Monthly Archives: November 2010

Man Gets 18 Months for Hoax Distress Call to Coast Guard

Back in September we posted an article about a man in Islamorada, FL, who confessed to placing multiple calls over Channel 16. Well they are at it again, this time in Detroit, MI.

Most people in America are familiar with 911 and know that a call to 911 is how to summon help in an emergency. Most people also know that making a false 911 call is illegal. Penalties for making a false 911 call have been increased, for example early this year the State of Illinois passed a law that goes into effect on January 1, 2011 imposing greater penalties on individuals found guilty of making a false 911 call.

What most people might not realize is that a false distress call to the U.S. Coast Guard is also a crime. In the boating world a distress call on marine VHF radio channel 16 is the same a placing a 911 call via cell or landline phone.

Recently a Detroit resident was convicted and sentenced in federal court for making a false distress call to the U.S. Coast Guard, according to United States Attorney Barbara McQuade and Captain Stephen Torpey, Chief of Incident Management for the Ninth Coast Guard District.

Andre D. Cheatom, 19 years old, was sentenced to 18 months incarceration, supervised release for three years, a special assessment of $100.00, and ordered to pay $14,302 in restitution for knowingly and willfully causing the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help was needed, in violation of Title 14, U.S. Code, section 88(c).

“When members of the Coast Guard respond to a hoax call, they are diverted from people in actual distress,” McQuade said. “We take a hard line on these cases because we want to deter people from making hoax calls.”

“I am concerned that there are people willing to risk the lives of other boaters who might be in legitimate need of rescue or assistance, as well as needlessly endangering response crews, by knowingly making a false distress call,” said Captain Stephen Torpey, Chief of Incident Management for the Ninth Coast Guard District. “This conviction demonstrates the lengths we will go to ensure those who make hoax calls are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The U.S. Coast Guard reminds boaters to use their marine radios responsibly.

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Taking the “Search” Out of Search and Rescue

To address the limitations of the current communications system, the National Distress and Response System (NDRS), the Coast Guard has implemented a major systems acquisition program entitled Rescue 21.

By harnessing global positioning and cutting-edge communications technology, Rescue 21 enables the Coast Guard to perform all missions with greater agility and efficiency. The new system will close 88 known coverage gaps in coastal areas of the United States, enhancing the safety of life at sea. The system’s expanded system frequency capacity enables greater coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, as well as other federal, state and local agencies and first responders.

When completed, this vital major systems acquisition will provide an updated, leading-edge Very High Frequency – Frequency Modulated (VHF-FM) communications system, replacing the National Distress Response System installed and deployed during the 1970s. Rescue 21 will cover coastline, navigable rivers and waterways in the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico. By replacing outdated legacy technology with a fully integrated system, Rescue 21 provides the Coast Guard with upgraded tools and technology to protect the nation’s coasts and rescue mariners at sea.

Rescue 21 -- How it works...

Rescue 21 will replace a wide range of aging, obsolete radio communications equipment to include:

  • Consoles at Coast Guard Sectors and Stations.
  •  All remote transceiver sites (antenna towers), as well as the network connecting them to the facilities above.

General Dynamics C4 Systems of Scottsdale, AZ, has been hired as the production contractor to replace the Coast Guard’s outdated system in the Contiguous 48 States and Hawaii. Due to the unique logistical and operational needs in Alaska, the Coast Guard has assumed the role of system integrator for deployment to sectors in Alaska. In August 2007, the Coast Guard commissioned the Rescue 21 Project Resident Office Alaska to spearhead the efforts.

A quantum leap forward

Rescue 21 revolutionizes how the Coast Guard uses command, control, and communications for all missions within the coastal zone. The system:

  • where feasible, incorporates direction-finding equipment to improve locating mariners in distress
  • improves interoperability amongst federal, state, and local agencies
  • enhances clarity of distress calls
  • allows simultaneous channel monitoring
  • upgrades the playback and recording feature of distress calls
  • reduces coverage gaps for coastal communications and along navigable rivers and waterways
  • supports Digital Selective Calling for registered users
  • in the Contiguous 48 States, provides portable towers for restoration of communications during emergencies or natural disasters

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Do Not Try This at Home!

This amazing trick was done by trained professionals. Do Not Try at Home.

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Disqualified Angler Found Guilty

Back in June of this year we posted an article which described a fishing tournament with a not so happy ending.

The crewmember who cost his fishing team an almost $1 million prize earlier this year was found guilty in North Carolina of fishing without a license.

Peter Wann was ordered to pay $133 in court costs and he received a 10-day prison sentence suspended for 12 months of probation.

According to the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament’s official website, the Hatteras, N.C.-based boat Citation was disqualified by the tournament’s board of directors despite landing what would have been a tournament record 883-pound blue marlin and thinking they had won almost $1 million.

Andy Thomasson of Richmond caught the marlin June 14, the first day of the tournament. But tournament organizers were able to confirm that Wann, of Alexandria, had purchased his fishing license while on his way to the weigh station after the fish was caught.

Wann failed a polygraph test about the incident and North Carolina officials cited him for fishing without a license. Tournament directors spent three days consulting with the state’s attorney general and other state officials before deciding to withhold the money.

The crew of the Citation has filed a lawsuit in Dare County Superior Court alleging breach of contract. An injunction is in place that prohibits awarding the billfish prize money until the case is settled. I guess if I were in second place to the disqualified angler, I would not be a happy camper with this injunction.

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New Law Now Requires PFDs to be Worn on Small Boats

boating safety course pfd

 New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation reminds boaters of the dangers of cold water when venturing out on small boats. State law now requires that anyone on the water on any watercraft less than 21 feet in length – from November 1st to May 1st – must wear a personal flotation device (PFD).

Wearing a life jacket is the single best way boaters can prepare for the unexpected. Life jackets are critical to surviving cold-water boating accidents and could significantly reduce boating-related fatalities if worn during the colder months of the year.

In New York State this year, seven boaters who were not wearing life jackets lost their lives in cold-water accidents. Far too many boaters and paddlers underestimate the potentially dire consequences of sudden unexpected cold water immersion. Particularly in the cold weather months, a life jacket can mean the difference between life and death.

Boaters, paddlers, hunters and fishers venturing out during the colder months should dress for cold water and consider wearing insulating clothing like a wet or dry suit. You should always file a float plan and carry a VHF radio, cell phone in a water-proof bag, flares, light and a whistle or similar sound producing devices. Immersion in cold water, considered anything less than 68 degrees Fahrenheit, can induce an uncontrollable gasp reflex leading to the inhalation of water, cardiac arrest, the loss of swimming ability and grip strength, unconsciousness, hypothermia and potentially death. These risks are only compounded by the absence of other boaters on the water at this time of year, reducing the likelihood that others will come to the aid of a boater in distress.

PFDs must also be worn year-round by all children under 12 years of age on any boat less than 65 feet in length, unless within a fully enclosed cabin; by anyone engaging in towed activities, such as water-skiers or wake-boarders; and while on board a personal watercraft. Otherwise, a wearable life jacket must be available for every passenger on board every vessel, including non-motorized watercraft such as canoes and kayaks.

For more information about boating safety and marine recreation in New York State, visit

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Design A Better Life Jacket And Win $5,000

The BoatUS Foundation’s “Innovation in Life Jacket Design Competition” is once again calling for out-of-the-box life jacket design entries.

Five years ago, the Innovation in Life Jacket Design Competition resulted with the introduction of several new and innovative life jacket designs to the public, the US Coast Guard and recreational boating industry. Since then, the interest in new, more comfortable designs has not faded. While current models of life jackets save lives every day, many are still bulky and uncomfortable, leaving boaters reluctant to wear them. 

So the BoatUS Foundation, along with Underwriters Laboratories and the Personal Floatation Device Manufacturer’s Association, decided another competition was necessary to keep the momentum going to seek out the newest technologies and design innovations that could rethink a 100-year-old design.

“We all have the mindset of what a life jacket looks like — and that’s what we need to be challenging,” said Underwriters Laboratories’ Joe Waters. Entries that embrace new technologies and non-traditional thinking are being encouraged from armchair inventors to high school science clubs and collegiate design programs. There are no rules regarding types of materials to be used or whether the design meets any current US standards. The deadline to enter is February 1, 2011.

The entries will be judged based on four criteria: wearability, reliability, cost and innovation. “Wearability” relates to the level of comfort. “Reliability” will take into account the chances for potential failure, while “cost” will look at the affordability of the design.  “Innovation” will take into account originality or the employment of new technologies.

In early February, video of all entries will be posted online at the BoatUS Foundation’s channel at, and the public will be asked to select a group of finalists. The finalist entries will then be reviewed by a special panel of judges convened at the International Boating and Water Safety Summit in Savannah, Georgia, on March 6-9, 2011, and the winner announced. A $5,000 cash award goes to the winning designer.

“We believe that out-of-the-box thinking may lead to the next generation of life-saving devices,” said BoatUS Foundation President Ruth Wood.  “We anticipate designs that will be creative and unconventional.”

To enter, video footage of an actual working prototype must be submitted by providing a URL link to the video (no actual prototypes are submitted). The video must clearly demonstrate how the design floats a person in the water. For more information on how to enter and for contest rules, visit You may also contact Chris Edmonston at 703-823-9550, x8356

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New Life Jacket Law Pending in New Jersey

boating safety course pfd

A bill pending in the New Jersey Assembly would require that from Nov. 1 to May 1 those on any boat 21 feet and under to wear a life jacket while aboard the boat, either under way, moored or at anchor.

The bill, A3098, sponsored by Assemblyman Samuel D. Thompson of (R-Middlesex), recognizes the increased danger of cold water and cites the fact that there would be fewer potential rescuers around during those months. The measure awaits action by the Law and Public Safety Committee. It follows a similar law in New York State.

As the temperature drops, many boaters put their vessels away until spring. But those who still venture out, hunters and anglers among them, must pay special attention to safety.

Wearing a life jacket is a must. If you fall in, lower temperatures impair your ability to swim. Hypothermia can kill, but many cold-water deaths are linked to drowning, according to a Coast Guard study. Victims can die from drowning before hypothermia gets a chance to kill them.

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