BoatUS Reports

News From The World Of American Boating

Edited by Ryck Lydecker

Fuel Subsidies Run Out Of Gas

But ethanol is here to stay.

A federal subsidy for ethanol production, adopted 30 years ago, expired December 31 when Congress opted not to extend it. Ethanol currently is found in about 90 percent of the total U.S. gasoline supply, nearly all of that made from corn and blended into fuels at 10 percent, giving motorists and boaters alike what is commonly known as E10 gasoline. The denatured grain-alcohol component itself is not going away, however, because federal law mandates that 36 billion gallons of biofuels must be blended into transportation fuels by 2022. While boaters and boat-engine manufacturers have, for the most part, adapted to E10 gasoline, last year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved ethanol at 15 percent (E15) for use in motor vehicles from 2001 and newer. It expressly prohibits use of E15 in boat engines, however, and boaters, particularly those who fill up at gas stations, are warned to check pump labels for ethanol content.

"Even though the subsidy ran dry, boaters need to keep a weather eye out for E15 in the future," said BoatUS President Margaret Podlich. "Independent tests have shown that E15 can damage engines. Using it in boats, even inadvertently, may void manufacturers' warranties." Podlich added that as Congress geared up earlier this year, some fuels-industry groups advocated expanding a federal subsidy for new pumps and other apparatus to handle higher ethanol blends, which can be very corrosive to distribution equipment. An alternative to ethanol, isobutanol, in research and development stages, shows promise for use in boat gasoline. Read Ryck Lydecker's award-winning "Alcohol And Boat Engines, Is There Another Way?".

Crystalline waters of the Bahamas beckon from the deck of a dive boatThe crystalline waters of the Bahamas beckon from the deck of a dive boat. Check out the world underneath your boat in The World Below Your Boat.

Looking for "The Very Dry Season"?

We thought this online extra deserved it's own page! You can read the rest of the story here: No Water? No Problem!

Golden Gate's Diamond Jubilee

San Francisco's annual Opening Day On The Bay boating celebration April 29 will have a lot of extra luster this year as the city's iconic Golden Gate Bridge marks its diamond jubilee, 75 years. Among "75 Tributes to the Bridge" that community partner organizations will present, the St. Francis Yacht Club will host a parade and display of historic boats at the bridge on Sunday May 27, the date the Golden Gate opened to the public in 1937.

Fog over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge

A month earlier, though, the Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association (PICYA ) will present its timehonored Opening Day on the Bay celebration to mark the official start of San Francisco's 2012 boating season, an event the group has been organizing since 1917. The theme for this year is "American Spirit" and BoatUS is again a primary sponsor, a role the association has served since 2002.

Coffee, Tea, Or — Fish?

Concerned about the amount of mercury in your fish? A cup of coffee could be the cure, according to a University of Montreal study published in the journal Environmental Research. It shows that consuming coffee or tea with fish reduces your exposure to mercury, and that boiling or frying fish significantly reduces exposure to the contaminants. Cooking fish with coffee or tea reduces exposure to almost nothing, according to an article about the research in The Montreal Gazette that appeared October 10, 2011. The newspaper quoted lead scientist Marc Amyot, a professor of biological sciences, as saying, "The magnitude of the effect was surprising. We thought there might be a five-to 10-percent reduction. We don't usually see such dramatic results."

The study, conducted using in vitro techniques to simulate human digestion, showed that boiling and frying tuna, shark, and mackerel reduced exposure to mercury by about 40 to 60 percent. Drinking coffee and tea while consuming raw fish reduced exposure by about 50 to 60 percent. The article concluded that the two combined pretty much eliminated exposure to mercury.

GPS Is Safe For Now — But The Battle Continues

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC ) gave a special Valentine to recreational boaters and all others who depend upon GPS , when it took the advice of a sister agency on February 14 and pulled the plug on LightSquared, LLC . The company had gained provisional approval in January 2011 to build 40,000 cellphone ground stations that would expand broadband service across the country. But the network, it turned out, would operate over radio frequencies very close to those that transmit signals from GPS satellites, and that brought together a coalition of GPS users, including BoatUS who said, "Not so fast!"

Photo of a GPS unit

Preliminary investigations during 2011 pointed to serious interference with GPS typically used by boaters as well as other military and transportation users, so BoatUS mounted a "Don't Mess With GPS " campaign until adequate testing could be done. A statement from a federal interagency technical working group on December 14 of last year cited "harmful interference issues." Then, in a February 14 letter to the FCC, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said tests indicate that the network would cause widespread problems with GPS . The FCC announced the same day that it would rescind the provisional approval.

The letter, signed by Lawrence Strickland, assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information, and an accompanying report, said "testing did show that LightSquared signals caused harmful interference to the majority of other tested general-purpose GPS receivers. Separate analysis by the Federal Aviation Administration also found interference with a flight-safety system designed to warn pilots of approaching terrain." The letter continued, "We conclude at this time that there are no mitigation strategies that both solve the interference issues and provide LightSquared with an adequate commercial network deployment."

With reportedly over $3 billion invested in the system so far, LightSquared has said it would appeal the ruling, maintaining the NTIA "relied on faulty conclusions" from the technical group study. A company statement claimed that the agency had been "forced by the GPS community" to reach its conclusions and admonished the FCC to take the recommendations "with a generous helping of salt."

In response to these developments, BoatUS President Margaret Podlich said, "No margin of safety should be reduced simply because a private corporation sees a new business opportunity; we are relieved that the FCC seems to agree. The February decision was a victory for all GPS users but LightSquared is not giving up. We will have to remain vigilant to protect the system that so many boaters depend upon." For more information on the GPS issue, visit

Centennial Surfaces Titanic Treasures

This year marks the 100th year anniversary of the most famous maritime disaster in history, the April 15, 2012, sinking of the RMS Titanic. And with the centennial a great deal of memorabilia from the trans-Atlantic liner's maiden, and last, voyage has been showing up on the auction block. For example, a collection from the descendants of John and Nelle Pillsbury Snyder, who took their honeymoon aboard the ship and survived, went for more than $100,000 in October. The Snyders kept a letter written on RMS Titanic stationery, and another letter, written aboard the rescue ship Carpathia, detailing their ordeal ("We were both asleep when the boat hit"). The collection also contained snapshots taken from the Carpathia's deck, showing lifeboats and an ominous iceberg lurking on the horizon. Long Island's Philip Weiss Auctions also sold a "widow's locket" which had belonged to the wife of the Titanic's master, Captain Edward Smith, and contained his photo, for $3,400.

In December, New York's Swann Auction Galleries offered a plan of Titanic's first-class accommodations, and a medal presented by survivors to the captain and crew of the Carpathia. Those items went for $6,000 and $3,400, respectively. Meanwhile, an exhibition of some 300 Titanic artifacts (which aren't for sale) has been making its own voyage from London to Las Vegas, and from Singapore to Saskatchewan, proving the universal appeal of the century-old tragedy. Some 20 million people worldwide have seen it. Exhibitions are going on this summer in Detroit, San Diego, and Kansas City (visit

More Eyes Over The Ocean

A U.S. Coast Guard HH-65C Dauphin helicopter lands on the newest National Security cutter, Stratton, off Annapolis, Maryland, during the ship's East Coast shakedown cruise last November 1. As the third of eight 418-foot vessels planned to replace the 1960s vintage 378-foot High Endurance cutters, Stratton was to begin Pacific patrols in March, based in Alameda, California. Originally all eight were to be assigned to the West Coast but during Stratton's Baltimore visit two days later, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp, Jr. said two of the new cutters likely would be assigned to Atlantic duty. Intended to enforce U.S. fisheries, immigration, narcotics, and environmental laws offshore, the cutters carry two helicopters plus three 23-foot RIBs that can be launched in heavy seas through a protected stern ramp, making the cutters important search-and-rescue assets on both coasts, as they become operational. A 2015 launching is planned for the last in what the Coast Guard has dubbed the Legend Class, with vessels named for "legendary" service members. The latest cutter bears the name of Captain Dorothy C. Stratton, who joined in 1942 as the first recruit in the Coast Guard Women's Reserve. She went on to create the name "SPAR" for the unit, an acronym made up of the Coast Guard's motto Semper Paratus and its English translation, "Always Ready."

Lowly Forage Fish Get Better Management

Call them bunker, porgy, or menhaden, one of the least glamorous fish in the sea finally swam into the better management spotlight last November when the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted to cut the catch, for the first time in history. Menhaden, the primary forage species for most predatory fish along the Atlantic coast, such as striped bass and bluefish, have declined to the lowest level ever recorded. That's because commercial harvesters take millions of pounds of this oily, industrial-grade fish for reduction to fishmeal and oil used in animal feed, pet food, and dietary supplements such as "fish oil" tablets.

The commission could reduce menhaden harvest by up to 37 percent once it implements full management measures. Menhaden stocks have declined 88 percent over the last 25 years and are at their lowest abundance in recorded history. For years, anglers and conservationists have called for better management although standards in place indicated healthy spawning stocks experiencing only "slight" overfishing.

"It's a great relief for anglers to know that managers have finally begun the process of rebuilding this critical species," said Charles A. Witek, II, chairman of the Coastal Conservation Association Atlantic Fisheries Committee. "The turning point was finally having science in hand that showed what many of us have been saying for a long time. We still have work to do to ensure that menhaden are properly managed, but we are finally out of the starting blocks."

Tall Ships, Short Budgets

The tall ship Spirit of South Carolina, built in 2007, is likely headed for the auction block. The South Carolina Maritime Foundation, which operates the 140-foot schooner, says the costs of running the ship and the associated debt have driven its decision to sell. In January, the foundation was in the process of contracting with a broker for the sale. The ship had been used for educational programs, which the foundation says it plans to continue, even without the Spirit.

If, or when, the boat is put up for sale, Spirit will enter a crowded market. Some half-dozen "tall ships" are currently listed for sale, ranging from the centuryold Chesapeake Bay ram schooner Victory Chimes to the replica HMS Bounty.

The task of selling the Victory Chimes has fallen to Jonathan Chapman, a yacht broker in Maine, and he's come to appreciate the difficulties of the tall-ship market. He's been trying to sell the historic schooner for five years, but it's a labor of love. "A lot of the guys here in the office think I'm crazy," Chapman says, but he grew up seeing the three-masted Victory Chimes plying the waters of the Pine Tree State, and wants to see it go to the right owner. The boat is listed in the National Historic Register and graces the Maine state quarter. Still working as a cruise schooner, the Victory Chimes turns a profit for the current owners, but it's a rare buyer who will pony up the $1.2 million asking price and, more than that, take responsibility for keeping the historic schooner afloat.

"It's a lifestyle change," Chapman says. "It's a vessel you purchase and you make it part of your lifestyle." When he spoke to BoatUS Magazine in January, Chapman had just gotten off the phone with an interested party in France, discussing the possibility of turning the Victory Chimes into a bed and breakfast there. While it's possible that by the time you read this, the boat could be headed for new waters, Chapman wasn't optimistic. He'd already tried every maritime museum in the United States, as well as the U.S. Naval Academy, even making inspired pitches to Maine-based businesses and politicians, to no avail.

Tall ships tend to attract dreamers and Chapman himself is a sucker for old wooden boats. He's put in long hours of his own time trying to find a home for the Victory Chimes. In the end, like a lot of other tall-ship owners these days, he's looking for someone with the resources to make the dreams come true. "It's a difficult thing," he says. "Everyone loves the Victory Chimes, but no one wants to own her."

Women's Sailing Conference On Course

The 11th Annual Women's Sailing Conference takes place June 2 at the Corinthian Yacht Club, Marblehead, Massachusetts, under the auspices of the National Women's Sailing Association (NWSA). With BoatUS as primary sponsor, the event offers women the opportunity to learn to sail or enhance sailing skills they already have through seminars on the water and on the dock. Topics range from sail trim to diesel-engine troubleshooting, and a continental breakfast, lunch, dinner and a guest speaker complete the day. Registration is $120 for NWSA members and $155 for non-members. (Early registration ends May 15.)

Photo of women sailing

West Marine Green Award Winners

Three innovative manufacturers shared the $10,000 West Marine "Green Product of the Year" award for developing two outboard motors that use no gasoline, and an epoxy made partly from wastes left from other manufacturing processes instead of petroleum-based chemicals.

West Marine, the nation's largest boating-supplies retailer, announced the winning products February 16 at the Miami International Boat Show. Entropy's Super Sap Epoxy, the Torqeedo Travel 1003 Electric Outboard, and the Lehr Propane-Powered Outboard Motor shared the top honors from a field of 36 entries. The panel of 10 judges included West Marine founder Randy Repass and BoatUS President Margaret Podlich.

"Recreational boaters have always been among America's staunchest advocates for clean water and healthy ecosystems, and these products represent the kind of innovation that today's boaters appreciate," said Podlich following the awards ceremony.

For example, the judges noted that the Super Sap epoxy has the same properties that make other epoxies popular for bonding, filleting, coating, and reinforcing. The difference with Super Sap is that one-third of the ingredients come from wastes from paper manufacturing and biodiesel fuel production.

"The judges liked the reduced use of petroleum resources in the product and that's definitely an environmental advantage," said West Marine Vice President Chuck Hawley. "When combined with performance that customers expect from epoxies, you clearly have an innovation award-winning product."

When it comes to reducing petroleum use in boating even further, the judges recognized two outboard motors that use no gasoline at all, Torqeedo's Travel 1003 Electric Outboard and the Lehr series of outboard motors powered by propane. The all-electric outboard now features improved efficiency and up to 30 percent more power than previous Torqeedo models.

A four-function display shows percentage of battery power remaining at any given time, the boat's speed through water, and the cruising range remaining, all with an integrated GPS-receiver.

The Miami show and the award marked the debut of LEHR, Inc.'s new outboards powered by propane, a technology in use for decades ashore running motor vehicles, such as forklifts, trucks, and larger equipment. The motors, which come in 2.5- and 5-hp models, draw their power from either screw-in propane cylinders similar to those used in handheld torches or camp stoves, or the same 5-gallon refillable propane tanks that fire up outdoor grills.

"The LEHR outboards eliminate many of the hassles of gasoline-powered engines, produce far fewer air and water emissions, and propane doesn't deteriorate when stored the way gasoline does over time," Hawley said. "Plus, with propane, you avoid fuel spills and now cruisers won't have to carry gasoline onboard for their dinghies." He added that in addition to very low CO and CO2 emissions, propane is a relatively inexpensive fuel, andproduced domestically. 

— Published: April/May 2012

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