BoatUS Reports

News From The World Of American Boating

Edited by Ryck Lydecker
Published: August/September 2012

Jurisdictions Target Boat "Gatherings"

A bill introduced in Maryland's General Assembly would have required any "gathering" of 50 or more boats to obtain a state permit 90 days in advance of the event. But organized boaters' groups convinced legislators to modify the bill and, as passed in April, the law applies only to gatherings of more than 100 boats. It also cuts the lead time required to apply for a permit to 45 days, allowing boaters more flexibility in event planning.

The bill, introduced at the request of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, appeared to be a response to several large (as in 800-plus) boat parties that take place occasionally on some waters of the state. BoatUS and other groups showed legislators that the bill, as drafted, would be unworkable, especially for traditional gatherings such as the Seven Seas Cruising Association's time-honored "Gam" afloat. The new law, signed by the governor May 2, specifically excludes races, regattas, and boat parades that already require Coast Guard-issued permits.

"Potential restrictions on boat gatherings crop up from time to time. But unlike the Maryland situation, many are proposed at the county, municipal, or even local level, with a jurisdiction that governs a body of water like a lake or river frontage," says BoatUS President Margaret Podlich. She also noted that boaters in local areas need to be organized into formal groups that can not only represent their own interests in such discussions but help everyone practice etiquette on the water. For tips on how to organize a boating group, go to


Feel Free In The Sea Of Cortez – Free Reading For BoatUS Members!

Back in 1985, Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni left their secure jobs in Vancouver and boarded their 41-foot ketch for what Liz called "a little 18-month cruise" before settling down to homeownership, mortgages, and family. Well, 26 years later, they're still enjoying the liveaboard life! They've traveled by boat to 45 countries, found meaningful professional work in six, and have had many, many tales to tell and tips to share with their fellow boaters — their own and lots gleaned from other veteran cruisers.

Right now, Liz and Tom are aboard their 51-foot Feel Free in the Sea of Cortez, one of the most beautiful and accessible cruising destinations for West Coast boaters. Every other week, exclusively on our BoatUS website, they're sharing their series of exciting boating adventure stories, including detailed cruising advice for the area. For anyone wishing to visit the Sea of Cortez on your own boat or on a charter, or wanting to sail away vicariously, check out the log of Feel Free on

Taken together, the stories within the log chronicle Liz and Tom's lifelong adventure. It's like a terrific e-book that's free to our members. Read it on your iPad or laptop, and you won't be able to put it down!


See Debris At Sea?

Now that a derelict fishing boat has drifted across the Pacific, a relic of Japan's March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, NOAA's Marine Debris Program is advising West Coast boaters and beachcombers to watch for more tsunami debris and to report sightings to: While other items suspected to be from the tragedy have washed up on some Washington and British Columbia beaches this spring, at least one oceanographer predicts the worst of it will arrive by October or November. NOAA has developed a new tracking model, updated weekly:


Sinister Ship Scrapped

Some 23 years after causing the worst oil-tanker spill in U.S. history, the Exxon Valdez headed for the ship breakers earlier this year. The 1989 accident, which dumped 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound, led to new designs for double-hulled oil tankers, thanks to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. That's the reason all vessels 26 feet and more, recreational boats included, are required to affix the Oil Pollution Placard in a conspicuous place near the engine or bilge pump. After four owners, and four name changes, plus an ignominious computer-generated cameo role in "Waterworld" as the bad guys' floating hangout, the ship, converted to carry ore in 2007, sold for about $16 million for scrap. Her final name: Oriental Nicety.


E15 Lawsuit Could Be Decided Soon

A suit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to allow gasoline containing 15-percent ethanol to be sold in the retail marketplace, but only for use in certain vehicles, could be decided by summer's end. The National Marine Manufacturers Association, joined by oil industry, automobile manufacturer, and agricultural trade groups, filed the suit July 13, 2011, maintaining that the EPA's partial waiver allowing E15 for some engines and not others violates the federal Clean Air Act and other laws.

In November of 2010, the EPA approved 15-percent ethanol as a fuel additive, but only for use in 2006 and newer cars and light trucks; then in January 2011 modified its approval to include vehicles in model year 2001 and newer. At issue in this lawsuit is the fact that E15 has been shown to damage air-emission controls on older automotive engines as well as non-road engines, especially inboard and outboard boat engines.

Pump Problems

The EPA also made it illegal to use E15 in any other engines, leading to concerns that the public could mistakenly use the fuel in the wrong engines, resulting not only in mechanical damage but in potentially voided warranties. The suit contends that the EPA hasn't done enough to prevent the public from misfueling. As a condition of the partial waiver, the EPA requires retailers to display a warning sticker on E15 gas pumps, declaring that its use in non-approved engines is illegal; the lawsuit declares that this measure is inadequate.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments in the case on April 17. If the court decides against the EPA, that could delay or prevent E15 from being sold at retail. However, it's likely the agency would appeal the decision, industry observers say. "Regardless of what the court decides or when the case is finally settled, it's important to note that the EPA is not requiring the use or sale of E15," says BoatUS President Margaret Podlich. "Many states will have to change their laws to allow an increase from 10-percent ethanol, but E15 could be showing up already in some markets across the Midwest states, and that's why we think it's very important for boaters to get in the habit of checking the labels on gas pumps." No matter where you fill up, or whether it's your car, boat, outboard gas tank, or tow vehicle, Podlich says, "take a peek at the pump and check the label before you grab the nozzle."


African Queen Steams Again

As the centenary of the Titanic maritime tragedy has come and gone, so has another iconic vessel marked 100 years on a far happier note, when the African Queen fired up her new steam boiler in Key Largo, Florida. Yes, it's the original 30-foot vessel from John Huston's classic 1951 film of the same name, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Registered as a national historic site, the steel-hulled African Queen underwent a $70,000 restoration for structural, mechanical, and cosmetic repairs. Its African mahogany gunnels, rails, and other woodwork are all original and still solid.

Built in 1912 in England and named Livingstone, the boat shuttled cargo, hunting parties, and mercenaries on the Ruki River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo until 1968. It then passed through owners in San Francisco, California; Oregon; and finally Ocala, Florida, where she languished in a horse pasture until 1982. Her current captain, Lance Holmquist, and his wife Suzanne restored the boat to appear as she did in the movie, and held a "relaunch" party on April 12, with special guest, "Bogie's" son Stephen. The African Queen now offers 90-minute canal cruises several times daily, and dinner cruises on selected nights. Information at


California Sea Scouts Earn Flagship Award

As Sea Scouting continues its 2012 celebration of 100 years of getting young people on the water, BoatUS commemorated the hallmark year by awarding its 10th National Sea Scout Flagship Award. Recognition for top-performing Sea Scout unit in the nation went to Ship 72, Albatross, home port Martinez, California, in the San Francisco Bay/California Delta.

Like all Sea Scout units, Ship 72 uses boats, seamanship, and nautical skills to develop character and leadership qualities in young people, both male and female. Ship 72 operates the 65-foot ex-Navy torpedo retriever Albatross, based at the Martinez Marina, and several other small boats. To earn Flagship recognition, the ship and its crew of 23 Sea Scouts compiled an impressive record of accomplishments last year, logging 50 days of on-water activities, including a 10-day summer cruise, plus six community-service projects. For a timeline of Sea Scouting over the past century, go to


Sea Floor Mapping Better, Atlantis Still Lost

The new online viewer from NOAA allows would-be submariners to explore ocean depths from the comfort of their computer. At, boaters can access sophisticated sea-floor maps that previously required a Ph.D. to understand, or a James Cameron level of investment to see firsthand. However, the high-resolution sea floor mapping has seen an uptick in "discoveries" of the lost city of Atlantis. In one case, a grid pattern on the sea floor near the Canary Islands, off northwest Africa, that appeared to be man-made (streets of the mythical metropolis, perhaps?) turned out to be ship tracks captured as remnants of sonar imaging from towed submersibles. No, says NOAA , Atlantis hasn't been found. Yet.


Isobutanol Testing, Round Two

A new round of tests for a promising alternative to ethanol in boat fuel got underway in May. The same team of boating industry engineers who evaluated isobutanol for engine emissions and overall performance last summer on the Chesapeake Bay began the new battery of tests. This year, however, the research (funded by the U.S. Department of Energy) included third-party oversight and peer review by Argonne National Laboratory, as well as analyses of lubricants and engine oils used in conjunction with isobutanol in inboard/outboards, a jet boat, and a center-console outboard test boat. Also, engine manufacturers Yamaha and Evinrude are conducted parallel tests at their research facilities in Alabama and Wisconsin, respectively. As in past testing, the National Marine Manufacturers Association and the American Boat and Yacht Council are co-managing the research with fuel supplied by Denver-based Gevo, Inc. See our report on 2011 isobutanol testing at


Sea Lion Kills Approved To Save Salmon

In April, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife euthanized two California sea lions. It's the first since a controversial NOAA ruling under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act that allows killing some animals in order to protect endangered salmon on the Columbia River. The sea lions eat between 1 1/2 and 4 percent of the salmon that swim upriver to spawn beyond Bonneville Dam, according to NOAA. The salmon are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, and repeated attempts to scare off the poaching sea lions, as they congregate near the dam during spawning season, have failed. The new rules allow the states of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington to euthanize specific sea lions to protect salmon and steelhead, but only if an aquarium or other facility can't be found to take in the animals first.

The West Coast has about 300,000 California sea lions, according to NOAA, which determined that 9,000 animals could be removed without harming the species. That population, up from 10,000 in the 1950s, has increased steadily since federal protection in 1972. But population growth has sparked complaints from anglers and boaters as the animals interfere with sport and commercial fishing, block traffic at boat ramps, and trash — even swamp — moored boats by climbing aboard to sleep, reproduce, or relieve themselves. The new rules on the Columbia authorize removal of 92 animals a year, although the number is expected to be far fewer. In other news, NOAA proposes to remove the West Coast's Steller sea lion from its current "threatened" status under the Endangered Species Act. Agency biologists have found that the species is recovering successfully and the population is deemed self-sustaining.


New Strides In Construction Materials

Taking their cues from the way an insect called a water strider skates across the surface of the water, researchers at Helsinki University of Technology in Finland are working on new, super-buoyant materials that could be used for a variety of marine applications. Their work on "nature-derived designs" uses nanocellulose, tiny fibers that make up plant stems, leaves, and roots, to construct an "aerogel" only a little heavier than air. Theoretically, one pound of it would be buoyant enough to float 1,000 pounds on water. Because it can absorb large amounts of oil as well, aerogel also could be used for environmental cleanup. Using wood-based fibers would require no petroleum to manufacture, making it a green and readily available material. The Finnish researchers shaped the aerogel to mimic the feet of water striders, which enable the insects to stand on the water without breaking surface tension.


Women's Sailing Honors Dickinson

The national Women's Sailing Association (NWSA) and BoatUS honored Elaine Dickinson, with the 12th leadership in Women's Sailing Award. Dickinson, who retired in 2010 after 26 years with BoatUS, accepted the award at the Women's Sailing Conference on June 2 in Marblehead, Massachusetts. The award honors a man or woman who's built a record of achievement in inspiring, educating, and enriching the lives of women through sailing.

A writer, editor, and lobbyist at BoatUS, Dickinson joined the association in 1984 to produce BoatUS Reports, the precursor to BoatUS Magazine. She also managed boating legislative and regulatory issues, and served on national safety organizations and federal advisory panels.

Her writing raised women's awareness about sailing opportunities and educational events, and profiled accomplished women in maritime fields. Dickinson started the BoatUS Women in boating website and served on the NWSA board for ten years. During that time she conducted surveys to better understand how women gain boating knowledge. For more about the award, see 


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