing license, but we didn’t know it. He told us he had it. He didn’t. So you take a man for his word, you know?”

Thomossan declined to identify the crew member and said there would be no leeway granted by officials of the 1.66 million dollar tournament.

“They’re taking it away, everything,” Thomossan said. “The fish is disqualified. We’re disqualified. So that’s the end of it.”

Under tournament rules, anyone fishing aboard a vessel must have a North Carolina fishing license, including the captain, the mate and anglers.

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The Marine Environment – Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS)

Zebra Mussels

Many states are beginning a proactive approach  to enforce laws that many boaters may not even be aware of. The effort aims to assure that boaters do not accidentally spread Eurasian water-milfoil, zebra mussels, and other aquatic invasive species to other bodies of water. Inspectors will be stationed at various bodies of water to help boaters understand invasive species laws and what they must do before leaving that body of water.

Aquatic nuisance species (ANS) are non-indigenous species that threaten the diversity or abundance of native aquatic species. Two such ANS are the Zebra mussel and the Quagga mussel. Great Lakes water users spend tens of millions of dollars on zebra mussel control every year. Zebra mussel infestations cause pronounced ecological changes in the Great Lakes and major rivers of the central United States.

Giant Salvinia

Non-indigenous aquatic nuisance plants, such as purple loosestrife, Eurasian water milfoil, giant salvinia and hydrilla quickly establish themselves. Environmental and economic problems caused by the dense growth of these weeds include impairment of water-based recreation, navigation, flood control, water quality and fish and wildlife habitat.

Invasive species can crowd out native species, disrupt lake ecosystems, and interfere with boating, fishing and other recreation. The main way that invasive species and fish diseases such as viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) spread to new waters is aboard boating and fishing equipment, boat trailers, water in livewells and live fish being moved from one water body to another.

Boaters, anglers, and others enjoying the waters of many states are required to:

  • Drain all water from vehicles, trailers, watercraft, containers, fishing equipment, and gear when leaving any state waters or its shores.
  • Do not take live fish away from any lake or its shores. A fish is considered dead when it is no longer in water. This law applies to shore anglers as well as those who fish from a boat.
  • Remove all aquatic plants, animals and mud from watercraft, trailers and vehicles before leaving a landing for the day. Do not transport a vehicle, boat, boat trailer, equipment, or gear of any type on a public highway which has an aquatic plant or animal attached to the exterior.
  • Use minnows left over after a fishing trip again on the same water OR on any other waters if no lake or river water, or other fish was added to their container.

Please consult with your state marine patrol and local marinas to identify non-indigenous species in your area. For more information on Impacts of Aquatic Non-indigenous Species, visit

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Operation Drywater June 25-27

Operation Dry Water is a national weekend of Boating Under the Influence (BUI) detection and enforcement aimed at reducing the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities and fostering a stronger and more visible deterrent to alcohol and drug use on the water.

Held during the summer boating season and coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators—with the states, the U.S. Coast Guard and other partner agencies—Operation Dry Water directly addresses the National Recreational Boating Safety Strategic Plan Strategy 6.2 to “increase the number of BUI checkpoints to collect and report BUI and safety compliance data,” as well as Strategy 6.6 to “challenge law enforcement officials to test more operators for alcohol/drug use in accident investigations.”

Operation Dry Water is held the last weekend in June prior to the Fourth of July holiday. Curbing the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities is key to achieving a safer and more enjoyable environment for recreational boating. According to the most recent U.S. Coast Guard statistics, Boating Under the Influence is still the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, with 17 percent of boating fatalities a direct result of alcohol or drug use.

Don't End Your Day Like This!

Every boater needs to understand the risks of boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs (BUI). It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. The Coast Guard also enforces a federal law that prohibits BUI. This law pertains to ALL boats (from canoes and rowboats to the largest ships) — and includes foreign vessels that operate in U.S. waters, as well as U.S. vessels on the high seas.

Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. These impairments increase the likelihood of accidents afloat – for both passengers and boat operators. U.S. Coast Guard data shows that in boating deaths involving alcohol use, over half the victims capsized their boats and/or fell overboard.

Alcohol is even more hazardous on the water than on land. The marine environment – motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray – accelerates a drinker’s impairment. These stressors cause fatigue that makes a boat operator’s coordination, judgment and reaction time decline even faster when using alcohol.

Alcohol can also be more dangerous to boaters because boat operators are often less experienced and less confident on the water than on the highway. Recreational boaters don’t have the benefit of experiencing daily boat operation. In fact, boaters average only 110 hours on the water per year.

Alcohol has many physical effects that directly threaten safety and well-being on the water.

When a boater or passenger drinks, the following occur:

  • Cognitive abilities and judgment deteriorate, making it harder to process information, assess situations, and make good choices.
  • Physical performance is impaired – evidenced by balance problems, lack of coordination, and increased reaction time.
  • Vision is affected, including decreased peripheral vision, reduced depth perception, decreased night vision, poor focus, and difficulty in distinguishing colors (particularly red and green).
  • Inner ear disturbances can make it impossible for a person who falls into the water to distinguish up from down.
  • Alcohol creates a physical sensation of warmth – which may prevent a person in cold water from getting out before hypothermia sets in.

As a result of these factors, a boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration above .10 percent is estimated to be more than 10 times as likely to die in a boating accident than an operator with zero blood alcohol concentration. Passengers are also at greatly increased risk for injury and death – especially if they are also using alcohol.

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Operating Your Boat in accordance with Homeland Security Measures

The arrival of the USNS Apache this week at Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River reminded me of the Naval Vessel Protection Zone. As I strolled the dock I noticed how close some of the curious recreational boaters were getting to the Navy Ocean going tug. Apparently a lot of recreational boaters are not aware of the security laws that could cost them a lot of money. Even some of the commercial tour boats which require USCG licensed captains were coming extremely close.

In light of new security measures brought about by the events of September 11, 2001, it is critical that all boaters be aware of and comply with new homeland security measures set forth by federal, state and local governments. These should include, but are not limited to:

  • keeping a safe prescribed distance from military and commercial ships
  • avoiding commercial port operations areas,
  • observing all security zones,
  • following guidelines for appropriate conduct such as not stopping or anchoring beneath bridges or in a channel, and
  • observing and reporting suspicious activity to proper authorities.

100-Yard-Approach WARNING!

Do not approach within 100 yards of any U.S. naval vessel. If you need to pass within 100 yards of a U.S. naval vessel in order to ensure a safe passage in accordance with the Navigation Rules, you must contact the U.S. naval vessel or the Coast Guard escort vessel on VHF-FM channel 16.

You must operate at minimum speed within 500 yards of any U.S. naval vessel and proceed as directed by the Commanding Officer or the official patrol.

Violations of the Naval Vessel Protection Zone are a felony offense, punishable by up to 6 years in prison and/or up to $250,000 in fines.

Boaters Can Help Keep Our Waterways Safe and Secure…

Navy Ship approaching dockKeep your distance from all military, cruise line, or commercial shipping! Do not approach within 100 yards, and slow to minimum speed within 500 yards of any U.S. naval vessel. Violators of the Naval Vessel Protection Zone face 6 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, not to mention a quick and severe response. Approaching certain other commercial vessels may result in an immediate boarding.

A port with container cranesObserve and avoid all security zones. Avoid commercial port operation areas, especially those that involve military, cruise line or petroleum facilities. Observe and avoid other restricted areas near dams, power plants, etc. Violators will be perceived as a threat, and will face a quick, determined and severe response.

Ben Franklin Bridge

Do not stop or anchor beneath bridges or in the channel. If you do, expect to be boarded by law enforcement officials.

Young girl looking through binoculars

Keep a sharp eye out for anything that looks peculiar or out of the ordinary. Report all activities that seem suspicious to the local authorities, the Coast Guard and the port or marina security. Do not approach or challenge those acting in a suspicious manner.

Safer boaters help reduce public demands by permitting Marine Patrols to focus their limited resources on Homeland Security.

For more information on security zones and how you can help, call the Coast Guard at 800-368-5647 or go to the USCG website at

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Fishing Tournaments Cancelled in Wake of Oil Spill

In the wake of the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill, many of the top fishing events in the gulf have been postponed or canceled. Those in recreational fishing regard the sport as a key part of the region’s economy. Industry-financed studies estimate that the annual number of day trips on boats to fish in the gulf is 23.5 million, in addition to millions fishing from the shoreline. Although a small percentage of boating anglers compete in offshore tournaments, they are among the biggest spenders.

One of the largest tournaments is the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic sports fishing tournament in the Gulf of Mexico. Operating out of the Sandestin Resort in Destin, Florida, each team pays $5,000 to enter the two-day Emerald Coast competition, and the fees can reach more than $50,000 depending on the categories it competes in.

This tournament is ranked by Marlin magazine as having the gulf’s richest purse, reaching a peak of $1.5 million in 2008, but just five days before the tournament’s start the spreading BP oil spill forced its cancellation. The breaking point came when oil spread into the waters off the Florida Panhandle last week, leading to intermittent closures of a waterway that leads to deeper water. The federal authorities also widened the area closed to fishing.  About half a dozen other key tournaments in June and July have also been canceled.

The World Billfish Series and the International Game Fishing Association, the two major offshore fishing series, choose top competitors from qualifying tournaments around the world. They will have to adjust their process for selecting the gulf fishing teams for their championships.

The Billfish Series championship in December will ge held in Costa Rica. It plans to invite last year’s top competitors in the gulf and will also allow those who just missed qualifying to enter.

The game fishing association runs its championship in Mexico. Dan Jacobs, the tournament director, said it was considering allowing those from the gulf who qualified last year to enter. It may also allow fishing clubs like Emerald Coast to designate representatives.

Previous tournaments that were canceled or postponed stretch from Pensacola, Fla., to Mobile Bay, Ala., Biloxi, Miss, and Venice, La. But the cancellations may benefit other competitions. Several teams unable to take part in gulf tournaments planned to compete in events in Bermuda and elsewhere.

In sport fishing competitions, teams essentially bet on who will catch particular kinds of fish. The prize money is divided among top finishers. In catch-and-release categories, teams document the number of fish they catch. Other winners are determined by the weight of individual fish brought to shore.

The number of anglers competing in the gulf has increased fivefold in the last decade, rising to about 5,000 people a year. The growth has led to more tournaments, including the Emerald Coast competition, which started seven years ago.

Along with devastating the commercial fishing industry in the gulf, the oil spill is crippling the business of offshore recreational sport fishing. Offshore fishing, including tournaments, is worth $1.9 billion a year to the gulf region, based on an American Sportfishing Association’s financed analysis of spending on items like hotels, docking and gear. The group said that millions of dollars have been lost.


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Funny video dramatizing an old maritime joke.

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Volunteer to help in the Gulf.

Enter your zip code to see what kind of volunteers are needed in your area.

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Boating Season in Full Swing

The 2010 boating season is in full swing, it is important to remember the basics of safety when on the water. We are offering some basic boating safety tips, hoping that you will have many fun and safe boating experiences.

Leave Alcohol on Shore: In 2008, alcohol was either a direct or indirect contributing factor in 35 percent of all boating fatalities.

Take a Boating Safety Course: More than 70 percent of all reported boating fatalities in 2008 occurred on boats where the operator had not completed a boating safety course. You may even qualify for a reduced insurance rate if you complete a safety course.

File a Float Plan: The U.S. Coast Guard recommends that you always tell a friend or family member where you plan to go and when you will return. Make it a habit before leaving on any boat trip. The proper officials can be notified promptly if you don’t return when expected.

Be Weather-Wise: A calm day can quickly turn ugly on the water. Keep an eye out for changing weather conditions and stay on top of the forecast while boating. Promptly heed all weather and storm advisories.

Use and Maintain the Right Safety Equipment:

  • Life Jackets and Personal Flotation Devices – State law requires each person on board to have a properly-fitting U.S. Coast Guard approved serviceable life jacket. Also, boats longer than 16 feet must have a throwable Personal Flotation Device.
  • Fire Extinguishers – If your boat has any enclosed compartments or a false floor, you must carry a Coast Guard approved fire extinguisher. Make sure it is charged and accessible.
  • Boat Lights – Always test your boat lights before the boat leaves the dock and carry extra batteries.
  • Emergency Supplies – Keep on board in a floating pouch: maps, flares, and a first aid kit.
  • Anchor – Make sure you have one and can properly use it. Improper anchoring may cause fatal accidents.

Designate an Assistant Skipper: Make sure more than one person on board is familiar with all aspects of your boat’s handling, operations, and other boating safety tips. If the primary navigator is injured or incapacitated in any way, it’s important to make sure someone else can follow the proper boating safety rules to get everyone back to shore.

More information on boating safety is available at

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