BoatUS Reports

News From The World Of American Boating

Edited by Ryck Lydecker

Boating To Canada? Take A Cellphone

In August 2012, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) seized two boats and a personal watercraft belonging to two New York men who'd gone to Ontario's Port Dalhousie. Earlier last year, a fisherman in the St. Lawrence River was boarded by the CBSA, which seized his boat as well. The offense in each case was the same — failure to properly check in with Border Services after entering Canadian waters — but their defenses were also similar: The boaters thought they'd done everything they needed to do. In all three cases, the boats in question were seized on the spot, and the men had to pay a $1,000 fine per vessel (including the PWC) to get them back. Senator Charles Schumer of New York has asked for reviews of all three cases, and the CBSA has said they'll look into them.

Crossing Into Canada

"It is no different than if you arrive at the land border or if you arrive by air," says Alex Attfield, CBSA's Director of Traveller Border Programs. "You're expected to make yourself known and allow CBSA to make a determination on your admissibility into the country."

Sailing Canadian watersYou need to call Border Services when you first enter Canadian waters.

For a boater, that means reporting directly to one of CBSA's 439 designated Marine Reporting sites Many of them, located at yacht clubs and marinas, consist of no more than a special telephone, a sort of border-services hotline that will connect you to an agent. Assuming that goes well, that's it. Welcome to Canada.

"Once you enter Canadian waters, there's an obligation to report," Attfield says. "But we appreciate that if someone isn't intending on landing, but just want to enjoy our Canadian waters, enjoy the scenery, we provide a means of making a call by cellphone to the same telephone reporting centers."

So, if you're, say, in the middle of Lake Ontario, tacking back and forth across the international boundary, you need to call Border Services when you first enter Canadian waters and let them know. That requires a cellphone, and more than that, it requires a cellphone that works wherever the border is. If you can't make contact by cell, you'll need to head directly to a reporting site (or, presumably, stay in U.S. waters).

There are a number of programs designed to make it easier on frequent travelers, including the joint U.S.-Canadian NEXUS card. For a $50 application fee, the card requires an interview, as well as approval from both countries, but it enables the bearer to check in by phone when crossing the border.

... And Back Again

For re-entry to the United States, the process is similar to reporting to Canada. If you have a NEXUS card, a phone call will cover it, and Customs and Border Protection's website lists the phone numbers you can call. If you aren't a member of NEXUS (or a similar program), you'll need to report in person to a regular port of entry or to an inspection station equipped with a video phone.

These are the rules as described on the CBSA website, clarified by a CBSA official over the phone to BoatUS, and again in an email from a CBSA spokeswoman. In each of the three boat-seizure cases mentioned above, the boaters say that they thought they were following the rules. So before you go, check the relevant websites and call them if you have any questions.

Two E15 Decisions

After a disappointing U.S. Court of Appeals ruling on its suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over E15 fuel last August, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is back in court. As part of a coalition of organizations that challenged the EPA's authority to allow gasoline containing 15-percent ethanol, or E15, in the marketplace, NMMA filed suit in July 2011. But the court, by a 2-1 decision, said the coalition members didn't have standing to bring the suit, so the court could not consider the merits of the case. In other words, the court said NMMA and the other plaintiffs could not prove they had been harmed directly by the EPA action.

While the appeal could settle that question, the EPA's 2011 decision to allow the sale of E15 in the first place still stands. But it stipulates that the fuel can be used only in motor vehicles 2001 and newer. Thus, the EPA had to come up with procedures to guard against consumers inadvertently using E15 in the wrong engines (and that includes all inboard and outboard boat engines). A solution, announced last fall, is the "four-gallon rule," meaning that consumers buying E10 from a pump that also dispenses E15 through the same hose must buy a minimum of four gallons, even if they need less. The rationale behind the rule is that just as single-hose pumps widely used today offer octane choices at the push of a button, these "blender pumps" could be used to dispense gasoline with varying percentages of ethanol through the same hose.

But what happens when the next customer needs E10? Just push the E10 button, right? Sure, but residual amounts of E15 likely would be left in the hose so EPA requires the customer to purchase a minimum of four gallons of E10. Theoretically that would dilute the concentration to the legal 10-percent level, but if you need less, say to fill the two-gallon gas can for your dinghy's outboard motor, you're stuck. The EPA directive states, "a minimum transaction of 4 gallons must be required for E10 purchases and communicated to consumers by means of a prominently placed label stating: ‘Minimum Fueling Volume 4 Gallons; Dispensing Less May Violate Federal Law.'"

Border-Boaters: Enhance Your Driver's License

Headed for the Canadian border by boat or with a boat in tow this summer? Well, no matter how you check into our neighboring country, you'll need very specific identification. If you live in Michigan, New York, Vermont, or the state of Washington, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has made border crossing a bit easier for you. That's because part of a plan to promote post-9/11 travel, called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, has paved the way for U.S. states and Canadian provinces to develop what is called an Enhanced Driver's License or EDL. This allows the license holder to cross the international border by boat or on land without a U.S. passport. Applicants must prove U.S. citizenship and residency in their particular state. Enhanced IDs are also available for non-drivers and for youth under 16.

The EDL could cut the inconvenience, expense, and advance notice required to obtain a passport in anticipation of a trip across the border. Other states are expected to follow suit in the 2013 legislative sessions, according to BoatUS President Margaret Podlich. "Legislation has been introduced in Ohio; and currently Minnesota, North Dakota, Idaho, New Hampshire, and Maine are in the process of developing their own EDL programs," Podlich noted. "As states use new identification technology, we hope it will reduce the time boaters spend dealing with security requirements and increase the time they have to enjoy being on the water with our northern neighbors." Podlich added that the EDLs cost less than a passport and eliminate the need to carry yet another document on your boat. Boaters are, however, still required to follow the standard procedure when checking in to Canada or the U.S.

Still Picking Up The Pieces In New Orleans After Katrina

Schubert's Marine at New Orleans' West End is one of those typical longtime fuel docks and marine-service businesses that's part of the fabric of a boating community. But more than seven years after Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, the business is still half of what it was before the storm. John Brimer, the owner, knows exactly why. Every day he looks out onto what is the only marina in the area that still lies unrepaired, until recently mired in bureaucratic red tape between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the City of New Orleans.

Photo of dock still closed after Hurricane KatrinaSeven years after Katrina, some marine businesses are still struggling. (Photo: Troy Gilbert)

After rebuilding his business in 2006 and having struggled in the years since, Brimer currently employs only nine of the 19 skilled boat tradesmen he had before the storm. "Having the Municipal Harbor functioning would mean another 600 boats that we'd have an opportunity to service, fuel, and sell parts to," he claims.

Inundated by a 12-foot storm surge in Lake Pontchartrain, and surrounded by some of the hardest-hit sections of New Orleans after the levee failures, Municipal Yacht Harbor was an apocalyptic scene of piled-high and foundered boats that were not removed until two years after the storm's landfall on the coast. Most of the marine-service businesses along with the two yacht clubs reopened, some within 60 days of Katrina. Everyone understood, however, that a publicly owned marina would be a low priority with so many homes, schools, and police stations laid waste. But no one expected it would take seven years for FEMA to release the rebuilding funds for this recreational and economic engine.

The president of the Yacht Harbor Management Corporation, Warner Tureaud, agrees that valuable years were lost. "FEMA originally did a visual inspection of the marina," he says, "but by doing that, it was impossible to assess the damage to the concrete piers below the water or mud line. We've had to hire consultants to investigate damage to these concrete piers." After conducting studies, researching dredging, pilings, environmental costs, as of late December 2012, FEMA approved nearly $10 million in funds to repair the 600-slip marina. Work is estimated to be completed in late 2014.

Cup Champ Wins New Prize

In the 50th anniversary of successfully defending the America's Cup, the historic 12-Meter sailing yacht Weatherly added another distinction to her long career — an honored spot on the National Register of Historic Places. As an early example of both the 12-Meter class of racing yachts, adopted for America's Cup competition following World War II, and vessels of wooden and laminate construction, Weatherly joins a distinguished list of U.S. properties worthy of preservation. The National Park Service named the Phillip L. Rhodes-designed 69-foot-LOA racing sloop to the prestigious list in September 2012. (The boat is 69 feet; the 12-Meter measurement represents a mathematical combination of several design factors.)

Since the 1980s, Weatherly has stayed in racing trim as a meticulously restored flagship in a six-boat charter fleet of 12 Meters that sail out of Newport, Rhode Island, where she successfully defended the America's Cup in 1962. She won four of five races, presumably to the delight of President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy who were among the many spectators who watched the competition.

Aging Fleet Puts Coast Guard Missions At Risk

Ever-older U.S. Coast Guard Vessels, some of them years past their estimated service life, leave doubts as to whether the Coast Guard will be able to perform its missions, like drug interdiction and search and rescue, according to a report from the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Photo of a Coast Guard cruiser at seaPhoto: USCG

The July 2012 report notes that 75 cutters and patrol boats are at or near the end of their useful lives, and that "critical systems," like diesel engines, were breaking down and slowing or halting operations. During the 2006-2012 study period, the GAO said three of the 12 Coast Guard 378-foot High Endurance Cutters suffered catastrophic engine failure, taking them out of service for one to two years (two of the three have since been decommissioned).

The Coast Guard was originally scheduled to have eight new vessels by 2012. Instead, four have been commissioned. Currently the Coast Guard plans delivery of six new 110-foot Fast Response Cutters by the end of 2013, and three 418-foot National Security Cutters by 2017.

Florida Anchoring Fact Sheet Revised

If a voyage to Florida is in your plans this year -- or you want to cruise around state waters, if you're already there -- then you will want to know the legal facts about anchoring in the Sunshine State. To make the rules understandable, BoatUS has revised its Florida Anchoring Information fact sheet (available free for downloading) to provide boaters with up-to-date information.

Anchoring law, long a contentious issue in Florida, underwent major revisions and clarifications in 2009 when BoatUS worked with the Florida Legislature to clearly delineate how local governments can, and cannot, regulate anchoring in their jurisdictions. Even with the change in law over three years ago, some local elected officials, law-enforcement officers, and even boaters themselves may not fully understand what is or isn't permitted when it comes to dropping the hook these days.

One topic the fact sheet clarifies is the term "liveaboard," now defined in state law as "any vessel used solely as a residence and not for navigation." The law also states that local governments cannot regulate full-time active cruisers. However, a provision in the law allowed five local governments to develop pilot projects to regulate anchoring in conjunction with properly designed and managed mooring fields. BoatUS has monitored the pilot projects since inception and continues to investigate the effects on boaters.

"There are still boaters who haven't heard of the changes in law but they continue to arrive and enjoy Florida's gorgeous waterways," said BoatUS President Margaret Podlich. "They should know that local governments cannot restrict anchoring of non-liveaboard vessels outside designated mooring fields, except in the jurisdiction of the five pilot projects." The five are: St. Augustine, Monroe County (Key West, Marathon), Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Martin County/City of Stuart. These areas are testing policies that promote public access, enhance navigational safety, protect maritime infrastructure and the environment, and deter improperly stored, abandoned, or derelict vessels. To download and print a copy of the anchoring fact sheet, go to:

Great Lakes Water Still Down

Of all the ingredients that go into recreational boating, water tops the list. Great Lakes boaters tend to watch water level trends on a seasonal basis, and given the unseasonably dry summer of 2012, coupled with a mild winter the previous year, water levels in the Great Lakes are predicted to hit an all-time low. Great Lakes water level recording began about 1860, with sporadic records dating back to the early 1800s, so setting new record lows is significant.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts that record-low levels for both Lake Huron and Lake Michigan will be reached sometime in early 2013. All Great Lakes water levels are forecast to continue falling over the early months of 2013, so boaters should prepare for very low water levels for at least the early part of the coming season and plan accordingly.

U.S. Drought Monitor Map from December 2012U.S. Drought Monitor Map from December 2012

A pattern of lower-than-normal precipitation, higher-than-normal air temperatures, and increased winter evaporation from the lack of ice cover likely led to the extreme low water throughout the world's largest freshwater ecosystem. While water level changes are cyclical over time, the current levels are alarming.

Recreational boaters had to take extreme measures to adjust. Marc Bedrosian, who sails Ozymandias, a Beneteau Oceanis 473 with a 5'6" draft out of Grand Haven on Lake Michigan, is one. Bedrosian and his family departed for a cruise to northern Lake Michigan in late July 2012, but were forced to consider returning to their home port when a slip neighbor informed them that water levels in their marina had dropped below 6 feet, meaning their slip might not be accessible when they returned. "We ultimately finished our cruise in Muskegon and ended up staying the rest of the season there at a marina with enough water to accommodate our keel. If water levels don't increase before next season, we may be forced to permanently switch marinas," remarked Bedrosian. "Our pre-cruise planning must now include a careful survey of water depths for all potential destinations," he added.

While it could take several years of above-average precipitation to get levels back to normal, many forecast models predict a snowier 2012-2013 winter for the Midwest. That could make the record lows short-lived. Water levels in the Great Lakes have risen and fallen cyclically for millennia, so while low water may be a bane to boaters now, the cycle is likely to reverse naturally at some point. Unfortunately, no one knows exactly when that will happen. 



— Published: February/March 2013

Waterfronts Forum To Seek Solutions

Tacoma, Washington is the site of the third National Working Waterfronts and Waterways Symposium, to be held March 25-28, 2013. The conference, cosponsored by BoatUS and hosted by the Washington and Oregon Sea Grant programs, will focus on a wide range of topics including issues that affect water-dependent businesses that boaters depend on, like marinas, boatyards, and other sites that provide marine services as well as access to the water. Information:


Stay Dry And "Dive" Historic Wreck

Before last September, if you wanted to see the wreck of the USS Hatteras, you were out of luck. First off, it's in 60 feet of water and partially buried under bottom sands, 20 miles from Galveston, Texas, in the Gulf of Mexico. And second, "20 miles from Galveston" is about as exact a location as the people who know are willing to divulge.

James Delgado, NOAA's director of maritime heritage for the National Marine Sanctuaries program, thinks that's a shame. Part of his job as a marine archaeologist, he says, is not only to educate the public, but also to get them excited about historical finds like the Hatteras. That's tough to do when they can't experience the thrill of discovery and exploration for themselves. To remedy that, last year he and a team of students, scientists, and technicians used a 3-D sonar camera to document the wreck, putting the images online where anyone can "dive" the wreck from the comfort of their own computer screen.

The 1863 sinking of the steam-driven paddle wheeler ended a brief but successful career hunting down Confederate blockade-runners in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship helped blockade Galveston, then gave chase to a vessel that turned out to be the CSS Alabama. After a firefight, the Union ship surrendered, and survivors were taken to the Alabama. Holed by cannonballs, the Hatteras sank in approximately 60 feet of water, largely forgotten until the iron-hulled ship was rediscovered in the 1970s.

Delgado mapped the wreck with 3-D sonar and says, "What we're ultimately going to get is a high-resolution scan of the wreck. Graphically you can fly through and flip it, and manipulate it, to get a 3-D sense of the wreck." The imaging was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the sinking, on January 11, 1863, but hurricane activity last year exposed more of the ship and Delgado wanted to finish the imaging before shifting sands again covered the Hatteras. With the digital images scanned and cleaned up, Delgado hopes the information will find a broader audience online at "You're actually going to get a better look at it than if you dived it," he says.



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