A Pox On Our Waterways?

I was sorry to see you glorify wakeboarding in your December issue without exploring the negative side of this "sport." Over the years, I've run into every conceivable form of self-centered, destructive, unsafe, and obnoxious behavior on the water, but wakeboarders take the cake. The intent of these boats is to make the largest wake possible, and they do. These wakes capsize other boats, and ruin and destroy shorelines, and other people's property. They're loud and obnoxious, blasting their music at levels that would get them arrested if they played it that loud on the street. They're a pox on our waterways. These boats need to be used in specially designated areas, where they can play to their hearts' content without ruining everything for everyone else.

Our family of five participates in a variety of watersports, so we totally connected to your story on wakeboarding. Reading this kind of article gets us fired up to get out on the water and we'd love to see more articles in this vein. We also really liked the fishing series; we fish on the Strait of Juan de Fuca a lot. It's great to see such variety in BoatUS Magazine articles. Keep up the good work.

A Kernel Of Truth Emerges

The same day I received my December issue, with the article on page 16 about the problems with using ethanol-blend gasoline in marine engines, was the same day former Vice President Al Gore said that he'd originally pushed ethanol while running for president in a bid to support farmers and secure votes in his home state of Tennessee. He didn't realize then that the conversion of corn to ethanol would account for 41 percent of the corn grown in the U.S.. Our tax subsidies are paying for the destruction of our marine engines.

Editors' Note: Mr. Gore made these remarks in November, 2010, in a green-energy conference in Athens, Georgia, where he discussed his original optimism for the biofuel 12 years ago, and his evolving position since then, which he's also discussed at length in his 2009 book, Our Choice. "First-generation [corn-based] ethanol, I think, was a mistake," he said. "The energy-conversion ratios are at best very small. It's hard, once such a program is put in place, to deal with the lobbies that keep it going."

A Book, And Author, That Time Forgot

I read with great interest "Great Books About Boating And The Sea" (Nov. 2010). But you missed the best book of all: William Albert Robinson's "10,000 Leagues Over The Sea". As a young man, Robinson sailed his 32-foot John Alden ketch Svaap around the world in 1928-1931, the smallest boat to circumnavigate at the time. His book, a lyrical narrative of a brilliant circumnavigation, became a bestseller. Robinson, for reasons I don't understand, has disappeared from our collective memory. He was a prominent sailing author in the 1930s and 40s, wrote three other equally excellent books about his various cruises, opened a shipyard, built landing craft for the U.S. Navy during WWII, and finally settled in Tahiti where he conducted important research into the causes and cure of elephantiasis – a spectacular life by any standards.

You left out my favorite book, "The Sea Wolf," by Jack London. Wolf Larsen, the protagonist, is a classic in literature. Also, check out "Killing Mr. Watson," by Peter Mathiessen, my favorite book in the last 15 years, which takes place in the 10,000 Islands area of southwest Florida.

Whales And Calves

In December, your "Great Escapes" feature says whales come to the Sea of Cortez to calve and train their young. I think you're confusing the whale calving lagoons on the Pacific coast of the Baja peninsula with the Sea of Cortez.

Editors' Note: You're right. The whales do give birth in the shallow, safer waters of Magdelena Bay or San Ignacio Lagoon, on the other side of the Baja peninsula, which is easy to visit by car, then hop on a day boat. When the mother whales are up for it, and their calves are robust, they swim around into the Sea Of Cortez.

Charter Fishing 101

In your December issue, Lenny Rudow discusses charterboat safety, listing very good points in his Charter Question Checklist; here are two more.

Be sure the captain is fully licensed. The captain usually has his or her license framed and mounted in the boat's wheelhouse for all to see. If you ask, the captain will be happy and proud to show it to you. Not all licenses are the same. A typical sportfisherman that sails parties of six or less has a captain licensed with what is affectionately called a "Six Pack." No, not beer, but the maximum number of paying passengers he or she can carry. A "Head Boat" needs a captain licensed for the size of boat, usually less than 100 tons. The captain needs a "100 Ton" ticket to run it. Where you're sailing counts too. If you're just sailing inland waters such as bays, rivers, creeks, and lakes, the captain will have an "Inland" license. For offshore, the captain needs a "Near Coastal" or "Oceans" license.

Why all of this gobbledygook about licenses? The skill, experience, and licensing of your captain is probably the single most important aspect of keeping you safe while you're out enjoying your charter. His knowledge and abilities will keep you and the boat out of trouble or, if things get dicey, he'll get you home safely. A "do-it-yourself" captain is as dangerous as a "do-it-yourself" airplane pilot.

The second item on the checklist discussed boat equipment, such as life jackets, flares, and rafts. How do you check to see if your ride is up to snuff? Look for a current USCG Safety Examination Decal or, for larger boats, USCG Certificate of Inspection Decal, on the boat's windshield. As Rudow suggested, check things out before you leave the dock.

1) Aptly Named: Less than three hours after adopting Amber, the Cowan family had her on their boat Sunken Treasure in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey. The boat got its name because 12 hours after they bought her, it sank, due to a leak in the bellows. Happily a whole new engine has resulted in many great times aboard in the seven years since. Though they laugh about it now, the Cowan's say it wasn't funny at the time!

2) Too Much Sun And Sea? Never, say Heather and Cullen Sheward, pictured here relaxing on the bow of their family boat The Refuge, tired but happy on their way home from Catalina Island, California.

3) Let Them Eat Cabbage: Ed and Barb Holmes regularly take their 25-foot Glastron on boat trips with the South Gulf Cove Yacht Club in southwest Florida. This photo was taken on an outing to Cabbage Key, a historic restaurant with a panoramic view of Pine Island Sound.

4) Lone-Star Cruisers: Over 20 years, the Wallachs, Barb, Josh, Daniel, and Teak "the wonder dog" have traveled the Gulf Coast extensively with their boating club, the Texas Mariners Cruising Association (TMCA). Here Josh is at the helm on their 36-foot trawler Last Trade while Barb takes a picture.

5) Like Mommy, Like Son: Lindsay and Mason Dzielak enjoy some family time on Lake Anna, Virgina.

6) A Gigantic Raft-Up: John and Carmen Chalfont tie-up for the San Francisco Giants first World Series game last October, aboard MagPie2, a 46-foot Meridian. They were tied-up with several other enthusiastic boaters in McCovey Cove, the unofficial name of San Francisco Bay that backs up to AT&T Park, home of the 2010 World Series winners.

Send Us Your Photos
Do you have a photo of you or your family and friends safely enjoying great times on the water? E-mail the high-resolution digital version to us (min. 300 dpi) with your name and address, and tell us who (preferably with life jacket donned) or what's in the photo. We may select your photos to appear in this column. Send to LettersToEditor@BoatUS.com

Show your pride with a BoatUS flag
This three-color flag comes with a lifetime guarantee. If it wears out, we'll replace it, free. Just return it to the Membership Department. 800-395-2628 or www.BoatUS.com/logoitems