Monthly Archives: October 2011

New Standards Coming for Inflatable PFDs (Life Jackets)

Sospenders 104808 33 Gram Auto/Manual Inflatable Life JacketRules for inflatable personal flotation devices for recreational boats issued in last March have been withdrawn by the U.S. Coast Guard. Instead, the Coast Guard is reopening the rulemaking process, opening another public comment period.

The agency is changing the policy to reflect an update in proposed industry standards. It generally incorporates Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards into its rules. UL recently came out with new technological and safety standards, which the Coast Guard now wants to incorporate.

Standards cover inflatable devices for adults, where most of the research has been done. The Coast Guard has not yet ruled on what inflatable devices are appropriate for children. The rules at issue cover only those aged 16 and up and weighing more than 80 lbs. It plans to take up the standards for devices for children at a later date.

The Coast Guard now proposes to drop rules regarding grab breaking strength, tear strength, seam strength, and permeability tests for inflation chamber materials; as well as the repacking and rearming test and requirements for marking inflation mechanisms.

The agency does not currently plan a public meeting on the matter but if it gets enough requests for one, it may change its mind. It is accepting public comments through November 28. For details, see http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-09-29/html/2011-25034.htm

For more information on PFDs including inflatables visit our BasicBoatingSafetyCourse.

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Seven Rescued After Wave Swamped Boat

Seven people survived an ordeal at sea, but a man was unable to keep his 79-year-old mother above water.

The following story appeared in the Miami Herald and struck me as one that needed to be shared.  We want to continue to emphasize the inherent dangers of boating and the simply safety procedures that should be followed to prevent tragedy.

Boat Capsizes Florida Keys

Photo Courtesy AP

A son tried to keep his 79-year-old mother alive by holding her frail body out of the rough ocean waters. A mother kept her 3-year-old daughter from drowning by sitting her on a floating cooler for nearly a day.

Three men who did not know how to swim — and had no life vests — held on for dear life to the side of the capsized boat.

Why did three men who didn’t know how to swim have no life jackets on and HELLO, they all should have stayed with the boat!

The drama played out over the weekend when a Hialeah family’s fishing trip off the Florida Keys turned tragic with the death of the elderly woman, who drowned despite her son’s efforts. Those who survived the ordeal were rescued on Sunday after drifting 20 hours at sea.

Although it is not reported, my guess is that the woman who drowned didn’t have on a life jacket either or why would her son have to hold her up?

Rough seas, bad weather, lack of enough personal flotation devices and number of passengers — eight — loaded onto a 22-foot pleasure craft will be factors in the probe of the accident off Long Key on Saturday, said Robert Dube, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the agency investigating the fatal accident.

Among the survivors was a 3-year-old girl, who drifted — from Saturday at noon to Sunday morning — along with her mother and two other women. All four females wore personal floatation devices and were found four miles from the boat’s wreckage.

Had they stayed with the boat they all would have been rescued at the same time. The one thing they did get right is that they followed Florida Law which requires children 6 or under on a boat 26 feet or less to wear a life jacket if the boat is moving. If the craft is anchored or docked, they don’t have to wear one.

The boat was noticed by a local Fishing Captain who called 911. For more information on what to do if you find yourself in a capsize situation visit our BasicBoatingCourse.

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Vandalism to ATONs Endangers Mariners

Red and Green Navigation Buoy with Sea LionsThe Coast Guard is asking for the public’s help to put a stop to the vandalism of aids to navigation (ATON).

Several navigational lights have recently been vandalized rendering them inoperable. Recently the batteries were deliberately and illegally removed from a light marking an offshore hazard.

The loss of this equipment costs taxpayers and the Coast Guard in many ways: first is the obvious financial burden of replacing the damaged or stolen equipment, second is the slowing of commercial and recreational traffic and third, is the possibility of environmental damage that could result from a collision or grounding that occurs because a hazard is not marked.

Those found guilty of vandalism to ATON can be fined up to $2,500 and imprisoned for up to five years. Anybody witnessing vandalism to a navigational aid or finding a damaged aid should contact their nearest Coast Guard unit.

“The marine highway, marked by ATONs, is the lifeblood of commerce and transportation. It is vitally important that these aids to navigation remain a reliable tool for mariners” said Lt. Cmdr. Dan Gray, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Maple.

Maple’s crew is responsible for servicing many of the buoys, lights and beacons in Southeast Alaska. Commissioned on Oct. 19, 2001, Maple is a 225-foot Juniper-Class buoy tender homeported in Sitka. Maple is operated by seven officers and a crew of 46 men and women.

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Recreational Boat Registration Statistics Are In

NMMAThe National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) announced that boat registration numbers decreased 2.2 percent (or 282,615 boats) for a total of 12.5 million registered boats in 2010 compared to 2009’s 12.7 million. This new data is from NMMA’s 2010 U.S. Recreational Boat Registration Statistics Report.

Of the 12.5 million registered recreational boats, the report notes there were 183,930 new model year powerboats sold and registered in the U.S. in 2010.

The report provides incredibly detailed registration data on a national, regional and state level and includes new boat registrations, U.S. Coast Guard documented boats and total registrations by boat segment, size, power, and hull material. Regional summaries include population/income estimates and shoreline/inland water data. The report again ranks each state based on total boat registrations with the top 10 being:

  1.  Florida: 914,535 registered boats in 2010. Florida held the number one spot for total boat registrations, decreasing 3.6 percent from 2009’s 949,030.
  2. Minnesota: 813,976 registered boats in 2010. Minnesota moved from third to second for boat registrations, increasing 0.3 percent from 2009’s 811.775.
  3. Michigan: 812,066 registered boats in 2010. Michigan moved from fourth to third, staying relatively flat in 2010 compared to 2009’s 811,670.
  4. California: 810,008 registered boats in 2010. California dropped to fourth from second, decreasing 10.7 percent compared to 2009’s 906,988.
  5. Wisconsin: 615,335 registered boats in 2010. Wisconsin remained ranked fifth, decreasing 1.8 percent compared to 2009’s 626,304.
  6. Texas: 596,830 registered boats in 2010. Texas held its sixth place ranking, decreasing 4.1 percent compared to 2009’s 622,184.
  7. New York: 475,689 registered boats in 2010. New York was again ranked seventh for total boat registrations, decreasing 0.7 percent from 2009’s 479,161.
  8. South Carolina: 435,491 registered boats in 2010. South Carolina held its ranking in eighth place, remaining flat with 2009’s 435,528.
  9. Ohio: 430,710 registered boats in 2010. Ohio kept its ninth place ranking for total boat registrations, increasing 1.4 percent compared to 2009’s 424,877.
  10. North Carolina: 400,846 registered boats in 2010. North Carolina again ranked tenth, decreasing 1.2 percent compared to 2009’s 405,663.

 In addition, the report analyzes total boat registrations and finds:

  • 95 percent of mechanically propelled boats are less than 26 foot in length; 42 percent are less than 16 foot in length and 54 percent are between 16 and 25 foot in length.
  • 57 percent of mechanically propelled boats have hulls made of fiberglass; 38 percent have hulls made of metal.
  • 66 percent of mechanically propelled boats are outboard boats; 20 percent are inboard/PWC; and 13 percent are sterndrive boats.
  • The Pacific region posted the largest decline in registrations for 2010, down 9 percent compared to a year ago. The Mid-Atlantic region posted a 207% increase in registrations.
  • The Great Lakes region again ranked first, accounting for slightly more than a quarter (27 percent) of registered boats in 2010.

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Jamaican Me Crazy!

When your boat runs aground and your passengers are just family and friends, it can sometimes be embarrassing. But when you are the captain of a boat owned by the Jamaican Prime Minister, and he is on the boat with his friends and family on the weekend of his son’s wedding, you could be facing more than a little red in the face. Somebody is probably going to get fired. Hopefully Prime Minister Bruce Golding will have some compassion for whoever was piloting his yacht when it ran aground on Saturday off the south coast of Jamaica.

The above is  the official story but how on earth did a Captain who, one would assume, was familiar with the waters around Jamaica run aground.

The chart above is “NOT FOR NAVIGATION” but is the closest thing I could find on short notice. However, even on this chart, notice the small dark blue areas in the main body of water near the black X? Those represent exposed areas of land. Again, being a representative, sample chart and not a navigational chart, one can’t really tell if they are continually exposed or if they are at times covered by water.

It is possible that the Captain was somehow distracted temporarily and wasn’t actually at the helm or someone else could have been at the helm. However, it is the Captain’s duty to ensure the safety of all onboard.

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New Life Jacket Law for Pennsylvania

This new regulation comes as a result of overwhelming statistics. Anyone in a canoe or kayak, or on a boat less than 16 feet, will be required to wear a life jacket from Nov. 1 through April 30, which is the period most noted for cold-water temperatures. This regulation will go into effect Nov. 1, 2012. 

Actually, cold-water shock might occur whenever water temperature is less than 70 degrees. This causes an involuntary gasp that often results in water being sucked into the lungs. Cold-water shock also can cause hyperventilation, breathlessness and a reduced ability to breathe. Swimming or treading water can become very difficult.

Statistics show that from November through April there is a disproportionate number of boating-incident fatalities, especially when the relatively few number of people go boating during that time frame is factored into the issue. Over the past 15 years, only 8 percent of boating-related accidents occurred during this cold-water period, but these accidents accounted for 24 percent of the boating fatalities.

After the required 60-day period for public comment, 37 comments were received. Actually, eight of those came before the official comment period, and one came after. The Fish and Boat Commission goes to great lengths to listen to the public. Most comments opposed the proposal. Unnecessary government regulation and intrusion on personal decisions were the primary objections.

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North Carolina Boaters Beware

WILMINGTON, N.C. — The Coast Guard is scheduling to temporarily remove the aids to navigation located at the New Topsail Inlet in Topsail, N.C. and Lockwoods Folly Inlet between Holden Beach and Oak Island, N.C.

This action is being taken in the interest of public safety due to severe shoaling in these locations.

Depths of less than three feet currently exist in many areas of the New Topsail and Lockwoods Folly Inlets, which are much shallower than the charted depths for these waters. So as to not advertise a safe channel when one does not exist, the Coast Guard is removing the aids and installing a danger buoy to warn mariners of the potentially unsafe depths.

The aids will be removed as soon as weather and operations permit. The buoys will be returned to the inlets once dredging is completed or conditions otherwise improve to support safe transit.

The Coast Guard has issued a broadcast notice to mariners urging them to transit with extreme caution or use alternate channels.

For more information call the Sector North Carolina Command Center at 910-343-3882.

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Don’t Trash Our Oceans

The U.S. Coast Guard reminds everyone that marine debris is everyone’s concern and everyone’s  problem. Debris generally originates, from two distinct sources, the ocean (and inland waterways) and land. Ocean/inland waterways-based sources include boats and ships including the smallest sailboat to the largest container ship, along with offshore rigs and drilling platforms.

Land-based sources include, sewer overflows and storm drains, landfills, manufacturing and sewage treatment plants and beachgoers.  Most debris originates onshore, but a significant amount comes from offshore sources.  Some  marine debris persist in marine environments for a very long time – Mylar balloons (centuries), derelict fishing gear (centuries), plastic bags (centuries), cigarette butts (2 – 10 years), monofilament line (600 years), plastic bottles (450 years), 6-pack holder (400 years), aluminum cans (200 – 500 years), and Styrofoam buoy (80 years)

Balloons exposed to seawater deteriorated much slower than if exposed to air. Even after 12 months in salt water they retained their elasticity. What goes up must come down! Balloons lighting on land or sea can be mistaken for prey and eaten by animals. Balloons in an aquatic environment can look a great deal like jellyfish—a major source of food for many animals. Sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish, and seabirds have been reported with balloons in their stomachs.

Mylar balloons reflective light and can, be mistaken for a distress signal.  Rescuers can waste valuable resources investigating what from several miles away can appear to be a distress signal. In some jurisdictions, the mass release of balloons is illegal

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO REDUCE MARINE DEBRIS

  • Never intentionally discard any item into the marine environment
  • Tie it down, secure it, stow it
  • Secure all plastic wrap and packaging
  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle
  • Properly dispose of trash and fishing gear
  • Participate in coastal cleanup programs
  • Buy recycled products with little or no packaging
  • Keep cigarette butts off streets and beaches
  • Cut the rings in plastic six pack holders
  • Set a good example and educate others about marine debris.

Under federal law, it is illegal for any vessel to discharge plastics or garbage containing plastics into any waters. Additional restrictions on dumping non-plastic waste are outlined below. Regional, state or local laws may place further restrictions on the disposal of garbage. ALL discharge of garbage is prohibited in the Great Lakes or their connecting or tributary waters. Each violation of these requirements may result in a fine of up to $500,000 and 6 years imprisonment. 

 In lakes, rivers, bays, sounds and up to 3 miles offshore it is illegal to dump:

  •  All garbage

 From 3 to 12 nautical miles offshore it is illegal to dump:

  • Plastic
  • Dunnage, lining and packing materials that floats
  • All other trash if not ground to less that 1″

 From 12 to 25 nautical miles offshore it is illegal to dump:

  • Plastic
  • Dunnage, lining and packing materials that float

 Outside 25 nautical miles offshore it is illegal to dump:

  •  Plastic

 “MARPOL PLACARD” Vessels 26′ or longer must display the above information in a prominent place for passengers and crew to read

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