Small Stuff

Published: July 2012

 Seaworthy has good news for anyone worried by E15, which has been receiving a lot of attention since it was approved by the EPA for use in automobiles built after 2001. E15 is still not approved for use in boats and many boat owners, especially trailer boat owners, are concerned that E15 could find its way into boat tanks. The good news is that isn't likely to happen, at least not anytime soon.

Seaworthy talked to representatives of Chevron and British Petroleum, both of whom said that, aside from maybe a couple of independent distributors in the Midwest, none of the major oil companies have plans to offer E15. For one thing, gas stations will still be offering E10 for use in older cars and they would need to install additional tanks in order to also offer E15. And even among new car carmakers, at least one, Toyota, has begun putting labels on new car gas caps that warn owners to use, "Up to E10 Gasoline Only." Using E15 would void a new car's warranty.

So, since gas stations will only be offering one or the other, and since all cars are permitted to use E10 while maybe half can use E15, it is likely to be many years before E15 finds its way into the mainstream marketplace, if ever.

 In the meantime, a lot of people in the marine industry are hoping that ethanol will be replaced by a more user-friendly biofuel like isobutanol, which is made from cellulosic biomass (similar to ethanol) but does not have ethanol's potential side effects. Gasoline containing 16-percent isobutanol (B16) has the same oxygen content as E10; but with higher energy content (better mileage); doesn't absorb water like ethanol; and doesn't pollute more than E10 or regular gasoline (E0).

This past May, representatives from Volvo- Penta, Indmar, Bombardier, the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC), the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), and the U. S. Coast Guard, along with staff from BoatUS Technical Services, spent a week in Annapolis, Maryland testing isobutanol in a Malibu ski-boat. Using sophisticated instruments to measure the exhaust, the tests confirmed that B16 emissions are very similar to E10 and E0.

The Coast Guard, which is interested in using B16 in its outboards, is involved in a separate study with Honda and Mercury. ABYC has also been using B16 in its outboard engine for over a year and reports there have been no problems with the fuel.

Dave's Plug

 Seaworthy gets a lot of letters that typically include photos and helpful advice from members who, for whatever reason, don't want their name published. We're never sure why, although one member volunteered "I don't want people coming to my house." So, in the case of the photo above, all we can tell you is that it came from Dave who lives somewhere in the Mid-Atlantic.

Here's what else we can tell you about Dave. While he was launching his boat late last summer, he put in the drain plug and noticed it didn't lock securely. Fortunately, he carried a spare so he inserted the second plug and then sped off for a day on the water. Most people would have bought a replacement and chucked the old plug. Not Dave. He took the plug home and soldered a nut to the washer, so that he could use it for at least another year.

Dave asked that we remind you that plugs can fail and you should check periodically to make sure the bolt and nut are fitting securely. He also recommends that you carry a spare. Finally, Seaworthy would add that you should remember to insert the drain plug whenever you put the boat in the water. While that seems obvious, on a hot summer day when people are rushing to launch their boats at a crowded ramp, inserting the drain plug is sometimes overlooked. One proven technique for jogging your memory is to keep the plug with your boat's ignition keys.

Note to Dave: Thanks for sharing. Note to everyone else: If you know a helpful guy named Dave who owns a boat and is good at getting one more season out of everything he owns, this may or may not be a photo of his drain plug.

 And now for a couple of stories from members who don't mind seeing their names in print. The first is from Robbie Elves, a member in Florida, who sent along a story of a drowning that didn't happen. Robbie had just purchased a new Zodiac RIB and was heading out a narrow channel on the Banana River. He was wearing a self-inflating life vest and had snapped on to the engine's kill switch.

After bringing the boat onto plane for the first time, Robbie slipped and knocked the tiller hard over. The boat ran headlong into a marker, sending him flying over the bow and into the piling. He broke his clavicle as well as several ribs and was unconscious in the water for 10 to 15 minutes—long enough to have drowned several times. But instead of drowning, Robbie quietly bobbed up and down in his life jacket until he finally woke up. He didn't have a clue how he got there, but his boat was a few yards away, so using his feet and one good arm he managed to climb aboard and get back to shore and some badly needed medical attention.

In the last issue (Alert, "Wearing Your PFD") Seaworthy noted that at night, in rough weather, in tippy boats, in cold weather or if you can't swim, a life jacket makes a heck of a lot of sense. To that we would add, "when boating alone." As Robbie said, "Accidents tend to happen suddenly and when you least expect them."

Boats are flammable.

 One more, this time from Michael Ostrander a member in Washington state. It's a photo of what can happen when a bottle rocket lands in a boat. In this case, the boat was anchored in the Hood Canal near Seattle. Michael pointed out the sawhorses in the background are piled high with various pyrotechnics, which he says "tells all." So, here's something to think about when you're celebrating on the Fourth: Boats are flammable.

 There's good news for anyone who spends a lot of time, maybe too much time, on the water: According to Genetic Determination Today, researchers at Mystic University in Connecticut have identified a gene that is associated with "seafaringness." It's a form of the MAOA-L gene, which is associated with "high risk" behavior. (It's also closely related to something called "the warrior gene," which might explain a few of the more bizarre BoatUS Marine Insurance claims.)

The researchers studied residents of traditional whaling villages—Mystic, Connecticut; New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Cold Spring Harbor, New York—and found that they were 20 times more likely to have the seafaringness gene than residents of land-locked villages.

Why is this good news? Let's say you've always had a tendency to spend far too much money on your boat at the expense of things like your kids' college fund, contributing to your IRA, or fixing the roof on your house. Well now you have an excuse—spending money on your boat is genetic! Sort of like going bald; it's not your fault.

 Some seafaringness gene types aren't faced with the dilemma of whether to spend money on the house or boat. That's because at many marinas—more and more these days—there is often a "boat" or two that look conspicuously like a house. These houses float on barges but are otherwise no different than houses on land—pitched roofs, porches, siding, windows and doors. They lack engines, navigation electronics and nav lights, and can only be moved if they're towed.

Boat or House?

You may or may not care to have something in the slip next to your boat that looks like Anne of Green Gables' cottage, but the distinction is more than aesthetic. The laws that apply to houses are not the same as the laws that apply to boats. People who own houses pay property taxes while people who own boats do not; Coast Guard regulations apply only to boats and not to houses; houses don't need state registration numbers; and if someone were to be injured, the damages awarded would be significantly different if the accident were to occur in a house rather than a boat.

According to an article in The New York Times, resolving the house vs. boat question has made it all the way to the Supreme Court. The Times article cited a case that began in Florida involving a two-story "boat" that a local jurisdiction had removed from its marina slip and destroyed because it was a house. Or so they claimed.

Was the action legally justified? In other filings, two federal courts have ruled that the owner's intent is key to determining whether a structure is a boat or a house, but according to the Times article, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that what matters most is if a structure is "'practically capable of transportation over water,' which closely tracks the language in federal law that dates to the 1870s." The boat or house question will likely be settled in October, when the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case.

Boat or truck bed?

 Whatever else you call it, just about anything that floats can become a boat. Here's a photo of a "boat" made from a truckbed liner that was taken by the BoatUS Claims training supervisor, Andrea Toske, this past spring at Doctor's Lake in Orange Park, Florida. The boat was equipped with running lights, fenders, fishing gear and a cooler. Power was provided by a trolling motor. After a day of fishing, Andrea said the man casually loaded his boat onto a trailer and headed home.

 In the last issue of Seaworthy, there was a series of photos of a sailboat in Falmouth, Massachusetts that broke loose from its mooring during Hurricane Irene and smashed into another sailboat on its way to the beach. A member in Chicago sent along this photo of a boat that came to grief during a fall storm on Lake Michigan. It is one of seven boats that were completely destroyed. Another 20 broke loose and were badly damaged. As with most mooring mishaps, some of the boats chafed through their pendants and some dragged their mooring anchors—in this case, cement blocks—ashore. The likelihood of this type of damage occurring could be greatly reduced if "traditional" mooring anchor and pendants are upgraded to take advantage of more recent technologies. For more on storm prep, including moorings, go to

From the archives: The original "Picnic Boat."
To be frank, it looks like a lot of bun.

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