Small Stuff

Photo of a Superstorm Sandy damaged boat

Anchor symbol Remember Superstorm Sandy? Though she blew through the Northeast two-and-a-half years ago now, our BoatUS claims adjusters still get reminded of her on a regular basis. Take this 1997 Sea Ray 280, for example.

The claim report filed on November 3, 2012, five days after the storm made landfall, says the owner returned to his marina "to find the marina gone as well as his boat." Not surprising — the marina was located just to the east of Brick, New Jersey, near the Mantoloking bridge that got wiped out during Sandy. A month later the boat had still not been located. The owner filed a police report for his missing boat, the boat was declared a total loss, and the claim was paid a few weeks later. End of story? For the owner, yes, but not for BoatUS.

In December 2014, the Brick police department notified BoatUS that the Sea Ray had been located at a nearby marina. Surveyor Steve Mason was assigned to investigate. He found the vessel blocked up at a landlocked storage and repair facility more than three-and-a-half miles from Mantoloking. The marina owner had been trying to figure out who the boat belonged to for more than a year. The story of how the Sea Ray came to be there is one of the many Sandy mysteries that may never be unraveled.

In the wake of Sandy, everything was in chaos, with boats scattered all over the area. The marina owner leased some space out to insurance companies for storage of totaled boats pending salvage sales. He returned from lunch one day to find the Sea Ray, outdrives missing, in the center of the yard. Someone had trucked it into his landlocked facility and blocked it, and then left without talking to anyone. He moved the Sea Ray to the side of the yard and figured someone would come forward with paperwork to claim it. The boat sat through the spring and summer of 2013, but so did many other boats. With so much damage to marinas and beach houses, many people were not boating. By the end of the 2014 season, most of the other boats were gone, but the Sea Ray was still there. After failing to contact the owner, the marina owner went to the state police and found the police report that had been filed. From there, he got in touch with BoatUS.

"Somehow that vessel was salvaged, the drives were removed, and the boat was put on a truck and then blocked in a marina yard and no one knows who did it," Steve Mason said. The chances are we will never know what happened to that Sea Ray from just before the storm until several weeks after. But one more Sandy boat has been accounted for ...

Anchor symbol Kidde Fire Extinguisher Recall. The fire extinguisher manufacturer, Kidde, is recalling nearly 5 million fire extinguishers in the U.S. and Canada. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a faulty valve component can cause the disposable fire extinguishers not to fully discharge when the lever is repeatedly pressed and released during a fire emergency, posing a risk of injury. Kidde has received 11 reports of fire extinguishers that failed to discharge, but no injuries have been reported.

Photo of Kidde fire extinguishers

Thirty-one models of the disposable fire extinguishers are affected. The extinguishers are red, white, or silver with black plastic valves and ABC or BC rated. They were manufactured in Mexico between July 23, 2013 and Oct. 15, 2014 and sold at department, home, and hardware stores nationwide. Some chandleries also carried these models. For information on how to determine if your Kidde fire extinguisher has been recalled, go to

Anchor symbol There has been talk of driverless cars for several years now. While progress is being made, getting a car to react appropriately and instantaneously to everything from stop lights to potholes to dogs running out in the middle of the road has proven to be more challenging than some tech-savvy companies had anticipated. Now think about what a driverless boat might mean. There are no roads, no lane markers, no stop signs, no intersections. The article on the COLREGS in this issue demonstrates how complex it can be for a human to figure out which vessel is to give way, even a human with years of experience who is keeping a proper watch. Yes, out in the middle of the ocean it would probably not be particularly difficult to get a boat to steer itself safely — many boats already do so using "dumb" autopilots. But how about navigating an inshore waterway with all of its buoys, shoals, barge and tug traffic, ferries, and recreational boats?

Well, don't look now ... or rather, do look now. Look very carefully. The science and technology company, Leidos, announced on January 27 that a 42-foot work boat equipped with the experimental "maritime autonomy system" successfully completed the first "self-guided" voyage between Gulfport and Pascagoula, Mississippi. The prototype system, developed as part of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program, had previously completed 42 successful days of at-sea demonstration, as well as approximately 26,000 simulation runs, but this was the first time a fully self-guided voyage had been undertaken.

Using a navigational chart of the area loaded into its memory and inputs from its commercial-off-the-shelf radars, Leidos said that the surrogate vessel successfully sailed the 35 nautical miles within the inshore environment of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. During its voyage the maritime autonomy system avoided all obstacles, buoys, land, shoal water, and other vessels in the area and safely followed the COLREGS. Leidos intends to use the system on the Sea Hunter, the first ACTUV prototype vessel, which is scheduled to be launched in late 2015 and begin testing on the Columbia River shortly thereafter.

But don't despair — this technology is highly sophisticated and top secret. We'll probably be enjoying our driverless cars way before they take the helm away from us ...

Anchor symbol If you have a trailerable boat in North Carolina — or Georgia, Wisconsin or 13 other states — and you ever fill up at a roadside gas station, you'll need to pay extra attention to those labels on the pump starting this spring. Gas stations in a total of 16 states — Georgia, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Illinois, and Arkansas — have begun to offer E15, a combination of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline. But any gasoline with greater than 10 percent ethanol (E10) is prohibited for use with recreational boat engines and can void the warranty. For the nine out of every 10 U.S. boaters who own a trailerable boat and may fill up at a roadside gas station, the increasing presence of E15 at the pump makes misfueling more likely. So keep an eye out for the E15 label if you live in one of those 16 states, but, given the rapid expansion of E15, don't assume you're safe if you live elsewhere. If you tend to fill the tow vehicle first, then simply pull the boat up to the pump and insert the same nozzle into your boat's fuel fill, make it a habit to check that it's not E15 before starting that fuel flowing. E15 should be clearly marked with an orange EPA label. 

— Published: April 2015

Seaworthy, the damage-avoidance newsletter, is brought to you by the BoatUS Marine Insurance Program. For an insurance quote, please call 1-800-283-2883 or apply online at

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

There are a lot of smart, sharp-eyed Seaworthy readers and starting this issue, we're going to challenge you and see just how sharp your eyes really are. In every issue, we're going to publish a new photo that contains at least one major safety-related no-no, and we want you to find it/them. They may be American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) standards violations, USCG violations, or just things that make you say, "Really?" We’ll post the answer in the next issue, along with a new challenge. For those who can't possibly wait an extra minute, we have posted the answers here. So check out this photo and see if you can figure out: What could possibly go wrong?

Photo of boat wiringPhoto: Alison Mazon