BoatUS Reports

News From The World Of American Boating

Edited by Chris Landers
Published: June/July 2014

Gulf Water Rising

Photo of Gulf Coast waterway
Photo: Pat Ford

A recent study of the Gulf of Mexico found that seasonal changes in water levels have gotten larger in recent decades along the eastern shore of the Gulf. Summer high-water levels have been higher, and winter low levels lower since 1990, according to a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in January. Researchers tracked Gulf water levels from 1900 to 2011, and found that the increased summer levels "have almost doubled the risk of hurricane-induced flooding since 1990 for the eastern and northeastern Gulf of Mexico coastlines."

Global sea levels have risen around two inches since 1993, but the Eastern Gulf of Mexico shows an additional two-inch rise. The change was not found in other parts of the Gulf. In a statement from the American Geophysical Union, which publishes the journal, lead author Thomas Wahl said that in addition to storm surge, the increase in variation could have an effect on sensitive ecosystems along the Gulf Coast. Wahl and the other researchers found that changes in air temperature and atmospheric pressure drove the changing water levels.


Bringing Up The "Katrina Babies"

Junior sailing investment pays off

The Mississippi Coast Yachting Association is the birthplace of yacht racing on the Gulf Coast, with the first regattas dating back to 1849. Its members include two of the five oldest yacht clubs in the United States (Pass Christian and Biloxi), and over the last nine years since Hurricane Katrina, it has built a stable of state-of-the-art yacht clubs. Today the state is investing nearly $100 million of federal money into public marinas and infrastructure.

They've made their junior sailing and boating safety programs an immediate priority, efforts that are paying off. Gulfport Yacht Club's longtime Sailing Director Sam Vazquez was heavily involved from day one. "Within a few months of the storm, we had our juniors racing up in Atlanta on borrowed Optis. By the next summer, we had repaired or replaced our fleet of small sailboats that include Optis, Vanguards, 420s, and Flying Scots, and had restarted our sailing camp with 120 kids."

Nine years out, the junior sailors on the Mississippi coast are all now considered "Katrina Babies." All they have known is a coast in recovery and rebuilding mode. And after seeing the importance of getting these kids out on the water – if simply to bring a semblance of normality to the community – the clubs on the coast reached out to local high schools. Today, there are six high-school sailing teams actively competing and their regular races are drawing in high-school teams from throughout the Northern Gulf Coast. The Galloway Regatta in Gulfport recently hosted 70 junior and high-school boats ranging from Optimists to V-15s.

"We made the kids a priority because we had to." Vazquez says. "These Katrina Babies are the future of the sport on the Mississippi Coast."


Adventure License For New York

Photo of a NY State adventure license
Photo: New York DMV

In an effort to promote recreational activities in the Empire state, Governor Andrew Cuomo has made things a little easier for boaters and avid fishermen with the introduction of the Lifetime Adventure License Series.

Residents who purchase any of the lifetime licenses for hunting and fishing, which range from $460 to $750, can consolidate all of their licenses and permits on their driver's license. The Adventure driver's license will feature icons such as a deer for hunting, a fish for angling, a bobcat paw for trapping, and an anchor for a boating safety certificate. For boaters, this means one more piece of paper you don't have to carry on your boat if you carry your driver's license. As a reminder, New York passed a law late last year that requires all boaters born after May 1, 1996, to earn and carry with them a boating safety certificate. However, until an online boater safety course is approved for the new state requirement, boaters must take an eight-hour U.S. Power Squadrons, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, or State Parks and Recreation classroom course. Once they have passed the course and received their certificate, they must provide it to the New York state DMV.

"If we approve an online boating safety course, boaters won't need to have to show the paper certificate," said New York State Boating Law Administrator Brian Kemf. "Whichever online course provider gets approved would electronically transfer the info to our DMV."

To raise awareness, the state will send 1 million letters to current recreational drivers license holders and more information on the new program can be obtained at

Robin Dropkin, executive director of Parks & Trails New York, a grassroots organization established to protect the parks, says, "Outdoor recreation currently contributes more than $11 billion to the state's economy each year."


Bounty Investigation Released

The investigation into the sinking of the tall ship HMS Bounty in October 2012 places the blame for the loss on Bounty Captain Robin Walbridge's decision to set sail during Hurricane Sandy. Walbridge and another crew member were lost with the ship. The recently released review of the sinking by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found a host of problems with the boat. According to crew testimony in the report, Bounty took on water "even in the best conditions."

The ship, constructed for use in the 1962 Marlon Brando movie "Mutiny on the Bounty," was certified as a "moored attraction vessel" by the U.S. Coast Guard, which meant that while the boat could be exhibited in port, it could not carry passengers. Away from the dock, Bounty was treated as a recreational vessel under the law.

A few days after leaving New London, Connecticut, for St. Petersburg, Florida, the Coast Guard was called for assistance. Of 16 crew members, 14 were rescued. The body of deckhand Claudene Christian was found 10 hours later, and a search for Walbridge was called off after two days. Last year, Christian's mother, also named Claudene, filed a $90 million suit over her daughter's death against the owners of the Bounty, alleging that its owners were responsible by their "willful, callous, and reckless conduct."

The HMS Bounty Organization also received criticism from the NTSB, which said the "lack of effective safety oversight by the organization" was a contributing factor to the sinking.


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