BoatUS Reports

News From The World Of American Boating

Edited by Chris Landers

Holding The Magenta Line

The quest to keep boaters on course.

Photo of smiling boatersPhoto: Volvo Penta

The last time any significant updates were made to the "magenta line" on charts of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) was 1935. This would explain why some ICW boaters run aground after following it too closely. Last year National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) almost wiped it off charts completely. But after comments from boaters, the line on the chart that helps boaters follow the recommended ICW route will be updated for future charts.

On January 14, NOAA's Office of Coast Survey (OCS) announced that all future ICW charts will not only include a magenta line, but that it will be greatly improved by including 70 years of new data. Although never intended to be followed exactly (it charts a course through several islands!), boaters who cruise the ICW are very attached to the magenta line.

NOAA began a review of the line last year. After publishing a notice in the Federal Register, the office received almost 250 comments from boaters, BoatUS, and other organizations that supported keeping the line.

The OCS will now endeavor to incorporate new data from either of its two East Coast survey vessels, planes using bathymetric light-detection-and-ranging technology in shallow areas, or recreational boaters reporting hazards on ActiveCaptain (an interactive cruising guidebook where boaters interact in real time). The U.S. Power Squadrons as well as the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will also contribute. Captain Shep Smith, chief of Coast Survey's Marine Chart Division, said the project will take at least three years. To report a hazard to NOAA, contact the OCS at


Covering ships from privateers to modern containerships, GulfQuest is a massive $60 million state-of-the-art maritime museum rising on the Mobile, Alabama, downtown waterfront. Dedicated to educating and showcasing the legacy of the Gulf Coast's history on the water, the 90,000-square-foot structure, built to resemble an oceangoing vessel, opens to the public in June.

Tony Zodrow, executive director of GulfQuest, says, "Mobile was the birthplace of containerized shipping and with our connections to the oil service industry, seafood harvesting, and maritime history, our museum will showcase all of this through interactive exhibits. It's been a long road since this project was conceived in the mid-1990s, and we're understandably proud of what this public/private initiative has accomplished."

Situated in the heart of a working commercial harbor and adjacent to a cruise line terminal, GulfQuest's 90 planned exhibits will explore shipbuilding, navigation, hurricanes, trade routes, shipwrecks, and coastal stewardship, and all will be housed inside a full-sized container vessel built within the structure. Zodrow adds, "These exhibits are not only about maritime history. They will illuminate the past, but also highlight the present and point to the future of the Gulf Coast."

The Colbert Marine Report

The National Sailing Hall of Fame (NSHOF) has had some illustrious names on its advisory board over the years: Walter Cronkite, Morgan Freeman, and now the political satirist, writer, comedian, actor, and host of the television show "The Colbert Report"... Stephen Colbert. "I'm honored to be named to the Honorary Advisory Board and will do my best to not capsize the National Sailing Hall of Fame. Hard alee!" enthused the avid boater, who grew up on Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, watching regattas from his window. Colbert got into sailing in 2005, when a friend asked him to crew on a boat taking part in the Charleston Bermuda Race. The boat finished in last place. But Colbert was hooked. "That was my introduction to serious sailing. I just loved it," he later said.

On a second attempt in the race, aboard the Farr 65 The Spirit of Juno in 2011, Colbert's team came in second place. He and his family's boating adventures aren't limited to sailing, however. Along with his young sons Peter and John, he's built a small wooden powerboat with an outboard. The National Sailing Hall of Fame is a nonprofit educational organization based in Annapolis, dedicated to the preservation and continuance of America's sailing legacy.

USGS Scientists Locate Old Bay

U.S. Geological Survey scientists drilling in the Chesapeake Bay found something they weren't expecting buried deep beneath the surface — the oldest large body of seawater known to man. Trapped beneath the surface by the impact of a massive piece of space debris, the water is believed to be 100 to 145 million years old and twice as salty as modern seawater. The existence of saltwater beneath the Chesapeake was known, but this is the first time scientists have determined its age. The impact that created the bay happened around 35 million years ago, and it broke up the existing aquifers, trapping some underground water. Jerad Bales, acting USGS associate director for water, said in a release: "Various theories related to the crater impact had been developed to explain the origin of the high salinity. But up to this point, no one thought it was North Atlantic Ocean water that had essentially been in place for about 100 million years."

Think You Know Where You Are?

It might be time to double-check.

What's the difference between:
33° 34' 35" N 118° 21' 54" W
33° 34.35' N 118° 21.54' W
33.3435° N 118.2154° W

Answer: Anywhere from half a mile to more than 15 miles!

That discrepancy could matter a great deal if you find yourself in the middle of a large body of water on a disabled boat. You might assume you'll just whip out your phone, give BoatUS your coordinates, then sit back and relax, knowing they'll be there in a jiffy. But not so fast. If you say, "33 34 35 North," it may be a long time indeed before anyone figures out where you are.

Traditionally, positions have been reported in degrees, minutes, seconds, and decimal seconds, if needed. But with the rise of computer-based mapping systems, decimal-based conventions for reporting positions are becoming more common. To accurately communicate your position from a GPS or smartphone to another person, you both need to understand which convention you're using. If you say, "33 34 35 North," those numbers could be interpreted as any of the three positions in the first example above, which would take the person trying to find you to three different places.

TowBoatUS and BoatUS Vessel Assist captains have begun reporting these kinds of miscommunications. Similar confusion has arisen over position-tracking reporting systems for racers and offshore sailors. To find out whether it's degrees, minutes, seconds, or decimals you're looking at, and how to communicate so it's understood, see the article "Know Before You're Towed".

Maine's First Ship

Many people know of the 1607 Jamestown Colony in Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in North America. Fewer are aware of the Popham Colony, a companion expedition undertaken the same year that landed at the mouth of the Kennebec River in Maine. The builders of a new ship hope to change that. A harsh winter and the death of its leader doomed the Popham Colony. But before they abandoned the settlement, colonists built a pinnace, a light ship propelled by sail or oars, believed to be the first ship constructed by the English in North America. Christened Virginia, the pinnace crossed the ocean to return some of the settlers to England, then sailed as part of a convoy to Jamestown in 1609. What happened after that is lost to history.

On the banks of the Kennebec River in Bath, Maine, volunteers are slowly reconstructing the Virginia as a teaching tool in practical shipbuilding. Within three years — if they can raise enough money — organizers hope to launch the vessel as a floating classroom, part of a proud tradition that has sent thousands of ships into the Kennebec. "It will raise awareness of the Popham Colony as the sister colony of Jamestown," said Orman Hines, president of Maine's First Ship, the group that has struggled for more than a decade to turn the vision into a real vessel.

Slowly, double-sawn frames of white oak — the ribs of the 51-foot hull – are being put in place to give the project form, and white-oak planking is being seasoned for installation this summer. Unlike her namesake, the modern Virginia is being built to US Coast Guard standards and will have a diesel engine. The 30-ton vessel is designed to carry 35 people plus the crew. Visitors to Bath can watch the construction most Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Over A Barrel

Photo of Trey Zoeller and his well-travelled bourbonTrey Zoeller and his well-traveled bourbon. (Photo: Trey Zoeller)

We all know boating and alcohol don't mix, but for one bourbon maker, mixing alcohol aboard is proving successful, if slightly cumbersome. Trey Zoeller, founder of Jefferson's Bourbon in Louisville, Kentucky, was curious about the aging process of his whiskey, which can take years of sitting in oak barrels to gain its mahogany color and caramel flavor. But what if he had a way of keeping the golden liquid in perpetual motion? Enter Chris Fischer, an old high-school classmate of Zoeller's, and formerly of National Geographic's "Shark Men" fame. Conveniently, Fischer is chairman of Ocearch, the nonprofit organization that facilitates research on sharks and oceans and that also happens to have a sizable research vessel at its disposal. The natural sloshing around aboard, Zoeller reasoned, might help the bourbon infuse more of the barrel's oaky essences, which would speed up the aging process. Throw in some salty air and who knows how rich those flavors might get? Fischer agreed to take an initial five barrels aboard for his pal's experiment. Three-and-a-half years later (and two barrels less, due to bursting), the result was a russet-colored bourbon, matured way beyond its years. Named Jefferson's Ocean, it sold out immediately. Naturally, Zoeller is eager to continue to experiment. Last year he gave Fischer another four barrels to stow below decks, and he also loaded an extra 62 barrels onto a containership that crossed the equator four times in five months. Round two of Jefferson's Ocean was released on March 1. So next time you're sitting safely by the fire enjoying a nightcap, consider that your beverage might have logged more ocean miles than you have.

Turning The Lights Out?

The Coast Guard is weighing whether to turn the lights off on several small islands near Southern California. Coast Guard spokeswoman Jennifer Osburn told California's The Log that the aid-to-navigation lights were under consideration for shutdown because they were in areas where maintaining them was difficult and expensive. The lights, located mostly near Catalina, include the Santa Catalina Island East End Light, San Nicholas Island East End Light, Santa Barbara Island Light, Ship Rock Light, Catalina Harbor Light, Long Point Light, and Santa Catalina West End Light. Boaters in the area said the unlit islands would prove hazardous to navigation, particularly for smaller boats, and Coast Guard Lt. Melissa Smith said they'd received a fair amount of feedback by the beginning of January, including an offer to take over the lights as private aids to navigation, and would publish a local notice to mariners well in advance of any changes.

Still Time To Sign Up For BVI Trip

Congratulations to Don Cuddahy from Weymouth, Massachusetts, who won a free Moorings 474 power cat to use during our BoatUS member flotilla in June. There's still time for you to sign up to join the vacation of a lifetime on deluxe catamarans in the glorious British Virgin Islands from June 1-7.

We've planned some great stops for this voyage including Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Norman Island, and more. BoatUS members save up to 10 percent on the trip, and get discounts at restaurants, slips, and moorings throughout the islands. To learn more,

New Shackleton Treasure Trove

Negatives from Ernest Shackleton's famous 1914 Antarctic expedition turned up last year in a hut used by explorers in Cape Evans, a rocky port on Antarctica's Scott Island. A century ago, the hut was used by members of the Ross Sea party, who went ahead of the main team to perform scientific experiments and lay out supply depots on the far side of the South Pole to be used by Shackleton's team in their attempt to cross Antarctica.

The expedition was plagued by problems on both sides of Antarctica. In the Weddell Sea, the Endurance became stuck in the ice, necessitating a daring rescue by Shackleton, traveling 800 miles in an open boat to the nearest whaling settlement to get help. On the opposite side of the frozen continent, the Ross Sea party became stranded when their ship Aurora, locked in ice, drifted out to sea. Cut off from the rest of the expedition, three men in the Ross Sea party died before the rest were rescued 18 months later.

The negatives were discovered by New Zealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust, which is trying to conserve the explorers' sites on Antarctica. The trust previously discovered three crates of whiskey and two of brandy under Shackleton's 1908 base (no, it wasn't tasted). Though many of the negatives were damaged, the trust was able to pick out landmarks in the pictures.

The Real Tom, Uncensored

"Most of us get boats because we want to do some kind of cruising, even if it's only for short distances. Going to another place and not coming back the same day conjures up the love of the sea and adventure that thrives in each of us who own a boat, even if it's not a gold-plated thoroughbred, even if we're not Cape Horn heroes." — Tom Neale

If you're a regular BoatUS Magazine reader, you know Tom Neale's award-winning tech articles and his wise answers to complex reader conundrums in our "Ask The Experts" column. But Tom wasn't always an expert. He got his first boat at the age of 9, and started "cruising" at 13, with a leaky skiff, an outboard, and a tent. By the time he met his future wife Mel, when they were teenagers, he was living in a partially self-built (and entirely questionable) 18-foot skiff!

Two dozen boats later, Tom and Mel make their home in a Gulfstar 53, have put tens of thousands of miles under the keels of various power and sailboats, raised two daughters aboard, and dealt with everything boats, weather, and life can conjure. The journey from a barefoot Tom Sawyer to one of the leading experts in American boating hasn't always been smooth, but with a terrific sense of humor to keep him afloat, and his Southern charm, Tom has made good on the dreams of his 13-year-old self. He's living a cruising life and entertaining the rest of us with his travails and triumphs. Tom and Mel share their stories with BoatUS members online, exclusively, in his "Cruising For You" column (posted every month), in Tom's Tips for boaters, and in constantly updated East Coast Alerts — all on our BoatUS Magazine home page.

Noted Passage

Elbert S. Maloney, 94, better known to a generation of boaters as Mack Maloney, the longtime editor of Chapman Piloting and Seamanship, died January 5 in Pompano Beach, Florida. Maloney began writing for Chapman in 1964, while still in the Marine Corps, and took over the editorship when Charles Chapman retired in 1967. In addition to writing and overseeing the updates to Chapman, Maloney wrote two editions of the U.S. Naval Institute's Dutton's Navigation & Piloting, and numerous magazine articles. He served as education director for the U.S. Power Squadrons, and was the first member of the BoatUS National Advisory Council.

When he spoke to BoatUS Magazine at the end of 2012, he was serving as a consulting editor for a new edition of Chapman, and eager to head out for a weeklong solo sail.

"I'll leave with my boat for five or six days down in the Florida Keys," he said. "I try to get away maybe every six weeks or so, to just spend a little time by myself on the boat." In December 2013, just weeks before he passed away, he and his son Barney went out for a weeklong cruise in the Florida Keys. 

— Published: April/May 2014

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