BoatUS Reports

News From The World Of American Boating

Bering Sea

The New "Deadliest Catch"

If you think the most dangerous job on the planet is working on a crab boat in the Bering Sea, you're probably a fan of the hit reality TV show, "Deadliest Catch," now in its seventh season. But you'd be wrong, according to a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study. For the decade 2000 to 2009, the New England multi-species groundfish fishery (think cod, haddock, flounder, and sole) eclipsed catching Alaskan crab as the most dangerous in the fishing profession, with 26 deaths, more than double the total for crab fishing.

Keep on Looping

Boaters making a Great Loop cruise this year should expect a flood-free Mississippi this fall, as the annual migration heads southward from Lake Michigan. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Bob Anderson said at the end of June that the river was expected to return to normal by mid-July, barring any excessive rainfall. The snowmelt that had fueled earlier flooding was over, he said, and any remaining restrictions on traffic for the Upper Mississippi were expected to be lifted.

Janice Kromer, executive director of America's Great Loop Cruisers Association, said they hadn't heard any summer complaints from members either contacting her directly, or through the organization's discussion forums. She said it was still early in the season, though; most Loopers don't leave Lake Michigan until mid-September. And anyway, she added, they usually prepare for a long and unpredictable trip.

"Most people allocate a year for the Great Loop, but they're experienced cruisers," Kromer said. "They know you have to be resilient and just go with the flow." The annual Great Loop Rendezvous and Reunion, set for October 23 to 26, would go off as scheduled at Joe Wheeler State Park in Alabama, she added. Manager Kelly Ezell said that the park, located on the Tennessee River, 50 miles west of Huntsville, hadn't experienced any flooding and that he didn't expect any.

Fireworks Permits Launched For San Diego

Fireworks displays over San Diego Harbor will require a water-pollution permit following the May 11 decision by the Regional Water Quality Review Board.

Citing concerns about water contamination from potassium perchlorate, a chemical used in fireworks, the board ruled that pyrotechnic displays constitute a source of pollution, and can be regulated under the Federal Clean Water Act. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently considering regulation of perchlorate in drinking water because it may limit the human thyroid's ability to produce growth hormones.

Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, said the new permits, which in San Diego will cost almost $1,500, could be prohibitive for municipal fireworks displays, where costs are often covered by local sponsors. Heckman says perchlorate is used for color enhancement and as a propellant in fireworks, which she says contain low amounts of the chemical compared, for instance, to commonly available road flares. She says perchlorate is used in fireworks partly because it has a track record of safety and predictability — important qualities in fireworks displays. At press time, Heckman hadn't heard reports of any other jurisdictions imposing similar requirements.

"Thankfully," Heckman says, "what's happening in San Diego is not gaining traction elsewhere."

E15 Pump Warning Approved

In the continuing saga of efforts to increase the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline, from 10 to 15 percent, in June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved warning labels that boaters will have to watch for when filling their tanks. Last year the agency approved 15-percent ethanol for use in automobiles, but only in cars and light trucks of model year 2001 and newer. Under the EPA rule, it's illegal to use E15 in older cars, in boats, numerous other off-road applications, and small engines such as lawn mowers and generators.

In an attempt to prevent inadvertent misfueling, the warning label would be mandated on all pumps dispensing E15 and specifically advises not to use the blend in boats. There is no requirement for retailers to modify pumps to physically prevent misfueling so when E15 enters the marketplace, consumers will have to be especially vigilant. The ethanol industry must still go though a number of federal and state regulatory steps so there may be a delay before boaters see E15 at gas stations or marina fuel docks.

USCG Floats New Leadership

In May, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy launched the first boat of its new fleet of sail training vessels, the results of an effort by alumni and others to broaden the opportunities for cadets to take the helm of their first command. The new boats, 44-foot "Leadership" sloops, will replace four Luders 44s that have been in service at the academy since 1965. The projected fleet of eight boats will give all the cadets at the academy the opportunity to take part in the coastal sailing program.

"Most of the cadets will tell you that this is the most important leadership training they've had," says Bob Hallock, who graduated from the academy in 1972 and led the fundraising effort for the new boats. "It really puts you in the mix. You're out on this boat for 12 days, and you're learning small-team leadership and small-team management. It's a terrific laboratory. You always have continual challenges being thrown at you."

The boats were designed by David Pedrick, from Newport, Rhode Island, and built by Morris Yachts in Trenton, Maine. Hallock said the boats were designed to perform, but also to withstand abuse at the hands of generations of novice sailors. "We use the term 'cadet-proof,'" he says with a laugh. "You've got some poor kid who's never seen a body of water bigger than a pond, and they're suddenly at the helm of a 44-foot sailboat. We hit things with these boats."

Hallock says he and the others involved in the project feel that getting out on a sailboat is an important part of Coast Guard training, and it provides a link with the maritime past for cadets who will spend nearly all their careers on powered vessels. "There's generally the feeling that nobody understands, I mean really understands, a seagoing service unless they've done some kind of sail training. We've had sailing vessels a lot longer than we've had power vessels. So if you go back to the core of what a maritime service is all about, it basically revolves around sail training."

Boating Deaths Hit Record Low

Recreational boating fatalities fell to the lowest number ever recorded in 2010, with 672 deaths in all types of watercraft, according to the U.S. Coast Guard's annual Boating Statistical Report, issued in June. Even as boating participation continued to increase — over 82 million people went boating last year — fatalities in the largest category, open motorboats, have remained relatively constant over the past five years, averaging 49 percent of all deaths. By contrast, the number of canoeing and kayaking fatalities has risen steadily in that time, from 14 percent in 2005 to 21 percent last year.

The overall number, 672 deaths, is a drop of nearly nine percent over 2009, and just under the last record low of 676, set in 2004. Alcohol use again ranked as the top contributing factor in boating accidents, implicated in 19 percent of the deaths. Other factors include operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, and excessive speed.

Photo of a boating being arrested for DUI

Rollin' On The River — For Two Centuries

This October marks the 200th anniversary of the first steamboat to descend the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, and there's still time to take in one of more than a dozen celebrations, symposia, and exhibits this fall in cities and towns along those rivers and tributaries. The voyage of the side-wheel steamer New Orleans changed American civilization, say organizers of the 2011 Steamboat Bicentennial Celebration, as well as the lives of its passengers and crew. Departing Pittsburgh October 20, 1811, four years after Robert Fulton's Clermont proved steam-powered vessels practical and commercially successful, New Orleans "received gala welcomes at every port," according to the Rivers Institute at Hanover College, which is coordinating events. At a stop in Louisville, Kentucky, however, it's reported that "the noise of the steam pistons was so great that one person felt the end of the world was at hand."

Photo of the side-wheel steamer New Orleans

From there New Orleans steamed back up the Ohio to Cincinnati, then downstream again, demonstrating the feasibility of steam power on the big rivers. The ship passed over the Falls of the Ohio on December 8, and eventually arrived in its namesake city on January 10, 1812. Two momentous natural events attended its passage: the Great Comet of 1811, and the New Madrid Earthquake that hit December 16 along the Mississippi in what is now the state of Missouri.

A highlight of commemorations this fall will be "Full Steam Ahead," a steamboat symposium hosted by the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis on October 20, to be followed by a Steamboat Family Day Celebration on the 21st. An arrival reenactment is planned in the Port of New Orleans on January 10, 2012.

Washington Bans Copper Paint

In just over eight years, it will be illegal to use copper-based paint on recreational vessels in Washington state, making it the first state in the nation to outlaw the most commonly used antifouling bottom-coating formula. Under the law, passed in April, no new boats with copper-based bottom paint can be sold in the state after January 1, 2018, and paint with more than 0.5 percent copper cannot be used on recreational boats as of January 1, 2020. (Copper content of commonly used in antifouling paints now ranges from 20 to 70 percent.)

The law applies to recreational boats 65 feet and under, but does not apply to commercial, government-owned, or research vessels of any size. "We're all concerned about water quality where we go boating, but singling out recreational boats in this instance makes little sense," reports BoatUS Vice President of Government Affairs Margaret Podlich. "Washington boaters have few alternative products available to them now and we're worried the development of new products is likely to be slow as recreational boats represent a small slice of the antifouling paint market." She noted that Washington, and especially the Puget Sound area, is home to a large number of classic wooden recreational boats and copper is the most effective deterrent to ship worm and other organisms that plague such boats. Boaters will carry the burden of implementation of this law, she added, including any costs to strip their boats before applying a non-copper alternative.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in California are pursuing similar legislation. There, draft legislation would impose a January 1, 2015, ban on the sale of new boats with anti-fouling paint containing more than .05 percent copper, and by January 1, 2019, would make it illegal to use or apply these paints anywhere in the state.

"To date, copper paints have been the number-one defense against the transfer of invasive species on boat hulls," Podlich noted. "Yet, in California, as in Washington, concerns over invasive species seem to have taken a back seat to the new fervor to ban copper." For the latest on the California situation, go to: 

— Published: October/November 2011

Cash-Strapped States Revisiting Boat Taxes

MoneyDeath and taxes are inevitable, they say, and when money gets tight in state-government coffers, it's almost equally inevitable that lawmakers look to raise taxes on perceived luxuries like boats. But a few states in recent years have resisted the urge, recognizing that what's good for boating — healthy sales and services — can be good for a state's economy in the long run.

Last year Florida put a lid on sales taxes, stopping the levy on boats at $18,000, and in Maine, as of last August 1, the effective sales-tax rate came down to two percent for non-residents when they buy a boat — in Maine or elsewhere — and keep it in the state for more than 30 days. Some lawmakers in Texas tried to follow suit when the House Ways and Means Committee approved an $18,000 tax limit on the sale of a boat, reportedly based on the Florida model. That measure didn't pass, but back in New England, Connecticut boaters faced a raft of tax issues earlier this spring. That's because the governor's budget included a personal property tax on boats, the expansion of the state's sales tax to include winter storage and yard work, as well as a luxury tax of 7 percent on boats over $100,000.

While Connecticut boaters raised enough opposition to scuttle the personal property tax as well as the sales tax expansion, the "luxury tax" became law in July. For new and used boats $100,000 and under, the state's existing 6.35 percent sales tax still applies. All of that could be good news for neighboring Rhode Island, home of many boatbuilding companies and large repair yards. Boats in Rhode Island are exempt from personal property tax on boats kept in the state and from sales tax.



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