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MIAMI — The Coast Guard is reminding the public that flares are to be used for emergencies only, after a series of false alarms in recent days has cost the Coast Guard significant money and resources.
Last week there were five cases involving flares within the Coast Guard’s Seventh District. One case involving a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft and small boat search crew cost more than $43,000.
Flares are lifesaving visual signaling devices that can be used day or night to alert emergency responders and fellow boaters to an emergency.
The improper use of flares can divert valuable search assets from an actual distress case and place rescuers unnecessarily in harm’s way while responding to the false alarm. False alarms tie up assets that are needed elsewhere, burn up crew hours and fuel, and interfere with scheduled operations. The improper use of flares also costs taxpayers thousands of dollars each time a Coast Guard asset is launched to search for a flare sighting.
The cost of operating a Coast Guard H-65 Dolphin helicopter is $11,061 per hour and an H-60 Jayhawk costs $14,318; the cost of operating an HC-130 Hercules aircraft is $17,866 per hour and the cost of operating an HC-144 Ocean Sentry Aircraft is $15,354 per hour.
Flares are instrumental in assisting emergency responders to locate those in need of help, but can be dangerous if not handled properly.
The following are some safety tips the Coast Guard suggests to properly handle flares:
- Treat a flare as if it is a firearm: don’t point it toward anyone
- Do not look at the flare when launching it
- Hold the flare at arm’s length away from your face and body
- Keep the flare pointed downwind from you, others and any equipment or structures
If boaters plan to use flares for training, they should contact the nearest Coast Guard unit to inform them of their intentions. Boaters should be prepared to give times, locations and types of flares that will be utilized during the training exercise.
The Coast Guard recommends that boaters properly dispose of old or outdated flares by turning them over to a Coast Guard base or a Coast Guard Auxiliary unit.
An individual who knowingly and willfully communicates a false distress message to the Coast Guard, or causes the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help is needed, is guilty of a class D felony and is subject to a civil penalty of not more than $5,000, and liable for all costs the Coast Guard incurs as a result of the individual’s action.
The Coast Guard would also like to remind boaters that Tuesday marks the first day of Spiny Lobster season (August 6 through March 31). Being safe on the water is paramount. For more information on boating safety and required and recommended safety equipment, please visit http://www.uscgboating.org/.
The first in the series was contributed by the now retired Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Station, Ft. Pierce, FL, Chief Warrant Officer Jim Krzenski.
Images of death and destruction are easily conjured within our minds when hearing the word “Hurricane!”
Due to his or her vulnerability, the mariner’s images are even more vivid and threatening. This is probably true due to the fact that hurricane conditions have a tremendous effect upon the ocean. The ocean is no place for the recreational boater to be during the extreme conditions associated with a hurricane.
Hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 30th of each year. This is no time to drop our guard. I’d like to start by reviewing some of the hurricane-associated terminology, and then discuss some specific preparations that mariners can take to help themselves and their boats survive the storm.
A hurricane watch is issued by the National Weather Service when a hurricane may threaten a specified portion of the coast. It is issued 36 hours before landfall may occur. A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane conditions are expected for a specified portion of the coast within 24 hours of landfall.
There are five categories of hurricanes
- Category (1): winds 74 to 95 MPH – 4 to 5 foot storm surge
- Category (2): winds 96 to 110 MPH – 6 to 8 foot storm surge
- Category (3): winds 111 to 130 MPH – 9 to 12 foot storm surge
- Category (4): winds 131 to 155 MPH – 13 to 18 foot storm surge
- Category (5): winds 156 MPH and above – 18 foot and above storm surge
Despite the fact that we are more then half way through this year’s hurricane season, we must continue to maintain our vigilance and forehandedness. It makes good sense to have a hurricane plan in place long before a hurricane is bearing down on us. When formulating our hurricane plans we must always keep in mind that “life always comes before property.” I strongly encourage that you heed all evacuation notices issued by your local county emergency management office regardless of the vulnerability of your boat.
Mariners are faced with a significant challenge when formulating an effective plan to protect their most cherished property. We must keep in mind that, despite their best preparatory efforts, many mariners still have lost their boats to the ravaging effects of these storms. A non-trailerable boat at a coastal mooring is in a very vulnerable spot. This fact should not deter us from completing some common sense preparations.
It would be wise to have your boat properly secured long before any public evacuation notices are issued. Waiting too long to make preparations may trap your boat at its present location, or worse, result in you being in a dangerous location during the storm. Note that the draw bridges are authorized to remain closed upon the approach of gale force winds of 34 knots or greater. Make preparations early and then evacuate to safe location.
Due to the various levels of their intensity and the unpredictability of a hurricane’s track, I have found it very effective when formulating a hurricane plan to list all the possible options. Then, upon a hurricane’s approach, chose the options that best fit the particular circumstances.
For example, if you own a trailerable boat, what would be some of the possible options to take in an effort to save your boat? You may want to tow the boat to a safe location outside of the path of the storm. Another option might be to keep your trailerable boat in your backyard, and with the manufacturer’s approval, fill the hull with water. In addition, it may be a good idea to put your anchor out right there in your backyard. If the storm surge reaches your property the anchor may help the boat stay in your backyard. Keep in mind, these backyard actions may stop your boat from being blown around, but it will not protect it from falling trees and flying debris.
If it is a non-trailerable boat that you own, your best option may be to cruise to another part of the world during the Atlantic Hurricane season; the Great Lakes may be one option. Of course, this is not a viable option for most mariners. Some of the more common options may be to have one of the local marine dealers haul your boat out of the water and place it in protective dry storage upon the approach of a hurricane, or you may want to relocate your boat to a previously identified hurricane haven, or you may wish to reinforce your boat’s present moorings and put out extra mooring lines. The publication “Hurricane Havens Handbook for the Atlantic Ocean” (stock # ADA 116103.) can be ordered from the National Technical information Service, 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, Va. 22161 (703) 487-4600.
I do not recommend that you get underway on your recreational vessel and head out to sea upon the approach of a hurricane to “ride out the storm.” Most boats are not designed to withstand the large seas and high winds generated by these severe storms. It is most important for all mariners to obtain a daily updated tropical weather forecast and plan their boating activities accordingly. Keep abreast of what is happening just over the horizon in our earth’s atmosphere.
Mariners are reminded that aids to navigation, particularly lighted and unlighted buoys, may be moved from charted position, damaged, destroyed, extinguished or otherwise deemed discrepant due to the effects of hurricanes and storms. Mariners should not rely solely upon the position or operation of an aid to navigation, but should also employ such other methods of determining position as may be available.
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.
Many of you may have purchased new or used boats during the off-season this year either from an individual, a dealer or at a boat show. Inevitably, while showing off your new purchase to friends, the question will arise; “is it documented?” So how do you answer?
- Do you say: Sure isn’t that one of the first things you do?
- Or do you say: Not yet, but I need to take care of that soon.
- Or, are you honest and say: I don’t even know what that means.
So…just so you will know the correct answer the following article from the U.S. Coast Guard Consumer Fact Sheet explains the process and the pros and cons.
WHICH VESSELS MUST BE DOCUMENTED?
With a few exceptions, all vessels of 5 or more net tons which are used in coastwise trade, Great Lakes trade, or the fisheries, on the navigable waters of the U.S. or the Exclusive Economic Zone must be documented. A commercial vessel of 5 or more net tons engaged in foreign trade is eligible, but not required, to be documented. A recreational boat, owned by a U.S. citizen, may (at the option of the owner) also be documented if it is 5 or more net tons. The Certificate of Documentation is issued by the Coast Guard.
WHICH VESSELS MUST BE NUMBERED?
Federal law requires any undocumented vessel equipped with propulsion machinery to be numbered in the State in which it is principally operated. The law allows the States to create their own numbering systems as long as they meet or exceed Federal requirements.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF DOCUMENTATION
If the owner has a choice between the two forms of registration, what are the advantages or disadvantages of documenting the boat?
Advantages: The main benefit of documentation versus numbering, is that a documented vessel may be the subject of a Preferred Ship Mortgage under 46 United States Code Chapter 313. In practical terms, this means that lending institutions regard a documented vessel as a more secure form of collateral. For larger and more expensive boats, it may be easier to obtain bank financing if the boat is documented rather than numbered.
Another benefit is that the certificate of documentation may make customs entry and clearance easier in foreign ports. The document is treated as a form of national registration that clearly identifies the nationality of the vessel.
Disadvantages: The main disadvantage of documenting rather than numbering is the higher cost. The initial documentation fee for a recreational vessel is *$100.00. The numbering fee varies from State to State but averages about *$25.00. In addition, documented vessels are not exempt from State or local taxes or other boating fees. Some individual States require a registration fee even if a boat is documented.
*These numbers are just estimates and may change without notice.
For more information and a list of Frequently Asked Questions visit the BoatSafe.com website.
Life Jackets – Check
Boat Registration – Check
Sound Signalling Device – Check
Fire Extinquisher – Check
Hitchhikers – What?
Boaters hitting area rivers and lakes this weekend might want to give themselves a few extra minutes for hull inspections. Many State’s Boating Authorities will be having boat inspection stations set up along routes to major boating destinations. The checkpoints are designed to detect any hitchhiking invasive species that may be attached to watercraft.
State Boating Authorities are focusing their attention to aquatic species that are posing immediate threats to the State’s recreational waters. Zebra Mussels and quagga mussels are just a couple of the targeted species. The mussels can ruin fisheries; clog boat motor cooling systems; foul watercraft hulls and equipment; and clog water-delivery systems used for power plants, irrigation, and domestic water use.
Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS)
Aquatic nuisance species (ANS) are non-indigenous species that threaten the diversity or abundance of native aquatic species. Two such ANS are the Zebra mussel and the Quagga mussel. Great Lakes water users spend tens of millions of dollars on zebra mussel control every year. Zebra mussel infestations cause pronounced ecological changes in the Great Lakes and major rivers of the central United States.
Non-indigenous aquatic nuisance plants, such as purple loosestrife, Eurasian water milfoil and hydrilla quickly establish themselves, replacing native plants.
Environmental and economic problems caused by the dense growth of these weeds include impairment of water-based recreation, navigation, flood control, water quality and fish and wildlife habitat.
Boaters should be conscientious when pulling their boats from recreational waters. You should inspect the boat and trailer, while still in the ramp area, and remove any suspected ANS and mud to eliminate the spread to other waters that may be visited.
Please consult with your state marine patrol and local marinas to identify non-indigenous species in your area. For more information on Impacts of Aquatic Non-indigenous Species, visit http://www.protectyourwaters.net/impacts.php