BoatUS Reports

News from the world of American boating, edited by Ryck Lydecker

So Many Fish In The Sea

Those buddies of yours who tried to get you over that bad breakup? Turns out they were right: There are a lot of fish in the sea. In September, scientists with the international Census of Marine Life released the results of an unprecedented 10-year effort to catalog all of Earth's ocean life. Researchers formally described around 250,000 species, but the census estimates that three times as many remain undiscovered.

Announcing its completion, census steering committee chair Dr. Ian Poiner of the Australian Institute of Marine Science was enthusiastic when he said, "We prevailed over early doubts that a census was possible, as well as the daunting extremes of nature."

One of the fruits of those efforts, involving 2,700 scientists in 80 countries, is a database of global marine life that contains 30 million records. The data is available online to researchers and the general public through the Ocean Biogeographic Information System ( The database allows scientists to track movements of migratory species and serves as a guidebook for the home waters of different marine life as well. It also points the way to vast areas of the ocean that remain largely unexplored.

Over the course of the project, scientists described some 1,200 new species, and collected another 5,000 that await formal scientific description. They range from the Yeti crab — a long-limbed, hirsute crustacean found near deep-sea hydrothermal vents in the South Pacific — to the tiny, jellyfish-like loricifera, the first multicellular organism known to survive without oxygen, in the depths of the Mediterranean Sea. Other species were re-discovered: Neoglyphea neocaledonica, a type of shrimp thought to have disappeared 50 million years ago was found alive and well, and living between Australia and New Caledonia. Researchers say the census provides an overall picture of ocean life and establishes a baseline for future comparisons to track changes worldwide.

History Comes to Life

Civil War Maps Reveal The Dramatic
Events That Took Place Along Our Shore

The Civil War was an exciting time to be a cartographer and now you can see much of the war-era work of the fledgling Office of Coast Survey online. NOAA, now its parent agency, has launched a website cataloging much of this early mapping and nautical charting to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War.

At the time, much of the country remained uncharted, including the East Coast. If you wanted to sail (or fight) along the waterways and inlets, you needed a local to show you the way, and with the South in rebellion, that could prove difficult. Union forces needed maps and charts, and the job fell to the relatively new agency, whose mapmakers ventured behind enemy lines armed with lead lines and drawing tables. "You think of Coast Survey and nautical charts as sort of static and labor intensive," says Dawn Forsythe, a spokeswoman for NOAA's Coast Survey. "There was also a lot of derring-do and creativity, and bravery involved in making sure the Union side had the materials they needed to prosecute the war."

In an 1862 report to Congress, Coast Survey Superintendent Alexander Bache described a mission by the steamer Monticello to chart an approach to Cape Fear: "Its difficulty and danger are apparent from the fact that the soundings were made at night, and almost immediately under the guns of the enemy's batteries. The report said that 'the sentry's hail on his post could be distinctively heard on the deck of the Monticello.'" That report to Congress and the corresponding charts are among the documents NOAA's Office of Coast Survey has made available; it's some 400 items, and counting, that were previously in government and private collections. Forsythe hopes the project will interest tourists, boaters, and Civil War buffs alike.

"The website is good for people who are going to a section of the country and want to see what it looked like in 1860," says Forsythe, "or for people who are just interested in a new perspective on the Civil War and everything that goes into supporting [the prosecution of] the war."

Many of the items in the collection are sketches, or battlefield and strategic maps, made at great hazard and carried to the Union as valuable and secret military intelligence. Forsythe points to an account from the Mississippi, where a Coast Survey cartographer working inland reported that he "did not stop work till the cannon balls plowed up the ground within 20 feet of us. One of my men had his hat blown off by the wind of a ball and one struck the levee just under my plane table. I reckon about all of the inhabitants of Vicksburg were out after me." In the end, though, he finished his sketches and brought home the maps, which now can be seen in the NOAA online collection.

Great Lakes Boaters Create
The Mother Of All Reference Tools

Making the vast local knowledge of the club's 2,500 members available to anyone with a yen to explore the inland seas, the Great Lakes Cruising Club (GLCC) is now offering online seminars, or webinars, for Great Lakes boaters.

Bill Rohde, a board member of the club and the coordinator of the school, says the online classes were a natural evolution for the group, which started in 1934 to exchange information for gunkholing in the local waters and has grown to encompass all aspects of sail and power cruising on the Great Lakes. In the club's early days, members traded sketch charts after races, and even worked with the Canadian government to document uncharted areas. Eventually, members compiled their hard-won knowledge into cruising logbooks for the five lakes.

Handed down, and updated constantly, the Great Lakes Cruising Club's logbooks have been an invaluable resource for members. Printed out, they take up about a foot of space on a bookshelf, but now they're all available online to members. The club's reports contain things like details about harbors, from approach to anchorage, as well as annotated charts and pictures.

"If something significant happens at any Great Lakes port, it will be in our logbooks online immediately," Rohde says, from his home base near Minneapolis. "We've translated a lot of that local knowledge into these webinars." Rohde, who manages systems software during the workweek, put together the webinars, or online seminars. The first one, an intro to Great Lakes cruising, had 18 students signed up just a little over one week after enrollment opened. The club will have around 20 courses during the first school year, which should run until April.

"The Great Lakes has a great time to go to school — during the winter," he says. "We'll probably take a training sabbatical over the summer when everybody's on their boats." Some of the courses will be more general — electronics for the cruising sailor, for instance — while others will focus on Great Lakes weather and current patterns. Others are straight from the logbooks; Rohde ticks off a list of lakes and locations ranging from Lake Erie to the Apostle Islands, with the Great Loop thrown in for good measure, all of which will be the subjects of upcoming webinars.

He hopes the classes will expand the horizons of other cruisers and would-be cruisers. "These classes don't replace the logbooks," he says, "just like they don't replace charts or navigation equipment, but they really focus on getting people out of their harbor, and out into the lakes and exploring." The online courses are open to all, and cost $20 ($15 for members). For info,

Let There Be Life!
Kelp Forest Grows Over Once-Barren Seabed

ecreational boaters and anglers now enjoy a 174-acre canopy of healthy kelp where once only barren seabed existed off the California coast at San Clemente. The new man-made ecosystem comes courtesy of an artificial reef created by placing approximately 120,000 tons of quarry boulders on the seafloor.

The reef, about two miles long by a fifth-of-a-mile wide and located roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, was built to mitigate possible damage to natural kelp caused by coolingwater discharge from Southern California Edison's San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. It's believed cloudy water passing through the power plant's outflow pipe hinders kelp growth so the $46 million project is designed to offset any loss.

Kelp forests in Southern California's ocean waters provide important habitat for baitfish, which in turn attract bass, halibut, sharks, and other aquatic species. Sea lions and seabirds such as gulls, pelicans, terns, and cormorants also frequent kelp forests, much to the delight of boating sightseers.

Construction on what's being dubbed the world's largest artificial reef was completed in 2008. But the wavy coppercolored fronds only recently reached the surface from 30 to 60 feet below.

"The builders did an excellent job of boulder placement," says Stephen Schroeter, a University of California, Santa Barbara research ecologist who supervises monitoring the reef. "Moreover, the profile is much improved over past artificial reefs." Schroeter explains that formerly artificial reefs were built on sandy seafloors, but because the heavy boulders tended to sink in sand, they were piled high to compensate. But kelp never seemed to grow on these tall boulder fields and even vigorous replanting failed to help.

Scientists made a breakthrough when they discovered an association between boulder height and sea urchin populations. Sea urchins eat kelp, and artificial reefs high off the seafloor support huge colonies of sea urchins. After building a lowerprofile test reef, with only a foot or two of sediment covering the bedrock, allowed kelp to flourish, the reef was expanded to its present configuration.

"I've fished the area 20 years and it looks like the reef works perfectly," says Orange County businessman Matt Stabley. "This year the kelp became super thick and I began taking my son out there. We catch halibut, calico bass, and white sea bass. It's interesting to be there. Lots of sea lions and birds to see." Wheeler North Reef, named after the late biologist and diver, is a halfmile from shore, making it a popular diving destination.

How Do You Put A Boat In A Box?

Most boat deliveries require a truck and a trailer, and perhaps even a travel lift at the destination, but the Topaz sailing dinghy arrives in a box. At 12 feet, 8 inches, and a mere 132 pounds, this sailboat doesn't seem like the sort of boat that could give the delivery driver fits, but it was doing just that. Too ungainly for UPS Ground and oddly shaped for traditional freight pallets, Topaz Sailing Systems, which imports the boats from the United Kingdom, where they're built by Topper Industries, was searching for a way to ship boats to customers more efficiently and with less waste.

They turned to students at the Center for Unit Load Design at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, who, in a semester-long project, went to work on a sample Topaz. The result is a custom pallet-andcradle system made mostly of recyclable, corrugated material that protects the boat while providing the lift points and regular shape that modern freight companies prefer. The packaging adds just 45 more pounds to the shipping weight, and can easily be disassembled by the customer and recycled. Now the boats can ship UPS Ground, giving the customer delivery of their boat sooner, and Topaz predictable shipping costs.

You've heard of "rolling thunder"? How About "Rolling Tide"?

That's the name Cleveland Sea Scouts gave to their entry in the Great Lake Erie Boat Float last September — and they rolled away with the Most Artistic Style Award. Made from 600 recyclable Tide-brand detergent bottles and designed like a hamster wheel to roll over the surface of Lake Erie, its power came from — you guessed it — a Sea Scout named Andrew running inside, just as fast as he could.

The revolving craft with the recycling message crossed the finish line at Edgewater State Park Beach in the middle of the field of a dozen floats. The event, sponsored by the Cleveland Natural History Museum and Cleveland Metroparks, highlighted the responsible use of plastics and aimed to help limit the material entering our waterways. The high-density polyethylene detergent bottles are readily accepted by recycling companies, helping manufacturer Procter & Gamble Co. meet its sustainability goals.

Ship 41, of Bay Village, Ohio, is no stranger to high honors. It wonthe 2008 BoatUS Sea Scout National Flagship Award as top performing Sea Scout unit in the country, and a few months later, landed a cool $30,000 cash prize in the Interlux Waterfront Challenge for designing an innovative tool to clean up floating debris. Sea Scouting is open to all boys and girls, 14 to 21, and like all Sea Scout units, Ship 41 uses boats, seamanship, and nautical skills to develop character and leadership qualities in young people. For more information about Sea Scouting or to find a ship near you, visit