BoatUS Reports

News From The World Of American Boating

Edited by Ryck Lydecker and Chris Landers

Turn To BoatUS For Your Hurricane Resources

The National Weather Service is predicting a more-active-than-usual Atlantic hurricane season for this year. To help you prepare, BoatUS has put together a hurricane home page at, with the latest storm news and weather tracking maps, as well as resources and guides to help you before, during, and after a storm.

Seaworthy, BoatUS Magazine's sister publication, recently added a three-part webinar series based on the experiences of the BoatUS Catastrophe (CAT) Team, who responded after Superstorm Sandy last year. The three webinars: Sandy Overview, Securing Boats On Land, and Securing Boats In The Water, detail how various ways of securing boats fared during Sandy's high surge, and it provides useful information if you're thinking about where to keep your boat and how to store it during this hurricane season. You can access the webinars at

"Birthplace Of The ICW" Sets Celebration

Belhaven's first annual Intracoastal Waterway Day will be "as big a deal as a small town can do," according to Dr. Guinn Leverett, Belhaven's town manager. "We have two new transient docks, with full services and pumpout, and a rebuilt breakwater, so we're rolling out the welcome mat for cruising boaters." Leverett says dockage will be free that weekend at the 13 transient slips (a special introductory offer) but available only on a first-come, first-served basis. The town harbor can easily handle 50 boats at anchor, though, and area marinas also accommodate transients, he says.

Photo of boats on the the Intracoastal WaterwayWhere does it start? The magenta line labeled "ICW" on navigation charts stretches from Massachusetts Bay to Brownsville, Texas. Parts of the Atlantic ICW date to 1793, including the Dismal Swamp Canal in Virginia and North Carolina — the latter of which is seen here on a lazy summer day. (Photo: North Carolina Tourism)

To support their birthplace claim, Leverett and the Belhaven Town Council cite the 12,000 people, including dignitaries at all levels, such as the keynote speaker, a former secretary of the Navy, who descended on this tiny town eight miles up the Pungo River from Pamlico Sound to celebrate completion of the longest single land cut on the waterway — the last segment to be built as authorized by Congress in 1912. That would make Belhaven something akin to the Transcontinental Railroad's Promontory Summit for the ICW, and Leverett says a long-term goal is to establish an ICW museum in Belhaven, which is at Mile 136 on the Atlantic ICW, from Norfolk to Miami. For information: or call the town switchboard at 252-943-3055.

Congress Takes Up "Highway Bill For Waterways"

As it becomes increasingly evident in many parts of the country that our nation's waterways need help, Congress is gearing up legislation that could overhaul policy and set new priorities. A recent National Academy of Sciences report noted that, "The [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers' water resources infrastructure is ... wearing out faster than it can be replaced or rehabilitated." Critical infrastructure like dredged channels, ocean jetties, and inland navigation locks are in need of overhaul. That's hampering commerce while at the same time limiting recreational uses like boating and fishing in many areas. In some of the first congressional hearings on this subject in six years, Congress is considering a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Like a highway bill for waterways, this is the measure that Congress will use to make policy and set funding priorities.

"Federal funding for small harbors and navigation channels has been chronically short in recent years and it's disappointing that the Corps of Engineers budget sent to Congress for 2014 doesn't include money for projects that boaters in many parts of the country depend upon," says David Kennedy of BoatUS Government Affairs. "It's encouraging that these infrastructure issues are now on Congress' radar and we want to be sure they keep the recreational boater in mind."

Overfishing Going Down

In 2011, the number of fish stocks that NOAA Fisheries considers "overfished" or "subject to overfishing" continued to decline. The agency declared six stocks popular with anglers to be newly rebuilt, including chinook salmon on California's north coast, coho salmon in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, black sea bass in the South Atlantic, and Gulf of Maine summer flounder and haddock.

Robo Blob

Don't look now, but that huge jellyfish swimming beside your boat could someday be more than meets the eye. In fact, it might be watching you. Last April, a team from the Virginia Tech College of Engineering successfully built and launched a 170-pound, 6-foot-diameter robotic jellyfish. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Office of Naval Research, these "creatures" may someday patrol the seas, looking like large (but innocent) denizens of the deep.

Photo of the 170-pound prototype robot is called "Cyro"

The 170-pound prototype robot is called "Cyro," a combination of the Latin name for the lion's mane jellyfish (cyanea capillata) and "robot". Eventually the researchers hope Cyro will be completely autonomous and capable of powering itself at sea for months at a time. The college says that the robotic jellyfish has a range of possible uses, from monitoring the environment to military surveillance.

Tougher Than We Thought?

First, the bad news. Ocean acidification is the ongoing phenomenon of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels leaching into the sea and changing water chemistry by altering pH balance. Some 30 to 40 percent of the CO2 from burning fossil fuels dissolves into the world's waters, according to the National Science Foundation, and scientists around the globe are investigating what detrimental effects this could be having on the creatures that live in our oceans.

The good news? Sea life might be more resilient than we thought. A study funded by the European Project on Ocean Acidification looked at the effects of high CO2 levels on tiny-shelled plants called Emiliania huxleyi. (Ever seen the White Cliffs of Dover? That's what they're made from.) The plants are important because, along with other phytoplankton, they form the basis of the marine food chain. So, scientists expected that the increased carbon levels would disrupt the plants' shell growth, but according to a paper in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers found just the opposite. Emiliania huxleyi actually grew larger shells.

Hidden Danger Of Stray Electric Current

Nothing beats a hot summer day better than a cooling dip in the water, but in freshwater or brackish water, that swim in a marina can be deadly. Electric Shock Drowning (ESD) is caused by incorrectly wired AC shore power on docks or on boats. Improperly wired circuits can leak small amounts of electricity into the water. Fresh water (unlike saltwater) is a poor conductor, so the stray current leak can take a path through a swimmer's body, causing paralysis and leaving them unable to stay afloat.

Drownings due to ESD paralysis are difficult to recognize, however, as there are no physical signs, so they are often reported as drowning deaths, according to experts. Last year, four children and a 26-year-old woman were killed in separate ESD incidents in freshwater lakes during one week in July. In 2009, one informal survey of boats in Portland, Oregon, showed that 13 out of the 50 boats tested were leaking potentially deadly current.

In 2010, Kevin Cunningham's 15-year-old son Michael died while swimming in West Virginia's Stonewall Jackson Lake, electrocuted when he reached for the metal ladder of a boat they were staying on. Cunningham said he learned about ESD after his son's death, from an article in BoatUS Magazine's sister publication Seaworthy, and says education, for boaters, marina owners, and first responders, is key to preventing more ESD accidents. "No one knows about ESD," he says. "There are more people learning about it every day. But the sad thing is it's probably going to happen again."

Cunningham is working with the Oregon-based Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association to pass state legislation. In April, the "Michael Cunningham Act" was passed in West Virginia. The act requires Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs), which cut off improperly grounded circuits, on public docks. Cunningham is working with other association members toward similar laws in Missouri and Tennessee.

Seaworthy has gathered comprehensive info about electric shock drowning and how it can be prevented:

Sea Scout Flagship Named

BoatUS awarded its 11th National Sea Scout Flagship Award over Memorial Day Weekend and, once again, the honor for the top-performing unit went west, recognizing Ship 700, Makai, of San Leandro, California. The Sea Scouts, and their adult leader Robert Karn, accepted the award May 27 in a ceremony at the 61st Annual Ancient Mariner Regatta. The event is held every year at the USS Hornet Museum, a World War II aircraft carrier moored in Alameda, California, on San Francisco Bay.

Photo of the Sea Scouts of Ship 700Photo: Ship 700

Ship 700 is the fifth California Sea Scout unit to earn this recognition since BoatUS revived the Flagship Award in 2002 to help celebrate Sea Scouting's 90th anniversary. Last year Sea Scouting marked a century of service in getting young men and women on the water in boats, large and small.

With two dozen youth active in the program, Ship 700 operates Boson, a 50-foot wooden classic motoryacht and another wooden vessel, the Once Bitten, a 58-foot former U.S. Coast Guard harbor-patrol craft. To earn the Flagship recognition, the ship and its crew compiled an impressive record of accomplishments, with 42 days of on-the-water activities last year, including a 17-day summer cruise, plus 15 community service projects and numerous other achievements.

Sea Scouting is a coed program for young people ages 14 to 20, operated by Boy Scouts of America (BSA). With 6,500 youth, about one-third female, in 550 ships nationwide, activities range from formal training in boat handling, Rules of the Road, and safety drills, to boat maintenance, electronics, and engine repair, with a good measure of fun thrown in.

Sea Scouting is a coed program for young people ages 14 to 20, operated by Boy Scouts of America (BSA). With 6,500 youth, about one-third female, in 550 ships nationwide, activities range from formal training in boat handling, Rules of the Road, and safety drills, to boat maintenance, electronics, and engine repair, with a good measure of fun thrown in. Keith Christopher, national director for BSA Sea Scouts, presented the Flagship trophy on behalf of BoatUS a brass plaque bearing the name of Ship 700 will be added to a perpetual BoatUS National Sea Scout Flagship trophy displayed at the National Scouting Museum in Irving, Texas. For more on Sea Scouting, visit:

Boater Dollars Still Giving Back To Boating

A federal grant program that uses boater-paid gas tax dollars to build facilities serving people who travel by boat pumped $11.2 million back to boating this year. Now in its 13th year, the competitive Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) program is supporting 15 major infrastructure projects in 14 states. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which administers the boaters' money out of the much larger Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, awarded the latest round of funding on April 9. The funds go to construct new docks, dinghy landings, and mooring fields, and to provide water, electric, and sewage utilities at the dockside. It can be used to renovate existing facilities as long as they serve transient recreational boats (defined as staying 10 days or less) that are 26 feet or larger.

Photo of Chattanooga, Tennessee waterfrontChattanooga, Tennessee, received a 2013 Boating Infrastructure Grant to add facilities for boaters. (Photo: Chattanooga CB)

BoatUS conceived the program in the mid-1990s to provide benefits for larger, non-trailerable boats that were paying federal gasoline taxes but getting little in return. But the benefits of BIG projects spread inland from the waterfront, as USFWS Director Dan Ashe noted in announcing the awards. "These grants, funded by fishing and boating enthusiasts, help communities build and enhance facilities that provide recreational boating opportunities while supporting jobs and economic growth. It's a win-win situation for boaters, conservation initiatives, and job creation."

These grants, funded by fishing and boating enthusiasts, help communities build and enhance facilities that provide recreational boating opportunities while supporting jobs and economic growth. It's a win-win situation for boaters, conservation initiatives, and job creation." This year's projects range from adding 34 designated slips for transients at an established Virginia marina on the Chesapeake, to helping rebuild a marina on the arkansas river destroyed by fire 15 years ago, to installing a marine fueling station on a stretch of oregon's columbia river without fuel service for 100 miles. for descriptions of all 15 projects, see

Boating Is Back In Mississippi

Eight years after Hurricane Katrina, the Mississippi coast has turned its gaze toward the water for economic development and quality of life. Three massive public marinas now are either complete or under construction. That will put nearly 1,000 new boat slips in the water by early 2014. Financed primarily using Federal Community Development Block Grants and FEMA funds awarded to the state in the aftermath of Katrina, the total investment in recreational boating infrastructure is nearly $94 million.

Photo of the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor located on the Mississippi SoundPhoto: Troy Gilbert

The recently completed 319-slip Gulfport Small Craft Harbor located on the Mississippi Sound is a full reconstruction of the City of Gulfport's recreational marina that the storm destroyed in 2005. This past spring the harbor and its large outdoor pavilion hosted the Gulf Coast Yacht and Boat Show, and thousands of attendees walked the piers among new utility stations that tower 30 feet above the water. Harbormaster George Manemann explains, "We received hazard-mitigation grants that allowed us to put the electrical equipment and utilities, the most expensive items to replace, above the height of a potential storm surge that has a 1-in-100 chance of striking us every year." With approximately 137 slips already under contract, the new marina is just blocks from downtown, the beaches, and casinos.

The 30-foot utility towers are not unique to Gulfport. Down the coast in Bay St. Louis, the city's first public marina is under construction. Here, too, the utility structures will rise 30 feet above any future storm surge. The new 163-slip Municipal Harbor is adjacent to the town's main street, cost $21 million, and is capable of accommodating vessels up to 60 feet.

The 30-foot utility towers are not unique to Gulfport. Down the coast in Bay St. Louis, the city's first public marina is under construction. Here, too, the utility structures will rise 30 feet above any future storm surge. The new 163-slip Municipal Harbor is adjacent to the town's main street, cost $21 million, and is capable of accommodating vessels up to 60 feet. Across the bay in Pass Christian, directly on Mississippi Sound, a commercial and recreational harbor is doubling in size with the addition of 400 state-of-the-art slips and piers. at a cost of $33 million, it is also the most expensive of the new marinas. Home to the Pass Christian Yacht Club, which traces its roots to 1849, the public marina should be completed late this year or early next, an expansion welcomed by a town still recovering from Katrina. with existing public marinas already rebuilt in Long Beach, Ocean Springs, and Biloxi, where a private marina has also been added, the Mississippi coast is building the infrastructure necessary to reclaim its distinction as a world-class cruising and fishing destination.

Sandy, Rest In Infamy

The official names of hurricanes come around again every six years, according to a list established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). But the name of one of the most deadly storms in U.S. history — "Sandy" — will never be used again, thanks to a WMO decision announced prior to the 2013 hurricane season. The international agency's hurricane committee formally retired "Sandy" from the official list of names for Atlantic Basin tropical storms because of the extreme damage and devastation the October 2012 super storm caused from the Caribbean to New England. Normally storm names are reused every six years for both the Atlantic and eastern North Pacific basins, but if a specific storm turns out so deadly or costly that using the name in the future would be considered "insensitive or confusing," the WMO may retire that name. Sandy is the 77th name to be retired from the Atlantic list since 1954, along with the names of other infamous storms like Hugo (1989), Andrew (1992), Isabel (2003), and of course 2005's twin terrors, Katrina and Rita. The name "Sandy" will be replaced with "Sara," beginning in the 2018 hurricane season. For all the information you need to take care of your boat during hurricane season, go to

Dimmed No More

Anne Rheams, deputy director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, had a vision for the iconic lighthouse that stood at the entrance to New Orleans' West End marina district. Originally constructed in 1839, the New Basin Canal Lighthouse had operated as a U.S. Coast Guard facility since the 1950s. But in 2002 the Coast Guard moved into a bigger facility on Lake Pontchartrain and that opened the door to using the lighthouse as an educational outreach center for the group credited with cleaning up Lake Pontchartrain. Then in 2005, just as Rheams and her organization prepared to lease the lighthouse from the Coast Guard, Hurricane Katrina hit, toppling the structure. Just a month later, Hurricane Rita tore along the coast, further damaging the building, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo of the New Basin Canal LighthouseAfter more than a decade of closure, the New Basin Canal Lighthouse is now open. (Photo: Curtis Christensen)

Built of old growth cypress, the original structure had survived the Civil War and housed a long line of female light keepers throughout the early 1900s. So crews of the organization's volunteers painstakingly salvaged much of the lumber and stored it in donated warehouse space as the property rights were transferred from one agency to another on federal and state levels. Finally landing in the hands of the foundation, plans to resurrect the lighthouse and create a home for a small museum, education center, and grounds for events came together.

New building standards put in place after Katrina meant raising the first floor 20 feet above sea level. The foundation made historical integrity a priority and reused as much of the salvaged materials as practical. The result is a perfect hybrid of modern flood protection requirements incorporated into a structure modeled after the original. The foundation relied solely on private donations and it took nearly eight years, from acquiring the structure and grounds from the coast guard to reaching $1 million of the $1.2 million fundraising goal. The long-awaited relighting ceremony last April proved a welcome milestone for the recovery of New Orleans' lakefront. Today the light from the Fresnel lens and medium-range led marine-signal lantern can be seen more than nine miles away. 


— Published: August/September 2013

Boaters' Pocketbook


That's last year's tally for the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct its valuable Factory Visit and Boat Testing program for recreational boats. The money comes from excise taxes that boaters pay into the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund. The Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971, championed by BoatUS, gave the Coast Guard authority to regulate boat manufacturing and apply "defect laws" to newly built recreational boats.


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