Monthly Archives: August 2010

NOAA Reopens More than 4,000 Square Miles of Closed Gulf Fishing Area

Courtesy Coast Guard News – 

NOAA has reopened 4,281 square miles of Gulf waters off western Louisiana to commercial and recreational fishing. The reopening was announced after consultation with FDA and under a re-opening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the FDA, and the Gulf states.

On July 18, NOAA data showed no oil in the area. Light sheen was observed on July 29, but none since. Trajectory models show the area is at a low risk for future exposure to oil, and fish caught in the area and tested by NOAA experts have shown no signs of contamination.

“Scientists, food safety experts, members of the fishing industry and local, state, federal officials, are working together every day to ensure that seafood from the Gulf is safe to eat,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “We will remain vigilant and continue to monitor and test seafood in reopened waters.”

Between July 26 and July 29, NOAA sampled the area for both shrimp and finfish, including mackerel and snapper. Sensory analyses of 41 samples and chemical analyses of 125 specimens that were composited into 14 samples followed the methodology and procedures in the re-opening protocol, with sensory analysis finding no detectable oil or dispersant odors or flavors, and results of chemical analysis well below the levels of concern.

At its closest point, the area to be reopened is about 185 miles west of the Deepwater/BP wellhead. The entire area is heavily fished by fishermen targeting reef fish, menhaden and shrimp.

NOAA will continue to take samples for testing from the newly re-opened area, and the agency has also implemented dockside sampling to test fish caught throughout the Gulf by commercial fishermen. To view the fact sheet released today on the administration-wide effort to ensure Gulf seafood safety, click here.

Fishing closures remain the first line of defense to prevent contaminated seafood from entering the marketplace. NOAA continues to work closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Gulf states to ensure seafood safety. NOAA and FDA are working together on broad-scale seafood sampling that includes sampling seafood from inside and outside the closure area, as well as dockside and market-based sampling.

The closed area now covers 48,114 square miles, or about 20 percent of the federal waters in the Gulf, which was 37 percent at its height. On July 22, NOAA reopened 26,388 square miles of Gulf waters off of the Florida Peninsula, and on August 10 opened 5,144 square miles off the Florida Panhandle.

NOAA will continue to evaluate the need for fisheries closures and will re-open closed areas as appropriate.

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Cell Phone vs. VHF Radio

VHF RadioVHF Handheld radioThe Coast Guard does not advocate cell phones as a substitute for the regular maritime radio distress and safety systems recognized by the Federal Communications Commission and the International Radio Regulations — particularly VHF maritime radio. However, cell phones can have a place on board as an added measure of safety.


Cell phones generally cannot provide ship to ship safety communications or communications with rescue vessels. If you make a distress call on a cell phone, only the one party you call will be able to hear you.

Most cell phones are designed for a land-based service. Their coverage offshore is limited, and may change without notice. Most everyone has experienced communications out to about 25 miles at times. Yet at other times they could not get through to a land based phone inside of 10 miles from shore. This might well create a communications problem in the event of an emergency at sea.

Locating a cell caller is hard to do. If you don’t know precisely where you are, the Coast Guard will have difficulty finding your location on the water.


Cell phones do provide the convenience of simple, easy-to-use, inexpensive, private and generally reliable telephone service to home, office, automobile or other locations. Placing a shore-to-ship call to someone with a cell telephone is especially convenient. However, you usually cannot use your cell phone outside the United States, and you may need a special agreement with your carrier to use it outside that carrier’s local service area.

VHF marine radios were designed with safety in mind. If you are in distress, calls can be received not only by the Coast Guard but by ships which may be in position to give immediate assistance. A VHF marine radio also helps ensure that storm warnings and other urgent marine information broadcasts are received. The Coast Guard announces these broadcasts on VHF channel 16. Timely receipt of such information may save your life. Additionally, your VHF marine radio can be used anywhere in the United States or around the world.

On VHF radios, however, conversations are not private and individual boats cannot be assigned a personal phone number. If you are expecting a call, channel 16 or the marine operator’s working channel must be continually monitored.


Actually there is no comparison between cell phones and VHF marine radio. They normally provide different services. The cell phone is best used for what it is, an on-board telephone — a link with shore-based telephones. A VHF marine radio is intended for communication with other ships or marine installations — and a powerful ally in time of emergency. If you have a cell telephone, by all means take it aboard. If you are boating very far off shore, a cell phone is no substitute for a VHF radio. But, if you are within cell range, it may provide an additional means of communication.

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Boaters Don’t Feel Need to Update Navigational Aids

A recent survey revealed that 64 percent of boaters are not concerned enough about the accuracy of their navigational aids to seek out or make updates, according the Alliance for Safe Navigation, which released the results from a survey of 7,570 recreational boaters.

The alliance is composed of several boating industry companies that joined forces last spring to promote the importance of up-to-date navigational information. The group, which is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, consists of BoatU.S., Jeppesen, the United States Power Squadrons, OceanGrafix and the Sea Tow Foundation for Boating Safety and Education.

The survey was intended to measure the use and awareness of available updates to navigational tools. It revealed a general lack of concern among recreational boaters regarding the accuracy of their navigational data. While most boaters use aids such as GPS, electronic charts and paper charts, 79 percent fail to track updates issued weekly by the United States Coast Guard that maintain the accuracy of their navigational aids. These updates, called Local Notice to Mariners, contain information about changes such as shifting shoals, moving buoys and newly submerged obstructions and can be easily accessed by boaters. Just go to the link above and click on the area you plan on boating in to read the latest USCG Notice to Mariners for your location.

“Unfortunately, these survey results indicate that boaters simply are not aware of how often conditions change and how those changes can affect their safety,” Ron Walz of OceanGrafix, a founding member of the alliance, said in a release. “The truth is that waters do change—and inaccurate chart information can turn a safe and enjoyable cruise into a dangerous situation.”

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Coast Guard Warns of Unapproved EPIRB Batteries

Stick to manufacturer sanctioned service, or your Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) could stop working.

The Coast Guard reported that one of its districts has received at least three reports regarding unapproved replacements of 406 MHz EPIRB batteries by servicing companies that have no association with the EPIRB manufacturer. These unauthorized battery installations would likely result in a failure of this critical item of lifesaving equipment, and as such are not in compliance with the operational readiness requirements of 46 CFR, the Coast Guard stated.

The Coast Guard reported that every approved (i.e., accepted by the FCC) EPIRB is tested during its approval process using batteries specified by the manufacturer. Approved EPIRB’s come with a user’s manual, which describes battery maintenance and replacement procedures. In order for the EPIRB to remain within the conditions of its approval, the manufacturer’s instructions in the user’s manual must be adhered to.

To ensure that replacement batteries are of the same type with which the EPIRB was approved, and are correctly installed, manufacturers typically specify that battery replacements be done only by the manufacturer or a manufacturer approved shop.

Any modification or changes to an EPIRB must be made in accordance with the manufacturer. The use of alternative replacement parts or batteries is prohibited and may prevent the device from meeting lifesaving requirements, the Coast Guard stated.

Accordmg to the Coast Guard, EPIRB owners and servicing facilities must be aware of the potential for equipment failure stemming from any EPIRB modification or unauthorized battery replacement.

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Boater Guilty in Accident Injuring Diver

STUART, Fla. — A Florida judge has ruled that a doctor violated navigational rules during a 2009 boating accident that severed a scuba diver’s legs.

A Martin County Judge sentenced the emergency room doctor last Wednesday to six months probation on a misdemeanor charge.

The diver from Palm Beach Gardens was struck by the doctor’s boat propellers while diving in January 2009 about 4 miles north of the St. Lucie Inlet.

The diver testified that he had the proper “Diver Down”  flag displayed and further tried to warn the approaching boat by waving a spear gun above his head on the surface, but no one acknowledged his signal. He said he tried to swim out of the way of the boat, but its propeller struck his tank and legs.

So what do we take away from this horrible news report?

You may run across boats engaged in diving operations almost anywhere, so keep a sharp lookout and scan the water ahead of you.

Alpha flag and diver down flag.Boats engaged in diving should show a rigid replica of the internationally recognized “Alpha Flag”. This is a blue and white flag with a swallow tail. Additionally, the traditionally used “Divers Down” flag should be flown from the boat or from a float over the divers. This red flag with a diagonal white stripe should be easily seen on the water.

Divers underwater.If you spot either or both of these flags, keep well clear (at least 100 to 200 feet depending upon state law) from the vessel and diver down flag, if floating. Also watch carefully for bubbles breaking the surface. It could indicate that a diver has strayed from the area and may not be near the dive boat.

In Florida where this accident took place, the  law requires display of a divers-down flag anytime someone is diving or snorkeling. The size of a divers-down flag displayed on vessels must be 20 inches by 24 inches, and a stiffener is required to keep the flag unfurled. Dive flags carried on floats may still be 12 by 12. Also, dive flags on vessels must be displayed at a high point on the vessel so that the flag’s visibility is not obstructed.

Divers must make reasonable efforts to stay within 300 feet of a divers-down flag on open waters (all waterways other than rivers, inlets, or navigation channels) and within 100 feet of a flag within rivers, inlets, or navigation channels.

Vessel operators must make a reasonable effort to maintain a distance of at least 300 feet from divers-down flags on open waters and at least 100 feet from flags on rivers, inlets, or navigation channels. Vessels approaching divers-down flags closer than 300 feet in open water and 100 feet in rivers, inlets, and navigation channels must slow to idle speed .

Divers shall not, except in case of emergency, display the divers-down flag in an area which would constitute a navigational hazard.

You should research the laws of the State in which you are diving or operating around divers for the specifics of flags required and the operating distances from those flags.

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Hybrid Boat For Carbon-Free Cruising

The “Greenline 33 Hybrid” is the world’s first production hybrid (diesel-electric) and solar powered boat. Designed by Seaway, its causing a new wave of emissions-free boating in Europe.  A super-displacement hull allows it to move at higher speeds with less energy while operating on its’ hybrid system.  With the flip of a switch, it moves between electric and diesel drive. Cruising slow at speeds of 4-5 knots, the Greenline can drive in electric mode for 20 miles on a 240 Ah 7 kW lithium battery.  A this speed, the solar roof can produce the same amount of energy that the boat consumes, we now have perpetual boating.

Top speed is set at 10 knots, it utilizes a VW Marine TDI 75-4 diesel engine, which also allows the generator to charge up the batteries. The solar roof, equipped with 6 standard photovoltaic solar panels protected by a 3.2 mm glass shield, provides electricity for driving and to power appliances inside the boat.  With a day of sunlight, the panels can produce up to 2 kW of electric power and recharge the batteries to 80%.

A comparison of fuel consumption by Seaway Group Slovenia (makers of the new boat) show that the Greenline 33 is on par with a 33 foot sailboats for the amount of diesel and CO2 emission in kg used per boating season.

This $300,000 USD hybrid is completely emission-free when in electric mode, and will burn on average 4 times less fossil fuels per nautical mile than comparable planing hulls. Next time you cruise into a marina’s port, with the Greenline 33 you’ll be coming in without smoke, noise, and wake. Something no other powerboat can claim.

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BoatUS Foundation’s Top Picks For On-the-Water Weather Services

marine weather pic Hollywood Beach, FLANNAPOLIS, Md., August 12, 2010 – On the afternoon of July 25th, a fast moving storm packing 70 mph winds, rain and lighting swept across the Chesapeake Bay. Over the next two hours, US Coast Guard Sector Baltimore, MD, received 37 calls from mariners in distress. Unfortunately many boaters and anglers, unaware of the supercell’s fury, were caught unprepared. But it didn’t have to be this way.

Today there are dozens of hi-tech ways to receive up-to-the-minute weather information aboard your boat. The BoatUS Foundation recently reviewed 28 products and services to see which provided mariners with the best information and has issued its recommendations for its top “picks.”

“Sometimes bad weather can approach with few visual signs,” said Program Manager David Carter. “Having these resources available can complement your VHF radio’s weather broadcast.”

The review, which covered satellite and phone-based weather services for the coastal inshore and inland boater, included free cellular phone text messaging services to fee-based subscription services that display weather information on a chartplotter. Each weather service includes hardware, such as a standard flip phone, smart phone, computer or chartplotter, as well as the software designed to present the information.

Foundation staff limited their focus to the actual content and depth of weather information provided. This included the ability to deliver local, land-based weather information (current conditions such as temperature, wind or barometric readings), hazardous weather warnings, radar imagery, land and marine forecasts, and NOAA buoy reports.

The BoatUS Foundation’s weather service “picks” are:

Best Free Flip Phone Option: NOAA’s
Best iPhone App: MarineCast
Best Blackberry App: Mobile Mariner
Best Free App: WeatherBug
Satellite Weather: XM WX Weather

To view the full report and details on each pick’s features, Foundation Findings #49 – Weather to Go, go to

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Fueling Safety – It Could Save Your Life

Proper fueling procedures are very important in preventing onboard fires. Gasoline vapors are heavier than air and can spread rapidly into enclosed spaces. You should check the bilges and all closed compartments for gasoline vapors. The sniff test is the most effective method for detecting fuel leaks.

Pre-Fuel Tips

  1. Check all fuel lines, replace any that appear to have cracks and tighten all fuel line connections. Also make sure the ground wire between fill pipe on through hull fittings and built in fuel tank is connected and not corroded. Check these on a regular basis.
  2. Before you start fueling, turn everything off. That includes engines, electrical equipment, extinguish any flames, such as your cooking stove or oil lamp, and shut all fuel valves. Do not leave the blower system used to vent the engine compartment and bilges running. Best is to turn your battery control switch to off.
  3. Close everything. This includes hatches, doors, companionways, ports, windows and any opening fumes could enter. You want your boat sealed tight so no fumes can enter.
  4. Fuel in daylight if possible. If you must fuel at night, use a flashlight. Do not use any light, which could cause a spark.
  5. Do not smoke or have anyone near you or your boat who is smoking. This is one of the quickest ways to blow yourself up.
  6. Double check everything is off and closed.

Now you can start fueling:

  1. Remove all portable tanks from boat and place them on a stable dock or the ground.
  2. Remember to first touch the spout to the fuel tank or fuel pipe to discharge any static electricity. Do this when fueling your car or any other vehicle.
  3. Now you can start. Remember to prevent spills and pour slowly.
  4. Do not completely fill any tank. Allow room for the fuel to expand and not overflow. Fuel will expand, especially in warm weather.
  5. When done, put the fuel cap on, and make sure it is tight so no vapors can escape. Remove the hose or jerry jug from the area.
  6. Wipe up any spilled fuel. Make sure to allow the rag to completely dry and air out. Never put it in the boat or water. Properly dispose of it.
  7. Remember to store fuel in a safety-approved storage tank.

Before Starting Your Engine:

  1. Open all hatches, doors, companionways, ports, windows, and any other openings. This is the first step in making sure no fumes are in the boat.
  2. Do not use any electrical equipment yet.
  3. Use your nose to smell for gas or oil vapors. Your nose is your best defense.
  4. Vapors have a tendency to sink to low spots so stick your nose in the bilge and engine compartment and sniff.
  5. Now start the bilge blowers. Especially after fueling let them run for 10 minutes. And a minimum of five minutes before starting if you did not fuel the boat. During this period, check the blower exhaust for any smell of gas or diesel vapors.
  6. After the blowers have been running for a period of time, double check the bilge and engine compartment again. If your nose gives you the all clear, now start your engine(s).
  7. Also consider installing a gas vapor detection/alarm system as well as a carbon monoxide detection/alarm system.

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Taking Steps to Prevent Drowning

Each year in the U.S., hundreds of people drown or are hospitalized for injuries that occur while underwater, some of which result in brain damage. Here are some facts from a Department of Health study related to drowning:

  • Children under age five and teenagers had the highest drowning rates.
  • Males were six times more likely to drown than females.
  • Drownings can occur in both large and small amounts of water: lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, oceans, pools, spas, as well as bathtubs, buckets, drainage ditches, wells and sewers.
  • The youngest children usually drowned in pools at home by falling into the water, and people of all other ages most often drowned in lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and the ocean.
  • Drownings were associated with all kinds of watercraft: motorboats, canoes, rowboats, rafts, paddleboats, sailboats and kayaks. Ninety percent of people who drowned while boating were not wearing life jackets or personal flotation devices.
  • About 40% of people who drowned were alone in the water at the time of the incident.
  • About half of all drownings of people over age 14 were associated with alcohol and/or drug use.


  • Make sure every baby, child, teen and adult wears a personal flotation device (PFD), such as a life vest. The vest should have a Coast Guard approved label, fit snugly and be in good condition.
  • For younger children, look for such features as head support and a strap between the legs. Never use plastic rings or water wings in place of a personal flotation device.
  • Choose a PFD that you are willing to wear, because it cannot help you if it stays in the boat.
  • Be aware of rivers, streams and channels that have low-head dams and waterfalls. Low-head dams are typically man-made structures, six inches to ten feet high, across a river or stream. They can present a special danger, because very strong backwash currents, which may pull people in, are present at the base of the dam or waterfall.
  • Obtain information about water and weather conditions in advance when boating in unfamiliar areas. Many drownings occur in bodies of water that are not well known by the victim.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol, whether you are a boat passenger or operator.

Drowning Can Be Prevented

  • Never swim alone. Always swim with a “buddy.” Keep an eye on each other. Parents should make sure they are watching their children, even when other adults or a lifeguard is present.
  • Don’t drink alcohol if you are planning to swim or go boating. Alcohol slows reaction time and affects balance and judgment.
  • Use extra caution if you have a medical condition, such as a seizure disorder, diabetes or a heart problem that can cause disability or loss of consciousness while in the water. A change in medication or skipping medication can have disastrous results.
  • Be aware that in natural bodies of water, swift current, deep water and/or a sudden drop-off can get you in trouble, even if you are a good swimmer.
  • Recognize a drowning person when you see one. Many people think that if someone is not calling for help, that person is not in trouble. Remember that when someone is drowning, he or she is trying to breathe, not speak. It may appear that the person is splashing or waving. Typically, the person thrashes in the water with arms extended, attempting to keep his or her head above water. This happens VERY FAST.. in as few as 20 seconds or as long as a minute. Any delay can be fatal.

Pool Owners

  • Make pools inaccessible to children, unless an adult is directly supervising them. Proper fencing should be constructed in accordance with your State’s Building Code. It is recommended that a house not be considered as the fourth side of the fence if it has an opening that gives children access when adults are not present. Use self-closing, self-latching gates as part of the fencing. Make sure all the equipment (fencing, hardware) is maintained and in good condition.
  • Be aware that solar covers may delay the discovery of a submerged child. When checking a pool for a missing child, make sure the cover is completely removed.
  • Make pool safety a priority. Many drownings occur when people are not aware of the responsibilities of owning a swimming pool.

Knowing the actual signs of drowning will help save lives. Hear why many people don’t know the true signs of someone who is drowning.

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NMMA releases survey of BP oil spill impact on boating businesses

Even though the President, on a recent visit, announced  that the Gulf  is open for business, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) recently released findings from an online survey of member boat, engine and accessory manufacturers on the effects of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on the recreational marine industry. NMMA surveyed 178 member chief executives in late June through July.

“Results from this member survey offer a timely and realistic picture of how the oil spill has had, and likely will continue to have, a negative impact on recreational marine manufacturers,” NMMA President Thom Dammrich said in a release. “The effects of this spill, both real and anticipated, are being felt by more than half of the manufacturing businesses in our industry.”

Survey findings include:

  • Three out of five recreational marine manufacturers have been affected by the oil spill.
  • Nearly four out of five surveyed companies anticipate some effect from the spill on their business throughout the remainder of the year.
  • 76 percent of surveyed companies had forecasted sales growth in 2010 prior to the spill.
  • 70 percent of surveyed companies have downwardly revised their 2010 sales projection as a direct result of the spill.
  • 64 percent of surveyed companies downwardly revised their projections by 5-20 percent.
  • 68 percent of surveyed companies were told that a cancellation was directly due to the spill.

To view the complete NMMA oil spill survey results. Click Here

“An estimated 11 percent of total U.S. new marine products are sold within the areas of the Gulf Coast affected by the oil spill,” Dammrich said in the release. “Findings from our survey point to a widespread effect on marine manufacturers both in and beyond the Gulf Coast. While not an insurmountable setback as our industry awaits recovery from the economic recession, the oil spill’s long-term impact on marine businesses in the Gulf—and nationally—is yet to be determined.”

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill began with an April 20 explosion and fire on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean Ltd. and leased by BP PLC.

About NMMA: National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is the leading association representing the recreational boating industry in North America. NMMA member companies produce more than 80 percent of the boats, engines, trailers, accessories and gear used by boaters and anglers throughout the U.S. and Canada. The association is dedicated to industry growth through programs in public policy advocacy, market statistics and research, product quality assurance and promotion of the boating lifestyle. For more information, visit

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