BoatUS Reports

News From The World Of American Boating

Bloom Off The Rose In California Delta

The water hyacinth, a floating plant with shiny green leaves and lavender flowers that was imported to America from the Amazon in the 1880s, is just a pretty water bloom to many passersby. But to boaters in California's Delta region, it's become a pest that's clogging pumps, tangling props, and causing dings from hidden obstacles under the water's green-meadow surface. This past year has been the worst on record since the plant began appearing in the area in the 1940s. It's presenting a mushrooming economic crisis for the Delta, a boating region that depends on trickledown income from local boaters and those coming from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Stockton Port Director Richard Asthieris says his agency has spent upward of $45,000 on a mechanical harvester service that has removed about 1,500 tons of hyacinth since last September. But the problem remains such that even cargo-carrying ocean liners have been blocked from coming into the port at night because crews can't detect land from hyacinth on radar.

Photo of water hyacinth bloom in Village West MarinaThe water hyacinth has held many boaters hostage in the California Delta. (Photo: Gene Beley)

In 2012, Stockton's Village West Marina, one of the largest in California with 700 slips, bought a pioneering marine harvester with a conveyor belt to remove the weeds from the water for shore disposal. Alan Ray, the marina's marketing director at that time, said the hyacinth beat the harvester "because the machine overworks, overheats, and breaks down."

For ordinary boaters, such as Ken and Sandie Shaw, who've had their 30-foot Sea Ray in the same slip at Village West Marina since they bought it new in 1985, the plant has played havoc with their lifestyle. "Right now, it's impossible to take the boat out due to an enormous field of plants in front of it," says Ken, a retired school principal. "Even if we could get out of the slip, I know the weeds have the ability to tangle the props and leave us stranded. It's ruined our ability to enjoy what once was a fabulous boating area." The hyacinth also led to the first-ever cancellation in December of Stockton's 35th annual Delta Reflections Lighted Boat Parade.

Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC), with support from BoatUS, has been taking a lead on the topic by asking members to contact their legislators and to participate in a public workshop. BoatUS and RBOC will continue to press officials to address the water hyacinth problem.

Your Chance To Catch The Volvo Race

This is it, folks! The only North American leg in the Volvo Ocean Race for the next three years takes place this May in Newport, Rhode Island. So far, the grueling round-the-world marathon has been full of high drama on the high seas, not least of all with Team Vestas Wind smashing into a reef in the Indian Ocean at the end of November. (See "What The Volvo Race Crash Teaches Boaters") It's likely there'll be several more highlights, or lowlights, depending on which team you're rooting for, before the race draws to a close in Gothenberg, Sweden, in June.

Photo of strong upwind sailing conditions for Team AlvimedicaA squally night brings new weather and strong upwind sailing conditions for Team Alvimedica. (Photo: Amory Ross/Team Alvimedica)

If you're in the New England area, visit the Newport race village, which opens May 5, where some of the most sophisticated and high-speed racing sailboats in the world are expected to arrive between May 5 and 9. The in-port race takes place May 16, and the next leg across the Atlantic, from Newport to Lisbon, Portugal, heads off May 17. For more information see

Want Bigger Fish?

Let's record better data

While anglers aren't exactly renowned for their honesty when it comes to telling fish tales, the actual lack of accurate catch data seriously hampers efforts to measure the health of the nation's fish stocks. So while it sounds like the makings of a joke, asking fishermen to record what they catch, where they catch it, and, most important, how much time and effort they put in to do so, can pay big dividends. That's the impetus behind Angler Action, a conservation project sponsored by the Florida-based Snook & Gamefish Foundation. Through mobile apps for phones and tablets and an online portal, Angler Action aims to make recording the details of your catch quick and easy. This can help you improve your success rate as an angler, and it helps the fisheries-management agencies by providing another source of data on landings and fishing effort.

Is crowdsourcing accurate?

Using anglers as a source of data for landings can show where other data-collection methods fall short. The state of Alabama recently began collecting red snapper landing data from fishermen directly, rather than relying on the federal survey data that estimated catch effort and landings. The findings? The state data showed that the federal survey overestimated the landings of red snapper by more than 600,000 pounds. The state data suggests that the nine-day season enforced in 2014 could have been significantly longer, perhaps twice as long, with the total catch still coming in under the federal quota.

Cuba Libre? Not Quite

With the recent thaw in diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, many cruisers are inevitably eyeing the possibility of some day soon setting off, legally, for the most exotic destination a day's sail from our shores. However, don't rev your engines or hoist your sails just yet. The legal situation, according to the State Department's website, still remains clear: "Tourist travel to Cuba is prohibited under U.S. law for U.S. citizens and others under U.S. jurisdiction." But watch this space. As news is updated about legal travel to Cuba by recreational boat, we'll report it here.

What Is It?

  • Photo of a coracles
    Photo of coracles on the Teifi River
Photo: International Small Craft Center at the Mariners' Museum, Newport News, Virginia

This is a coracle, a tiny Welsh boat used for salmon and trout fishing since the 7th century. Propelled by a paddle moved over the bow in a figure-8 movement, these vessels are still used today along the River Towy, in southwest Wales. Why do the boats have a waist? On the fast-flowing Welsh rivers, the pear-shaped coracle is more stable and maneuverable. They're also superlight, just painted canvas over wooden strips with a leather carrying strap, so anglers can pick them up and walk home with the boat over one arm, their catch in the other!

Gear | Good Times

Yes, Christmas and Valentine's Day are over, but if you feel in need of a little pick-me-up boating gift to set you right for spring, this Garmin quatix™ GPS watch might be just what the doctor ordered. Designed for mariners of all types, it comes with a range of marine navigation features that includes automatic man overboard detection, remote control of Garmin equipment, an automatically calibrating altimeter and barometer, a three-axis compass, a temperature sensor, and tide information. There's also a race-countdown timer, virtual starting line, tack assist, and tidal information. The only thing it can't do is tell you where the fish are. Cost: $449.99

Orange Flags Needed In Illinois

It's not just hunters who will need to don the blaze orange this boating season in Illinois. One piece of boating-safety legislation new for 2015 requires boaters towing individuals, or with individuals in the water near their boat, to raise or display an orange flag. The bill was introduced by state senator Julie Morrison, who lost her 10-year-old nephew to a tubing accident along the Chain O' Lakes in 2012. The law went into effect on January 1, 2015. Boaters intent on tubing will need to include a "bright or brilliant" orange (not red) flag at least "12 inches per side" before taking to the water this year. To read this bill, visit

Florida Anchoring Remains Hot Topic

During the final days of the 2014 Florida legislative session, a last-minute attempt was made to grant local authorities the ability to regulate anchoring. The debate centered on which boaters could anchor where, and who had the authority to regulate such anchoring. The amendment was introduced by state Senator Gwen Margolis and Representative Eduardo "Eddy" Gonzalez, who represent Miami-Dade County.

For several years, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) has been working to effectively deal with derelict vessels and vessels perceived to be heading toward dereliction. In 2009, a pilot program was created that allowed local anchoring regulations in five areas spread around the state, but not Miami-Dade County. Last year's 11th hour measure was narrowly defeated, but the debate continues.

This past summer, the FWC held several public meetings and posted an online survey to gather input on policy options for local regulation of anchoring. Bolstered by a heads-up from BoatUS, boaters turned out in force for the public meetings, and the survey garnered almost 12,000 responses. As we go to press, and heading into the 2015 Florida legislative session, we anticipate renewed calls to create minimum anchoring distances from waterfront residential properties and to boost policies addressing derelict vessels. BoatUS will continue to advocate for anchoring policies that maintain the full range of mooring and anchoring options for active, responsible boaters. Stay up to date on the latest this spring by visiting

Tax-Time Tip For Boat Owners

Deducting mortgage interest associated with a second house, such as a ski cabin or a lake cottage, is easy to understand, but many don't realize that a boat also qualifies in this category. As a rule of thumb, if it's got a bed, a head, and a galley and you can reasonably live aboard — nope, that 15-footer on your trailer out back doesn't count — it qualifies for the second-home deduction. As always, there are caveats: you can't already have a second home you're deducting; if you do, you must choose to deduct only one of them. Also, check with your tax professional if you paid sales tax on a new boat last year. You may be entitled to a deduction under the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014.

Thrills & Spills At The Classic

The Bassmaster Classic never fails to throw up surprises, from unexpected weather, to unexpected winners. This year boats were found frozen to boat trailers, as temperatures dipped on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina. But things were hot, hot, hot for hometown favorite Casey Ashley, who found himself top of the three-day tournament with 50.1 pounds of bass, beating Bobby Lane into second place by nearly 4 pounds. It's a first Classic win for the 31-year-old angler who moonlights as a country singer. Ashley's certainly not singing the blues after walking away with $300,000 to add to his fishing career purse of over $1 million.

StoryCorps For Boaters?

You might be familiar with National Public Radio's oral-history project, called StoryCorps, whose mission is to honor and celebrate the lives of everyday Americans by recording and archiving their stories for posterity. Well, now there's something similar for boaters. The National Sailing Hall of Fame is aiming to collect and preserve the stories of America's yacht clubs and sailing organizations for future generations. The Yacht Club Story Project, which started last summer, has already profiled 50 yacht clubs on its Sailors & Stories webpage, where they'll serve as a permanent history chronicling the legacy of American sailing. Go to for more information and to add your club history to the archive.

Ladies, Take The Helm!

Want to work on your boathandling, safety, navigation, and teamwork skills? Attend the 2015 Annual Women's Sailing Conference on June 6 in Marblehead, Massachusetts. The one-day National Women's Sailing Association (NWSA) program, sponsored by BoatUS, and taught by experts, includes hands-on seminars to develop your skills and confidence. Cost: $135 for NWSA members and $170 for nonmembers.

A Lean, Clean Cruising Machine

That's what you and your boat can be, thanks to the BoatUS Foundation's latest FREE course. It will teach you everything you need to know, from cleaning your boat of invasive species and taking care of your boating ecosystem, to preventing accidental fuel spills and dealing with onboard sewage. For more,

Your Favorite Magazine Wins

Several of our writers were honored with awards from Boating Writers International at the Miami International Boatshow for their work during the year. In case you missed these great stories the first time round, see this story "2015 BWI Award Winners".  

— Published: April/May 2015

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