The storm clouds that gathered for GPS for recreational boaters are being kept at bay ... for now.
Lightsquared Back To Square One
In one of the biggest challenges to recreational boating safety in recent years, BoatUS scored a victory in the battle to protect the GPS spectrum that boaters depend on - but the war may not be over just yet. In February the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates use of satellite transmission airwaves, told a private company with nearly $4 billion invested in its start-up broadband wireless network to stand down.
The company had conditional approval to build the system, with 40,000 grand stations, but only if its transmissions would not interfere with GPS signals. Fearing that's exactly what would happen, BoatUS engaged thousands of boaters across the country in a "Don't Mess with GPS" campaign. Subsequent government tests confirmed those fears, showing "harmful interference issues," and FCC rescinded its permissions.
"The February decision proved a victory for all GPS users but LightSquared is not giving up", said BoatUS President Margaret Podlich. "We have to remain vigilant to protect the system that so many boaters depend upon." For more information on the GPS issue, go to: www.BoatUS.com/gov
After BP: Boat Ramps
As part of the agreement to clean up and restore the Gulf Coast shoreline after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill two years ago, BP has designated $1 billion for use in rebuilding tourism, long-term monitoring of beaches, and restoration of dunes. Public hearings have been held in communities affected by the oil spill and there"s been a common recommendation from them all when the topic turns to "BBB" - bringing back business: build more boat ramps. For updates on the project, go to www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov.
The Lure Of Powerloading
Driving your boat onto the trailer at the boat ramp ("powerloading") is frowned upon because the prop wash pushes away material that supports the end of the ramp. If the ramp isn't designed for this, or if maintenance is lacking, the end of the ramp collapses. But anglers at a number of North Carolina ramps say the resulting "blow hole" created from powerloading also attracts lots of game fish. So when someone tells you a ramp is "busy," they may be talking about the fishing at the boat ramp, not the number of tow vehicles on it.
When Idaho residents register their boats with the state this year, they can designate the specific Idaho county that should receive the money. This, in turn, will go toward funding recreational boating services and marine police agencies in the designated area. Boaters can choose two counties for their registration funds. Annual registration fees are based on boat length; boats more than 12 feet in length are $30 plus $2 per foot. Another idea on the Idaho books is giving drivers the chance to pay an extra $10 fee when registering their car that will provide free access to any of the state's 30 state parks. Under this "passport program," the Department of Parks and Recreation hopes to raise as much as $1.9 million. The same idea is already in use in Michigan where 28 percent of vehicle owners opted for the extra fee.
One-Stop Shopping In Virginia
Need a fishing license in Virginia? Need to register your boat and trailer, too? The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries are hooking up so everything can be done in one place - at the DMV or the DGIF.
Hudson River recreational boaters have something in common besides the scenery: Each has probably been checked by one, or more, of the two dozen law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction over certain parts, or every part, of the river. And that's the problem. Boaters have complained of being stopped as many as five times a day by different agencies for a safety inspection. One idea being reviewed is to have a safety check available to everyone prior to launching for the season, similar to the safety inspections that are required for cars and trucks. Once the vessel passes the inspection, it gets a sticker that will be recognized by all the agencies patrolling the river.
This Is A Test ...
Minnesota has occupied many pages in this magazine as the state continues its aggressive stance toward keeping quagga and zebra mussels, among other invasive species, out of its lakes. Decontamination units are being set up throughout the state that will power-wash boats with hot water in an effort to remove invasives from hulls and boat trailers, and now another idea is being discussed: requiring the state's 800,000 boat owners to pass an online course on preventing invasives from spreading. Luke Skinner, a DNR invasive specialist, tells the Minneapolis Star Tribune that those successfully completing the class would get a decal for their trailer that is valid for three years. The Minnesota Legislature has to approve the idea first, however. If it is passed, the proposal won't kick in until 2015.
E15: Not So Fast
While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the use of gasoline containing 15-percent ethanol-called E15 - in certain automobiles,- a subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology approved legislation to slow down the E15 train. The bill, H.R. 3199 sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), requires the EPA to request that the National Academy of Sciences review all available research and technical information on the effects of higher ethanol blends on all engines, including boat motors. It also directs the agency to determine what further testing should be done before giving final approval to allow the sale of E15. In addition, the agency must identify necessary steps to ensure the fuel is properly labeled as a way to prevent mis-fueling. Both the House and the Senate have to approve the legislation before this can happen, though. BoatUS is one of 31 organizations that support the need for more study, citing the fact E15 has yet to be proved safe for marine engines. Keep up with the status of E15 at www.BoatUS.com/gov
Texas Drought Update
Boaters and residents on Lake Travis, in the Lone Star State's Hill Country, hope there's going to be a "rainy season" one of these days. Here"s why: There"s usually 27.64 inches of rain every year on the lake, but last year, there was all of 15 inches. A number of subdivisions, including Spicewood Beach, have had to hire trucks carrying 4,000 gallons of water to use for showers and dishwashing. Boat ramps? Well, this picture of a local ramp from BoatU. member Ken Taylor of the Austin Yacht Club does the "thousand words" routine pretty well. While 10 boat ramps remain closed, the Mansfield Dam ramp reopened in March.
For another take on the drought at the AYC go to www.trailerclub/magazine.
An on-the-water towboat company that helps southwest Florida boaters get home safely was singled out for its professionalism at the BoatUS Towing Services Annual Conference recently held in Tampa, Florida. Tower of the Year honors went to TowBoatUS Cape Coral, which is owned and operated by Capt. Richard Paul and Capt. Jay McMillin. The company has towboats in Cape Coral, Ft. Myers Beach, and North Ft. Myers. The company was honored for its near-perfect towing dispatch operation, superior customer service and satisfaction, as well as towing case management.
Paul and McMillin's locally owned company is part of a nationwide network of 300 ports and fleet of 600 TowBoatUS and VESSEL ASSIST towboats.
BoatUS ANGLER Tows For B.A.S.S.
If your boat seems to find its way to B.A.S.S. tournaments, and there are a lot of tournaments this year, chances are good you'll see TowBoatUS on the water and Trailer Assist on the road ready to lend a hand, and a tow, in the event of boat or trailer trouble. B.A.S.S., with more than 500,000 avid anglers around the country, will work with BoatUS ANGLER on these upcoming Bassmaster Open Series tournaments: Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, on April 26-28; the James River in Richmond, Virginia, on June 14-16; and the Detroit River in Detroit on July 19-21. More information is at www.BoatUSFishing.com.
Don't Forget The TowBoatUS Smartphone App!
We've come up with an app to make your life at sea both safer and easier, whether you carry an iPhone or an Android. The BoatUS App has three components: "Call For A Tow," "Share Your Location," and"BoatUS Directory."
"Call Now For A Tow" is the best app feature you'll hope you never have to use. If you break down on the water and need assistance, however, activate this app and our crew will have your critical information (including contact info, boat type and size, location, and whether you have a working VHF onboard) automatically. That can shorten the time it takes to get help, and eliminate the opportunity for errors.
"Share Your Location" will come in handy when there's no emergency, but you want to let your friends know where you are. You want to call your buddy in to a hot fishing spot? Invite him or her to raft up for the evening? With our app you?ll be able to send a private text message or e-mail with your latitude, longitude, and a Google Maps link included. Plus, when you activate the app, your lat/long will be displayed at the top of the phone's screen, so you'll always know exactly where you are.
The "BoatUS Directory" will come in handy whenever you need to find out what services are available to members - getting a quote or filing a claim for BoatUS Insurance, contacting the BoatUS Foundation, or even checking the latest BoatUS news are all handy features.Cost: Free; www.BoatUS.com/towing/app