Monthly Archives: June 2011

GPS Constellation Expansion Completed

Once again I report on the status of the fine tuning and ever-developing GPS system which, unless you have been living under a rock, everyone is now aware of. Perhaps you might not be aware of the continued fine tuning of the system, but at least to the fact that GPS does exist. You will find it in boats, cars, planes, bicycles, four wheelers and just about anything else that moves from one place to another. It comes as fix mounted devices, handheld devices, computers and now even smartphones and tablet devices.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago my “techie” wife acquired a Galaxy Tab. It has a built-in GPS and access to Google maps. While testing it at the electronic store we looked up a restaurant we were interested in and found directions either by car, bus or foot. When we got home, it automatically knew we had changed location and the cursor showed where the device was currently. Even though its disclaimer reads “accurate within 6 meters,” I could swear the cursor was pointing directly in our living room window.

And…the accuracy keeps getting better. In my opinion it has always been more accurate than has been advertised but I think that is/was a ploy to keep the user more aware and perhaps encourage them to pay more attention.

However, as emphasised in every course on navigation, the prudent navigator should NOT rely on a single source of navigation information. There will come the time when (not if) your GPS will fail. If may be caused by electrical problems, dead batteries, or even more ominous, the military can shut it down or restrict access at any time. With that in mind you should seriously consider taking the Nautical Know How Navigation Course. This will take you through all the steps to learn to navigation the old fashion way. All you need is a chart and some simple navigation tools.

The 50th Space Wing at SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colorado has successfully completed a two-phase Global Positioning System constellation expansion known as “Expandable 24” yesterday June 15, 2011. This expansion increased global GPS coverage and is now providing civil, military and commercial GPS users with a more robust signal and a higher probability of signal acquisition in terrain challenged environments.

The GPS constellation consists of 24 operational slots positioned within six equally spaced orbital planes surrounding the earth. This plane/slot scheme and enhanced satellite placement ensure GPS users receive the most accurate navigation data at any time, at any place around the world.

Expandable 24 is a U.S. Strategic Command commander directed initiative, executed by the 2nd Space Operations Squadron, to reposition six satellites in the current GPS constellation. Given the strength and number of  satellites in the current constellation, Air Force Space Command was in a unique position to enact this revolutionary strategy to benefit global users. AFSPC acted on this opportunity to increase the robustness of satellite availability and overall signal in space performance by expanding three of the baseline 24 constellation slots.

Phase one of Expandable-24 began in January 2010 when 2 SOPS performed maneuvers to reposition three GPS satellites, one of which took 351 days to maneuver. The last of the satellites completed repositioning on 18 January 2011. Phase two began in August 2010 when 2 SOPS maneuvered the final three satellites to their new locations and completed today when the last satellite arrived at its new location.

“This marks another successful milestone in our continued commitment to modernize our weapon system,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Grant, 2nd Space Operations Squadron commander. “We take great pride in providing GPS performance that exceeds our requirements for the system, which we have been doing since 1995.”

“From the planning phases in the fall of 2009 to its completion today, 2 SOPS operators, engineers, analysts and support personnel have done an incredible job in making the Expandable 24 GPS initiative a reality,” said Maj. Benjamin Barbour, assistant director of operations. “It’s an exciting time to be a part of GPS. This is a huge milestone and everyone in the squadron is excited about the accomplishment and proud to have played a part in continuing GPS’s position as the ‘gold standard’ for global navigation space systems.”

The GPS constellation has now attained the most optimal geometry in its 42 year history, maximizing GPS coverage for all users worldwide.

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Top Ten Recreational Boating Tips

Boat at the dock

Recreational boating activity soars during warm weather months, and so do boating incidents and injuries. According to the U.S. Coast Guard there are almost 13 million registered recreational boats inthe United States. U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that the vast majority of reported incidents involved factors that were within the control of boat operators.

Nearly half of all fatal accidents occur over the summer months. Safe boating should be the aim of all boaters and comes from active participation in ongoing education and training, as well as experience. Understanding and obeying navigational rules and safety procedures has proven to help reduce injuries and property damage.

Top Ten Recreational Boating Safety Tips

  1. Always wear a life jacket and insist that your crew and guests do the same. Approximately 75 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned in 2009. Eighty-fourpercent of those who drowned were not wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) or life jacket, and 7 out of 10 boaters who drowned were on vessels less than 21 feet. Always have an adequate supply of personal flotation devices aboard. Make sure that children are wearing appropriate life jackets that fit correctly. Drowning was the reported cause of death for approximately 50 percent of the children under the age of 13 who perished in boating accidents in 2009. In cold water areas, life jackets are even more important. A fall into water colder than 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) can induce “cold shock” – a sudden gasping for air that can increase the risk of drowning, especially in older people.
  2. Never drink alcohol while boating. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, and the leading factor in 16 percent of all boating deaths in 2009. Stay sharp on the water by leaving the alcohol on dry land.
  3. Operator errors account for 70 percent of boating accidents – take a boating safety course. Eighty-six percent of all reported boating fatalities in 2009 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. To find a course go to
  4. Stay in control by taking charge of your safety and that of your passengers. Boaters between the ages of 36 and 55 accounted for the highest rate of accidents, injuries and boating fatalities in 2009. Don’t forget that safety begins with you.
  5. Understand and obey boating safety recommendations and navigational rules.Imagine the mayhem that would result if car drivers disregarded highway traffic laws. Know and understand boating safety procedures and rules of navigation before taking to the water, and practice them without fail.
  6. Operate at a safe speed and always maintain a careful lookout. Overall, operator inattention, operator inexperience, excess speed and improper outlook were the leading contributing factors in all reported accidents. Know your boat’s limitations as well as your own. Take note of visibility, traffic density and the proximity of navigation hazards like shoals, rocks or floating objects. Don’t invite a collision by going faster than is prudent.
  7. Check the weather forecast.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.
  8. Hypothermia is a significant risk factor for injury or even death while boating. Cold water accelerates the onset and progression of hypothermia since body heat can be lost 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air. The closer you are to rescue support, the better your chances are. Therefore, an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon or Global Positioning System interfaced Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB/GPIRB), and/or a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), is recommended especially when boating in waters that are below 59ºF. These safety devices should be considered when boating in waters of any temperature. Boaters can be at risk of hypothermia in warm waters as well, where expected time of survival can be as little as two hours in waters as warm as 60 – 70ºF. To learn hypothermia risk factors and how to better your chances of survival, visit:
  9. Use a carbon monoxide (CO) detector. Carbon Monoxide can harm and even kill you inside or on the deck of your boat. All internal combustion engines emit carbon monoxide, an odorless, tasteless, colorless, poisonous gas that can make you sick in seconds and kill in minutes. Even just a few breaths in high enough concentrations can be fatal. Carbon Monoxide symptoms are similar to seasickness or alcohol intoxication, and can affect you whether you are underway, moored or anchored. Remember, you cannot see, smell or taste carbon monoxide, so know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and avoid extended use of the transom area when engines are operating. To learn more about the symptoms of carbon monoxide sickness and how to keep you and others safe, visit
  10. File a float plan. TheU.S. Coast Guard recommends that you always tell a friend or family member where you plan to go and when you’ll be back. Make it a habit before leaving on any boat trip. The proper officials can be notified promptly if you don’t return when expected.

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“Lost” Boaters Found with BoatUS Towing App

On April 1st of 2011 I started a series titled “Can Your Smart Phone Make You a Better Boater.” In the first part of the series I introduced the FREE BoatUS Towing App. My thought about all the “apps” that I introduced in that series what “Hmmm…that’s interesting.” However, since I don’t own a smartphone (mine is just one step up from the kind that used to hang on the wall that you had to crank before you could make it work) I couldn’t really appreciate the amount of assistance that these innovations might provide.

Well recently (yesterday) my wife, who is quite the techie, purchased a Galaxy Tablet that has the ability to download and use many of the apps mentioned in the series.  Coincidently, I received a press release from BoatUS about a realtime incident in which the Towing App was responsible to saving the day for a couple of errant boaters.

BoatUS Press Release: It was every boater’s bad ending to the weekend. On a late Sunday afternoon two weeks ago, a 21-foot bowrider with two persons aboard broke down on a foggy bay off the New Jersey coast. Unfortunately, the small vessel did not have a VHF radio or a chart plotter showing their precise location. But the captain and mate did have a cell phone with them, so they called the BoatUS Towing Services 24-hour dispatch center for assistance (800-391-4869).

 The two boaters were tired and wanted to get home, but, unfortunately, gave the BoatUS dispatcher a poor description of the surroundings where they thought they were located. Upon hearing this information, local TowBoatUS captains in Beach Haven, Ocean City and Barnegat Light quickly deduced that it didn’t add up.
So how did BoatUS find the bowrider?
TowBoatUS Ocean City’s Capt. Patti Kearney says, “We solved the problem by advising the boaters to download the BoatUS Smart Phone App.” Once the couple completed this easy task, the BoatUS dispatcher was automatically provided the vessel’s precise latitude and longitude information, and Capt. Kearney was able to quickly locate the boat and bring it back home safely.
The App reduces towboat response times by using the accuracy of the GPS latitude and longitude technology built into smart phones, and also adds helpful location and tracking features. Since its launch in February, over 36,000 boaters, sailors and anglers have downloaded it.
The BoatUS Towing App can also work well with your float plan, allowing you to easily text or email loved ones ashore, allowing them to “track” your trip on the BoatUS online Member Service Locator map. The App also gives smart phone users the option of seeing their own location on Google maps (when their cell phone’s Internet connection is operable).
BoatUS reminds boaters that a VHF marine radio should be the first choice for emergency communications and they should always contact the US Coast Guard or local law enforcement in an emergency situation. However, having the App is a great backup for routine breakdowns and it can be easily downloaded by going to It’s available for both Android and Apple iPhones.

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Fuel Prices Are Just One Thing To Worry About

The boat/yacht depicted on the right may not be your current “on the water ride” but fuel prices are affecting every boater to some extent. At well over $5 a gallon for regular marina gas, boat fuel costs almost a dollar more than gas used to fuel cars. What makes boat fuel so expensive? The cost of boat fuel is increased due to an additive that prevents bacterial growth, and because the marinas sell such a  low volume compared to regular filling stations for cars. The price of gasoline for boats has soared about 47 percent from a year ago, according to AAA.

But is “shock at the pump” the only thing a boater should be worried about?

Clean Boating – How to do Your Part

Petroleum in or on the water is harmful and, in some cases, fatal to aquatic life. Benzene, a carcinogen, is in gasoline. Oil contains zinc, sulfur, and phosphorous.

Once petroleum is introduced into the water, it may float at the surface, evaporate into the air, become suspended in the water column or settle to the sea floor. Floating petroleum is particularly noxious because it reduces light penetration and the exchange of oxygen at the water’s surface. Floating oil also contaminates the microlayer. The microlayer refers to the uppermost portion of the water column. It is home to thousands of species of plants, animals, and microbes. The abundance of life in the microlayer attracts predators: seabirds from above and fish from below. Pollution in the microlayer, thus, has the potential to poison much of the aquatic food web.

Also worth noting, a single pint of oil released onto the water can cover one acre of water surface area.

The Law

Because of the harm associated with petroleum, the discharge of oil is absolutely prohibited. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act prohibits the discharge of oil or oily waste into or upon the navigable waters of the United States or the waters of the contiguous zone if such discharge causes a film or sheen upon, or discoloration of, the surface of the water, or causes a sludge or emulsion beneath the surface of the water. Violators are subject to a penalty of $5,000 to $10,000.

The United States Coast Guard must be notified anytime a spill produces a sheen on the water. Call the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802. Report the location, source, size, color, substance, and time of the spill. Failure to report a spill may result in additional fines.

The Clean Water Act (33 CFR 153.305) also prohibits the use of soaps or other dispersing agents to dissipate oil on the water or in the bilge without the permission of the Coast Guard. Soaps, emulsifiers and dispersants cause the petroleum to sink in the water column and mix with sediments where they will remain for years. Also, the soaps themselves are pollutants. You may be fined up to $25,000 per incident for the unauthorized use of soap or other dispersing agents on the water or in the bilge. 

Fueling Practices

Gas or diesel may be spilled during the act of fueling: as backsplash out the fuel intake or as overflow out the vent fitting. Spills of this sort harm aquatic life, waste money, and can result in stains on the hull and damage to the gel coat and striping. Follow these tips to avoid problems:

  • Fill tanks to no more than 90 percent capacity–gas that is drawn from cool storage tanks will expand as it warms up onboard your vessel.
  • To determine when the tank is 90 percent full, listen to the filler pipe, use a sounding stick (if possible), and be aware of your tank’s volume.
  • Rather than filling your tank upon your return to port, wait and fill it just before leaving on your next trip. This practice will reduce spills due to thermal expansion because the fuel will be used before it has a chance to warm up.
  • Fill portable tanks ashore where spills are less likely to occur and easier to clean up.
  • Use oil absorbent pads to catch all drips.
  • Slow down at the beginning and end of fueling.

Bilge Maintenance and Oil Changes

Engine oil tends to accumulate in bilges. If no precautions are taken, the oil is pumped overboard along with the bilge water. Discharging oily water is illegal. To avoid fines and to protect water quality, follow these tips:

  • Keep your engine well tuned to minimize the amount of oil that is released. Be sure there are no leaking seals, gaskets or hoses.
  • If you change your own oil, purchase a non-spill pump to draw crankcase oils out through the dipstick tube and slip a plastic bag over used oil filters prior to their removal to capture any drips. Hot drain the filter by punching a hole in the dome end and draining for 24 hours. Recycle the collected oil. Recycle the metal canister if practical. If not, dispose in your regular trash.
  • Place oil absorbent materials or a bioremediating bilge boom in the bilge.
  • Place an oil absorbent pad under the engine.
  • Replace oil absorbent materials regularly.
  • Look for contractors or marinas that offer a bilge pumpout service.
  • Do not treat oily water with detergents. Soaps pollute and make clean up impossible. You may be fined up to $25,000 for using soaps to dissipate oil.

Disposal of Oil Absorbent Materials

The disposal of used oil absorbent material depends on what type of product it is and how it was used:

  • Standard absorbents that are saturated with gasoline may be air dried and reused.
  • Standard absorbents saturated with oil or diesel may be wrung out over oil recycling bins (if they are saturated with oil or diesel only!) and reused. Alternatively, they should be double bagged with one plastic bag sealed inside of another and tossed in your regular trash.
  • Bioremediating bilge booms may be disposed in your regular trash as long as they are not dripping any liquid. Because the microbes need oxygen to function, do not seal them in plastic bags.

Emissions Control

Marine engines–especially 2-stroke outboard motors–produce the highest average level of hydrocarbon exhaust emissions after lawn and garden equipment. Hydrocarbon emissions contribute to ground level ozone, a known health risk. Follow these tips to help your engine operate as efficiently as possible:

  • Use the gas to oil ratio recommended by the engine manufacturer. Too much oil can foul spark plugs and too little can lead to increased engine wear or even failure.
  • Use premium two-cycle engine oil (TC-W3 or TC-W4). Premium oils improve engine performance and reduce pollution because they burn cleaner, contain more detergents, and prevent formation of carbon deposits.
  • Use gasoline with the octane level recommended by the engine manufacturer.

Preventative Equipment

Products are available commercially which can help you prevent spills and reduce emissions:

  • Install a fuel/air separator along your vent line. These devices allow air, but not fuel to escape through a vent opening.
  • Attach a safety nozzle to portable gas cans used to fill outboard engines. These nozzles automatically stop the flow of fuel when the receiving tank is full.
  • To prevent oily bilge water from being discharged, install a bilge pump switch that leaves an inch or two of water in the bilge. Alternatively, connect a bilge water filter to your vessel’s bilge pump. Filters will remove oil, fuel and other petroleum hydrocarbons from the water.
  • When it is time to buy a new engine, select a fuel efficient, low emission model.
  • Attach a container to the external vent fitting to collect overflow. There are products on the market that may be attached to the hull with suction cups. A rubber seal on the container fits over the fuel vent allowing the overflow to enter the container. Fuel captured in this manner can be added to the next boat to fuel.

In Case of a Spill

  • Stop the flow.
  • Contain the spill.
  • Call the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center at (800) 424-8802.

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Top Ten States for Boating

More Americans are planning vacations this summer, approximately 86 percent (three percent higher than 2010) according to a recent Trip Advisor survey, with the nation’s waterways serving as prime destinations. To mark the start of summer travel and boating seasons, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) today announced the top ten states for boating based on annual sales. In conjunction, Discover Boating, the recreational boating industry’s nonprofit awareness program, offers some of the best on-the-water spots just in time for National Fishing & Boating Week (June 4-12).

Boating expenditures in the U.S. reached $30.4 billion in 2010, and an estimated 75 million Americans took to the water, an increase of 14 percent compared to the recessionary year of 2009. Here are the top ten boating states, ranked by total annual expenditures for new powerboats, motors, trailers and accessories in 2010 , including popular on-the-water destinations from

1.    Florida ($1.1 billion)

Hot Spot: Cedar Key – Located on the Gulf of Mexico in a secluded section of Florida’s big bend coastline, the area attracts avid bird watchers, anglers and boaters. Fishing is Cedar Key’s top attraction, but visitors don’t need to be die-hard saltwater anglers to enjoy its miles of undeveloped backwaters and uninhabited islands with white-sand beaches.

2.    Texas ($812 million)

Hot Spot: Corpus Christi ̶ A coastal city located in South Texas is the perfect waterfront city for boaters with more than 300 square miles of water. Its marina—called the “T-Heads” by local residents—is an excellent base for visiting boaters to see it all. It’s also the place to buy Gulf shrimp right off the boat when the fleet returns. Enjoy sailing, cruising, fishing, watersports or a day trip to nearby islands.

3.    New York ($401 million)

Hot Spot: Lake George ̶ Located just three hours from New York City in the picturesque Adirondacks, Lake George is a boater’s paradise. It’s especially convenient for dock-and-dine options, with many lakeside restaurants offering boat slips for their patrons.

4.    North Carolina ($361 million)

Hot Spot: Crystal Coast ̶ North Carolina may be known for its mountainous retreats, but go east of the Smoky Mountains and you will find a treasure trove of diving and big game fishing opportunities. The Crystal Coast is the Cape Lookout region of the Outer Banks, including Morehead City, Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle and historic Beaufort. There are many ways for boaters to get their feet wet, including fishing, diving, watersports or just cruising—there’s a little something for everyone at the Crystal Coast.

5.    Louisiana ($360 million)

Hot Spot: Caddo Lake ̶ Louisiana’s largest natural freshwater lake covers more than 26,000 acres on the Texas and Louisiana border. In Louisiana, Caddo Lake is perfect for the outdoor enthusiast, with more than 70 species of fish, several recreation parks and extraordinary wildlife viewing. Whether interested in boating, fishing, photography, wildlife viewing, or just sightseeing, Caddo Lake has it all.

6.    Michigan ($350 million)

Hot Spot: Harbor Springs ̶ Located in a sheltered bay on the northern shore of Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan, Harbor Springs provides a scenic waterfront town perfect for recreational boating. Harbor Springs is an ideal setting for sailing, fishing, watersports or just Great Lakes cruising alongside a vibrant town offering beautiful beaches, sailing schools and marinas for the mariner and outdoor lover.

7.    Delaware ($343 million)

Hot Spot: Indian River ̶ Approximately 15 miles long in Sussex County in southern Delaware, the Indian River has everything needed to enjoy the boating lifestyle. Its “back bays” are popular with boating families and Burtons Island is a nature preserve just a few minutes by boat from Indian River Inlet Marina.

8.    California ($310 million)

Hot Spot: Carlsbad ̶ Just 35 miles north of San Diego is Carlsbad, a boater’s paradise with idyllic weather and access to a beautiful lagoon called Agua Hedionda. The lagoon is similar to a small lake with calm waters filled with slalom water skiers and watersports enthusiasts. Don’t own a boat? Boats and gear can be rented at one of the marinas in this waterfront town.

9.    Washington ($298 million)

Hot Spot: Wynoochee Lake ̶ Located 150 miles outside of Seattle in the Olympic National Forest, this 11,000 acre reservoir offers boaters an escape from crowds to a scenic backdrop where fishing, swimming and cruising opportunities are abundant. Another “can’t miss” for outdoor lovers is the Valley of the Rainforest Giants near Lake Quinault, where visitors can see the world’s largest Sitka spruce and a western red cedar that’s the biggest tree in Washington.

10.    Wisconsin ($292 million)

Hot Spot: Fish Creek ̶ Wisconsin’s Door County peninsula boasts 250 miles of shoreline on Lake Michigan. Nestled in the heart of it all is Fish Creek, where visiting boaters can explore the shoreline, bluffs overlooking the lake, offshore islands and Peninsula State Park. Whether it’s fishing, cruising or sailing, Fish Creek is the perfect hub for a family boating vacation.

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What Were They Thinkin!

A couple of days ago I posted an article titled “Boat Ownership Keeping it Yours.”   In that article I mentioned several things that you should do to protect your boat, trailer and equipment from theft. Such things as:

  • Mark It
  • Record It
  • Photograph or Film It
  • Arm It
  • Secure It
  • Store It
  • Insure It and…
  • Report It

This morning while roaming the docks with my dog Max, on our early morning walk, I ran across the following label proudly displayed on an unidentified boaters’ dockbox.

Needless to say this is NOT one of the security measures that I would suggest.

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Many of you may have purchased new or used boats during the off-season this year either from an individual, a dealer or at a boat show.  Inevitably, while showing off your new purchase to friends, the question will arise; “is it documented?” So how do you answer?

  • Do you say:  Sure isn’t that one of the first things you do?
  • Or do you say: Not yet, but I need to take care of that soon.
  • Or, are you honest and say: I don’t even know what that means.

So…just so you will know the correct answer the following article from the U.S. Coast Guard Consumer Fact Sheet explains the process and the pros and cons.


With a few exceptions, all vessels of 5 or more net tons which are used in coastwise trade, Great Lakes trade, or the fisheries, on the navigable waters of the U.S. or the Exclusive Economic Zone must be documented. A commercial vessel of 5 or more net tons engaged in foreign trade is eligible, but not required, to be documented. A recreational boat, owned by a U.S. citizen, may (at the option of the owner) also be documented if it is 5 or more net tons. The Certificate of Documentation is issued by the Coast Guard.


Federal law requires any undocumented vessel equipped with propulsion machinery to be numbered in the State in which it is principally operated. The law allows the States to create their own numbering systems as long as they meet or exceed Federal requirements.


If the owner has a choice between the two forms of registration, what are the advantages or disadvantages of documenting the boat?

Advantages: The main benefit of documentation versus numbering, is that a documented vessel may be the subject of a Preferred Ship Mortgage under 46 United States Code Chapter 313. In practical terms, this means that lending institutions regard a documented vessel as a more secure form of collateral. For larger and more expensive boats, it may be easier to obtain bank financing if the boat is documented rather than numbered.

Another benefit is that the certificate of documentation may make customs entry and clearance easier in foreign ports. The document is treated as a form of national registration that clearly identifies the nationality of the vessel.

Disadvantages: The main disadvantage of documenting rather than numbering is the higher cost. The initial documentation fee for a recreational vessel is *$100.00. The numbering fee varies from State to State but averages about *$25.00. In addition, documented vessels are not exempt from State or local taxes or other boating fees. Some individual States require a registration fee even if a boat is documented.

*These numbers are just estimates and may change without notice.

For more information and a list of Frequently Asked Questions visit the website.

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Boat Ownership – Keeping It Yours

Over the past 48 hours, there were many news articles related to boating thefts across the country.

Perhaps the reason could be desperate people in a struggling economy, the availability of  unlocked boats or simply a long stretch of nasty weather.  Thieves make assumptions about your habits and conclude that you won’t be going anywhere near your boat while the weather is bad.

Across the nation, more and more boats, trailers, equipment, electronics and personal items are stolen each year. Most of these crimes are committed by amateurs who, when tempted with an easy opportunity, can’t resist that temptation. Remember the old adage that locks are just a means of keeping honest people honest. This certainly applies to boating.

You would be surprised at how often, when strolling the fuel dock, you will find a boat that has pulled up for fuel, or ice or refreshments, just sitting there unattended with the keys in the ignition or, worse yet, idling away. Or even if the keys aren’t present you might see a handheld VHF radio or a pair of expensive binoculars just lying in the seat or on the dash.

What can you do to make sure that your boat stays in your possession? Read on for tips on security.


Permanently mark or engrave your boat, your trailer, all your equipment, electronics and personal items which you use regularly on your boat with your vessels hull identification number (HIN) and/or your driver’s license number. Your boat of course, unless manufactured prior to 1972, will already have a HIN on the transom. Permanently mark your driver’s license number in a location that is not readily accessible or noticeable. The same should apply to the trailer. Mark your boat’s HIN and your DL number on the underside of the tongue or axle. As for your equipment, electronics and other items, use some method of permanently marking them as well.

Be sure to keep a copy of your boat and trailer registrations at home in a safe place. It is also a good idea to take a hull rubbing of your HIN. Take a sheet of thin paper and tape it over your HIN number on the transom. Using a soft leaded pencil, rub back and forth across the number lightly until in shows up on the piece of paper.


Make a complete inventory of your boat, trailer and equipment. List all electronic gear, binoculars, outboard motors, PFDs, fishing equipment etc. by brand, model, and serial numbers if available. Also record your boat by make, model, registration and HIN number. Be sure to record the license number of your trailer.

Keep this master inventory list at home and keep a copy for reference in a hidden place on your boat in case you find something missing.


Take pictures or videotape your boat, trailer and equipment from all angles. Keep copies at home in a safe place. Perhaps alongside your insurance papers.


For larger boats, consider an alarm system. Self-contained systems are inexpensive and can be purchased at most any radio shack, electronics or marine store. Be sure to choose a system specifically designed for boating use. The damp and constantly moving marine environment puts demands on the alarm system requiring special sensors and properly protected location. Systems not designed for marine use may malfunction or report false alarms. Be sure, if you have an enclosed cabin, to include a smoke detector and carbon monoxide (CO) detector in your alarm system.


Boats should be covered and secured as completely as possible. Ignition switches should be locked and additional steps such as installing a hidden “kill switch,” hidden fuel shut off. I once met a man who even lugged his starter battery back and forth from his home to his boat.

Boats on trailers are easy crime targets if thieves can just hitch up and drive away. Here are several ways that you can help prevent that:

  • If possible, store the boat and trailer in a locked garage, secured boat storage facility or mini-storage warehouse.
  • Keep the boat well inside your yard, preferably out of sight.
  • If possible, turn the trailer around so the it is “nose” in rather than out.
  • In a carport or driveway, park a vehicle in front of the trailer, blocking easy removal.
  • For any type of outside storage, remove at least one wheel from the trailer. Be sure to block up the axle to keep the trailer level.
  • Use a high-security chain and quality lock to secure the boat and trailer to a fixed object such as a tree or post.
  • No matter how you store your trailer, get a trailer hitch lock.
  • Some trailers are available that allow you to remove the forward part of the tongue which contains the hitch.


Obviously your best bet is to remove all equipment from your boat and store it in the garage or other secure area. Make sure you lock hatches and opening ports. If your boat doesn’t have them, or they are broken, you can purchase hatch locks at any marine store. When possible, valuable and easily removed items should be secured below deck in a locked compartment. Lockers should be equipped with non-removable hasps and hinges and secured with padlocks. Lock outboard motors and fuel tanks to the boat. When your boat is left unattended, close the window curtains if you have them so people can not “window shop.”

If your boat is kept in the water at a dock, consider chaining it to the dock. Also, get to know your marina neighbors and form a marina watch group.


Insurance is an important part of any theft protection plan. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes seen as a substitute for security precautions. True, insurance may replace stolen property and repair damage but there is usually a deductible that must be met and there are intangibles that insurance doesn’t cover. Down time, inconvenience and aggravation normally aren’t compensated.

Finally, insurance companies don’t like losses. Just one claim can result in increased rates and a loss history will probably result in cancellation. Even when no claims have been filed, using a facility with a poor crime history can result in prohibitively high premiums or denial of coverage.


What should you do if you are a victim of marine theft? Immediately report your loss to your local law enforcement agency, the United States Coast Guard if on federal waters, your insurance company and the marina or storage facility manager. When a loss occurs, the ability to positively identify property is crucial to its recovery and the the prosecution of thieves and dealers in stolen goods.

By following the above suggestions you can reduce the risk of loss of your boat, trailer or equipment by theft. You should also exercise caution when buying a boat or running across a “good deal” on equipment. To avoid problems, match the HIN listed on the title and registration to the one on the boat. Inspect the HIN on the transom to be sure it has not been altered in any way. (Also, contact the manufacturer to see if a second, duplicate HIN was placed on the vessel or equipment in an inconspicuous place.) And, if you think that pair of $500.00 binoculars is a real bargain at only twenty five bucks…well remember that saying, if it is too good to be true…

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Coast Guard Considers Mandating Adult Life Jacket Jackets

Adult male and female wearing inflatable life jackets and a boy and girl in children's life jackets sitting in a motorboat.We have been following this issue for more than a year now but it appears that the new laws may be getting more of a  foothold within the governmental or quasi-governmental agencies.

An advisory panel to the U.S. Coast Guard gave its go-ahead to pursue federal regulations that would require adults to wear life jackets on certain boats. The National Boating Safety Advisory Council asked the Coast Guard to consider mandating that anyone aboard a boat less than 18-feet long be required to wear a life jacket when underway. In addition it asks that all those being towed in water sports, riding personal watercraft, or in human-powered boats of any length be required to wear life jackets as well.

The 16-5 decision mirrors a trend among state boating agencies to increase the number of people actually wearing Coast Guard-approved life jackets with the aim of reducing boating fatalities. But unlike the Council recommendation, which would apply to all ages, most state laws apply just to children and specify varying age cutoffs, typically 12 and under.

The U.S. Forest Service estimates that 82 million people participated in boating in 2010 and Coast Guard statistics show 736 people died in boating accidents that year. According to a Coast Guard mathematical model, if a 70 percent wear rate was achieved, mandating boaters nationwide to wear life jackets in boats less than 18-feet could save 71 lives each year.

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In April and May we published, from two different sources, lists of the top ten boating names . Recently I ran across another take on boat names that brushes not only on the psychology of the boat owner in his or her selection of a proper boat name but also explores what the name can tell us about our mood toward the countries precarious economy.

Barb Hansen of Southwest Florida Yachts speculates that “you can tell a lot about a person by the name on their boat. For example, a couple of years ago I strongly advised a certain literary celebrity, Juliet Capulet, to never date a guy with a boat named Sir Osis of the River, Beeracuda, or Blew Too Much.”

 Now I’m looking at the popular boat name lists from BoatU.S. and it occurs to me the names don’t just tell us about the psychological condition of the boat owners, they also speak to us about the psychological condition of the nation’s economy.   

 Indeed, they are a proxy for the mood of the country and point to a change in direction for the economy and perhaps the stock market, too. Up or down. I call it call it the Boat Name Mood Meter (BNMM)

So what is the BNMM telling us? I think it’s telling us that the economy is recovering.

The first thing I do is delete the names on the top 10 list that are on the list every year. Those recurring names don’t tell us anything. So, goodbye Seas the Day, AquaHolic, The Black Pearl, La Belle Vita.

 Last year’s list reverberated with a bad attitude. That top ten list had boat names like Lazy Daze, Bail Out, On the Rocks.

Now, compare them with the names on the new list: Andiamo (Let’s go), Mojo, Island Time, Second Wind, No Worries, Serenity, Blue Moon.

 Don’t you see what’s happening? Boat owners are tossing out the negative and accentuating the positive. They are feeling better; much better. You should, too.

So is it time to buy stocks or bonds or what?

Well, I don’t know about that, but I do know that it’s time to invest in time on the water. Being on the water is the great escape. It’s the rhythmic flap of wind on a sail, the harmonic charm of a well-tuned cruising engine, the excitement on a boat when a big fish is landed, the soothing feeling you get watching a colorful sunrise or a sunset.

Time on the boat doesn’t make problems go away but it does gives us the mental fortitude and the right attitude to deal with matters back on land.

You may have read that Tiger Woods is selling his 155-footer, Privacy, and replacing it with a smaller vessel which he is calling  Solitude. The Tiger Woods case may not be the best example, but it helps to illustrate that even when times are tough boaters don’t give up on boating entirely.

Some sail. Some cruise. Some fish. Some paddle into remote backcountry areas where few have gone before. Some seek solitude. Some socialize. Some go fast from here to there. Some go slow to nowhere. Heck, some never leave the dock. But on the water, they feel good.

So is it time?  Oh, yeah. Memorial day signaled the start of a new summer. Fishing and Boating Week is June 4-12. Father’s Day is June 19.

The stars are aligned. It’s time to be on the water. You can check the Dow when you get back in. Meanwhile, it’s nice to know that the Boat Name Mood Meter is trending sharply up. You know what to do.

Barb Hansen manages Southwest Florida Yachts, yacht charters, and Florida Sailing & Cruising School, a liveaboard yacht school.

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