Category Archives: Sailing News

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.

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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.

Preparation
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.

Troubleshooting
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.


Prevention
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 BoatSafe.com 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 : http://www.safetyseal.net/GetVSC/

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4 Elements of a Safe Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day Safety

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by | August 29, 2013 · 8:09 am

Marina Or Anchorage? Where Can I Get WiFi?

Internet access afloat is becoming increasingly important with boat owners wanting access to news, weather, email and business systems on board. The WL510 allows users to connect to WiFi hot spots with a range of up to four – six miles depending on conditions.

It uses a powerful modem and amplifier unit together with a 1m high quality external WiFi antenna and connects to the boat’s PC or laptop computer via an ethernet connection. The unit incorporates its own DHCP server, so can be connected to a router to allow multiple devices such as iPads, iPhones, Macs or PCs to connect to the WL510 system.

Any connected user can control which WiFi access point or hot spot is in use through a simple web interface. The new interface also allows network security settings and the unit’s output power to be adjusted to optimise performance.

The WL510 is priced at $749.00 and is available now. Existing users of WL500’s can upgrade to the WL510 by simply changing their below deck unit. For further information about this option visit www.digitalyachtamerica.com

Disclaimer. I have not used or tested this product. The source of the product description and claims are contributed by the SailMiami boat show.

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Hurricane Preparation – Part 3

Hurricane Preparation Checklist

Here is a list of the many things to consider before, during and after a hurricane. Some of the safety rules will make things easier for you during a hurricane. All are important and could help save your life and the lives of others. If local authorities recommend evacuation, you should leave! Their advice is based on knowledge of the strength of the storm and its potential for death and destruction.

I. BE PREPARED BEFORE THE HURRICANE

  • Check your marine insurance carefully to see if you are required to take some action in order to make the claim valid.
  • Check with your marina and find out their policy for handling hurricanes. In some States marinas can order all boats to leave.
  • If you are going to move your boat, determine where ahead of time.
  • Learn the storm surge history and elevation of your area.
  • Learn safe routes inland and make plans of where you will evacuate to.
  • Inventory the property on your boat…with video equipment if possible. Plan what will be removed from the boat and what must stay.
  • Keep all legal documents such as registration, insurance policy, marina rental agreement, radio license etc. in one easily moved, secure container. Make an inventory of documents, photos, and other irreplaceable articles that need to be taken in case of an evacuation.

II. WHEN A HURRICANE WATCH IS ISSUED (A WATCH means hurricane conditions pose a possible threat to the watch area within 36 hours)

  • Frequently monitor radio, TV, NOAA Weather Radio, or hurricane Hotline telephone numbers for official bulletins of the storm’s progress.
  • Review needs and working condition of emergency equipment, such as first aid kit, flashlights, battery-powered radios.
  • Move boats on trailers close to house. Weigh them down. Lash securely to trailer and use tie-downs to anchor trailer to ground or house. Let air out of trailer tires.
  • Anchored boats should be tied high, using a half hitch knot (loop knots slip). Anchor rigging should consist of new or good line and chain.
  • Boats docked at marinas should have extra lines attached. Line lengths should be sufficient to take care of excessive high water.
  • Once your boat is secured, leave it and don’t return once the wind and waves are up.
  • Fuel your car. (During Hurricane Season never let your fuel gage fall below half)
  • Stock up on canned provisions
  • Check supplies of special medicines and drugs.
  • Secure lawn furniture and other loose material outdoors.
  • Tape, board, or shutter windows to prevent shattering.
  • Wedge sliding glass doors to prevent their lifting from their tracks.

III. WHEN A HURRICANE WARNING IS ISSUED (A WARNING means sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are expected in the warning area within 24 hours or less.)

  • Closely monitor radio, TV, NOAA Weather Radio, or hurricane Hotline telephone numbers for official bulletins.
  • Follow instructions issued by local officials. LEAVE IMMEDIATELY IF ORDERED TO DO SO.
  • If staying home, in a sturdy structure on high ground: (plan to evacuate if you live on the coastline or on an offshore island, or live near a river or in a flood plain)
  • Board up garage and porch doors.
  • Move valuables to upper floors.
  • Bring pets in.
  • Fill containers (bathtubs) with several days supply of drinking water. (one gallon per person per day)
  • Turn up refrigerator to maximum cold and don’t open unless necessary.
  • Use phone only for emergencies.
  • Stay indoors on the downwind side of the house away from windows.
  • Beware of the eye of the hurricane. Don’t be lured by the calm.
  • Bring in small hand tools to aid you should your home be damaged during the storm.
  • If you are evacuating: (always evacuate if you live in a mobile home)
  • Leave areas which might be affected by storm tide or a stream flooding.
  • Leave early – in daylight if possible.
  • Shut off water and electricity at main stations.
  • Take small valuables and papers, but travel light.
  • Persons needing special foods or medicines should take them with them.
  • Take sufficient money in small bills to defray certain expenses you may incur.
  • Leave food and water for pets (shelters will not take your pets).
  • Lock up house.
  • Notify family members or friends outside of the warned area of your evacuation plans.
  • Drive carefully to designated shelter or other evacuation location using recommended evacuation routes.

IV. AFTER THE STORM PASSES

  • Stay in your protected area until announcements are made on the radio or TV that the dangerous winds have passed.
  • Drive carefully; watch for dangling electrical wires, undermined roads, and flooded low spots.
  • Report broken or damaged water, sewer, and electrical lines.
  • Use caution re-entering your home.
  • Check for gas leaks.
  • Check food and water for spoilage.
  • If your home has structural damage, do not enter until it is checked by building officials.

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Collision – Allision –Tomatoe – Tomahto

You know you’re getting old when words you once knew seem new. I know I had heard the word allision before but couldn’t quite place it. According to Maritime Law, allision is the running of one vessel against another. It is distinguished from collision in that collision means the running of two vessels against each other. This latter term, collision, is frequently used for allision although grammatically in error.

The following article from the Coast Guard News contained one of those words.

KEY WEST, Fla. — The Coast Guard responded to an allision between two Carnival Cruise Line ships in the Port of Key West.

While the minor crash caused some cosmetic damage to both vessels, no one was injured and there was no pollution or structural damage reported.

The Carnival Imagination was docked at the port and the Carnival Fantasy was docking when the vessels struck stern to stern, the Coast Guard said.

No injuries, pollution or structural damage occurred during the incident.

Alcohol and drug testings have been conducted on personnel in safety-sensitive positions in accordance with Coast Guard policy.

The Coast Guard is investigating the incident.

The above photo shows the extent of the “cosmetic’ damage to one of  the Carnival Line Ships.

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What Were They Thinkin!

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

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

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

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

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Boat Ownership – Keeping It Yours

Seems now days news articles related to boating thefts across the country occur all too  often.

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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