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Nursemaid Mandates?

According to "Coast Guard Considers Mandating Adult Life Jacket Wear" (June 2011), "the U.S. Forest Service estimates that 82 million people participated in boating in 2010 and Coast Guard statistics show 736 people died in boating accidents that year." If these figures are quoted correctly, that is a fabulous safety record of one fatality in more than 100,000 person-outings. Any fatality is obviously to be regretted, but if these figures are correct, requiring the Coast Guard to enforce more invasive life-jacket rules is not worthwhile, and makes life less enjoyable for the rest of us.

The idea of requiring adults over 18 to wear life jackets is another case of government overstepping its authority. As an adult I can decide when it's prudent to wear a life jacket. I've been out on an 8-foot boat without wearing one when I felt safe. I've also put one on when aboard a 50-footer when I felt it was the wise thing to do. This is not a decision the government needs to have a voice in.

Broken Connection

Last year I installed a Garmin GPS on my Hunter 27 and connected it to my Standard Horizon VHF radio. Having a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering I was able to do this, though as noted in the article, "Changing 'Please Try To Find Me' to 'Come Get Me'" (June 2011), understanding how to properly connect it was a bit of a challenge. Fortunately technical support from the respective manufacturers helped answer my questions.

I was therefore appalled, though not surprised, when I read Chris Edmonston's statement that "the connections are different, and not just from manufacturer to manufacturer, but between models from the same manufacturer, and even from year to year." My lack of surprise stems from my past professional experience in creating standards for computer hardware and software to interoperate where the oft-quoted joke was that "the wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from."

What appalls me is that, considering that people's lives are at stake, the attitudes of the Coast Guard and marine electronics industry seem incredibly cavalier. That those involved in this only got together earlier this year to develop an "action plan" to create "more emphasis from these organizations on explaining the problem through training materials, courses, and courtesy inspections" and that the Coast Guard and NMEA plan to "encourage manufacturers to better standardize interconnection fittings and color coding" is the equivalent of fiddling while Rome burns.

Based on my many years and experiences trying to get companies competing in the same industry to cooperate in order to adopt common standards, I can guarantee you that it will be many years, and probably many lives lost, before the problem is resolved.

The Jellyfish Tell A Story. Why Won't We Listen?

Regarding "Are Jellyfish Causing An Ecological Wobble?" (June 2011) you overlook that jellyfish are the result of an ecological wobble we've created. For decades, we've been using our oceans and waterways as dumps and toilets, continuously dumping everything from raw sewage to syringes to nuclear waste in ocean areas barely a few miles from shore. Then, we naively believe the ocean will magically cleanse itself, ignoring the potential impact our garbage has on the environment. Jellyfish are in a sense the cockroach of the sea, the ultimate bottom feeder. Through our efforts, we have created an environment rich in what jellyfish thrive on, and poor in their natural predators. We have fostered the ideal environment for them, and they're thriving. Perhaps this is nature's way of saying enough?

Reaffirming The Boating Spirit

While at the marina working on my old boat, a couple walked by. They were both complaining about a new tenant several slips down who had anchored way too close to them during the weekend. A short time later I heard a boat coming, several children laughing, and an adult woman's voice saying in a jovial teasing sort of way, "Honey, you can't drive this boat, how do you think you're going to park it?" The man replied, "Baby, I can drive anything. Watch this." His docking skills were a disaster, and several people gladly helped haul him in, probably to save their boats. These were the folks that were complained about earlier.

These people were quite green at boating, but they were having the time of their lives and completely enjoying themselves. Later on, after listening to more of their children's laughter and this loving couple taking stock of their "wonderful first weekend out," I began to question myself. Was it really so many years ago that I'd stayed on the guest dock for two days with my newly acquired trawler, trying to get the nerve to pull into my assigned slip? How many people had I annoyed back then with my lack of boating skills? I had these thoughts in mind as the couple with their children walked by. The man stopped and said, "Excuse me, sir, is this an Ed Monk-designed boat?" With a surprised smile, I said, "Why yes, are you familiar with Monks?" The man smiled sheepishly and said, "No, I really don't know much at all about boats. Someone told me, and I thought it would be a good way to start a conversation."

After several minutes of small talk about boats and equipment, it was clear that with the new boat, the kids, and the economy, this family's boat-outfitting budget was limited. I said, "You said you need to buy a cooler, right? Here's a deal. Take this extra large, $300 cooler. It's too big for just me and my wife, anyway. And use the money you would've spent on it and call this boat captain who I hired many years ago to give me 10 hours of sea time. It was the best money I ever spent." They were elated. I thought of the spirit of boating, and how much a little generosity means to all of us along the way. Not sure how to tell my wife I gave her cooler away, though.

A Hard Lesson Learned

I'd like to add to Michael Vatalaro's sound advice about avoiding delay in issuing a mayday call during a sinking "When Good Times Go Really Bad," (June 2011). Be certain to have a handheld VHF, cellphone, and life jackets within easy reach at all times. I was just off New Jersey in a 46-foot cruiser headed to Atlantic City when the temperature alarms for both engines sounded. I turned to see the transom door open and waves lapping in. I sent my friend down to close the door. Within seconds both engines quit. When the boat settled down, water flooded into the cockpit. Realizing we were sinking, we grabbed life jackets and I immediately issued a mayday call with our position on the fixed-mount VHF, but got no response — the batteries were already underwater. Our handheld VHF and cellphones were forward in the flooding cabin.

My friend jumped overboard in his life jacket. I went forward to untie the inflatable dinghy secured to the cabin top. The boat went down, and the dinghy broke free with me in it. I looked and called for my friend but never saw him or heard a response. I was found floating in the dinghy 18 miles away. They found my friend floating dead in his life jacket five miles from the accident. This happened in clear weather just eight miles from Coast Guard Station Atlantic City. We could've been rescued within minutes if we'd had our cellphones or handheld VHF with us on the bridge. Now, I never leave the dock without a charged cellphone and handheld VHF within easy reach, whether on my boat or someone else's.

Lori, Cook It Up!

Last month, we invited readers of our online cooking and recipe site to challenge Lori Ross, our cruising cook extraordinaire, to make speciality dishes based on different themes. The first winner of Lori's invitation is Kathy Dismukes, who challenged Lori to come up with a selection of hot vegetarian pastas. You can find these and many other recipes on www.BoatUS.com/cooking. Kathy writes:

My thanks to Lori Ross and BoatUS for the wonderful recipes. When I'd heard I'd won the contest, I was thrilled, but I couldn't believe the personal cookbooks from Lori's cooking library that came with winning. I finally had a chance to go through them, and I'm grateful, Lori, that you felt you could part with them. Thanks for your inspiration! I'll tune in regularly to see what treats you bring us.

BoatUS Flags Found In Far-Flung Places

For six years, from 2001 through 2007, my husband Douglas and I broke away from our jobs, and sailed Ithaka, our 39-foot sloop, throughout Central and South America. It was a dream come true for the two of us. While we were voyaging, we spent two extraordinary seasons in the San Blas islands of Panama, where we made friends with many Kuna Indian families. Every day we saw the men paddle or sail for miles out to the reefs to free-dive for hours for lobster and fish, then paddle or sail all the way back to their island huts by nightfall. Their boats were dugout canoes called cuyukos, and their raggedy sails, if they had any at all, were made from fabric scraps and sacks all sewn together by hand.

During our cruising adventure, we wrote a twice-monthly log for the BoatUS website, called "The Log Of Ithaka" (www.Boatus.com/cruising). When we uploaded the one about those fishermen, we began to receive offers of sails and sailcloth from BoatUS members who were touched by the arduous lives of these men and boys. When the president of BoatUS heard about this, the company generously offered to ship all this donated sailcloth down to us in Panama, along with lots of BoatUS flags. With a couple of cruising friends, Douglas and I began cutting and sewing sails, and trading them with the fishermen, in return for anything they offered — a few lemons, a pretty gourd — just so there was no feeling of charity, as pride is an important part of their culture.The project was a success, we made 52 sails, and began seeing the BoatUS flags flying from the tops of cuyuko masts, and in little villages, all over the islands during our last months in the San Blas. The Kuna treasured those flags! Thanks, BoatUS, for helping us help these folks. They're so generous to boaters who travel through, and it felt good to give something back.

For your own BoatUS flag, call 800-395-2628 or visit www.BoatUS.com/logoitems

Enjoying The Sound: Cousins Skylar Diehl (8), Riley Diehl (6), and Cole Cantin (9), enjoyed a day trip to Fire Island, New York, aboard the Hurricane last year.

How Am I Doing? Maya Hill is all jacketed up and ready to go sailing with granddad Ed "Wonka" Hill aboard Muki 3, at Erie Basin Marina in Buffalo, New York. "This is the home port for our cutterrigged Bayfield 29," says Ed.

Not Now Dad, I'm Busy! Although he's just two and a half, Andrew Tate looks like a natural in the captain's chair on Lake Hiawassee, North Carolina. His dad John Tate from Smyrna, Georgia, sent in the shot.

Looking To The Future? Dave Walser from Lusby, Maryland, says his 10-month-old grandson Steven has been a regular on his boat since his conception! He already looks ready to take the helm.

Putting Zen In The Crew: Warren Millberg from Annandale, Virginia, aboard his Hunter 28.5 CrewZen, shows his niece's daughter Samantha the ropes, as she takes the helm.

Who Are You Calling Novice? Dottie Cernik was rightly proud of her five-year-old grandson Hunter from Baltimore, Maryland, on his first boat excursion in Jacksonville, Florida. "He donned his life jacket and sunglasses, ready for an adventure. When I checked on him as we were getting ready to leave the dock, he looked for all the world like a seasoned boater," says Dottie.

Sunglasses? Check. Life Jacket? Check: Ken and Mary Ellen Teller in San Diego sent in this photo of their four-year-old grandson Joshua Kuchinsky when he was visiting from New Jersey. "He loves going out in my 23-foot Carolina Skiff to the beach or fishing, or just riding around," says Ken.

What's That You Say? Jackson and Owen MacNaughton hold their ears while watching the SS Badger leaving Ludington, Michigan. "This was the view from our anchorage in Ludington, on our 2010 family vacation," says mom, Shelly MacNaughton. "We sailed our Catalina 30 on Lake Michigan, visiting ports between White Lake and Portage Lake."

Send Photos! Do you have photos of you, your family, and friends enjoying great times on the water (preferably wearing life jackets)? E-mail the high-resolution digital version to us with your name and address. Tell us who or what's in the photo. It might appear in this column. Send to LettersToEditor@BoatUS.com.

Did Your Mutt Make The Cut?

If there's anything boaters like as much as their vessels, it's their canine companions. Several of you have sent photos of your furry friends over the past year, and we've compiled them into a slideshow on our website, www.BoatUS.com/Magazine. We'll do another one soon so send your favorite doggie, cat, parrot, or lizard shots, aboard your boat, to Magazine@BoatUS.com

Wesley Kaczmarczyk's dog, from Merritt Island, Florida, can't wait to get back in the water!