BoatUS Reports

News From The World Of American Boating

Edited by Ryck Lydecker and Chris Landers

Photo of smiling women driving a small powerboatBoaters (and marinas) have more to smile about thanks to the almost $21 million returned to transient boating facility development in 2013, through the national Boating Infrastructure Grant program. (Photo: Yamaha)

21 Million More Reasons For Boaters To Smile

In the high-stakes world of retail merchandising, "just-in-time delivery" is a watchword, and in August the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service "delivered" more than $7.3 million in boating grant funds in record time and in some strategic places. Normally, grants from the federal Boating Infrastructure Grant program (BIG) are awarded in the spring. But this year the Service took extraordinary action to make additional money available in a second round of funding for 2013. That allowed some BIG money to be put to work quickly to help rebuild boating infrastructure damaged or destroyed in October of last year by Superstorm Sandy.

In April the service had awarded $13.5 million in BIG funds on the normal schedule but later agreed to an expedited second round with those boater-generated dollars that otherwise would have sat idle until the 2014 grant cycle. And the timing proved right-on. Two of the nine second-round grants for 2013 went to marinas in Belmar and Middle Township, New Jersey, to rebuild transient facilities damaged by Sandy last October. Another went to Ossining, New York, a Hudson River town also damaged by Sandy. Also, the 2013 round-two grants now are at work improving facilities for transient boaters in Florida, Michigan, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and for the first time, the U.S. Virgin Islands. The service also released approximately $400,000 in BIG money to smaller projects in Florida, Louisiana, New York, South Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin. That brings the total returned to transient boating facilities development in 2013 to nearly $21 million.

Boaters, in fact, pay their own way in the BIG program through excise and other taxes on certain fishing and boating equipment, and on gasoline used in recreational boats. That money goes into the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, which then channels those dollars back to state boating agencies, where a percentage of it is used to build transient slips, add new moorings, and otherwise improve facilities for cruising boaters.

In 1998 BoatUS shepherded legislation through Congress that created the program. Often viewed by local municipalities as an economic development tool to attract cruising boats and related boater spending, more than $170 million in competitive grants have been awarded since the program began. Much of the money has been used to provide safe anchorage and transient slips as well as restrooms, fuel docks, dinghy docks, utilities, pumpouts, and other boating infrastructure.

Catching The Christmas Comet

Stargazers are in for a treat this winter, thanks to ISON

If astronomers are correct, you probably won't be able to avoid seeing Comet ISON as it arcs through the skies this winter. But if this once-in-a-lifetime celestial event intrigues you, there's every chance you'll see it best on your boat. In clear weather, away from the lights on land, ISON's brilliant tail could stretch across a quarter of the sky, according to astronomers.

Out on the water, and as far as you can get from urban glare, could be a great front-row seat as ISON makes its Earth debut, according to Arnold Medalen, editor of the "Stargazer" column published in every issue of The Ensign, membership magazine of the United States Power Squadrons. "The comet should be visible to the naked eye by mid-November, reach its brightest late that month, and remain visible without optical aids until mid-January," Medalen reports. "It may be as bright as the moon. But that's, of course, if it doesn't fizzle first."

According to astronomers, ISON could possibly disintegrate or break up — comets have gone bust before — but if not, as it nears the sun, ice will melt off, releasing gas and dust and forming, as Medalen puts it, "a gigantic, long dust trail that will stretch for dozens of degrees across the sky; it could be quite spectacular."

ISON will be making its pass by Earth from early November 2013 through early January 2014, so it's already picked up the moniker, "The Christmas Comet." Just think what this heavenly ornament will add to this year's Christmas lighted boat parades from coast to coast. As it swings by our neighborhood — a mere 40 million miles away at its closest — new moons falling on December 2, and New Year's Day night, will add to the comet's brilliance.

Bogus Mayday Is No Joke

An Ohio light aircraft pilot's wallet is nearly a half-million dollars lighter after U.S. Coast Guard investigators linked him to a false mayday report over Lake Erie last March. After takeoff from an airport near Cleveland, Danik Shiv Kumar, 21, radioed that he'd seen a "fishing boat" in distress shooting off flares and counted four people aboard. That set off both U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard vessels and aircraft rescue operations that found nothing. After admitting to the false report, a judge fined Kumar $489,007 for search costs and sentenced him to three years of supervised release plus 250 hours of community service.

When Life Gives You Lemons

A processing plant in Wickliffe, Kentucky, began shipping to overseas customers this summer. The product? Processed Asian carp. The nuisance fish is caught nearby and headed for China, where it's considered a delicacy. Two Rivers Fishery had just opened in May of this year, and by August the plant was processing around 6,000 pounds of carp a day. The first shipment to China totaled 40,000 pounds, with an order pending for another million pounds. Plant manager Jeff Smith told a local radio station that the company planned to bring on more fishermen to fill the large order.

Photo of asian carp caught during Kentucky's Carp Madness fishing tournamentAsian carp caught during Kentucky's Carp Madness fishing tournament. (Photo: Kentucky Fish & Wildlife)

Asian carp may be desirable elsewhere, but in the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and the region around them, the fish are a serious nuisance, destroying local ecosystems and even causing injury to boaters. The fish grow to be 20 pounds and launch themselves out of the water at the sound of a boat motor, sometimes with damaging consequences for the passing boat and its occupants. And in the Upper Mississippi and Illinois river watersheds, they are the cause of an intense battle over the best way to keep them from populating the Great Lakes and destroying native fish there.

In a statement at the plant opening in May, CEO Angie Yu touted the economic and environmental benefits of the company's plan. "We are thrilled to be a member of the Wickliffe/Ballard community," said Yu. "After years in the international fish importing and exporting business, we have realized our dream of creating our own factory. Our hope is that this facility benefits Kentucky's waterways as well, removing Asian carp from the rivers and turning them into a positive resource."

Might Be Easier If The Humans Just Ate The Vegetables?

Farm-raised fish and shellfish account for nearly half of the world's seafood supply, but when the fish being raised are carnivores, that can be a problem. Fish like cobia, which eat squid and other fish in the wild, need a similar diet in the tank — fish meal and fish oil — and it can take five pounds of wild fish to produce one pound of farmed fish. That diet might work for the cobia, but it's tough on the farmers' pocketbooks, not to mention its effect on world fisheries as food fish are depleted.

Scientists at the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science have hit on a possible solution — make the cobia go vegetarian. To try it in the lab, they replaced the fish meal with a mixture of corn, wheat, and soy; soybean or canola oil stands in for the fish oil. To that they added taurine, an amino acid found in carnivorous fish — and in energy drinks, by the way. Their research, published in the journal Lipids, found that cobia were able to grow to maturity on this vegetarian diet. "This makes aquaculture completely sustainable," said study author Allen Place. "We can now sustain a good protein source without harvesting fish to feed fish."

Areas Affected By Sandy To Be Remapped

Hurricane Sandy changed the landscape of large parts of the East Coast, rendering charts out of date and leaving mariners guessing about depths and shorelines, like these before-and-after photos from Mantoloking, New Jersey. Now, new surveying efforts by NOAA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers aim to bring those charts up to date. Using disaster-relief funds from Congress, the three agencies will be measuring water depths, looking for submerged debris, and mapping altered shorelines in areas that present a danger to navigation. The results of the surveys will be open to the public and will be used to update charts, replenish beaches, remove debris, and plan for future storms.

Survey Ship Discovers ... Survey Ship

A Federal hydrographic survey vessel, on post-Hurricane Sandy assignment off New Jersey, discovered the wreck of one of its earliest predecessors, gone missing over a century-and-a-half ago. The NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson used multibeam sidescan sonar to locate the wreck of the U.S. Coast Survey steamer Robert J. Walker 10 miles east of Absecon Inlet in August.

Although commercial fishermen had known about the wreck since the 1970s, it had lain on the bottom in 85 feet of water since 1860. It remained an anonymous wreck symbol on nautical charts despite being regularly explored by recreational scuba divers. In August, a NOAA dive team, in the area on a separate Sandy-related mission, positively identified the wreck as the Walker. The size and layout of the iron-hulled wreck, its unique engines, rectangular portholes, and location proved key clues for the nautical archaeologists who identified the ship, still pointed toward the Absecon Lighthouse, "the final destination of a desperate crew on a sinking vessel."

Twenty sailors among the 66 crew died when the Walker sank in rough seas in the early morning hours of June 21, 1860, 10 miles off Absecon Inlet. The Walker, built in 1847, had finished surveys in the Gulf of Mexico and was sailing to New York when it collided with a commercial schooner and sank within 30 minutes, the largest single loss of life in the history of the Coast Survey and its successor agency, NOAA. With the identity confirmed, the Thomas Jefferson's crew conducted a wreath-laying ceremony to honor the final resting place of the 20 crew, the waters where USCS Robert J. Walker still lies.

War Of The Satellites

Two years ago the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) denied LightSquared, a privately held start-up communications company, permission to build a cell phone communications network. The commission held that the network would interfere with GPS signals and dangerously compromise positioning accuracy. The decision, a major victory for BoatUS and a broad coalition of GPS users, protected the GPS signal from interference and overloading issues that testing had indicated the proposed network would have created. Shortly afterward, in May 2012, LightSquared filed for bankruptcy.

Now LightSquared's investors are suing GPS manufacturers, including Garmin, for $1.9 billion. The federal suit, filed in August, alleges the manufacturers intentionally designed receivers to utilize the same frequency as the proposed satellite network. The claimants charge that the manufacturers knew the receivers would be overloaded, and the GPS signal compromised, when the LightSquared system became operational.

"It's not uncommon for entities that lose a legislative or regulatory battle to then take the issue to court," said David Kennedy of BoatUS Government Affairs. "But for boaters who rely on such a far-reaching system as GPS, the results of this particular case could be a real challenge." Kennedy noted that for years GPS manufacturers have designed products that operate on this specific part of the spectrum, and that these products are integral to daily life and essential to the safe navigation of boaters and for a wide variety of outdoor recreation activities.

Sea Turtle Nests Rise In Southeast

Loggerhead and green sea turtles in the Southeast are nesting in record numbers these days as a result of 30 years of federal protection, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

At Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge on Florida's southeast coast, a mid-August green turtle count of 1,147 more than doubled the 2011 record of 543. At Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, near Melbourne Beach on the central Atlantic coast of Florida, greens had built 10,420 nests, topping the record of 6,023 set in 2011. By mid-August, loggerheads had built 1,878 nests at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina. That's 200 more than the 2012 count and the highest since 1978 when protections went into effect. Sea turtle nesting continues until November, so service biologists expected those numbers to rise even higher.

The coastal refuges provide critical habitat for nesting sea turtles because they are largely free of development and beach lighting, which disorients turtles, as well as seawalls. The ability to construct cages around nest sites in the refuges also protects against predators. Where necessary, nests can be relocated on a refuge to prevent them from washing away. Sea turtles take 20 to 30 years to reach sexual maturity, which is why this year's nesting gains may reflect actions begun decades earlier. But how this kind of progress will offset threats to survival isn't known, the service notes, citing ocean debris, habitat loss to erosion, and sea level rise as continuing threats, as well as the pollution of lagoons and estuaries due to runoff from surrounding land. 

— Published: December 2013


That's the amount awarded by the U.S. Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the six territories in 2012. The money, matched by state funds, pays for boating safety education, search-and-rescue, and on-water law enforcement that state boating agencies provide to the recreational boating public. The money comes from taxes on fishing tackle, imported boats, and gasoline that boaters pay into the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund.



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