BoatUS Reports

News From The World Of American Boating

Edited By Ryck Lydecker

Photo of unearthed this shipwreck on the Alabama Gulf CoastShifting Sands. Hurricane Isaac unearthed this shipwreck on the Alabama Gulf Coast near Fort Morgan in August. The wreck, believed to be that of the 150-foot lumber schooner Rachel, which was lost on the beach at the mouth of Mobile Bay in the 1930s, is periodically unearthed by storms and was last seen in 2008, courtesy of Hurricane Ike. (Photo: Meyer Vacation Rentals)

Drought Kills Carp — But Not Enough

Last summer's drought closed rivers to navigation, lowered lake levels, and destroyed crops across the Midwest, but there was one casualty that was mourned by no one. Thousands of invasive Asian carp turned up dead in oxygen-depleted streams and lakes, cut off from escape by lowered water levels. The fish are known to leap out of the water at the sound of a boat engine, in some cases injuring boaters. But will drought-induced die-offs make any difference in the spread of the hated fish that now threaten to invade the Great Lakes?

"Boy, we really wish it would," says Rebecca O'Hearn, a scientist for the Department of Conservation in Missouri, where 20,000 fish, mostly Asian carp, died in Lake Contrary, an hour north of Kansas City. "Unfortunately, it's probably not enough to even make a dent in the population."

In Indiana, carp die-offs near the Wabash River inspired a tentatively hopeful press release from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR): "Current [drought] conditions across Indiana may have a dull bronze lining, at least in some instances," it read, but the news still wasn't great. Aquatic species coordinator Doug Keller, of the Indiana DNR, said the carp were dying off in backwater areas, which were more susceptible to the drought, and where fewer other species choose to live, anyway. Lower water levels also cause carp to congregate in the remaining deep-water areas, posing a greater hazard for boaters, a problem reported elsewhere in Indiana.

Missouri's O'Hearn said that the number of carp in the fish kills in her state weren't necessarily a good sign for other, desirable fish. Carp can withstand tough times, and they may just be the last ones left after other species have died and been eaten by scavengers.

"It's got to be pretty bad for the carp to die," she said.

Crescent City Comeback

After a tsunami hit Crescent City, California, in 2006, harbormaster Richard Young knew they had a choice: Rebuild it quick or rebuild it right. Six years later, Crescent City is starting on what they believe is the only West Coast harbor designed to resist a 50-year tsunami. "We decided to do it right," he says, "so we spent the time and had the engineering firm do the analysis to try to incorporate tsunami resistance into the harbor." The November 2006 wave was spawned by an earthquake off the coast of the Kuril Islands in the Pacific. The earthquake sent a five-foot wave crashing into Crescent City's harbor, causing more than $9 million in damage. The rebuilding efforts suffered a setback in March 2011 when waves from the earthquake that devastated Japan hit Crescent City, but going through a second tsunami confirmed what their computer models told them about the ways a tidal wave would act. It wasn't a spectacular event — the water never got out of the boat basin — but the fast-moving current blew apart the docks and deposited 100,000 cubic yards of sand in the marina. Spots that were 11 feet deep before the waves hit were three feet deep after they receded.

Photo of damage from tsunami that hit Crescent City, California, in 2006Fishing fleet, hard hit by 2011 tsunami.

The harbor's recreational facilities were largely undamaged by the 2011 wave, but the main commercial marina, used by Crescent City's fishing fleet, was "damaged to the point where you could say it was destroyed," Young says. The city dredged and installed temporary docks to get ready for the commercial crab season at the end of 2011. "We're just now restoring it to make it permanent," Young said in August, then checked himself, "Well, more permanent. Nothing's permanent in this life."

Young says he learned a lesson from the 2006 tsunami, when he and his crew were out on the docks trying to salvage boats, as the wave came in. "It turns out that was a really stupid thing to do," he says, and in 2011 he and the rest of the workers left 20 minutes before the first wave. "You get your people out of the way, and you come back later to pick up the pieces."

One of the things that worsened the tsunami damage in both cases was the design of the harbor. Water accelerates as it passes through the narrow opening leading to the docks, but planners found that increasing the opening left boats vulnerable to normal winter storms, so in the end, the new design is similar to what they started with. They are adding a few slips and improving the recreational docks, but this one will be strong enough to resist a tsunami that should only strike every 50 years.

"There's a balance struck between longevity and cost," Young explains. "A 100-year standard would be prohibitively expensive. Ten-year would be cheaper, but then you'd have to replace it every 10 years." At the end of August, Crescent City began taking delivery of the 30-inch steel pilings that will anchor the docks, and Young was awaiting the crane that would drive them 35 feet into the bedrock. He says the harbor will be open during construction, though they may have to shift some boats around. Repairs are expected to be finished in December 2013.

Women's Sailing Convention Set

The Southern California Yachting Association will again host the Annual Women's Sailing Convention, Saturday, February 2, 2013 at the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club, in Corona del Mar, California. The event is open to all women with an interest in sailing, from novice to expert, and includes hands-on workshops tailored to attendees' interests and abilities. BoatUS is again primary sponsor of the event, now in its 24th year. Topics range from Introduction to Sailing and Basic Navigation to Offshore Cruising and Racing Tactics, World-class sailor Katie Pettibone, a veteran of two America's Cup campaigns as well as two Volvo Ocean Races, will keynote the evening dinner. The event is a sell-out year after year and space is limited to 250. The $185.00 fee includes workshops, breakfast, lunch, dinner, souvenirs and handouts.

Photo of women working on a sailboat

No, You Go First…

A move by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to simplify the confusing tow vehicle specifications has become complicated. The idea is to provide the tow vehicle buyer with a guide, beginning in 2013, for comparing one tow vehicle's capacity to pull a boat and trailer with other tow vehicles using the same standards. For the past five years, truck manufacturers met to find common ground on how to provide a real, rather than hyped, towing capability for both cars and trucks. Operating under the name SAE J2807, consumers would use these new standards to see actual towing capacity for every vehicle.

Ford says it's applied it to their all-new vehicles but adds, not all of the 2013 vehicles are in that category. General Motors says it won't release their specs until Ford releases theirs. Chrysler, builder of Dodge Ram trucks, says it won't, either. Nissan is only making the standards available for the 2013 Pathfinder because that vehicle is all-new and future vehicles will be rated in subsequent years. Honda vehicles with a tow capacity of more than 3,500 pounds are using the standard now while Toyota has been offering J2807 since 2012. So, an industry-wide towing measurement, agreed to by everyone, isn't happening. Besides, each manufacturer says the idea is voluntary. The real reason? Nobody wants to "telegraph to the competition," as one tow vehicle maker admitted, what their vehicles can do. Some J2807 figures have shown a drop of 200-300 pounds in towing capacity for specific vehicles.

Jack Pokrzywa, SAE Manager of Ground Vehicle Standards, tells BoatUS, "We do know from our experience that standards level the playing field and we hope that the value of this standard will bring all the parties together over time."


Collective Spirit Soars, Er, Sails

In 2011, a British performance-arts duo that goes by the singular name Lone Twin put out a call for help building a boat. They wanted wooden objects — just about anything made of wood — but the items had to hold a special significance for the persons contributing them. More than 1,000 people donated everything from cabinets to cricket bats, and over the next year in Portsmouth, England, Lone Twin and the boatbuilders they recruited turned the wide assortment of mementoes into a 30-foot wooden sailboat christened Collective Spirit as part of a "2012 Cultural Olympiad" to correspond with last summer's Olympic games in London.

Photo of boat made from donated objectsThe boat was made using objects donated by more than 1,000 people in the run up to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. (Photo: The Boat Project)

The contributed items included celebrity artifacts, like a scrap of a guitar that had belonged to Jimi Hendrix and a timber from the HMS Victory, but most items proved more prosaic — a pair of cabinets that held British valuables sent out of the country during World War II, for instance, and an old fishing reel from a local fisherman, all of which found a home on the hull. The builders used two-part epoxy to bond the knick-knacks into panels used to form the boat's shape and then sheathed the completed hull in fiberglass.

A £500,000 ($800,000) grant from Arts Council England, which funded 12 "Artists Taking the Lead" projects across the U.K., underwrote the project. The boat, launched in May 2012, has been touring the coast of England since then. A spokesperson for the project said the tour has been extended through at least 2013, with a planned international voyage across the channel to France. The crew includes singer-songwriter Johnny Lamb, who's writing a song for each leg of the ship's voyage, and a performance of his "Ship's Log" was scheduled for a London Arts festival in October. For more on the boat, check out, and to hear Johnny Lamb's songs, see this story online at

Corps Reducing Lock Hours

In October, BoatUS has learned that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began implementing a cost-cutting plan to reduce operating hours at 63 inland-waterway locks around the country, most of which are used by recreational boaters as well as commercial towboats. The plan includes a score of locks on the Tennessee, Cumberland, Black Warrior, and other rivers that are integral to the Great Loop cruising route around the Eastern states. Also included for reduced hours of operation are locks that recreational boaters depend upon in the Great Lakes region and on the Snake River in Washington state, plus those serving the Dismal Swamp Canal on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and Florida's Caloosahatchee River.

Photo of inland-waterway lockPhoto: Sandie De Lapp

Several locks that see very little or no commercial traffic, like those on the Monongahela River in West Virginia and the Allegheny in Pennsylvania, are in danger of being closed, although some on the list that have "substantial recreational traffic" could be operated on weekends and holidays only.

Using a formula based on commercial tonnage, locks that are now "full service" could be cut to one or two shifts per day, or to operation only at certain times each day, or by appointment only. In developing the new policy, the Corps relied on 2010 lockage figures. But tonnage can fluctuate year to year and some of the 2010 figures may not be accurate, when compared to industry tonnage records, reports Amy Larson, president of the National Waterways Conference.

"Our goal is to be sure the data that the Corps is basing its decisions on is correct," Larson says. "But we also want to ensure that each Corps of Engineers district is empowered to develop solutions that fit their regional needs. We don't want a national, one-size-fits-all approach. And yes," adds Larson, "this will greatly impact recreational boaters." 

— Published: December 2012

Fuel Efficiency Standards
Raised Again

The Environmental Protection Agency set new fuel-efficiency standards in August, aimed at increasing fuel economy in cars and light-duty trucks to an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by model year 2025. The move would nearly double fuel efficiency of the vehicles that will come off the assembly line a dozen years from now, as compared to new vehicles on the market today. The new standard will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce oil consumption, but it also will affect future towing capacity of cars and light trucks.

"Clean air and saving fuel are worthwhile goals, and we can expect automakers to retool and reengineer vehicles to meet the new standard in the coming years," says BoatUS President Margaret Podlich. "But that will likely mean we'll see fewer vehicles with the horsepower and torque necessary to tow today's heavier recreational boats. So, we'll probably also see continued innovation in the boating industry toward lighter boats and trailers."



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