News from the world of American boating, edited by Ryck Lydecker
Around The World On The Power Of SolarThe world's largest, solar-powered boat Turanor PlanetSolar berthed in Miami for its first layover last November and invited the public to a viewing. The vessel, on a journey to circumnavigate the globe using only solar power, departed Monaco September 27, 2010 on a course along the equator where sunshine is at its peak. Total distance for the voyage is anticipated at 31,000 miles. The vessels next stop was Cancun, Mexico for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Control (UNFCCC). Additional stops in Sydney, Singapore and Abu Dhabi are planned. A traveling exhibition, to increase visitor awareness, accompanies the vessel.
The 102-foot long, 50-foot beam boat, described as a feat of technology, has less weight, less friction, efficient propulsion, plus production of electric energy. The "wave-piercing" catamaran concept design enables it to "slice" through waves, using less energy than conventional designs that only allow a boat to "ride" the waves. While underway, an aerial perspective best demonstrates the boat's features that include side riggers and rear wings to extend its length 13 feet and beam 25 feet. The deck of 5,700 square feet of solar panels (produced by U.S. manufacturer, "Sun Power Corporation," San Jose, Ca.) captures and stores energy in lithium batteries that hold enough to run the ship and provide energy to cruise three days without sun. A crewmember said; "Charting a course isn't as simple as plotting straight lines in a GPS system. Daily weather reports enable us to steer toward bright sun and favorable winds."
Owner and financier, Immo Stroher, who owns the energy-management company Immosolar, invested $17.5 million into development of the vessel. He states, "We want to help drive forward the sustainable energy technologies. Urban cities near water can benefit from the technology to provide fume-free, energy-efficient transportation solutions to its residents. It is my vision to see solar power take its rightful place – not only on rooftops but on roads, seas and in skies of the future."
Gulf Now Home To Orphan AnchorsAdd one more problem to the after-effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: hundreds of anchors left on the bottom, no longer needed to secure oil containment booms. Craig Taffaro, the president of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, says there are around 3,500 of the so-called "orphan anchors" in the waterways of his parish, causing real hazards to boats in the area.
"This is something that affects both commercial fishermen and recreational fishermen," Taffaro says. "A lot of the anchors are only four-to six feet under the water, so when it's low tide, it's easy for boats to run up against them. The trawl nets get caught on these anchors and it just rips the nets to shreds."
Coast Guard Petty Officer Charles Reinhart, spokesman for the Gulf Coast Incident Management Team, estimates that tens of thousands of anchors were used to tether oil containment booms during the spill response. The Danforth-style anchors, three feet long and weighing up to 75 pounds, should lie flat when released, but can still pose a problem. British Petroleum (BP) contracted crews to remove the containment booms and Taffaro says the responsibility for the anchors lies with the company as well. "You put it in, you should take it out," he says. "That's quite a bit of debris that's been left in our marsh; there's no reason not to pick them up."
Reinhart said in December that an anchor-removal pilot program was still being reviewed, and that the Coast Guard was working with BP to resolve the issue. At the same time, Taffaro said, BP had come in with a program of its own, after the Coast Guard and local officials had spent months hammering out their plan. He hadn't seen the specifics, but was cautiously optimistic.
"I'm okay with the responsible party implementing something that's clearly their responsibility," he says. "I do have a concern that if there isn't the right oversight, it would be too easy for BP to implement it and then just say 'we did this and it's not cost effective, therefore we're going to kill this program altogether.'"
BP spokesman Joe Ellis did not return calls for this article, but did tell the New Orleans Times-Picayune in November that BP believed the anchors posed no danger, and that the company had "removed every anchor that we could."
Taffaro says that addressing the damage done by the spill has proved as intricate as the original response. "There are dozens of things that have to be assessed and validated," he says. "It's just an incredible amount of intricate weaving. This is going to take years and years."
National Advisory Council Takes Up IssuesA select panel of leaders from recreational boating that serves as a sounding board for BoatU.S and helps guide its policy and services for the nation's boaters met in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, Dec 7-8. The BoatUS National Advisory Council discussed major issues affecting boaters today, such as ethanol in boat fuel and the push to increase gasoline content to 15 percent ethanol, or E-15, as well as emerging issues such as national ocean policy and marine spatial planning that could affect boaters' future access to and on the water.
Advisory Council members deliberated on the topic of aquatic invasive species such as the Asian carp and efforts to keep them out of the Great Lakes while retaining navigation through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, a key link in America's Great Loop cruising circuit. The group also focused attention on the trend among the states toward mandatory boater education and the sometimes confusing issue of reciprocity between states that may or may not honor each others' boating education certificates (today, 46 states have some form of mandatory education requirement to operate a boat. See "Fine Lines Come With State Borders," BoatUS Magazine, Feb/March, 2011 for a Special Report on the issue.)
Government Affairs staff briefed Council members on America's Waterway Watch and its improved status as a Homeland Security measure. Congress formalized the program, with BoatUS support, as part of the U.S. Coast Guard reauthorization bill that passed last year. The meeting concluded with discussion of the 112th Congress and how the make-up of key committees, such as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, could affect boating. A landmark law that underpins boating programs nationwide, the Recreational Boating and Sport Fish Restoration Trust Fund, is due for reauthorization in this Congress.
Council members also heard a report from the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water concerning upcoming on-line boater educational opportunities including a new Learn-to-Sail course offered in conjunction with the Offshore Sailing School.
"The BoatUS National Advisory Council has met annually for more than 30 years, bringing a steady supply of current issues to our policy table." said BoatUS president Nancy Michelman. "It's largely through the advice and counsel of this group that we are able to look critically at boating's 'big picture,' understand trends, craft policy, and set the year's course to best meet the needs of today's boaters, sailors, and anglers."
Council members, from left to right, are: Bill Oakerson, CEO BoatUS; Creighton Maynard, immediate past Chief Commander, United States Power Squadrons; council chair Tony Gibbs, former editor of Yachting Magazine; Linda Bendsen, president of the Recreational Boaters of California; Jim Ellis, former president of BoatUS; Bob Adriance, editor of Seaworthy Magazine; Kris Carroll, president of Grady-White Boats; Tom Malison, vice-national commodore of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary; Doris Colgate, president of Offshore Sailing School; Dean Clarke, executive editor at Bonnier Marine Group; Richard Schwartz, founder and chairman of BoatUS; Chuck Hawley, vice-president of West Marine; Lenora Clark, chairman of the California Boating and Waterways Commission; Elbert Maloney, former editor of Chapman Piloting and Seamanship; Nancy Michelman, president of BoatUS; Jim Graybeal, president of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators; Margaret Podlich, vice-president for BoatUS Government Affairs.
California May Snuff Out FireworksOver-water pyrotechnic displays to celebrate Independence Day, New Year's Day, and other important milestones characteristically draw flotillas of recreational boaters jostling to get the best views. But boaters may have no view at all thanks to a tentative ruling by a sub-division of California's Environmental Protection Agency, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board. The ruling not only threatens the viability of fireworks displays in San Diego but also may set a precedent that could douse approximately 1,000 major firework displays over sea, bay, river, and lake nationwide.
The water board tentatively ruled in September 2010 that over-water fireworks qualify as "point sources" of pollution. As such, fireworks organizers must obtain permits prior to each event. Event producers such as civic organizations typically operate on shoestring budgets — often funded by the coffee-can-on-the-counter donation method. But the newly established $1,452 pollution-discharge permit fees are dwarfed by costs associated with water sampling, scientific analyses, and technical reporting required after each show. Per-event estimates range from $30,000 to $100,000, according to San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. "For a large number of Americans, few things are more sacrosanct than the right to watch July 4th fireworks," Sanders wrote in a letter to the water board. "The proposed regulatory requirements would result in exorbitant and prohibitive expenses that these organizations simply will be unable to bear."
The water board's tentative ruling came after years of legal pressure by several environmental groups such as San Diego Coastkeeper. "Fireworks pose a threat to the region's water quality because they contain harmful chemicals and other pollutants, which are released when detonated over water," stated the organization's attorney, Jill Witkowski. Sanders disagrees, citing water and sediment-quality data from SeaWorld San Diego's environmental permit. SeaWorld has a point-source permit because it hosts approximately 140 shows per year over a single shallow basin in Mission Bay.
"Review of their reports indicates negligible environmental concerns," said Sanders. He added that if SeaWorld's fireworks show such minimal effect on the water, then fireworks detonated on an infrequent basis over various depths and circulation patterns (offshore and in San Diego Bay) should not be held to the same standards.
Roger Schneider, president of scientific and engineering firm Rho Sigma Associates, spoke to the water board on behalf of the National Fireworks Association: "If we look at elements found in spent fireworks, many … occur naturally in waters in huge quantities compared to what's discharged. Over-water fireworks do not cause significant pollution."
The water board plans to implement the tentative ruling in March 2011 to give community fireworks organizers time to jostle for permit funds.
Fog, Wave Data Added To NOAA PORTS SystemEver wish you had access to the same high-tech data used by the big ships to safely enter or depart a harbor? You can; plus it's free and online. Any mariner can check conditions at 20 major harbors through NOAA's Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®), which catalogs a host of useful measurements at: http://co-ops.nos.noaa.gov/ports.html
Even better, NOAA recently announced two significant additions — wave and visibility data — to its suite of observations at five heavily trafficked harbors and more are planned, if funds are available. This year, NOAA hopes to expand PORTS to New London, Connecticut; Humboldt Bay, Oregon; and Jacksonville, Florida.
Each PORTS installation contains a localized array of waterway and meteorological sensors that measures and transmits: water levels, currents, salinity, winds, atmospheric pressure, and air and water temperatures to the website every six minutes. A recent addition is the air gap, or bridge clearance sensor, to prevent large ships from striking bridges. Gulf Coast PORTS installations were critical to the response and cleanup operations during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill last year as a host of agencies and oil company workers could access waterway data throughout the crisis.
Wave information now is being delivered for San Francisco Bar, Los Angeles/Long Beach harbor, the lower Columbia River (Clatsop Spit, Oregon), and Cape Henry, Virginia, at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. Fog is also a major concern for maritime traffic and Mobile Bay, Alabama, is susceptible to heavy fog throughout fall and winter months. Thus, NOAA installed two visibility stations there and added air temperature and relative humidity sensors that could warn of fog formation conditions.
NOAA is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Scripps Institution of Oceanography to integrate data from their wave buoys into PORTS.
Additional visibility installations are planned for Narragansett and Chesapeake Bays, pending NOAA's budget. Stable funding for PORTS has been an issue for years, even though economic studies have documented tens of millions of dollars in direct benefit. With a seat on a key NOAA advisory panel for many years, BoatUS has steadfastly called for adequate funding of this and similar NOAA waterway services, including updated charts, tides and other critical resources.
Beyond FroggerThe list of video games in which one plays a politician is vanishingly small. Games where the goal is balancing environmental and commercial fishing concerns, rather than, say, battling giant robots, winnows the list to, well, just one. In "Quest to Nest", a game developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Maryland's Montgomery College, players take the roles of politician, environmentalist, fisherman, and beach-going tourist to learn about the life and trials of loggerhead turtles.
Peg Steffen, who runs NOAA's game website, says "Quest to Nest" has turned out to be popular with students, and the agency is evaluating how well it works in the classroom as part of a science curriculum. "We hope that students playing the game learn more about the loggerhead sea turtle itself," Steffen says, "but also understand threats the turtles face in the ocean and once they make it to land, and some of the things people need to be aware of. Hopefully this will increase the turtles' chances for survival."
Deborah Solomon, Montgomery College coordinator for the game program, said that "Quest to Nest" is aimed at fourth through seventh graders, and the challenge was to create a quick, simple game that carried a complex message. "For example," she says, "we wanted to show that fishermen need to earn a living, but they can use turtle-safe nets to catch fewer turtles; tourists can enjoy the beach, but they can pick up trash they leave that pollutes the beach and remove beach equipment that blocks mother turtles in their path to nesting areas. Politicians need to prevent beach erosion, but they can choose erosion controls that don't harm the turtle's nesting habitat."
Each character has their own mini-game, and the outcome decides the health of the virtual turtles while explaining the real-life impact each has on the species, all vetted by NOAA scientists. "In our testing," Solomon says, "we were happy to discover that kids don't just learn dry facts about sea turtles, but also became more emotionally involved in helping to save them from extinction. The game makes them care more about sea turtles and clean oceans."
"Quest to Nest" can be played online free at NOAA's website www.games.noaa.gov, along with other environmental science games.
Canal Boat FoundUsing very high-resolution side-scan sonar, shipwreck enthusiasts Jim Kennard and Roger Pawlowski discovered the wreck of what is believed to be an Erie Canal boat used between 1830 to 1850. The team discovered the hulk in the Oswego River south of Fulton, New York. A type called a Line Boat, it likely carried freight but also passengers and livestock. Other late 19th-century canal boats have been discovered but this is believed to be the oldest from the Erie Canal yet found. The 75-foot hull had sunk deep into the river bottom, with less than a foot visible. Sonar imagery provided details of the size, shape, and deck structure.
Claw MachineIt may take a while to catch on in the States, but live crab vending machines are doing well in the subway stations of Nanjing, China. The Associated Press reported in November two machines up and vending, each selling around 200 Shanghai Hairy crabs a day to hungry commuters. Sold in a special plastic case, and chilled to around 41 degrees to keep them docile (but alive), the crabs reportedly sell for between $2 and $7, depending on size.
Also called mitten crabs, the species is considered invasive in the U.S., where it is illegal to transport them without a permit. Mitten crabs can grow to be four inches across and are now found in the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, and on the West Coast as well. Fans hoping to see them in vending machines here may have their hands full!
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BoatUS Recognizes Access AdvocatesAn even dozen boating people, projects, and public policy measures made the cut to earn 2010 BoatUS Recreational Boating Access Awards. Winners range from Maine to Hawaii and California to Florida, and run the gamut from changing state law to setting national priorities to building bricks-and-mortar facilities.
Winning individuals are: Chuck May, chair pro tem, Great Lakes Small Harbors Coalition; Dr. Frances Bohnsack, Miami River Marine Group; Lisa Lawrence and Margaret Pizer, Virginia Sea Grant Marine Extension; former Hawaii governor Linda Lingle; Jim Connors, Maine Coastal Program; and Massachusetts Senator Michael Morrissey.
Two facility projects earned the honor: San Francisco's Alviso Marina Boat Launch Ramp; and the Huron, Ohio, Boat Access project, Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources. Michigan's Dept. of Natural Resources, Waterways Program, and South Carolina's Georgetown County Council, plus the cities of Clearwater and West Palm Beach, Florida, also earned the award in recognition of polices and projects that improve boater access.
BoatUS created the award program in 2007 to highlight successes in protecting water access as boaters and communities were losing marina slips, service yards, and boat-launching areas. The goal is to draw national attention to innovative solutions and share success stories that can help others to solve their own local waterway-access challenges. (For a profile of individual boaters who made a difference for their fellow boaters as true "access advocates," see This Boating Life [on page 25] and over the coming issues.)
The Access Award honors a group, government body, business, individual or non-profit organization that has succeeded in preserving or improving public waterway access for boaters. Judging criteria included: how well challenges were overcome; the direct impact of the solution; and how adaptable the approach would be in other areas facing similar water-access challenges. For complete details on all 12 Access Award-winning people and projects for 2010, go to www.BoatUS.com/gov/AccessAward
Taking A Bite Out Of Shark AbuseIn the final days of its "lame duck" session, the 111th Congress passed legislation that, once and for all, makes the practice of shark finning totally illegal in all U.S. waters. The Shark Conservation Act, signed into law January 4, should give U.S. negotiators more teeth, so to speak, in international fishery negotiations.
Finning refers to the practice of cutting the dorsal and often the pectoral fins off sharks at sea and dumping the carcasses overboard, often while the fish is still alive. Dried, the severed appendages are the essential ingredient in shark fin soup, a delicacy in some Asian cultures that commands high prices. A 1999 article in BoatUS Magazine brought the barbaric and wasteful practice to the attention of Congress, which passed a law banning the practice in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, but loopholes allowed it to continue in Pacific waters of the U.S. The new law requires any commercial fishing boat to land otherwise legally caught shark with the fins intact while also prohibiting non-fishing vessels from transporting shark fins alone.
Sharks are among the most biologically vulnerable fish in the ocean and their populations are slow to recover from overfishing. It's been estimated that, worldwide, 73 million sharks are killed annually, primarily for their fins.
Women's Sailing Conference Celebrates A DecadeThe 2011 National Women's Sailing Association (NWSA) will hold the BoatUS sponsored 10th Annual Women's Sailing Conference, a Take the Helm® program, at the Corinthian Yacht Club of Marblehead, Massachusetts, June 4. Women can learn new skills or enhance old ones in recreational sailing through seminars on the water and at the dock. Topics include introduction to sailing, sail trim, spinnakers, crew overboard, operating a motorboat, knots, hands-on charting, suddenly single-handed, diesel engine troubleshooting, what is weather, understanding the wind, rules of the road, galley cooking, and marine medicine, as well as on-board firefighting.
Hawaiian Harbor Getting Major RestorationFor years, the sign at the head of Ke'ehi Small Boat Harbor Pier 100 warned, "Danger, do not enter, no trespassing." Pier 100, the worst of the harbor's decaying boat docks, was allowed to disintegrate and wash away. Bare pilings jutted from the water, rickety planks seemed capable of supporting only visiting seagulls, and a padlocked gate greeted visitors.
Three other piers within the Honolulu-area small-boat harbor were in dire straits as well. BoatUS Magazine reported in 2004 that 20 percent of Ke'ehi's 349 total slips were out of service — for safety and liability reasons — because millions of dollars of boater-derived repair funds had been used elsewhere (see "Paradise Lost," BoatUS Magazine, May 2004). But that's all changing now since the Ke'ehi Small Boat Harbor received a multi-milliondollar shot in the arm. Rebuilt from the seafloor up, Pier 100 reopened in August 2010, to the delight of local and transient boaters. Shortly thereafter, construction began on three other piers within the harbor. Work on a fourth pier will ultimately bring 128 new slips into service and new handicapped-accessible docks will accommodate boats to 55 feet, according to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The multiphase project to upgrade docks and boating facilities will cost more than $6.6 million. The turnaround stems from then-Governor Linda Lingle's program to upgrade and modernize marinas and boating in Hawaii.
"The improvements to this harbor and others around the state will help ensure our residents and visitors can enjoy safe and easy access to the ocean," Lingle said. Funding for the Ke'ehi Small Boat Harbor project comes from the federal Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state of Hawaii, according to department engineer Eric Yuasa.