BoatUS Reports

News From The World Of American Boating

Edited by Ryck Lydecker

New York And New Jersey Open For Business!

Hurricane Sandy left boaters in New York and New Jersey wondering if there would be a boating season in 2013, but contractors hit the water in early March and have been working seven days a week removing storm-related debris from channels and inlets. While hazards still exist in some areas, considerable progress has been made, and more waterways are being cleared every day. To provide updated information on the restoration efforts taking place in New Jersey, the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey (MTA NJ) created On the water videos and photos highlight some of the most popular boating areas so you can see firsthand which waterways are open and ready for the season. And if you need to go mobile, Dozier's Waterway Guide is working on a free app that accesses the information on the status of marinas and what services they can provide. The app will be available for the boating season and is being sponsored by BoatUS, TowBoatUS, the Association of Marina Industries, Monmouth University's Urban Coast Institute, and the National Marine Manufacturer's Association. So put Sandy behind you. Step aboard your boat, take your mobile device with you, and go boating!

Once Upon A Painted Ocean

What do Renoir, Monet, and Pissarro have in common? If your answer was, "They're all French Impressionist painters," then congratulations on recalling your art history class, but you're only half right. Correct answer? They were all boaters. At least that's the thesis of the new book, Impressionists On The Water, and a companion exhibit at San Francisco's Legion of Honor museum. Many great Impressionist works are nautical scenes of boats and shorelines, and according to the authors, that's no coincidence. Authors Phillip Dennis Cate, Daniel Charles, and Christopher Lloyd make a convincing case that the artists' maritime backgrounds had an important influence on their art. Manet, for example, crossed the Atlantic twice as an apprentice seaman; Gustave Caillebotte, when he wasn't painting, was an avid boater who painted maritime and boating scenes, like Skiffs on the Yerres, from 1877. He also taught fellow painter Georges Seurat how to sail, ran a boatyard near his home, and became one of France's leading yacht designers and racers.

The book traces the depiction of the nautical life through the late 19th century Impressionist period, which coincided with the growth of boating in France as a leisure activity. The exhibit is timed to coincide with the America's Cup races in San Francisco, and will run from June 1 to October 13. It moves on to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, November 9, 2013–February 17, 2014.

GPS Coalition Formed

After a close call two years ago with a cell phone business start-up that could've disrupted Global Positioning System (GPS) signals for boaters and everyone else, the ad-hoc coalition that told the Federal Communications Commission, "Don't Mess with GPS," is now the GPS Innovation Alliance. Formalized in mid-February, the GPS business and user advocacy coalition expanded its mission to include furthering innovation, creativity, and business opportunities, as well as continuing to protect the GPS radio spectrum. Members are drawn from manufacturing, aviation, agriculture, transportation, and other fields, as well as organizations representing consumers who depend on GPS. BoatUS is a founding affiliate member.

Virginia Passes Boater-Friendly Title Law

The State of Virginia became the first state in the nation to adopt a boat-titling law incorporating consumer protection mechanisms already commonplace for motor vehicles. In passing the Uniform Certificate of Title for Watercraft Act in February, lawmakers gave Virginia boaters a tool that makes it easier to identify previously damaged boats, recognize the legitimate owner in a boat sale transaction, and prevent the sale of stolen boats.

Photo of an Intrepid E250

"While two-thirds of the states have titling laws that cover boats, they can vary state to state in what is recorded on that title, leading to potential for error or even fraud," reports Nicole Palya Wood of BoatUS Government Affairs. Wood said the Virginia law is based on model legislation approved by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. "That means, as other states adopt it, this will create a uniform system of boat titling that will be recognized nationwide and by the U.S. Coast Guard."

The law requires a vessel title to clearly label any significant structural damage to the boat such as might be found in vessels severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy. By "branding" such titles for damage, buyers will know to carefully consider a vessel's condition, and that information can also alert the next buyer and subsequent buyers, whether they are local or across the country.

"In states that don't currently issue vessel titles, a stolen boat can be sold using a fraudulent bill of sale or forged registration document," Wood said. "Uniform titling will help prevent such transactions and that protects the owner of the stolen boat and the potential buyer." Now that Virginia is leading the way, Wood said non-title states can adopt the uniform law and the others can use it to make existing laws conform for the benefit of all boating consumers.

Sailing The Coffee-Dark Seas

Some mornings, drinking an ocean of coffee sounds pretty good, but, well, all that coffee has to go somewhere. Researchers recently discovered low levels of caffeine in ocean waters off the Pacific Northwest coast, which could be a sign of trouble brewing. Researchers with Portland and Washington State universities sampled areas off the Oregon coast and found caffeine in the water at five times the study's 9-nanograms-per-liter threshold, and in rivers and estuaries near the shore, they found levels around 17 times the limit. Samples taken in more remote areas showed higher caffeine levels than samples from more populous areas, possibly due to better waste-treatment facilities in larger cities, according to the study. Little is known about the environmental effects of caffeine in seawater, but the researchers told National Geographic News that its presence could serve as a warning that other contaminants may be percolating out to sea as well.

Century-Old Wreck Identified

Maritime archaeologists got a positive ID on a shipwreck off Key Largo popularly known as "Mike's Wreck," thanks to some sub-surface sleuthing by members of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers. The wreck, now confirmed as the Hannah M. Bell, is popular with snorkelers as well as scuba divers because it's in only 25 feet of water on Elbow Reef, six miles offshore. The 315-foot British freighter grounded there on April 4, 1911, carrying a load of coal to Mexico, and a May storm tore the wreck apart, making positive identification difficult.

Photo of divers diving a shipwreckPhoto: Matthew Lawrence/NOAA

Working with underwater archaeologists from NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary program, the volunteer divers took measurements and photos of the wreck for comparison with known vessel records. "Similar to the way detectives use forensic information to solve a crime, we compared the dimensions and construction characteristics with historic records," said NOAA maritime archaeologist Matthew Lawrence. "Measurements of the shipwreck and the records for Hannah M. Bell were virtually identical, as were the reported sinking location and actual location of the wreck."

Close But ... 9 Miles?!

Prudent mariners know that electronic charts are only as good as the survey data entered in the computer program. The U.S. Navy discovered a sobering example of that when the USS Guardian grounded on a coral reef in the Philippines last January 17. According to news reports, a Navy spokesman said the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which prepares the Navy's digital charts, reported the reef location on the chart as off by nine miles. And the ship? It had to be cut up and taken off Tubbataha Reef in sections to avoid further damage to the coral.

Photo of the USS GuardianPhoto: U.S. Navy/Geoffrey Trudell

Shake It Off

Researchers at Duke University have developed a coating that gets rid of barnacles and other unwanted hangers-on by just shaking them off. A paper in the journal Advanced Materials described a surface made by layering metal foil and silicone film to create a thin laminate that twitches when hit with electrical current, shaking off the critters that cause biofouling before they can take hold. Boaters are familiar with the effort and expense of traditional antifouling paint, and the paper's authors wrote that finding a substitute to antifouling measures "has been an extremely challenging 'holy grail'" for engineers.

NOAA photo laminate coating that get rid of barnaclesA tough cleaning job. (Photo: NOAA)

To test their material, researchers allowed a marine bacterium to attach itself to the surface for four days, then ran current through the laminate. When the electricity reached the right level, the surface changed to "a pattern of craters" before returning to a flat state, shaking off the bacteria. The researchers said their solution mimics the tiny, hair-like cilia of mollusks and coral, but is sturdier than those fragile structures, and "can be fabricated from materials that are already commonly used in marine coatings and medical devices."

Dredging In The Great Lakes Region

As Great Lakes boaters face a season of record-low water levels, state officials are digging for deeper water in their small-boat harbors and channels. In Michigan, a new budget put $21 million into emergency dredging after the Michigan Waterways Commission approved $9.5 million for emergency dredging from the state fund derived from boaters' gas tax. The plan, which also waives the requirement for local matching funds, allowed for dredging at least 49 harbors on Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie. Additionally, the state's Department of Natural Resources as well as its Department of Environmental Quality agreed to streamline the dredging permit process to speed up the work to be completed in time for the boating season. At press time, the Michigan Legislature approved supplemental funding that added approximately $11 million for dredging in hope of saving the 2013 boating season from the lowest lake levels in half a century.

Photo of Boats sitting on the bottom at Port Clinton, Lake ErieBoats sitting on the bottom at Port Clinton, Lake Erie. (Photo: Chris Landers)

Other states and harbor towns are struggling to find ways to solve the low-water problem. Historically the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has responsibility for maintaining more than 100 Great Lakes harbors and channels, but federal budget constraints have created a dredging backlog in recent years. Only 15 of those harbors are included in the 2013 Corps budget for dredging, and none are recreational boating harbors. That means states and local communities alike were scrambling for other ways to get the sand and silt out of their already-too-shallow waters.

At the Great Lakes Commission, David Knight, who handles dredging issues, sees dire consequences in the current situation. "There is huge economic interest at stake here," he says. "Recreational boating and maritime transportation pump billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs into the U.S. and Canadian Great Lakes regional economy. What is less quantifiable, but perhaps more serious, Knight explains, is the threat to human life and safety. "The climate models in the region feature not only lower water levels for the future, but also increased storm volatility and shoaling. For boaters this is an ominous combination, particularly for those with plans for long cruises on the open lakes in unfamiliar waters."

But he's optimistic, too. "We're working hard on solutions, so I think this is a reason for Great Lakes boaters to remain hopeful, but very careful, too," says Knight. In the long term, it's clear that both federal and local governments will need to work together to change the way dredging policies are enacted. A little help from Mother Nature would be welcome, too.

Rime Of The Ancient Albatross

Wisecracks about "empty nesters" aside, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) confirmed that an albatross believed to be at least 62 years old successfully hatched a chick on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific Ocean last February 3. Named Wisdom and first banded in 1956 at the same refuge, the Laysan albatross has likely raised at least 30 to 35 chicks during her breeding life, though the number may well be higher, according to researchers. Almost as amazing as being a mom again at 62 is the number of miles Wisdom has likely flown on her six-foot wings, according to FWS estimates. Adults fly about 50,000 miles a year, meaning that Wisdom has flown at least 2 million to 3 million miles since she was first banded. Or, to put it another way, according to an FWS press release, that's four to six trips from the Earth to the Moon and back again, with plenty of miles to spare.

Download NOAA BookletCharts Free

One OF NOAA'S handiest navigation products for recreational boaters has been the experimental nautical BookletCharts that can be downloaded and printed from home computers. NOAA's Coast Survey has now moved its BookletCharts from the experimental stage to official production. Nearly 1,000 updated BookletCharts are now available, covering 95,000 miles of U.S. coastline and the Great Lakes. The booklets contain most information found on full-scale charts, but in reduced scale. They print out as PDFs in 8 1/2-inch by 11-inch format. Special commemorative editions are available for War of 1812 events.

How NOT To Sell A Boat

A California Cragslist ad for a 26-foot 1992 Mirage ski boat sounded good. An $8,000 asking price ("runs great, looks awesome, ready to hit the water"), and the seller was even willing to barter, offering to accept a 215 trade plus cash, or just cash. That last bit drew some unwanted attention. "215" is slang for Proposition 215, the state law legalizing medical marijuana, and it's a popular enough currency that many ads on Chico, California's craigslist specify whether they accept it (or, in many cases, that they do not). Police in Oroville, California, say they responded to the ad, and after chatting about the boat, arranged a pot buy from the advertiser. They arrested a 35-year-old man from Eureka and seized $2,500 worth of marijuana.

Photo of Craigslist 26-foot 1992 Mirage ski boatPhoto: Craigslist

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

China Daily reported in February that a state-owned shipyard there was gearing up to build a ship for Australian mining billionaire Clive Palmer. The 885-foot ship, scheduled for a maiden voyage in 2016, is a replica of its famous namesake, and will be christened Titanic II. Palmer told Reuters news service that he was "not too superstitious" about recreating the ill-fated White Star liner. He hoped to travel third class on the maiden voyage, "like Leonardo does" in the movie.

The Billionaire And The Mechanic

When Norbert Bajurin became commodore of San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club, he discovered that it was almost half a million dollars in debt. Nearby, at the tony St. Francis Yacht Club, billionaire Oracle CEO Larry Ellison was trying (and failing) to negotiate a sponsorship for his America's Cup entry. Bajurin, who runs a San Francisco radiator shop, had an unlikely solution to both their problems, and the Golden Gate Yacht Club became the home of Oracle Racing. In The Billionaire and the Mechanic, San Francisco Chronicle reporter Julian Guthrie tells the story of the partnership between the two men, and how the Golden Gate team brought home the biggest trophy in sailing. The book is due out in June, when Golden Gate Yacht Club will be gearing up to host the America's Cup finals.

Don't Wear Out Your Welcome

Fish and guests smell after three days," warns a famous quote from Benjamin Franklin. And although not a boater, Franklin's advice can soundly be applied to overstaying one's welcome in out-of-state waters. Each state has a different set of rules for how long you are permitted to boat in their waters without registering and paying taxes. Grace periods can range from 30 to 180 days and many states now require U.S. Coast Guard documented vessels to register once the state grace period has expired.

So if you are planning on boating in another state's waters for any period of time this season, make sure to find out the length of its grace period before state law requires your vessel to be registered. Save your marina bills, gas receipts, or any other dated material that can establish your length of stay in a particular state, just in case problems arise later.

You can find all the answers to individual state boating requirements at 

— Published: June/July 2013

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