Monthly Archives: April 2011

New Bill Could Ease the Pain at the Pump for Boaters

Many  U.S. citizens are complaining about the higher prices for fuel at the pumps. Many are also criticizing our goverment for not doing anything to reverse the apparent trend of raising prices almost daily. Fortunately, at least one State is stepping up to the plate to try and do something to at least assist boaters.  A new bill in the NC House could make it easier for boaters to get a gas tax refund.

House Bill 421, sponsored by Brunswick County Rep Frank Iler, would allow marinas to choose to get a quarterly tax refund from the state.  Boaters would benefit immediately with lower gas prices at marinas.

[Read House Bill 421 (PDF)]

North Carolina charges a road tax on all gasoline sales, but boaters are eligible for an annual refund on that tax since they aren’t using the roads.  Right now, boaters have to save receipts when they purchase gasoline for their boats and file a form when they do their taxes each year.

Ocean Isle Fishing Center owner Rube McMullen thinks the new bill will be a great way to encourage more people to get out on the water fishing and boating.  He says that not many people know about the boat tax refund under the current system, and those who are aware of the process don’t take the time to save receipts and fill out the form.

If the bill is approved, McMullen thinks boaters could save up to 30 cents a gallon on gas at the pump and not have to wait to get the refund once a year.  In this down economy with high gas taxes, every cent can make a difference for residents.

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April Alcohol Incidents Demonstrate Dangers of Boating Under the Influence

Recent incidents on western Lake Erie and Lake Ontario should serve to remind boaters of the dangers of boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

A Coast Guard boarding team from Coast Guard Station Oswego, N.Y., boarded a recreational vessel in Sodus Bay and determined through field sobriety tests and the use of a breathalyzer that the vessel operator was legally intoxicated. The operator was cited for boating under the influence.

Between April 6 and 8, 2011, boatcrews from Coast Guard Station Marblehead, Ohio, were underway conducting patrols near East Harbor and twice came upon vessels that were transiting through no-wake zones at a high rate of speed and failed to stop when ordered to do so. In both situations, Coast Guard law enforcement officers, working with members of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, cited both vessel operators for boating under the influence.

The Ninth Coast Guard District encourages all boaters to have safe fun on the water and reminds boaters to designate a sober operator and never operate a vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Boating Under the Influence is a nation-wide problem with deadly consequences. In the marine environment, stressors such as noise, wind, sun and wave action can accelerate the effects of impairment, increasing the likelihood of a serious boating accident. Furthermore, passengers under the influence are at increased risk of an unexpected fall overboard while the vessel is underway, adrift or at anchor. Many of these unexpected falls overboard result in the death of the victim, usually by drowning.

Federal and state laws prohibit the operation of vessels while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These laws pertain to all vessel operators, including those in paddle craft. In addition, the federal law extends to all foreign vessels operating on U.S. waters, as well as U.S. vessels operating on the high seas.

The Ninth Coast Guard District wants to ensure that every boater understands the risks of boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  • Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents and the leading factor in 16 percent of boating fatalities.
  • Alcohol can cause an inner ear disturbance which can make it impossible for a person who falls into the water to distinguish up from down.

Penalties for BUI can include large fines, revocation of operator privileges, jail time and civil liability.

For more information on Boating Under the Influence prevention, go HERE.

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Talk to Your Marina Now!

During the next few months as we get into the more active months of the 2011 Hurricane season, we will be posting checklists and things you can do to prepare. That said, keeping boaters aware of the need to make early preparations for the upcoming hurricane season is a tough job for the nation’s boat owners. That’s because we’re all human – it only takes of few years after a devastating hurricane before memories start to fade, leading to a little apathy.

With the prediction of an “active” 2011 hurricane season by the report issued by the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project, indicates that there is a 72% chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall. This should give boaters the reason to make one early preparation.

If your hurricane plan is to have your boat hauled and maybe strapped down, talk to your marina staff now about their plans. It’s the one simple, easy step that could lead to a big outcome – whether or not you still have a boat when the season ends on November 30.

Doug Hillman of Sebastian River Marina and Boatyard in Sebastian, Florida, which was recently battered by hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, says it simply, “I need my customers to start contacting me now, because I may be too busy to help them later.”

The Colorado State team also predicts that there is a 48% chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the US East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula. The University also predicts a 47% chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the Gulf Coast from Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville, Texas.

It doesn’t take a major hurricane to damage or sink a boat, especially if you choose to do nothing.

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Make Every Day Earth Day for Boaters

As you are probably aware, last Friday was “Earth Day”. However as responsible boaters we should make every day “Earth Day” by boating responsibly.

Taking Out the Trash: Courtesy Ocean Conservancy.

What does green boating mean to you? We’re not suggesting you trade in your powerboat for a sailboat or a solar powered electric boat, but we would like to encourage you to keeping our waters clean and boatable for your family and future generations. One way you can start to boat in a more green-friendly manner is by following some of the safe boating practices outlined by the Ocean Conservancy’s Good Mate program.

According to the Ocean Conservancy, there are five general ways boaters can protect our oceans and waterways, and conveniently enough, each of the five tips starts with a letter that ends up spelling the word “BOATS”.

Be a leader in your community. Talk about marine litter prevention with members of your boating community, from your neighbor in the next slip to boating clubs and marina managers.

Offer your time. Volunteer in boat and marina cleanup programs, especially at sites only accessible by boat. And participate in Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup, the largest volunteer effort of its kind for the ocean.

Accidents happen. Be prepared with absorbent pads to clean oil or fuel spills. Dish soap doesn’t work. It just causes those liquids to sink and contaminate the bottom.

Take it all back to shore. Don’t allow cigarette butts to go overboard; small but significant, they are the most prevalent marine litter item found during the International Coastal Cleanup. Dispose of them properly onshore.

Set the pace. Recycle everything you can, from beverage containers to propeller-snarling fishing line or plastic bags.

While the above items may be viewed as a bit generic, the Good Mate program goes deeper to outline practical steps you can use today, and the steps are broken down into six manageable categories. There are excellent tips in the Good Mate program, and dozens of suggestions that make it it easy to do your part to make boating a little greener and make our waters a little cleaner.

* Marine Debris
* Vessel Maintenance and Repair
* Vessel Operation
* Oil and Fuel
* Stormwater Runoff
* Sewage Pollution

Follow all or any one of the above links, and do just one thing the next time you boat, or check to see if there are things you already doing that you didn’t realize are helping the environment. Let us know via a comment if you are giving back to the waters that give you a place to boat.

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As We Age We Get Heavier – And So Do Our Boats!

With the continually escalating price of fuel, this topic becomes even more relevant. No matter where we turn, someone is telling us that we are getting fat and need to be thinner! Look at a previous post concerning the USCG increasing its figure for how much an average ferry and excursion boat passenger weighs as a result of the majority of American’s bulging waistlines.

Our boats are also getting heavier! As boats get older, they get heavier and that has a lot to do about being less “sea-kindly” and more “tender” as they get older (and our reflexes get slower – not a particularly good combination.) With fuel getting more expensive, here are some examples of how the boat is getting heavier – and more expensive to operate.

New Stuff
We add things to our boat that weren’t there when we bought it. An ice chest may be added so we don’t have to lug one from the car.  We add an additional ice chest so we can bring more ice so we can stay out longer and catch more fish (hopefully!).  We pile up the cuddy cabin, a.k.a., the boat’s attic, with safety and fishing equipment so we don’t have to lug them from the car.

And don’t forget that new 4-stroke engine you added – so much quieter, so much more fuel efficient and so much heavier per “horse of power”… at least an estimated 20% heavier.  That makes a 400lb 200hp 2-stroke weigh in at nearly 500lbs as a 4-stroke state-of-the-art power plant.

Boats Get “Wrinkles” too
Through tiny cracks in the gel coat, water seeps inside the hull and the boat gets 8 lbs heavier per gallon and it seeps, generally, aft where the boat is naturally heavier per square foot of hull due to the engine making it harder to see over the bow when you gun the engine and start to “dig the hole” that getting up on plane gets you out of. This makes it harder to get on plane, i.e., you have to go faster, to get up on plane since the boat is heavier in the stern than when it was manufactured thereby using more fuel.  It is becomes an endless spiral.

What to do about it? There are only 2 or 3 things that you can do. First, get rid of anything that isn’t essential. How much of a big deal is it to cart just the things you need – not everything you own all the time – from the car or the dock locker that you installed at the foot of your slip? Second, you may want to look into trim tabs – small “flaps” that are installed under your transom that will help you get up onto plane faster. What they save in fuel when “digging out of the hole” will quickly cover their costs. And don’t underestimate the safety factor that you’ll be able to see over the bow sooner. Third, you may need to change your prop! The engine may be plenty powerful enough to move your mini-warehouse but it can’t turn the propeller any faster due to its pitch (angle that it cuts through the water.) Counter-intuitively, you need a smaller prop/tighter pitch, not a larger one, to enable the engine to rotate the shaft more rapidly. Think about the little tires on your trailer keeping pace with the big tires on your truck – they HAVE to move faster to keep pace. Talk to your dock master about who he or she uses when they re-engineer props for customers. Go see them and talk about your options. This is some art, some science and some superstition. Talk it through with people who make a living engineering propellers. It will make a difference.

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National Safe Boating Council Urges Life Jacket Use

Safety organization targets spring breakers and early-season boaters with an early start to their “Wear It!” campaign

The National Safe Boating Council (NSBC) is trying to get a head start on curbing the number of boating accidents and fatalities this year. The NSBC called out the top 10 states for both boating accidents and boating fatalities, and in the same press release encouraged all boaters to always wear a life jacket each and every time they are on the water. While the 2010 numbers are not officially out yet, they looked at last year’s boating death rates in a couple of states recently and the numbers were grim (States Surpass Last Year’s Boating Deaths, 12/4/2010).

Starting Early
It seems like this type of messaging usually heats up just before National Safe Boating Week (May 21 – 27, 2011), which is the week before Memorial Day weekend – the traditional start of the recreational boating season. But perhaps because boating deaths and accidents are up in many states, the NSBC is spreading the word early this year with the knowledge that spring breakers and eager boaters often take to the water early.

Today’s announcement also provided the following tips for safe boating:

1. No matter what activity you have planned — boating, fishing sailing, etc. — always remember to wear a life jacket every time you are on the water.

2. Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard-approved. Double check that your life jacket is appropriate for your favorite boating activities.

3. Take the time to ensure a proper fit.

4. Life jackets meant for adults do not work for children. If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly fitted, child-sized life jackets.

5. On recreational vessels underway, children under 13 years old must wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket unless they are below decks or in an enclosed cabin. Some state laws vary — check with your local Marine Law Enforcement Authorities.

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The Top Boat Names Are Out

It’s that time again when the most popular boat names for 2011 were announced by A trend seems to have emerged from this year’s list that demonstrates how boaters enjoy their time on the water. Boat names like Serenity, Happy Ours, Family Time and Just Chillin dominated this year’s top ten. Does this tell you that boating really provides people with a way to relax and make the most of their time with family and friends? Is your boat name on the list?

Following are the top ten most popular boat names for 2011:

  1. Serenity (In addition to “Serenity” we saw variations such as “Serenity Now!” of Seinfeld fame, as well as clever misspellings including “Sea-Renity”)
  2. Happy Ours (Time was a common theme in boat names this year. Variations on this boat name included “Happy Hours” and “Happy Hour”)
  3. Feelin’ Nauti(This one surprised us when it rose to the top five, as there are so many other popular boat names that include “Nauti” in the name)
  4. Family Time (Another variation of the Time theme that we saw again and again. There were many other boat names that referenced Time that came close to the top ten.)
  5. Liberty (Always a favorite, we also saw variations such as Miss Liberty, Lady Liberty, and Liberty Belle)
  6. Black Pearl(Every boater feels like a pirate sometimes. Just plain “Pearl” was popular as well, but it didn’t crack our top ten)
  7. Andiamo (Let’s Go! A quick internet search will show you that this is not only a popular name for boats, but also for Italian restaurants in America)
  8. Knot On Call(Several boat names used the word “Knot” cleverly, but only this one made the top ten)
  9. High Maintenance(Yes, this describes most boats very accurately)
  10. Just Chillin (Looks like relaxing is on the mind of even the younger generation of boaters)

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Coast Guard Tows Disabled Vessel After E-mail Request

Perhaps it is just another sign of the times but last week the Coast Guard towed a 71-foot fishing boat with three people aboard after their vessel became disabled 100 miles off the coast of Cape May, N.J.

Coast Guard watchstanders at Station Cape May received a call at 12:55 p.m. from The Lobster House Fish House in Cape May reporting they received an e-mail from the crew of the Nordic Viking stating they had become disabled due to engine problems.  They requested Coast Guard assistance due to the deteriorating weather and heavy fog.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous, a 210-foot Medium Endurance Cutter homeported in Cape May, arrived on scene and towed the Nordic Viking and its crew for roughly 16 hours before safely transferring them to a Sea Tow vessel in the vicinity of Cape May Harbor at approximately 9 a.m.

“Commercial fishing is a dangerous job,” said Chief Petty Officer Jeffrey Graham, a Boatswain’s Mate aboard the Vigorous. “We are grateful that we were in the right the place at the right time to render assistance.”

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Rules of the Road Reminder

This recent headline prompted me to send another reminder about following the rules of the road.  

Coast Guard Assists After Sailboat Collides with Container Ship

Coast Guard and Long Beach Lifeguard rescue crews assisted the passengers of a 26-foot sailboat after it collided with a 901-foot container ship in the Port of Los Angeles, at 4:30 a.m., last Friday morning.

Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles – Long Beach Command Center personnel received a call on VHF marine radio channel 16 from the master of the sailboat Free Spirit, reporting a collision with the container ship YM Plum approximately one mile southwest of Angels Gate.

The YM Plum reported no damage to its hull, however, the sailboat suffered minor damage to its stern.

There were no reports of injuries or pollution stemming from the incident, and sailboat was towed to Cabrillo Marina in San Pedro. The cause of the collision is under investigation.

The Coast Guard reminds boaters that the entrances and navigation channels inside the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are considered Narrow Channels as described in Rule 9 of the of the Navigation Rules of the Road.  As such, small boat operators are reminded that all vessels under 65 feet, sailing vessels and vessels engaged in fishing shall not impede the passage of a vessel that can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway. 

 Navigation rules may be found on-line at .





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Coast Guard Weighs In On Overweight Boating Passengers

Americans’ bulging waistlines have pushed the Coast Guard to increase its figure for how much an average ferry and excursion boat passenger weighs.

That number is used to calculate allowable vessel occupancy rates. For example, a boat with a 16,000-pound capacity could handle 100 passengers under the current 160-pound standard weight. But starting Dec. 1, the average  weight per person is jumping to 185 pounds– so, that same vessel will be limited to carrying 86 people.

According to the Coast Guard, it’s the first change in the figure since the early 1960s. Coast Guard spokeswoman Lisa Novak said simply, “People weigh significantly more now.” Roughly one-third of American adults are overweight, according to government statistics.

National Transportation Safety Board investigations in recent years have shown that underestimating the weight of passengers aboard small passenger vessels has contributed to accidents, which have resulted in injuries or deaths.

The new measure doesn’t apply to recreational boats, which are governed by different rules and standards. For example federal law requires a capacities information label — commonly called the “capacity plate” — on motorized monohull boats smaller than 20-feet in length, which specifies “do not exceed” load specifications. The information required on the plate includes the vessel’s maximum horsepower, maximum persons capacity in pounds and maximum weight capacity of persons, motor and gear in pounds.

Even though the new weight standards do not apply to recreational boats, the higher weights should be taken into consideration by recreational boaters before piling in a whole lot of large folks.

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