Monthly Archives: September 2013

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


  • 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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What To Do With A Trailerboat In A Hurricane

Our friends at BoatUS and their insurance division want to remind us not to forget about your boat and trailer for those of you who may live inland and drive back and forth to your favorite waterway.

For protecting small boats in a hurricane, BoatUS recommends storing them inside, or placing them on the ground and filling them with water. 
As hurricanes approach the US mainland, it used to be that boaters on the coast only had to worry about making storm preparations. However, trailer boaters located far inland need to make preparations as well. For those who keep a trailer boat in their backyard, driveway or marina parking lot, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) has these helpful hurricane storage tips as we enter the “peak” 2012 hurricane season, which runs through November 30.
Do a trailer check-up now: Inspect your trailer today to ensure it will be operable when it’s needed. Bearings should be greased, tires inflated and lights working.
Plan your escape: Map out an evacuation route and make the decision early if you are planning to take the boat with you or leave it behind. Bridges may have restrictions on towing boats.
When the Storm Strikes
Take it home: Remove all loose gear such as fenders, cushions or any extra other equipment and gear like rods, tackle boxes and electronics and store at home. This includes the boat’s papers.
The boat “wins” the garage: If you have a choice of putting the boat or car in the garage, pick the boat. That’s because a boat is lighter and more vulnerable to winds. If you have to store a trailer boat outside, placing the rig next to a building (on the lee side of approaching storm) for protection is good. Keep it away from trees.
Tilt me: Remove any cockpit drain plugs and tilt the trailer tongue up so any water entering the boat exits aft through scuppers or a drain hole. Let some air out of the trailer tires and chock the wheels.
Twist me: Secure gas tank caps tightly to prevent water from entering. Secure any hatches.
Bye bye bimini: Remove the bimini. Trailerable sailboats should have their masts lowered, safely lashed and any sails removed. Towing or mooring covers should be installed and secured with extra line.
Strap me: Secure the boat to the trailer with line or straps. If you have the ability, anchoring the boat and trailer rig with screw-type ground anchors adds extra protection.
Fill up the little guy: Small, lightweight and simply-built outboard powered boats and paddle craft can be placed on the ground and partially filled with a garden hose to add weight. (Rain will add a lot more water later.) This has the added advantage of giving you emergency water (non-drinking). If you choose to keep the boat on top of a trailer, ensure you add blocks between the trailer frame and springs to support the added weight.
Lift me down:  Whenever possible, boats on lifts should be stored ashore or moved to a safer location in the water. If the boat must be left on its lift, remove the drain plug so the weight of accumulated rainwater will not collapse the lift. Tie the boat securely to its lifting machinery to prevent the boat from swinging or drifting away. Plug the engine’s exhaust outlet and again, strip the boat. Make sure cockpit drains are free of debris.

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Join America’s Waterway Watch

Year round, you have the opportunity to contribute to improving our nation’s security by doing what comes naturally, paying attention to what’s happening on the water, and reporting anything suspicious to the US Coast Guard.  America’s Waterway Watch, a program sponsored by the US Coast Guard, brings the neighborhood-watch concept to the waters where we work and play. This allows boaters to be a part of the solution to security concerns because we usually know what does and does not look right on the water.

If you are a tow boat operator, a recreational boater, a fisherman, a marina operator, or otherwise live, work or engage in recreational activities around America’s waterways, the United States Coast Guard wants your help in keeping these areas safe and secure. You can do this by participating in its America’s Waterway Watch (AWW) program, a nationwide initiative similar to the well known and successful Neighborhood Watch program that asks community members to report suspicious activities to local law enforcement agencies.

You should always remember that people are not suspicious, behavior is. And if you observe suspicious behavior or activity, you should simply note the details and contact local law enforcement. You are not expected to approach or challenge anyone acting in a suspicious manner.

The Coast Guard sponsors a 24 hour hotline, 1-877-24-WATCH (1-877-249-2824) that boaters can call should they see something unusual. Add this number to your cell phone. Additional information can be found at

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Why Do We Need America’s Waterway Watch?

Hope everyone had a great labor day weekend. The unofficial end of summer weekend unfortunately also brought up  a short week leading up to the 12th anniversary of probably the most devastating event in American’s history – 911. This was one of those events that almost everyone vividly remembers where they were and what they were doing when it happened.

Many American boaters have asked, “How can I help?” This is how — By participating in America’s Waterway Watch.


HomePort Security

America’s coasts, rivers, bridges, tunnels, ports, ships, military bases, and waterside industries may be the terrorists’ next targets.

Waterway security is better than ever but with more than 95,000 miles of shoreline, more than 290,000 square miles of water and approximately 70 million recreational boats in the United States, the U.S. Coast Guard and local first responders can’t do the job alone.

Be aware of suspicious activity, particularly near the locations above, including…

  • People appearing to be engaged in surveillance of any kind (note taking, shooting video/photos, making sketches, or asking questions).
  • Unattended vessels or vehicles in unusual locations.
  • Lights flashing between boats.
  • Unusual diving activity.
  • Unusual number of people onboard.
  • Unusual night operations.
  • Recovering or tossing items into/onto the waterway or shoreline.
  • Operating in or passing through an area that does not typically have such activity.
  • Fishing/hunting in locations not typically used for those activities.
  • Missing fencing or lighting near sensitive locations.
  • Anchoring in an area not typically used for anchorage.
  • Transfer of people or things between ships or between ship and shore outside of port.
  • Anyone operating in an aggressive manner.
  • Individuals establishing businesses or roadside food stands near sensitive locations.
  • Small planes flying over critical locations.
  • People attempting to buy or rent fishing or recreational vessels with cash for short-term, undefined use.

To report suspicious activity call the National Response Center at 1-877-24WATCH.  For immediate danger to life or property, call 911

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America’s Waterway Watch History

In light of the numerous tributes to 911 yesterday we thought we should remind boaters of “America’s Waterway Watch.”  America’s Waterway Watch is similar to the Coast Watch program of World War II, which caused a group of citizen-volunteers who were mobilized as a uniformed, civilian component of the Coast Guard to scan the coast for U-boats and saboteurs attempting to infiltrate the shores of the United States. Today, America’s Waterway Watch goes one step further: It calls on ordinary citizens like you who spend much of their time on and around America’s waterways to assist in the War on Terrorism on the Domestic Front.

The enemy this nation faces today is unlike any other in our history. The operatives who may be attempting to enter the United States via our waterfront areas, whether as stowaways on ships entering our ports or on pleasure craft entering our marinas, do not wear a uniform or carry arms openly. They have chosen to attack us using unconventional warfare, and we  must be prepared to report events such as people entering our country illegally along the hundreds of miles of coastline, and people preparing to attack our critical infrastructure. America’s Waterway Watch calls on all port and waterfront users to report suspicious activity in and around the area where they live, work and play.

Who better than the families living along our shoreline to recognize when the behavior of visitors in and around their community is not consistent with what usually takes place in the neighborhood?

Young girl looking through binoculars

Who better than the longshoreman to know whether an individual who is loitering near a restricted area while video taping, taking photos, or making sketches is out of place and does not belong there?

Who better than a marina operator or a dock master to know if the crew that is not a “normal” customer is acting suspiciously?

And who better than recreational boaters, while traveling in familiar waters, to notice unusual and suspicious activities going on around them?

It is not the intent of America’s Waterway Watch to spread paranoia or to encourage spying on one another, and it is not a surveillance program. Instead, it is a simple deterrent to potential terrorist activity. The purpose of America’s Waterway Watch is to allow you and your fellow Americans who work and spend their leisure time on the waterways and waterfront to assist the federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies by being ever vigilant in recognizing possible threats and crimes on and around our waterways.

Many Americans like you have asked, “How can I help?” The answer is clear:

By participating in America’s Waterway Watch!

 To report suspicious activity call the National Response Center at 1-877-24WATCH.  For immediate danger to life or property, call 911.

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Know What To Do If You’re Dead In The Water

Provided by Mike Baron, United States Coast Guard Division of Boating Safety

Preventive maintenance is essential, but it’s not a guarantee against engine problems. Preparation, planning and knowing when to get help are keys to coping if you face engine failure while afloat.

Preparing for the possibility of engine failure is much like preparing for any boating emergency: Ensure you have the right equipment, the right information and contingency plans.

– Carry basic tools and spares: water impeller replacement, in-line fuel filter, spark plugs, belts and a belt wrench, props, oil and coolant, screwdrivers, duct tape, and the manual for your boat and engine.

– If possible, carry basic safety equipment, including an anchor with sufficient chain and line for your boat and the water conditions, an oar and floating tow line.

– Take an emergency supply of warm clothing/blankets, extra water and food, a first-aid kit and extra signaling devices (extra pyrotechnic visual distress signals, as well as options such as a bright water-resistant flashlight, a signaling mirror and a whistle).

– Invest in a VHF-FM marine radio, preferably one with Digital Selective Calling; in an emergency, a cellphone is not an adequate substitute. You may not have cell access, and rescuers can’t pinpoint your location effectively. If you go boating often or far out, consider buying an EPIRB.

– Know who to contact in case of an emergency. On the ocean, the Great Lakes, and some rivers and designated bodies of water, it’s the U.S. Coast Guard; in other areas, it may be other local responders.

– Ensure that you and your passengers know how to use all the safety equipment.

– Plan excursions in line with your experience and skill level; don’t go far out on the ocean (or a large lake) in a small boat unless you are highly experienced and skilled.

– File a detailed float plan.

If your engine fails, drop anchor (after maneuvering out of the channel, if possible). You want to stabilize your position and avoid drifting toward any other dangers. If you don’t have an anchor aboard, improvise. Tie a line to a large bucket; in a pinch, you might use something like a duffle bag.

Ensure that all passengers put on a life jacket, if not already wearing one, and prepare to sound a horn or other audible device to warn other boats. Turn your radio to VHF Channel 16, so you are ready to warn others or call for help, if needed.

– Check for any simple problems you might be able to repair on the water:

– Check the engine cutoff switch.

– Check for common electrical problems.

– Smell for burning odors. If there is an odor or smoke, turn off the battery switch and cut and isolate any wires that are damaged, to prevent further shorts or damage.

– Make sure the battery connections are solid and the battery is not dead.

– Check that the fuel line is not disconnected or damaged.

– Look for loose or broken belts.

– If the engine seems to be overheating, check and clear clogged intakes (for outboard motors) or filters (for inboard engines).

– Check your boat and engine manual for additional troubleshooting guidance.

Get Help
Get ready to communicate clearly by radio. Know and prepare to convey the following: your position, how many people are on board, the nature of the distress and a description of your vessel (make, length, color, type, registration numbers and boat name). Nearby boaters may be able to assist, or help with a simple repair.

If you feel confident that the situation is not life threatening and the boat is not in immediate danger, transmit a Pan-Pan urgency message (pronounced pahn-pahn) to communicate that the safety of your vessel or a person is in jeopardy. If you are in a situation where grave and imminent danger threatens life or property, use the mayday call.

If you don’t have a radio, use your cellphone to communicate the same information to emergency response.

If you are unable to communicate directly, strategically use your onboard visual distress signals. Use flares when you see other boats or when other boaters are likely to be out; sound your horn intermittently. Raise your orange distress flag.

While You Wait
Remain calm. Have everyone stay aboard the boat. If it looks like you’ll be waiting for a while, minimize sun exposure to prevent dehydration. Use tarps, canvas or a blanket to improvise shade. Conserve energy; moving around needlessly also causes you to dehydrate more quickly through perspiration. Ration supplies (and don’t eat if you don’t have water). Conserve your water. Prepare to catch any rain or capture condensation.

You can take steps to minimize the chances of engine failure:

– Have your boat’s engine and other systems serviced in accordance with manufacturer recommendations. A general rule is every 12 months or every 100 hours of use.

– Take advantage of a free Vessel Safety Check at the beginning of every boating season.

– Complete a boating safety course to get more comfortable and familiar with safety and emergency procedures.

– Be familiar with your boat; practice routine repairs so you are comfortable with the tools, parts and process.

– Take proper care between trips — particularly when winterizing at the end of the season. Use a fuel stabilizer for periods when the boat is not in use.

– Flush out outboard engines after every trip (even when boating on fresh water).

– Complete a systems check before every start — or at least once a day when your boat is in use. Check fuel, oil and water levels. If the oil level is high, it could signal water in the oil sump (and the oil itself may look milky); too low could indicate a leak.

– Inspect, clean and, if needed, replace damaged wiring.

– Never run your boat with your fuel close to empty. Know your tank’s capacity, and ensure your fuel gauge is accurate.

– Regularly scan your gauges for early indicators of problems while aboard.

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What’s That Flashing Blue Light?

This past weekend, the official end of the boating season in many areas there were many flashing blue lights that stopped, boarded and inspected dozens of vessels. Most of these “weekend boaters” were just out for a day on the water.

If you are not aware, and some of those boaters obviously weren’t, anytime you see a flashing blue light it indicates a law enforcement vessel is operating in the area.

The United States Coast Guard can and will board you at their discretion. They need no search warrant, no provocation, no reason other than to ensure you are in compliance with all applicable federal laws and regulations.

So what happens if you are boarded? Although you will find them young and very polite, these are highly trained Federal officers. The very first question that they will ask you, before they even step off their vessel onto yours, is, “do you have any weapons on board?” You should check your local regulations but I can’t think of any reason what-so-ever to carry a weapon when out for a day on the water.

The inspection that follows is driven largely by the size of the vessel with a few standard exceptions. Your actual registration needs to be onboard and must be current. The “HIN” number, like your car’s “VIN” number, needs to be the same on your registration and on your boat (low on the starboard side of the transom.) If they don’t match, someone has a lot of explaining to do.

The registration numbers must be of proper size (at least 3”), of contrasting color to your hull and be the most forward of any numbering or lettering on the boat.

If you have a “MSD” (Marine Sanitation Device, a.k.a. a “head” or toilet), regardless of the size of your vessel, it must conform to regulations. All the bays and creeks are “No Discharge Zones” so, if there is an over-board through-hull from the MSD holding tank, it must be in the locked/closed position and the key must under the control of the skipper.

The rest is largely going to be driven by the size of your vessel e.g. :

  • how many personal flotation devices (life jackets) – at least one for everybody aboard, be in good working order and readily available. A type IV throwable if the size of your vessel requires one.
  • fire extinguishers – boat size dependent but all must be in working order.
  • flares – boat size dependent but all must not be past their expiration date.
  • For all federal requirements go to for a list.

The following are the three scenarios that may happen as a result of being boarded.

  1. If you are in full compliance you will get a Report of Boarding marked, “No violations.” This means that you are in full compliance and can continue your boating activities.
  2. If you are found to have a minor violation that does not create a major safety issue you will be issued a “Written Warning.” If however, the boarding officer returns to the station and finds that you already have been given a warning for the same issue, your notice becomes a “Violation.”
  3. The third outcome that could happen is that – a “Notice of Violation” is issued immediately. If the boarding officer believes that the nature of the violation is inherently unsafe, you will be directed to follow the Coast Guard back to the dock. They are not going to allow you to continue your boating activity with some aspect of your boat that can lead to serious injury or death to you, your crew or other boaters. If the “Notice of Violation” takes on the aspect of a driving violation, the notice is mailed to the Coast Guard hearing office in Portsmouth, VA. There the boarding report will be reviewed by a case officer where fines, further letters of violations, etc will be issued. You will be notified by mail and you will have time (15 days) to file an appeal.

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary conducts free vessel exams all season long . These are not enforcement events.

If your boat “fails” virtually the same inspection that would be conducted by a boarding, you get a report that details the deficiency. Once you have corrected the deficiency you can call and re-run the inspection.

A successful inspection results in a USCGAux sticker of compliance being affixed to your windshield. To schedule a USCGAux free inspection go to :

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