Monthly Archives: June 2013

Operation Dry Water June 28-30, 2013

Operation Dry Water 2013 Registration Now Open. Operation Dry Water 2013 dates are June 28-30.

Local, state and federal law enforcement marine units as well as sheriff’s offices will be partnering in the BUI enforcement and education campaign beginning Friday, June 28 and continuing through June 30 known as Operation Dry Water.

Operation Dry Water is a national weekend of Boating Under the Influence (BUI) education and enforcement aimed at reducing alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities.

Held each year during the weekend before the 4th of July holiday, Operation Dry Water is coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) in partnership with the states, the U.S. Coast Guard and other partner organizations.

Since 2009, the enforcement operations has been held in June, just prior to the 4th of July holiday, aimed at reducing the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities and fostering a stronger and more visible deterrent to alcohol and drug use on the water.

According to the most recent U.S. Coast Guard statistics, boating under the influence is still the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, with 16 percent of boating fatalities as a direct result of alcohol or drug use. A boat operator or passenger with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit (.08) runs a significantly increased risk of being involved in a boating accident.

Passengers need to be wary, too. Intoxication can lead to slips, falls overboard and other dangerous accidents. It’s also important to realize alcohol consumption can result in an inner ear disturbance which can make it impossible for a person suddenly immersed in water to distinguish up from down.

In 2012, 51 states and U.S. territories participated in Operation Dry Water. More than 4,500 officers from 505 local, state, and federal agencies participated in 72 hours of heightened BUI enforcement. Officers were able to remove 337 BUI operators from the water while issuing an additional 14,514 boating safety citations and warnings. In addition, law enforcement officers made contact with over 113,000 boaters concerning BUI or boating safety enforcement and awareness.

Citizens can help by letting law enforcement know if they observe careless boat operators and by their compliance with the rules of the water. If you see careless or reckless boat operators dial 911 on your cell phone or via radio on the VHF Channel 16 to report the event.

Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is dangerous and illegal. BUI is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Learn more about the effects of BUI.

If you boat under the influence:

  • Your voyage will be terminated
  • Your boat may be impounded, and
  • You may be arrested.

Penalties can include fine, imprisonment, impoundment of your boat, loss of boating privileges and even loss of driving privileges. The short video below shows what can happen when you encounter law enforcement while boating under the influence.

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Circle of Death

Out of sight, out of mind might best describe a very serious hidden danger in boating. Because of the speed and torque, this hidden danger has the potential to kill, mangle or permanently disfigure an unsuspecting person in the water. That hidden danger is the boat engine propeller (“propeller strike”).

Propeller related accidents represent 4 percent of all boating fatalities, with a growing number of injuries.

Operating below the water line, the propeller is not readily visible to the operator, passengers, swimmers, skiers, etc. Common propeller strike events include “crew-overboard” and/or “circle of death” incidents. If you have a “crew overboard” event, you should immediately turn toward the person in the water in order to push the stern in the opposite direction. Simultaneously, you should shift to neutral to stop the propeller from spinning.

A “circle of death” event occurs when the operator goes overboard and/or loses control of the steering. Whether you have an outboard, I/O or inboard engine, your propeller most likely is designed to spin in a clockwise direction while going forward. This built in prop pitch introduces “prop walk,” which, depending on the amount of throttle still applied when steering is lost, will cause the boat to circle. This circling action has the potential of creating a scenario where the operator, now in the water, is actually run over by the boat and potentially hit by the propeller.

Luckily, the people who were thrown from the boat in the video clip below were thrown clear of the “circle of death.”

To minimize the potential of someone being struck by the propeller use the following cautions:

  • Never run the engine while people are boarding or unboarding.
  • Make sure everyone on board is seated properly before starting the engine.
  • Do not allow passengers to stand or sit on the transom, gunwales, seatbacks or bow while underway.
  • Do not operate within close proximity to people in the water. This includes swimmers, skiers, divers, etc.
  • Keep a sharp lookout.

There are devices designed to decrease the potential of “propeller strike”. These include:

  • Propellers guards, which fully or partially surround the propeller.
  • Interlocks which, if certain conditions exist, automatically shut off the engine.
  • Sensors that can be worn by individuals and electronically stop the engine, sound alarms, etc., if they go overboard.

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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. In some locations at well over $5 a gallon for regular marina gas, boat fuel costs much 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. 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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Ways to Save on the Water this Summer

Fuel nozzleWith the ever spiraling cost of fuel for your boat, here are a few tips on how you can save. I know, the news has been reporting that prices should be going down but as was noted by Jay Leno recently, “The price of oil is now under $100 a barrel. The oil companies say they should be passing on the savings to us in six or seven years.”

Tips For Reducing Fuel Usage:

  • Slower speeds on the water will reduce use.
  • The proper use of trim tabs reduces drag, especially while accelerating up to planning speeds.
  • Minimize the amount of time that you idle at the dock.
  • Minimize the use of onboard generators.
  • Use dock-side electrical power in lieu of generators.
  • Have a float plan so you know exactly where you’re going.
  • Make sure the hull is clean.
  • Don’t under-power your boat. It’s important you have enough motor to handle the load.
  • Check your propeller. If your boat is slow “out of the hole” (getting up on plane) or lacks top-end speed, you might have the wrong propeller.
  • A well-tuned engine uses less fuel.
  • Use the grade of gasoline specified by the engine manufacturer.

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Boat Ownership – Keeping It Yours

Over the past several days, 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.

MARK IT:

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.

RECORD IT:

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.

PHOTOGRAPH OR FILM IT:

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.

ARM IT:

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.

SECURE IT:

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.

STORE IT:

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.

INSURE IT:

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.

REPORT IT:

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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Recreational Boating Statistics 2012


In 2012, the Coast Guard counted 4515 accidents that involved 651 deaths, 3000 injuries and approximately $38 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.

The fatality rate was  5.4 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. This rate represents a 12.9% decrease from last year’s fatality rate of 6 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.

Compared to 2011, the number of accidents decreased 1.6%, the number of deaths decreased 14.1% and the number of injuries decreased 2.6%.

Almost seventy-one (71) percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, almost eighty-five (85) percent were not reported as wearing a life jacket.

Almost fourteen percent (14) of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction. Only nine (9) percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received boating safety instruction from a NASBLAapproved course provider.

Seven out of every ten boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length.

Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure, and excessive speed rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 17% of deaths.

Twenty-four children under age thirteen lost their lives while boating in 2012. Ten children or approximately forty-two (42) percent of the children who died in 2012 died from drowning. Two children or twenty (20) percent of those who drowned were wearing a life jacket as required by state and federal law.

The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (47%), personal watercraft (19%), and cabin motorboats (15%).

The 12,101,936 recreational vessels registered by the states in 2012 represent a 0.59% decrease from last year when 12,173,935 recreational vessels were registered.

For the full report click 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 2013 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 “above average” 2013 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,  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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