NEWS from BoatUS
Boat Owners Association of The United States
880 S. Pickett St., Alexandria, VA 22304
BoatUS Press Room at www.BoatUS.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Scott Croft, 703-461-2864, SCroft@BoatUS.com
How Boaters Can Steer Clear Of Trouble At
America's Best Harbors For July 4th Fireworks
Recreational Boating's Busiest Traffic Day of the Year
ALEXANDRIA, Va., June 30, 2009 – Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) has surveyed its nationwide towboat fleet and reveals its recommendations for boaters on how to stay out of trouble when viewing crowded July 4th Fireworks displays. Across the nation nearly 5,000 boaters are expected to request some type of on-the-water assistance this holiday weekend.
Included are tips on local hazards and common problems learned from years of responding to boater’s requests for on-the-water assistance on recreational boating’s heaviest traffic day of the year. Also offered is a “Lessons Learned” section, with five smart July 4th boating tips from the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety.
Here’s what the fleet says:
Bayside Market Place, Downtown Miami, FL: Capt. Cory Offutt of TowBoatUS Key Biscayne says the Bayside fireworks show draws hundreds of vessels, but boaters should be prepared for significant changes in weather, and also advises to fill up early as fuel docks close at 6:00pm in Miami. He also suggests taking it slow on the way home and to not take shortcuts.
Ft. Myers, Cape Coral, FL: With four major local fireworks displays, Capt Jay McMillin of TowBoatUS Cape Coral reports that fuel drop offs for out of gas boats are a common request for assistance.
Fisherman’s Village Marina, Matlacha Bridge Anchorage, FL: Capt. Jerry Smith of TowBoatUS Charlotte Harbor says inattentive operators, sometimes combined with alcohol consumption are a concern.
Clearwater, Gulfport, St. Petersburg and downtown Tampa, FL: Capt. Larry Tieman of TowBoatUS Tampa Bay advises boaters to watch the falling tide which could lead to shallow water groundings in places, and ensure the battery stays charged.
Sarasota / Bradenton, FL: Marina Jack’s in Sarasota, Siesta Key and Bradenton are the area’s best fireworks. A mix of alcohol and shallow water can get boaters into trouble here, says Capt. Jack Black of TowBoatUS Sarasota.
Downtown Pensacola - Escambia Bay, FL: Capt. Kathy McLean of TowBoatUS Pensacola reports running out of gas and dead batteries are her most common requests for assistance on the July 4th holiday weekend.
Jekyll and St. Simons Islands, GA: Capt. Doug Schultz of TowBoatUS Brunswick says navigating the ICW at night in heavy traffic is a concern.
Manteo Waterfront / ShallowBag Bay, NC: Capt. Harry Schiffman of TowBoatUS Oregon Inlet says boater turnout at this fireworks show is very weather sensitive, and says some inexperienced or intoxicated boaters get into trouble attempting to return to Collington Harbour.
Maumee Bay, OH: Capt. Vern Meinke of TowBoatUS South Shore says that when the fireworks show ends, his switchboard rings off the hook, mostly from boats needing battery jumps as well as for help with de-tangling anchor lines in the extremely small and tightly packed fireworks anchoring area.
Chicago, IL; Michigan City and New Buffalo, MI: Capt. Jack Manley of TowBoatUS Chicago advises to keep an eye on fuel-hungry generators as well as battery charge levels, but alcohol and excessive speed after dark are safety issues.
Saginaw River, Bay City, MI: In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, July 4th is the day that many boats hit the water for the first time of the season, says Capt. Gary Poirier of TowBoatUS Saginaw Bay. However, incomplete spring commissioning is a problem that leads to breakdowns or dead batteries, especially after spending a few hours in the anchorage running electronics awaiting the start of the show.
Lake of The Ozarks, MO: Capt. Charlie Meyer of TowBoatUS Lake of The Ozarks reports at least six major displays, and advises the boat wakes are an issue, especially at night when visibility is low and large waves can suddenly appear. Large cruisers can swamp small vessels with poor weight distribution.
Clear Lake and Galveston Bay, TX: Capt. Dave Huston of TowBoatUS Clear Lake says boat traffic congestion on July 4th is an issue on such a small lake that’s home to hundreds of boats.
Boston Harbor, MA: “The best fireworks in the country,” says Capt. Mike Goodrich of TowBoatUS Newburyport. However, plan on spending the night after the show ends as the entrance to the Charles River closes and all lock traffic is outbound only.
Bristol, RI: Claimed to be the oldest continuous fireworks celebration of its kind (started in 1785), Capt. John Andrews of TowBoatUS Narragansett Bay says boaters can enjoy the show a little too much and advises that alcohol can be an issue, along with inexperience of operating at night in narrow channels under heavy traffic conditions.
Great Gun Beach / Smiths Point, Long Island, NY: Capt. Bob Jacoby of TowBoatUS Shinnecock/Moriches says shoaling in the fireworks viewing area is a problem, and he advises taking it very slowly in case you accidentally contact the soft bottom.
Cape May, NJ: Capt. Benny Campanile of TowBoatUS Cape May reports the boaters’ viewing area next to the Cape May Ferry is great, but sticking to marked channels will ensure a safe cruise home. His biggest request for assistance is from boaters who tried to take a shortcut home after the show and end up grounding.
Solomons Island, MD: Capt. Mike Shaw of TowBoatUS Solomons says boaters going from very dark Chesapeake Bay to bright, well-lit conditions at the mouth the Patuxent River can cause night vision troubles, and also advises it’s best that boat operators refrain from alcohol.
Washington, DC: In the nation’s capital, Capt. Terry Hill of TowBoatUS Alexandria says anchoring with too short a scope when a storm rolls through, running the refrigerator and draining the battery, and non-working navigational lights are issues. He also cautions boaters need to plan for fuel as marinas close before dark. While the National Mall fireworks show that’s a “must” to see by water, those boaters who don’t enjoy running at night under “intense” traffic conditions may want to consider other options.
Mission Bay, San Diego, CA: It’s a partying mood on Mission Bay, says Capt. Robert Butler of Vessel Assist San Diego, but cautions that playing music all day often leads to calls for help with jumpstarting dead batteries.
Newport Beach Harbor, CA: Vessel Assist Newport Beach’s Capt. David LaMontagne says the Newport Harbor Back Bay is a great spot to see up to four or five separate fireworks displays, including Catalina’s if the night is clear. However, he advises not taking shortcuts through the harbor’s densely-packed mooring fields as boaters cannot see mooring lines well and can easily entangle a prop.
Mandeville Island, CA: In the California Delta on the San Joaquin River the Hilton fireworks are renowned. Thousands of boaters start anchoring weeks in advance in the viewing area. Capt. Dave Delano of Vessel Assist San Francisco says occasional strong winds can cause boats to drag at anchor, so he cautions to ensure it is correctly set, or set additional anchors — especially if several boats are rafted up.
Fort Worden waterfront, Port Townsend, WA: Capt. Roger Slade of Vessel Assist Port Townsend cautions to take it slow because the anchoring viewing area is quite small and is loaded with anchor lines, leading to entanglements.
Any Lessons Learned?
So what does this all mean for boaters? Here are Five Lessons Learned about July 4th boating from the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety:
1. Plan Ahead: Ensure you have enough fuel; make sure all navigation lights and hand held spotlights are in working order. It’s a good idea to check the engine and mechanicals, such as fan belts, battery connections, fuel filters and engine fluids ahead of time. Don’t invite more guests aboard than your vessel can safely handle. Keep an ear to the weather forecast on VHF radio.
2. Avoid Alcohol: Combined with the effects of a hot sunny day, alcohol will leave an operator impaired when they can least afford it – navigating at night in heavy boating traffic. It’s okay to party – just save it until after you’ve put the boat to bed and you’re back at the dock, homeport or beach (dry land). The captain is also ultimately responsible for everyone’s safety aboard.
3. Life Jackets: Ensure kids have the right sized life jacket, and it would be wise to have the crew wear life jackets on the way home after the show. (click here to borrow a kid’s life jacket for free). For adults, inflatable life jackets will keep you safe without compromising comfort.
4. Navigation: Know where any security zones exist. Go slow, post extra lookouts, and don’t make sudden course changes unless necessary. When departing an anchorage pay attention to other vessel’s anchor lines and understand where they lie just below the water’s surface. Never take a shortcut home after dark.
5. Chill: Don’t let crowded harbors or long boat ramp lines get you down. Simply prepare for a wonderful evening of fireworks, knowing it will take you a while to get safely home. Having lots of patience and giving lots of courtesy will make it memorable.
NOTE TO EDITORS: If you would like to interview the local BoatUS Towing Company in your area, contact Scott Croft at SCroft@BoatUS.com