Tag Archives: Fishing

“Don’t Mess With Our GPS”

In the past several months we have published a couple of articles about the potential effects of new/increased traffic from radio signals that are close to those used by your trusty GPS. The two articles were titled GPS Signals in Jeopardy and How Increased Radio Traffic Could Effect Your Navigation respectively. Each article encouraged boaters to contact the Federal Communications Commision (FCC) to voice their opposition.

BoatUS  has been a champion for the cause and recently delivered 15,000 comments to the FCC from concerned boaters, sailors and anglers.

The comments to the (FCC) are asking the agency to protect the future reliability of GPS (Global Positioning System) across the United States. The agency is currently considering a request from a private company, LightSquared, to build up to 40,000 ground stations for a new nationwide broadband wireless telephone network, which, tests have shown, could cause significant interference with most GPS signals.

At issue is LightSquared’s proposed use of radio frequency bandwidth adjacent to frequencies that are used by the relatively weak GPS signal.  A recent report to the FCC said, “all phases of the LightSquared deployment plan will result in widespread harmful interference to GPS signals and service and that mitigation is not possible.”  In an unusual move, a conditional waiver was granted in January by the FCC to LightSquared to permit the dramatic expansion of land-based use of mobile satellite spectrum, subject to spring testing and public comments.

“We hope these 15,000 comments indicate to the FCC the critical need of having a reliable navigation system, not just for boaters and anglers, but for pilots, drivers, outdoor adventurers, and first responders.  It is unimaginable that the federal government – the guardian of the bandwidth – would consider approving a proposal with so many problems and grave public safety consequences,” said BoatUS Vice President of Government Affairs Margaret Podlich.

An unusually short 30-day public comment period on the FCC permit ends Saturday, July 30. BoatUS is urging citizens around the country to share their views by going to www.BoatUS.com/gov to send their comments to the FCC.

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Spring Time Boating Dangers – Thunderstorms & Lightning

With all the severe weather we have been seeing on the news we need to remind boaters that spring is the time that boaters need to be especially aware of the weather conditions. You can get weather information from TV, radio or from one of the weather channels on your VHF radio. At certain times of the year, weather can change rapidly and you should continually keep a “weather eye” out in order to foresee changes which might be impending.

Certain signs you can look for indicate an approaching weather change:

  • Although weather changes generally come from the west, you should be observant of weather from all directions, so scan the sky with your weather eye, especially to the west.
  • A sudden drop in temperature and change in the wind often mean that a storm is near.
  • If you have a barometer on your boat, check it every two to three hours. A rapid drop in pressure means a storm is approaching.
  • Watch for cloud build up, especially rapid, vertically rising clouds. Be alert for the sound of thunder.
  • Watch for lightning and rough water. Remember that boats, particularly sailboats, are vulnerable to lightning if not grounded.

Thunderstorms form when warm, moist air rises, cools and condenses.  The thunderstorm develops in three stages:

  • The cumulus stage occurs as the warm moist air rises in a great vertical development. You will notice that the top of the cloud formation appears to “boil” as it rapidly rises.
  • The mature stage occurs when the cloud formation has reached its maximum height, sometimes 60,000 feet. At this point you will see the top in the shape of an anvil. This is being driven by winds aloft and the front of the anvil will point in the direction that the storm is moving. If you cannot see the anvil shape the storm is either coming toward you or going directly away.
  • The dissipation stage occurs as the cloud has released its precipitation and starts to go down. You will first observe a fuzzy, fibrous (called glaciated) top.  As the storm continues to dissipate you will see cirrus clouds streaking from the top.

One of the weather phenomena that you may find associated with a thunderstorm is wind sheer. Wind sheer is low mixed turbulence that occurs in front of a thunderstorm.

Thunderstorms contain thunder and lightning that can be used to determine the distance that the storm is from your current location and whether or not the storm is moving toward you or away from you. In order to make this estimate, count the seconds between the time you see the lightning and the time you hear the thunder. Divide this number by 6 and this will be the approximate distance in nautical miles that the storm is from your location. If the time between the flash of lighting and the clap of thunder were 12 seconds, the storm would be approximately 2 nautical miles away. This formula works because of the difference in the speed of light (when you see the lightning) and the speed of sound (when you hear the thunder). By using this calculation several times in a row you should be able to determine if the storm is coming toward you or going away. If it were coming toward you, obviously the seconds between the lightning and thunder would be decreasing. On the other hand, if the seconds between lightning and thunder were increasing, the storm would be moving away.

Thunder can only be heard for approximately 15 miles, so if you see lightning but hear no thunder the storm is more than 15 miles away.


  • First and foremost, make sure all aboard are wearing USCG approved PFDs.
  • Reduce speed and proceed with caution.
  • Close all hatches and ports.
  • Head for the nearest shore that is safe to approach and duck into the lee of land.
  • Put the bow into the wind and waves at about a 40 degree angle and watch for floating debris.
  • Pump out bilges and keep dry.
  • Change to a full fuel tank.
  • Secure loose items that could be tossed about.
  • Keep everyone low in the boat and near the centerline.
  • Minimize the danger of having your boat struck by lightning by seeking shelter in advance of a storm. If caught on open water during a thunderstorm, stay low in the middle of the boat.
  • If there is lightning, disconnect all electrical equipment. Stay as clear of metal objects as possible.

Be aware that thunderstorms can also include tornadoes and or waterspouts which are much more violent. A waterspout is a small, whirling storm over ocean or inland waters. Its chief characteristic is a funnel-shaped cloud. When fully developed, it extends from the surface of the water to the base of a cumulus cloud. The water in a waterspout is mostly confined to its lower portion.

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Spring Boating Safety Tips That Work All Summer Long

National Safe Boating Week May 21-27

With spring’s arrival comes National Safe Boating Week May 21-27, which gives boaters, sailors and anglers time to reflect on and improve their own safety on the water. The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety has these five spring boat tips – but they can easily help you stay safe all summer long:

  1. You’re not in a bar: “Alcohol affects you more out on the water than in an air conditioned bar,” says Foundation President Chris Edmonston. What that means is that boaters experiencing the sun, wind and waves don’t handle alcohol the same way as they would ashore. US Coast Guard studies show that reaction times are slower. Fatigue occurs sooner. It’s best to leave the alcohol for when you are safely ashore.
  2. Your brother’s keeper: Don’t forget that a boat owner is also responsible for his or her guests. So while it may be common practice to allow them to drink, inebriated guests can really ruin a day when they become a safety risk or injure themselves.
  3. Night operation requires extra vigilance: Operating a boat at night, with fewer visual cues, confusing background lights ashore, and other vessels moving about can be challenging. But there’s one thing you can do which solves many of these problems: slow down. By slowing down the boat you give yourself the time and room to maneuver, make safe course changes and avoid hazards such as unlit navigation aids or shoals. Your second best nighttime “tool” at your disposal: adding an extra spotter.
  4. Brush up on your boating safety knowledge: Here’s a simple test: go out this weekend and identify every navigational aid you see and affirm its meaning – or better yet, identify all of them on a chart. If you can’t, it’s time to brush up on your rules of the road knowledge with a boating safety course. To take a boating safety course just click here.
  5. Give the boat a “checkup”: A free vessel safety check by US Coast Guard Auxiliary or US Power Squadrons is a good indicator of whether you and your boat are ready to handle a bad situation and have all of the right safety gear. However, the best part is that it is not punitive, and gives you the chance to correct deficiencies. To find out how you can get one near you, go to http://www.vesselsafetycheck.org/

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One Last Reminder – Is the Drain Plug In?

Invasive species regulations are now in effect in many states and many of them now require boaters to remove the plug and drain the bilge and live well before transporting a watercraft. In our Basic Boating Safety Course we have an extensive section on trailering and one of the things we emphasize is to make sure the drain plug is in before launching your boat.

The majority of recreational boats in the United States are trailered to and from the water. Your boat trailer is only one part of the entire boating package, which includes the boat, trailer, hitch and towing vehicle. Neglecting the trailer’s maintenance can result in damage to your boat, your towing vehicle or both. Below is our check-list for launching.


  1. Do initial launch preparations away from the ramp so as not to impede launching for others.
  2. Raise the outdrive or motor, remove the support bracket and install the drain plug.
  3. Disconnect the trailer wiring. Remove tie down straps and again check the drain plug.
  4. Make any equipment adjustments necessary and check the drain plug.
  5. Connect the fuel tank, check fluid levels and check the drain plug.
  6. Drive to the ramp and back the boat and trailer down the ramp, keeping the tow vehicle’s wheels out of the water.
  7. Set the emergency brake, shift into Park, and block the wheels.
  8. Someone should get aboard the boat, turn on the blower, lower the motor, look for water entering the boat, (in case you forgot to check the drain plug) sniff the bilge and start the motor.
  9. Make sure you have attached a bow line to the boat, then release the winch and disconnect the winch line.
  10. You should be able to launch the boat with a slight shove or by backing the boat off the trailer under power.
  11. Return the towing vehicle to the parking lot as soon as the boat is launched so the next person in line may proceed.
  12. Move the boat to an area away from the ramp to load additional equipment and passengers.

A bright-yellow warning sticker has been created by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to help remind boaters to “check their drain plug.”

The DNR suggests that the warning sticker be placed next to the boat trailer’s winch handle, or somewhere else that the boater is likely to see it before the boat is launched.

If you think this is a good idea, contact your local State Boating Authorities and suggest they follow the lead set by the Minnesota DNR.

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Life Jackets Saves Lives in Cold Water Too

Coast Guard File Photo

The best way to survive an accidental cold water immersion is to wear a life jacket. It will help keep the head above water in the event of an accidental immersion. It will also keep the victim afloat. If unable to rescue themselves, a life jacket can provide some thermal protection against the onset of hypothermia, and keep the swimmer afloat until help arrives.

Swimming ability in warm water has little relationship to the ability to swim in cold water. Mario Vittone, a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer states “It is impossible to die from hypothermia in cold water unless you are wearing an approved flotation device, because without flotation , you won’t live long enough to become hypothermic, you will most assuredly drown.”

When the temperature of water is below 50 F significant physiological responses occur, including the possibility of death, The causes of death may include cardiac arrest, deep body (core) cooling resulting in unconsciousness, and circulatory collapse, all of which could end in drowning. The effects of cold water immersion are predictable and well documented by what is known as the 1-10-1 Principle:

1 minute: Upon immersion in cold water, the body reacts with an involuntary gasp, followed by hyperventilation of up to 10 times regular breathing (if head is underwater during that initial deep gasp, a person can inhale enough water to drown). Avoid panicking– breathing will return to close to normal.

10 minutes: A person immersed in cold water will become incapacitated as limb muscles stop working and prevent swimming or self-rescue, so swimmer should attempt to rescue themselves, before incapacitation becomes a factor. If this is not possible, try to get as much of the body out of the water as possible to delay the onset of hypothermia.

1 hour: After about 60 minutes (depending on the water temperature), the body continues to cool. The resulting hypothermia can create a range of symptoms from confusion to unconsciousness, eventually leading to death.

When rescuing a cold water victim beware of post rescue collapse (up to several hours after) by assisting the victim to become dry and warm. Keep him or her still until medical treatment arrives.

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Download the New MIAMI BOAT SHOW Mobile App!

iPhone Screenshot 1The world’s first Boat Show app for iTunes & Android

Plotting & Charting — Events and Custom Schedule: Find “Where” and “When” for every event at the show. Filter by day and/or location. Create a custom schedule; add or remove events with one touch.

Learn the Ropes — Exhibit, Seminar and Event Information: Click for complete descriptions, lists of speakers, manufacturers and exhibitors. Drill down to bios, web sites and featured products.

Boat Listing: See all boats participating in the show, find product details and link through to manufacturer’s pages.

Search: Search by event name, speaker, exhibitor categories, boat category.

Show News: Catch the latest show news, keep up with Facebook and Twitter posts.

Set your Course — Maps: Detailed maps of all three show sites; scroll and zoom to navigate with ease.

Ripple Effect — Social Media: Share the show with your boating buddies via Facebook and Twitter; post photos, update your status or tweet from within the app.

Sound Waves — Miami International Boat Show Radio: Get in the boat show groove. Listen to nautical inspired tunes, boat show celebrity interviews and more.

Download the MIAMI BOAT SHOW app free at iTunes or Android Market.

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Boating Education Required for More Ohioans

Ohio LogoA virtual flotilla of Ohio boaters, measuring in the thousands, is coming of age this boating season and must be certified to operate any powerboat greater than 10 horsepower on state waterways, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Watercraft.

 Ohioans turning 29 years old this year and those who are younger are required to comply with a mandatory boater education law that has been in effect since January 1, 2000. The law requires all boaters born on or after January 1, 1982 to show proof they have successfully completed an approved boating safety education course if they operate any powered watercraft greater than 10 horsepower on a state waterway.

The law includes those who operate personal watercraft, rental powercraft and persons 18 years of age and older who supervise youth powerboat operators.

Last year, the Division of Watercraft issued a record 14,279 boating safety education cards certifying the successful completion of a classroom, online or home study course of instruction approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. Among this record total were 10,864 Ohioans, or 76 percent, who were required by the mandatory boater education law to attain their boating safety education cards.

As a result of Ohio’s boater education law, along with improved boating equipment designs, marine law enforcement, education and public awareness programs, the number of boating-related deaths in Ohio has declined 26 percent during the period of 2001-2010 compared to the previous decade of 1991-2000.

To comply with the Ohio boater education law go to BoatingBasicsOnline and choose Ohio from the drop down list.

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With E15, Boaters, Anglers Will Need Extra Vigilance

With the EPA’s recent decision to allow the use of gasoline with up to 15% ethanol (E15) in 2001 and newer model cars and trucks, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) says that trailerboaters will need to remain extra vigilant when filling up their truck and trailered boat at the local gas station. That’s because while E15 could be fine for the tow vehicle, it’s not good – nor authorized by the EPA – for use with boats. A strong solvent, ethanol has been known to degrade marine fuel systems, damage engines, add safety concerns, and lead to expensive repair bills.

“When filling up at gas stations, boaters are used to pulling up to the pump and filling up the tow vehicle first, and then putting the same fuel nozzle into the boat,” said BoatUS Director of Damage Avoidance Bob Adriance. “If that happens with E15, it could be a big mistake.”

The EPA intends to put a warning on the pump – a small label with the exact wording yet to determined. “This is going to be a lot different from the choices offered to boaters today, where it’s nearly impossible to misfuel gas or diesel engines, or where there are few consequences when choosing 87 octane over a higher 93 octane gasoline, for example,” added Adriance.

All of this means that when E15 starts to appear in gasoline stations, boaters must heed the warning on the pump and shouldn’t even think about using it in a boat. Here’s why:

  • Going Lean isn’t good: In addition to hydrogen and carbon found in regular gasoline, ethanol also contains oxygen, which means less air (or conversely, more fuel) is required for combustion. The term “enleanment” is used to describe what can happen when there is too much air and not enough fuel. While most cars and trucks on the road today have closed-loop systems that can adjust to prevent enleanment, most boats have open-loop systems which do not, adding a greater risk of heat-related damage to your boat’s engine with E15.
  • Compatibility questions: Many components on a boat come in contact with ethanol-laden gasoline, including fuel lines, fuel tanks, fuel pumps, fuel injectors, carburetors, pressure regulators, valves, o-rings, and gaskets. The compatibility of these components with any blend greater than E10 is currently unknown. The failure of only one of these components in your engine could lead to failure or, worse, a fire or explosion.
  • A “good” thing isn’t what it seems: Phase separation is what happens when gas becomes over-saturated with water, leading the water/ethanol mixture to separate from the gasoline and fall to the bottom of the tank (where the engine’s fuel pickup is located). However, since ethanol absorbs water more readily than gasoline and it burns harmlessly through the engine, adding more ethanol to gas will decrease the chance for phase separation. You’d think that would be a good thing, right?However, as you increase the amount of water in ethanol, this mixture also becomes more acidic, increasing the potential to corrode metal, including aluminum fuel tanks.Also keep in mind that once gas has phase separated, the only remedy is to completely empty the tank. While BoatUS believes fuel additives in general are a good thing, it has not seen evidence of any additive being able to restore phase-separated gas back to its original state.
  • Your warrantee won’t help you: Marine engines are only warranted for use with up to 10% (E10) ethanol.

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50th Space Wing completes Phase 1 of E24

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The 50th Space Wing is pleased to announce the completion of phase one of a two-phase Global Positioning System constellation expansion known as “Expandable 24.”  When fully complete, this expansion will increase global GPS coverage and provide civil, military and commercial GPS users with more robust satellite availability and a higher probability of signal acquisition in terrain challenged environments.

The GPS constellation consists of 24 operational slots positioned within six equally spaced orbital planes surrounding the earth.  This plane/slot scheme and enhanced satellite placement ensure GPS users receive the most accurate navigation data at any time, at any place around the world.  

Expandable 24 is a U.S. Strategic Command commander directed initiative, executed by the wing, specifically the 2nd Space Operations Squadron (SOPS), to reposition six satellites in the current GPS constellation.  Given the strength and number of satellites in the current constellation, Air Force Space Command was in a unique position to enact this revolutionary strategy to benefit global users.  AFSPC acted on this opportunity to increase the robustness of satellite availability by expanding three of the baseline 24 constellation slots. 

Phase one of Expandable-24 began Jan. 13, 2010 when 2 SOPS performed maneuvers to reposition three GPS satellites, one of which took  351 days to maneuver.  The last of the satellites completed repositioning on Jan. 18, 2011.

Phase two of Expandable-24 began in August 2010 and is expected to be complete in June 2011.  During Phase two, three other GPS satellites will be repositioned. When complete, the GPS constellation will attain the most optimal geometry in its 42 year history, maximizing GPS coverage for all users.

“Our primary focus is to execute flawless operations to maintain GPS as the world’s gold standard for positioning, navigation, and timing,” said Lt.  Col. Mike Manor, director of operations for 2 SOPS.  “By repositioning a handful of our satellites to optimize their locations in space, we’ve not only improved the accuracy for military users in disadvantaged terrain like Afghanistan, but also improved the accuracy for all GPS users worldwide.”

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General Ice Thickness Guidelines

Many outdoor sportsmen and women enjoy the winter months but there are certain things that you should be concerned about when recreating on ice. The following information is courtesy of the Minnesota DNR.

For New, Clear Ice Only

  • 2″ or less – STAY OFF
  • 4″ – Ice fishing or other activities on foot
  • 5″ – Snowmobile or ATV
  • 8″ – 12″ – Car or small pickup
  • 12″ – 15″ – Medium truck

Remember that these thicknesses are merely guidelines for new, clear, solid ice. Many factors other than thickness can cause ice to be unsafe.

Checking ice thickness

No matter what you are going to do once you get on the ice – like fishing, snowmobiling, skating or even ice boating, it’s a good idea to contact a local bait shop or resort on the lake about ice conditions. It’s also important to do some checking yourself once you get there. Several factors affect the relative safety of ice, such as temperature, snow cover and currents. But a very important factor is the actual ice thickness.

ice chisel

Ice Chisel

The ice chisel or “spud bar” is one of the oldest methods of making a hole in the ice. In its simplest form, it consists of a metal rod with a sharp, flat blade welded onto one end that is driven into the ice in a stabbing motion. Depending on the sharpness of the blade, the thickness of the ice and the strength of the user, it can make a hole in the ice fairly quickly, especially when the ice is less than a foot thick.


Ice Auger

There are several varieties of ice auger. Some people like the hand auger for its low cost, light weight and low noise factor. The disadvantage of a hand-powered auger is that after a few holes, operator exhaustion becomes an issue. Some folks like an electric auger, with its low noise level rivaling a hand auger, with the advantage of a lot less work for the user. An electric auger does, however, need an external 12-volt battery, which can be something of a nuisance to lug around. Gas augers boast the fastest speed in drilling through the ice, but are heavier, noisier and generally more costly than hand or electric models.


Cordless Drill

There is one tool, that many households have hanging on the pegboard in the basement or on a shelf in the garage that can make checking ice thickness a quick and easy task – a cordless rechargeable electric drill.

With a cordless drill and a long, five-eighths inch wood auger bit, you can drill through eight inches of ice in less than 30 seconds. Most cordless drills that are at least 7.2 volts will work, but the type of bit is critical. You need a wood auger bit since they have a spiral called a “flute” around the shaft that metal drilling bits don’t. The flutes pull the ice chips out of the hole and help keep it from getting stuck, much in the way a full-sized ice auger works. It is important to dry the bit and give it a quick spray of silicone lubricant after each use. Otherwise, the next time you open your toolkit, you’ll find your once shiny drill bit looking like a rusty nail!

Tape Measure

Some people claim they can judge thickness by where the chisel or drill suddenly breaks through, but that happens so quickly, it’s easy to overestimate the thickness. It’s smarter to use a tape measure or something like an ice fisherman’s ice skimmer handle with inch markings to put down the hole and hook the bottom edge of the hole to determine the ice’s true thickness.

Other things to keep in mind when checking ice.
Ice is seldom the same thickness over a single body of water. It can be two feet thick in one place and one inch thick a few yards away due to currents, springs, rotting vegetation or school of rough fish. You need to check the ice at least every 150 feet, especially early in the season or any situation where the thickness varies widely.

Recommended minimum thicknesses for new clear ice.

4″ Ice fishing and small group activities
5″ Snowmobiles and ATVs
8″ – 10″ Small to medium cars, and pickups.

White ice, sometimes called “snow ice,” is only about one-half as strong as new clear ice so the above thicknesses should be doubled.

Vehicles weighing about one ton such as cars, pickups or SUVs should be parked at least 50 feet apart and moved every two hours to prevent sinking. It’s not a bad idea to make a hole next to the car. If water starts to overflow the top of the hole, the ice is sinking and it’s time to move the vehicle!

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