Small Stuff

Anchor symbol So, you're sailing along offshore and suddenly you come across this. Your first thought is what the heck is it? Offshore water slide? Drone landing pad? Super-secret NSA spy project? If you said giant ocean vacuum cleaner, you're actually pretty close. While not yet operational (or even built) the Ocean Cleanup Array is designed to funnel wind — and current-driven plastic trash into a tower for collection. According to Ocean Cleanup, about eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year and tend to accumulate where the currents converge. Plastic, the company says, kills hundreds of thousands of birds and mammals every year and damages shipping and tourist beaches. The idea is the brainchild of Boyan Slat, the 20-year old founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup: (Note; some Seaworthy editors have foulies older than he is.) Slat hopes to install the first system near a small island in South Korea this year. Eventually, the plan is to build a 60-mile-long system to clean up about half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California.

Anchor symbol Marine surveyor Daniel Rutherford sent us this picture of a not-so-clever way to defeat an engine cutoff switch (also known as the kill switch). The idea behind the switch, of course, is that if the operator, who is attached by a lanyard to the switch, goes overboard, the lanyard will pull out the switch and instantly stop the engine. If you suddenly find yourself in the water, the last thing you want — especially if you're alone on your boat — is to see your boat continue on (or, worse, circle back.) PWCs and most outboard engines now have cutoff switches (PWC riders are required by law to wear them if the boat is equipped with one), and many new inboard and sterndrive boats do as well. Defeating the switch is like keeping a life jacket on the seat next to you — it's not going to help you if you go overboard. "I guess as you are being thrown out of the boat you are supposed to reach down and grab the vise-grips to activate the switch" said Rutherford. "Yikes!"

Anchor symbol Insured Bill Shultz wrote in to tell Seaworthy that after nearly seven decades of boating (that's about six decades before the invention of the smartphone), he thought he knew pretty much all the ways a boat could come to grief. Bill, who keeps his boat at a marina in Selkirk, New York, on the Hudson River, wanted to tell us about an incident that happened just as the cold weather hit the area last fall. A 30-foot powerboat with a couple on board, said Bill, went ashore at full speed, just across from his marina. Initially, it was thought the operator had a heart attack. Rescuers found the couple unconscious but alive on the boat after the incident. It turned out that the couple had put up the boat's canvas as shelter from the cold and rain, but an exhaust leak filled the cockpit with poisonous carbon monoxide (CO), incapacitating them. Fortunately, the couple has recovered. As bad as the accident was, imagine, Bill said, if the boat had struck other boats in the water, or hadn't run aground right away — the couple could have been killed by the CO. Seaworthy has often discussed the importance of a CO alarm below. But if your boat has canvas that can trap leaking exhaust, you should consider adding an alarm in a sheltered place in the cockpit as well.

Anchor symbol If you read the news, it seems like there's a frantic race on to develop driverless cars. Fortunately, boaters can escape such things on the water. Can't we? Actually, according to the UK's Nautical Institute, if you don't want to share space with an automated vessel, you're too late. Small autonomous vessels are already a reality for both subsea and surface work. But the move seems to be for larger and larger unmanned vessels, which will eventually impact recreational boaters. Fortunately, the Institute says, it's going to be a long time before merchant ships ply the waters unmanned, though more and more systems are being automated.

Anchor symbol Admiralty lawyers will tell you that maritime law has its quirks. Established well over 200 years ago, before diesel engines, automobiles (and smartphones), the laws are mostly used for commercial shipping — but not always. Last year at a repair yard in Massachusetts, the owners of an old 41-foot wooden fishing boat disappeared after leaving it for repairs. The yard sued the owners for the work done and storage fees, but then did something a lot of people didn't know could be done: they arrested the boat. Admiralty law allows a boat to be arrested for money owed because in Admiralty law, boats can be held responsible for debts — just like people. While this was a fishing boat, recreational boats can also be arrested for unpaid debts. While not common, a repair yard could arrest a boat during a dispute for payment. The BoatUS Consumer Protection department says that to avoid this outcome, it's best to always pay your repair bill first, then dispute any charges or quality of work. That way you won't have to worry that the US Marshals might knock on your door, looking for your outlaw boat.

Anchor symbol While it may seem like your editors are obsessed with smartphones, we're not really. Most of us here remember when phones had dials, and can remember (wistfully at times) when leaving the house meant leaving the phone. But the devices just do so darn much, and it seems like there's always some new revolutionary must-have app. We can navigate with them, call for help with them, take videos, and now, maybe someday prevent seasickness. A new study in the journal Neurology showed that stimulating the scalp in specific areas with very low voltages tended to prevent motion sickness. The study postulates that smartphones could easily be adapted to this kind of treatment. Because 3 in 10 of us suffer from motion sickness, and 6 in 10 of us have smartphones, the odds may be in our favor.

Anchor symbol Speaking of plastic trash, last summer, Captain Kevin Bell of Potomac Marine TowboatUS, was returning back to his base in Neabsco Creek, Virginia, when he saw an osprey hanging upside down on a channel marker. The bird was obviously in distress, and after getting close to the bird he could see why: one of its legs was tangled in fishing line. It wasn't able to free itself, and had likely broken a wing as well. Bell contacted Virginia Fish and Wildlife, but they told him that they had nobody in the area to help. With a friend's assistance, Bell brought the osprey back to Hampton's Landing Marina. They contacted the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia, whose staff agreed to care for the bird. Sadly, the bird didn't pull through. Captain Bell said this is the second time an osprey has died on the same marker from fishing-line entanglement. To find out more about fishing line recycling, visit: 

— Published: January 2016

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