Author Archives: boatsafe

New Website Encourages Teachers, Parents and Kids to ‘Explore The Blue’

The Take Me Fishing™ campaign teams up with Discovery Education and Sports Authority to instill a lifelong connection to boating and fishing.

Boating and fishing are ideal activities for families who want to spend time together outdoors. To inspire a love of boating and fishing at an early age, the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation’s (RBFF) Take Me Fishing™ campaign and Discovery Education, the leader in digital content for the classroom, have teamed up to create This brand-new, interactive website brings on-the-water experiences to life with cross-curricular lesson plans, printable outdoor activities for the family, and an interactive boating and fishing game called the ‘Thrill of the Catch.’

“Boating and fishing offer families the perfect opportunity to reconnect,” said RBFF President & CEO Frank Peterson. “Through, we want to inspire more families to get outside and experience the world around them. And with great resources like lesson plans and multimedia tools, we hope that teachers are able to bring some of the great outdoors into their classrooms.”

“The Explore the Blue campaign is a unique effort to leverage the digital resources today’s students are so familiar with to encourage them to get outdoors,” said Discovery Education Vice President of Education Partnerships Mary Rollins. “We are pleased to partner with RBFF on this important initiative growing student participation in outdoor activities and conservation issues.”

To reward those who share stories about their love of the outdoors, Take Me Fishing, Discovery Education and Sports Authority are also launching the Explore the Blue Essay Contest. By submitting an essay describing their favorite fishing or boating experience, one lucky student can win a family vacation to Yellowstone National Park. The trip will include airfare, lodging, $650 in spending money and fun on-the-water activities. The winner will also receive a $250 gift certificate from Sports Authority to purchase outdoor gear and five runners up will receive $100 gift cards.

“The Explore the Blue essay contest is a way to connect with today’s students and encourage them to actively think about the broader benefits of being in the great outdoors,” said Sports Authority Senior Vice President of Marketing Simon MacGibbon. “We are passionate about encouraging the nation’s youth to be healthy and active and are excited to take part in this initiative with Take Me Fishing – we hope it will help the next generation realize and appreciate the beauty and recreational pleasure that the outdoors offers all of us.”

Some of the most simple and even enjoyable activities can make a difference in local conservation efforts. For example, when an angler buys fishing tackle or a boater buys fuel, a portion of those funds are distributed to states by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service through the Sport Fish Restoration Program. Projects supported by these sales include fish habitat research, aquatic resource education and boat ramp construction.

If you want to explore the blue near you, visit to search more than 12,000 places to boat and fish, find local services, activities and events, or learn more about the aquatic plants and animals in your area. And if the weather isn’t cooperating for outdoor activities, parents and children can also take a virtual underwater field trip, keep an online boating journal and play a variety of exciting games at

About RBFF
RBFF is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase participation in recreational angling and boating, thereby protecting and restoring the nation’s aquatic natural resources. RBFF helps people discover, share and protect the legacy of boating and fishing through national outreach programs including the Take Me Fishing™ campaign and Anglers’ Legacy™.

About Discovery Education
Discovery Communications (NASDAQ: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) revolutionized television with Discovery Channel and is now transforming classrooms through Discovery Education. Powered by the number one nonfiction media company in the world, Discovery Education combines scientifically proven, standards-based digital media and a dynamic user community in order to empower teachers to improve student achievement. Already, more than half of all U.S. schools access Discovery Education digital services. Explore the future of education at

About Sports Authority
The Sports Authority, Inc. (“Sports Authority”) is headquartered in Englewood, Colorado. It operates over 462 stores in 45 U.S. states under Sports Authority. The Company’s website, located at is currently operated by GSI Commerce, Inc. Sports Authority has a rich history, dating back almost a century, of being an industry leader in providing a wide assortment of quality, brand-name sporting goods.

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Abandon Ship Bag

This article is provided by DOUG RITTER, PUBLISHER & EDITOR, EQUIPPED TO SURVIVE™ (Excerpted with permission – Douglas S. Ritter – All rights reserved.)

Thanks to Doug for providing this article to Nautical Know How. His points are well taken and the message should be looked upon as “life insurance”. Don’t leave home without it….Capt Matt

Life Raft While it may come as a surprise to some, by now most boaters realize that the survival equipment stocked in most life rafts, even rafts designed to meet International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requirements, is often inadequate, sometimes woefully so. In many cases not only is the selection and quantity a problem, but the quality of the equipment and supplies is also less than desirable.

Most responsible mariners also stock an Abandon Ship Bag (also called a “ditch bag”, “ditch kit”, “grab bag”, or “flee bag”) with additional emergency supplies to take along in case of an abandonment. The question of what supplies to place in the bag provides plenty of stimulating discussion among sailors and boat owners. How much do you really need is always an interesting topic. At the end of this abstract, you’ll find a link to my list of what should be included. I expect this list will also engender its fair share of discussion, which is all to the good. Any list is simply a starting place upon which to measure your own priorities, capabilities, and resources in order to come up with your own list of supplies and equipment.

One subject that is inescapable and always controversial is “cost.” Like in most things, assembling a well-equipped Abandon Ship Bag is not cheap. Equipped To Survive’s™ list was not put together with cost being a determinant. It is not for me to decide what level of expense is suitable for you or where to spend and where to save. Only you can set the value of your life and the lives of your crew and passengers within the scope of your financial limits, a compromise virtually all of us must make.

What’s What and Why

USCG to the RescueThe scope and quantities of items in this, and most such lists, are based on blue water cruising, the ultimate on-your-own experience, where the possibility exists for an extended stay in the life raft if things should go seriously wrong. The quantities of some items may be reduced somewhat, or eliminated entirely, for coastal use or island hopping in heavily traveled and patrolled waters.

In these circumstances you can shed things that are obviously geared towards longer term survival situations, such as food and fishing gear, for example. You may be able to get by with fewer repair clamps, if you have reasonable expectation of a quick rescue, as another example. In part, these compromises depend on whether you have a 406MHz EPIRB and back-up hand-held VHF or EPIRB. Close in to shore, reliable and effective communications will substitute for a huge amount of additional gear. Surviving is nice, but getting rescued as quickly as possible is the ultimate aim.

When considering the quantities in any such list, consider whether they include what is already part of the life raft’s equipment and survival supplies. However, in some cases the quality of those included items is so poor as to make them irrelevant, so it is important to identify not just what has been packed in the raft generically, but exactly what is in there.

Safety In Security

When you have to go take this.Be sure to carefully examine and test everything you plan to use in an emergency. This ensures you know how to operate the equipment and that it is functioning. Testing is absolutely critical for electronic and mechanical equipment. It isn’t pretty when you’ve abandoned ship and your radio or EPIRB or watermaker doesn’t work. It’s happened. I’ve spoken to the survivors, they were not very pleased, but they have only themselves to blame for not testing first. I’ve seen failures myself in testing. Never rely on mechanical or electronic equipment you haven’t tested yourself before packing.

ALL equipment must be fitted with a lanyard, wrist or tether as appropriate. You can’t afford to lose anything! Neptune has a seemingly insatiable appetite for your most precious, irreplaceable pieces of survival equipment and supplies. Let him feed off someone else. Everything in the life raft should be secured at all times, either by a lanyard or inside a sealed bag that is securely attached to the raft (“secure” is the watchword!). Neck or wrist lanyards should include a means of adjustment so they can be made tight and secure. If left loose, they can still too easily slip off and the equipment is lost (been there, done that). A useful addition to your equipment list might be a few retractable gear attachment devices. They ensure that whatever you are using doesn’t drop overboard, is out of the way when not in use, while still allowing you freedom of movement while using it.

Dry BagsYour abandon ship bag should be waterproof itself to protect its contents in the marine environment. Generally, there will be adequate excess volume, even when loaded, to ensure it floats, if it ends up in the water instead of in the raft. Dry bags are one solution and available in a number of configurations. Another is to use a Pelican Products or Underwater Kinetics case (though these weigh a bit more). There are also commercially produced “abandon ship bags” available from marine equipment suppliers, but with a single exception these are not waterproof, though they do incorporate floatation material. All such storage containers should have a few feet of lanyard attached with a secure snap clip or carabinier at the end to allow you to quickly attach it to your PFD harness or to the raft so that it doesn’t go missing in the chaos that often accompanies an abandonment.

Another good place to store some of this “extra” or replacement equipment or supplies is in the life raft itself, especially life raft specific items. When purchasing a new raft or when having your existing raft serviced, take the opportunity to discuss these options with the manufacturer, dealer, or service center. Some manufacturers welcome the opportunity to help in this manner, other simply have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. Most service centers are happy to assist.

Consider The Logistics

That sinking feelingConsider the logistics of an abandonment. Take care that crew members can readily handle the fully loaded bag. Depending upon its size, it’s entirely possible to stuff so much in it that it can unwieldy, or even impossible for some persons of smaller stature to lift. Bear in mind also that you might well have to do so on a wildly rolling, slippery deck in perilous conditions. Often it makes sense to split the load into two containers, especially if you have taken to heart admonishments to be well prepared. In some cases, you won’t be able to fit the bag(s) in the cockpit, the best location, so at least one of multiple bags may have to go below.

If you do have to split stuff up, how do you decide what goes where? Simply split the amounts or prioritize what goes topside and what goes below? I think prioritizing is probably your best bet. Make sure the most critical gear and supplies are readily at hand. What’s most important? Well, that will vary somewhat with the people involved, their capabilities, and where you are. If you compare what the possible consequences of not having something are to other possible inclusions it should become easier to decide, if not exactly easy. Still, lack of some things will surely kill you sooner than lack of others, fresh water vs. food being a prime example.

Burning BoatIn any case, no matter how well you stock your abandon ship bag, there are going to be other items which you need to plan to take with you that aren’t in the bag. Being organized and practice are the only defenses when an emergency occurs. Too often there will be little time to prepare and an abandonment will have to be performed post-haste, with no time to spare as water pours in or a fire spreads.

Crew members should be able to locate and retrieve critical items in the dark — no different than a soldier being able to field strip his equipment in the dark. Practice, practice, practice. It should take no longer than 30 second for the crew to collect all the gear and be ready to launch the life raft and abandon ship. If that sounds like it’s not enough time, talk to a few sailors who have seen their boats go under just that quickly. If you have a plan and practice, it is doable with time to spare.

Will most people invest the time and effort? Unfortunately, probably not, but at a minimum you should do a run-through with the crew before getting underway, so at least everyone has some concept of their responsibilities and what needs doing in the unlikely case that it comes to that. It may help to post an abandon ship checklist in a conspicuous place, perhaps in the companionway.

Finally, you should never assume all hands will be available to perform their assigned jobs during the abandonment. Some well-intentioned abandon ship plans fall apart at this point because the developer forgets someone might already have been lost overboard or incapacitated. All crew members should at least be familiar with all that needs to be done and what the priorities are.

Click here to visit Equipped To Survive™ for the complete article including Doug’s detailed list of recommended equipment and supplies annotated with brief comments and linked to other sections of the ETS site where additional detailed information on that particular item is available.

Equipped To Survive™ ( features comprehensive independent reviews of survival equipment, as well as wilderness, aviation, and marine survival information. Please note that this is not a “survivalist” site. ETS is a non-profit endeavor.

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Procedure for Abandoning Ship

Last week we posted an article about a Croation man who, while resisting rescue almost lost his life. I thought it might be appropriate to share some tips on abandoning ship. I hope no one ever has to use these suggestions, however it is better to have the knowledge and be prepared if the time comes when you have to abandon ship. – Capt Matt

Anyone who operates offshore or on the Great Lakes needs to put abondon ship procedures on their preparation checklist.  Make sure that all passengers and crew are familiar with the procedures and assign each of them a task in the process. Hold a mock survival drill if appropriate. The decision to abandon ship is usually very difficult. In some instances, people have perished in their life raft while their abandoned vessel managed to stay afloat. Other cases indicate that people waited too long to successfully get clear of a floundering boat.

Once the decision is made:

  • Put on all available waterproof clothing, including gloves, headgear, and life jacket.
  • Collect survival kit. Stay tuned tomorrow for more on survival from one of our experts.
  • Note present position.
  • Send out MAYDAY message.
  • Launch life raft attached to ship.
  • Launch dinghy attached to life raft. 
  • Try to enter life raft directly from the boat (if impossible, use minimal swimming effort to get on board).
  • Don’t forget the EPIRB (emergency position indicator radio beacon).
  • Get a safe distance from the sinking vessel.
  • Collect all available flotsam. The most unlikely articles can be adapted for use under survival conditions.
  • Keep warm by huddling bodies together. Keep dry, especially your feet.
  • Stream a sea anchor.
  • Arrange lookout watches.
  • Use flares only on skipper’s orders when there is a real chance of them being seen.
  • Arrange for collecting rainwater. Ration water to maximum one-half quart per person per day, issued in small increments. Do not drink seawater or urine. If water is in short supply, eat only sweets from survival rations.

Act Like a Captain

As a seamanship instructor, I teach my students that being a good captain involves a certain amount of acting. In emergency situations, the crew of a vessel looks to their leader in an almost unconscious way to determine their own level of anxiety. If the captain projects a calm and confident attitude, the crew will be reassured and since an anxious crew means poor judgment and performance, a captain should do all he or she can to keep the crew calm. The idea here is not to lie to your crew, and certainly not to fake a fearless, macho manner, going down with the ship is a pretty dumb plan. The idea is that, by maintaining a calm, deliberate attitude in the face of a dire situation, you can help your crew remain effective and perhaps help save lives. If you need to fake that attitude to some degree, so be it.

Emergency Communications

When trouble strikes, there are many ways to communicate your distress and seek help. Use your VHF or single-sideband radio and follow the procedures for distress.

There are three levels of priority communications: distress, urgent, and safety, identified by MAYDAY, PAN-PAN, and SECURITE. Understand the differences by reviewing the tip on radio procedures.

Panicked radio communications can confuse a rescue effort. Learn the proper procedures. Try to stay calm.

Use the acceptable distress signals as outlined in the Navigation Rules. Flares are fast and effective — red for distress.

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Air Force Rebuts Government Auditor Concerns About GPS

GPS errors Back in November of 2009 I posted an article entitled Boating – GPS is not infallable. In this post, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) “deterioration in navigation service is likely to begin during the next decade beginning in 2010.”

Now another government report is raising questions about the future reliability of the Global Positioning System satellite network and implies that the GAO report is “overly pessimistic,” Air Force commanders said last Friday. Who do you believe?

Referring to the GAO the Air Force says: A report from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said the latest GPS satellite was launched almost 3 1/2 years behind schedule, and further delays could leave the system with fewer than the 24 orbiting satellites it needs as older models wear out and quit working.

Col. David Buckman of the Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., said the report’s facts were correct, but “we think it draws overly pessimistic conclusions based on those facts.”

Buckman said satellites currently in the design or construction phase are on schedule and the Air Force has 31 healthy, operational satellites in orbit.

Even if the count did drop below 24 — which Buckman said was unlikely — most users, including some military applications, wouldn’t be affected, he said.

GPS has become nearly indispensable, with untold numbers of receivers in everything from cars and cell phones to military weapons. The receivers can determine their position, their path and the time of day using signals from the satellites, which are launched and operated by the Air Force.

Col. Bernard Gruber, commander of the GPS Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., estimated that there are 750 million GPS users worldwide.

A May 2009 GAO report cast doubt on whether the Air Force could acquire new satellites in time to prevent an interruption in service as older satellites die.

A follow-up report released Sept. 15 credited the Air Force with making improvements but warned that a delay in launching one of the next-generation satellites could still drop the number of operational orbiting satellites to less than 24.

In a conference call with reporters Friday, Buckman and Gruber acknowledged that the Air Force has no spare satellites ready to launch if an orbiting satellite fails, but they pointed to the fact that the system already has more than it needs in orbit.

“We’d like to have more in the barn, (but) we have very robust constellation on orbit right now that’s well above the minimum number that were required to have on orbit,” Buckman said.

“I think GPS is extremely strong today,” he said.

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Do You Want E-15 in Your Tank?

From the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)

In the upcoming weeks, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will make an important decision on whether to allow ethanol to comprise up to 15% (E15) of gasoline sold in the United States from the current level of 10% (E10). The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), who represents manufacturers of boats, engines, trailers, accessories and gear used by boaters and anglers throughout North America, and its allies have long encouraged EPA to thoroughly and comprehensively test recreational marine engines, fuel systems and components to demonstrate that higher ethanol blends will not defeat marine engine air emissions devices or pose safety risks before approving E15. The first marine tests are underway now and will not be completed before EPA makes its decision.

As many boaters and anglers already know, there are serious and well-documented safety, environmental, and technology concerns associated with ethanol blends over 10 percent in boat fuel tanks and engines. For marine and other small gasoline-powered engines that are designed to run on not more than E10, higher concentrations of ethanol in fuel pose serious problems, including performance issues; increased water absorption and phase separation (when water separates from the gasoline while in the tank); fuel tank corrosion and oil/fuel leaks; increased emissions of smog-forming pollutants; and damage to valves, push rods, rubber fuel lines and gaskets. Even with E10, many boaters are seeking out ethanol-free gas at marinas, but at a premium of $.75 to $1.50 more per gallon.

As we wait for EPA’s decision, NMMA and our partner organizations in the “Say NO to Untested E15” are encouraging concerned boaters to visit to write an email to President Obama requesting that he urge the EPA to thoroughly and comprehensively test all gasoline-powered engines, including marine engines, before allowing E15 into the marketplace. NMMA Legislative Director Mat Dunn is available for interviews to help spread the word about how concerned boaters can encourage the Administration to “follow the science.” If you are interested in speaking with Mat by phone or want to learn more about this issue, please contact me at or 202-737-9774.

Thank you,

Christine Pomorski

National Marine Manufacturers Association

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Happy Friday!

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Near Tragedy as Man Resists Rescue

Remember the old salt’s saying: You step up into the liferaft when abandoning ship. In other words, stay on the boat unless it is really, truly sinking—many boats have been found floating after a storm, abandoned by panicked sailors. One Croatian man this week took that saying too seriously and resisted rescue and was in danger of losing his life.

A Croatian man, who tried to anchor in the flooded Sava River in his home country, resisted the attempt of the member of the Croation special forces who dropped from a helicopter to rescue him.

The rescue almost turned tragic, as the rescuer had to battle the flood waters of the river, as well as the man’s reluctance, to finally rescue him at the last second as his boat disappeared into the river.

Sava River Rescue

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Can a Laser Pointer Put Your Life in Danger?

Imagine you are offshore in a boat that is taking on water. You engine won’t start and your batteries are dead so the bilge pumps are not working. You are going down.

You make an urgent MayDay call for help and the U.S. Coast Guard acknowleges your situation. Within a few minutes you see a Coast Guard helicopter approaching toward your location. Then, all of a sudden, the helicopter turns and goes the other direction. What could be happening?

The Coast Guard would like to remind people about the dangers of pointing lasers into the sky. Even small laser pointers sold to the general public, pointed at an aircraft, can have serious and disastrous effects on pilots’ vision.

There have been 10 reported incidents of aircraft being targeted by lasers between Cape May, N.J., and Ocean City, N.J., this summer, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Many of these incidents involved Coast Guard aircraft performing search and rescue and training operations. Click the photo to see the animation of how the runway disappears, then click the back button to return.

This is a significant risk to flight safety, especially for helicopters working low altitudes and aircraft taking off or landing. If any aircrew member’s vision is compromised during a flight Coast Guard flight rules dictate that the aircraft must abort their mission. Laser pointers can cause the pilot to see a glare, afterimage, have flash blindness, or can even cause temporary loss of night vision.

Additionally, aircrew members are taken off flight duty for a minimum of 24 hours and must have their eyes dilated and be cleared by a doctor before flying again. This temporary loss of flight crews has the potential to significantly affect the unit’s abilities to conduct search and rescue, training and homeland security missions.

The Food and Drug Administration regulates the manufacture of laser products and according to an FDA Consumer Safety Alert, overpowered green laser pointers may have been modified to emit more radiation than originally intended. These overpowered green laser pointers are a serious concern because they can cause permanent eye damage.

New Jersey State Law prohibits the interference with transportation vehicles including autos, aircraft, or boats. In addition, federal charges can be brought against the convicted person and can carry a sentence up to 20 years in prison in addition to fines.

Members of the public who witness someone committing this crime are strongly encouraged to immediately call 911 to report the incident.

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Five Tips to Keep Winter Away From Your Boat Trailer

According to BoatUS, if your boat trailer is going to spend the off-season outside exposed to the elements, here are five tips to protect your investment and eliminate problems down the road.

A little spray will do you: Spraying lubricants such as WD-40 on metal trailer roller assemblies, winch gears and electrical connections will keep moisture away and rust at bay. It’s also best to take care of any rust spots now on the (galvanized) metal trailer frame: sand, prime and paint.

Don’t park under trees: Some boaters think their boat will be protected by storing it under trees but the opposite is true – ice, snow, and howling winter storms can snap off tree limbs which come crashing down. Falling leaves and needles can also stain boat covers and gelcoat, or make their way inside where they can block transom drain holes.

Turn it around in the driveway: If you’re going to leave the boat on the trailer in your driveway for the winter, face the hitch away from the street if possible, and put a lock on the trailer hitch. The name of the game in avoiding boat theft is to make your rig as difficult as possible to steal.

Take care of the tires: In addition to being a theft deterrent, removing the tires and storing them in the garage or shed will keep the sun from damaging them. With the tires off, this may also a good time to repack the bearings (Another thing you won’t want to do in the spring). Block the frame and secure plastic (contractor grade) trash bags over the hubs and brakes to keep them dry. If tires won’t be removed, position the trailer so that the tires rest on a piece of plywood or plank to prevent dry rot, and cover them (again with plastic bags) to keep the sun off and hubs and brakes dry. To avoid flat spots from happening, move the trailer periodically a few inches throughout the winter.

Help water drain: Keeping the boat and trailer rig in a slightly nose-high (bow up) position will allow water to drain out the transom drain hole. This can be easily done by placing a small block under the trailer jack. (Don’t forget to remove drain plug and tie it to the ignition key where you will find it in the spring). Also ensure that the boat’s cover is tight and periodically check inside throughout the winter – critters love to hide aboard boats and find them appetizing.

For more information on the BoatUS Trailering Club and all of the services provided, visit or call 800-395-2628.

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Coast Guard Announces East River Closures for United Nations General Assembly

NEW YORK – The Coast Guard will establish and enforce additional security zones on the East River, periodically restricting vessel traffic through the upper harbor near the United Nations Headquarters, starting at 7 a.m., Sept. 20, 2010.

The East River closures include all waters of the East River from East 35th St. to 59th St. Queensboro Bridge.

Full closure of this section of the East River can be expected for Sept. 23-24.

  • Zone 1: is a permanent security zone that has been in place since 9-11.  It restricts vessel traffic within 175-yards of Manhattan in the West Channel of the East River. Commercial vessels must check in with Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service New York on VHF channel 12 prior to entering the West Channel.
  • Zone 2: No commercial or recreational vessel traffic is permitted in the West Channel of the East River from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., except New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sludge vessels, which need a 24-hour advance notice to transit.
  • Zone 3: No commercial or recreational traffic is permitted in the East River between East 35th Street and the Queensboro-59th Street Bridge on Sept. 23, 2010, from 9:15 a.m.-1:30p.m. and on Sept. 24, between 3:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.- except commercial passenger vessels with Coast Guard zone commander approval.

The Coast Guard zone commander will be monitoring VHF channels 13 & 16.

Violations of this security zone are punishable by a $50,000 fine, 5 years imprisonment or both.

Vessels that require opening of the Roosevelt Island Bridge must contact the bridge tender at least 15 minutes in advance by phone at (732) 311-6705, (718) 361-9217 or via VHF-FM CH 13.

Specific times of the various security zone closures may change. Every effort will be made to keep mariners informed of all changes. Contact Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Services on VHF channel 12, or at (718) 354-4088 for updates.

For more information, visit the Coast Guard Homeport advisory here.

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