Location Electronics Could Save Your Life
If you have been watching the news lately you have seen with amazement that Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 with over 200 passengers has simply disappeared from the face of the earth. So far there are lots of theories and false starts but the fact of the matter is this plane is lost and everyone is guessing as to what happened and it's whereabouts. It's easy to have the same kind of thing happen with boats on large bodies of water. Georgian Bay is no exception. The Bay can be brutal given the right inclement weather conditions and there are hundreds of shipwrecks and more that a few that were never found. You leave your home port on a nice sunny day and by mid afternoon a gale blows through and s**t happens. Most boats don't sink immediately. Many take hours to go to the bottom. Aside from watching the weather and utilizing your trusty VHF, what can you do? Well there are a few electronic gizmo things that you can equip your boat with that could save your life and that of your crew in times of peril.
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Automatic Identification System (AIS).
AIS works through a transponder. The unit automatically broadcasts information, such as a vessel's position, speed and navigational status. This data is sent at regular intervals via a VHF transmitter that is built into the transponder. The yacht's information originates from navigational sensors, typically a GPS unit and gyrocompass. Other important information, such as the yacht's name and call sign, is programmed into the AIS unit. The signals are received by AIS transponders fitted on other ships, yachts or on land-based systems, such as those used by Vessel Traffic Services. The received information is displayed on a screen or chart plotter, showing the other vessels' positions in a format similar to that observed on a radar screen. Benefits include collision avoidance, search and rescue, and accident investigation.
Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). EPIRBs are tracking devices that aid in the detection and location of vessels in distress.They are basically radio beacons that interface with the worldwide system known as COSPAS-SARSAT. This service is a satellite-based search and rescue (SAR) distress alert system established in 1979. When manually activated, or automatically activated upon immersion, EPIRBs actively send out a distress signal. The signals are monitored worldwide at dedicated rescue centers. Satellites detect the location of the distress. The ideal location for an EPIRB to be stored on a yacht is the open deck, unobstructed from any overhead structure. It should be attached to the yacht via a hydrostatic release unit which is a pressure-activated mechanism designed to automatically deploy when the unit is submerged to a maximum depth of four meters. The pressure of the water against a diaphragm within the sealed casing causes a plastic pin to be sawed off – the containment bracket then releases the casing and allows the EPIRB to float free.
Search and Rescue Transponder (SART). A SART is a self-contained, waterproof transponder intended for emergency use at sea. The device may be one of two types. It will be either a Radar SART or a GPS based AIS SART. The Radar SART is used to locate a survival craft, life raft or distressed vessel. It does this by creating a series of dots on a rescuing ship's radar display. The radar observer will see a distinct pattern on the radar screen that provides a bearing toward the distress location. Radar SART will only respond to a 9 GHz X-band radar. It will not be seen on the S-band or any other type of radar. The AIS SART calculates position and time from a built-in GPS receiver. At an interval of once per minute, the position is actively sent as a series of eight identical position report messages creating a high probability that at least one of the messages will be sent on the highest point of a wave. The rescue ship or aircraft gets the exact position and a visual bearing on the radar display.
On our boat we have both AIS and EPIRB. It seems like overkill sometimes, but it also gives you some peace of mind during offshore passages. You really should have some kind of emergency transponder on the boat. If the boat has complete electrical failure and gets overwhelmed by water your hardwired VHF won't help ... that EPIRB will get the help you need on the way in a matter of minutes. A portable VHF that floats is obviously a good idea too and cheap insurance at that.
It's Going To Be A Late Launch This Spring
So what happened to global warming? We have had the coldest and snowiest winter in many years. There is no let up in sight. March is forecast to remain well below normal and there is so much ice and snow, even if temperatures did come back to seasonal in late March, there is a months worth of melting to take place before you'd see green grass in the Georgian Bay region. Until the jet stream gets pushed north it isn't going to warm up anytime soon and right now that jet stream is way south from where it should be ... and it's not budging. Water temperatures in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico are cool - we need some heat build up from the south to push this northern polar vortex back into the artic, but the warm trade winds that would come across from Africa to the Caribbean are not cooperating yet to make this happen.
For the first time in many years most of the Great Lakes are almost totally frozen over. In Georgian Bay, even in exposed areas there is ice 30” thick in spots. In 1992 the ice in Midland Bay didn't go out until April 29th. This was the latest date in 35 years. Just 2 years ago in 2012 we had one of the earliest ice out dates at March 22nd. This year, don't count on the Bay being ice free before very late in April or even into the early part of May. The norm is that all boats are launched the week before the May long weekend and out and about by May 24th. This year it could just be a pipe dream.
We understand the Coast Guard has already done some ice breaking in Georgian Bay for commercial traffic ... but when it's this cold, those ice bergs quickly settle back and meld back into solid ice in just a few hours. It doesn't really do much to move the season ahead for recreational boaters.
Here's the good news. Over a season or two, the degree days almost always balance out. This means we are due for a really hot summer and a warm fall. Chances are that some time in May the weather will shift from ice fishing mode to full blown summer ... overnight. Expect a late start but a great summer of boating - touch wood.
There are some people in the world who will fight back with every means possible when they believe they have been wronged. Jerral Parris is a guy a we ran into at the Miami Boat Show who was making his point. Jerral came all the way from Tennessee to make his stand in Miami. He had hired several people to walk around and protest Cummins Power South for what he says were “bait and switch” tactics. He paid protesters to walk around with signs right at the Convention Centre location where thousands of attendees line up for shuttle transportation. His point was hard to miss and I went over to talk to him about what his issue was. He gave me a copy of the lawsuit he had initiated which had found it's way up to the Supreme Court level in the USA. This guy is not a quitter that is for sure. This kind of thing is certainly bad publicity for Cummins and it's the kind of nightmare scenario that most businesses might regret that they had not worked it out with the customer before it came to this.
It seems according to Jerral that he purchased a boat after getting a quote from Cummins Power South for a contract amount of $31,123.42 for engine work. The problem surfaced when after proceeding with buying the boat and authorizing the work at that quoted price, the bill came back at an additional $28,876.58 and Jerral was less than happy. His legal fees are now higher than the extra costs of the engine work and he is fighting this battle and representing himself now after being tapped out by legal fees. He doesn't plan to give up ... that is for sure, and this is not a guy you want to cross swords with. I'm guessing he'll fight this to his grave.
I don't know definitively who is right or wrong but I do think it's ballsy that an everyday guy exhausted of resources would take a stand like this and push on regardless of his unlikely chance of winning his money back and the related legal expenses. He wants a jury trial and he wants it conducted in plain English, not Latin legal ease, so that he can be heard and that he can understand the proceedings without a law degree on the basis of his Constructional Rights. And he has done some homework and has some legal precedence.
The lesson here is some guys you just can't beat down and they will come up swinging until the end – last man standing brew-ha kind of thing. Maybe not the best move, but certainly he deserves credit for standing up for his principles. We'll probably never know the outcome but it is something that businesses should consider in customer relations - be fair, live up to your promises and quotes and most of all sort things out reasonably with the customer before things spin out of control and the customer makes it his/her life work to hurt your brand and reputation ... or worse have things turn violent. It's not worth it. In the end both parties loose and only the lawyers win.
Boaters & Cottagers Can Get Along
This Code (shown below) has been on Our Favourite Anchorage page for years. After just coming back from the Toronto Boat Show and having a few conversations with boaters and cottagers alike, I think this code of ethics is worth repeating here.
My Dad taught me that you have to put your feet in other folks shoes and understand their perspective if you want to get along in life ... and if you want to reduce your stress in a world that already has more than enough to go round. Boaters need to show some empathy for cottagers when it comes to using the channels and anchorages around the bay. Cottagers and homeowners on the bay have invested heavily to ensure their enjoyment on the water. Likewise boaters have done the same - albeit boaters have options as to where they move around to - while cottagers do not because their real-estate is anchored on the ground.
I do see boaters trespass on cottage property when the owner is not there. Even using the dock and peaking in windows. Taking their dog to do it's business and not even picking up. It's not right. We all know it's not right but yet it happens over and over and the result is friction between boaters and cottagers. Friction we don't need.
We all have to get along or we eventually will all find ourselves in a lose / lose situation. It really comes down to respect and being considerate to fellow human beings. Read the Boaters/Cottagers code and make a commitment to yourself that you won't be one of the ones trespassing or creating damaging wakes while transiting past cottages.
Georgian Bay Boaters and Cottagers Code
1. Respect private property. Absolutely do not go ashore without permission if land is posted or has a cottage or building on the site. If you are a landowner, you are encouraged to post your property. Property owners should be polite and reasonable in asking trespassers to leave their property. Trespassers should comply promptly with a request to leave private property.
2. Anchoring near cottages. All stakeholders are entitled to maximum privacy. Anchor and camp out of sight of cottages whenever possible. While cottagers don't own the water, they cannot move their cottage the same way that a boat can be moved. Conversely many bays have traditionally been used as anchorages.
3. Anchoring locations. Occasionally it may be necessary to anchor close to a cottage for safety reasons. This may be due to wind, water depth or other safety concern. When this occurs, boaters and cottagers should engage in open and friendly communication. If you have anchored close to a cottage because of an emergency or safety reason, explain your situation to the affected cottagers as soon as possible. If cottagers are unhappy about proximity, let the boater know that you are the owner of the adjacent land and would appreciate a little more space. Suggest an alternative anchorage that would be more suitable for both parties.
4. Going ashore on crown land. Always leave with everything that you brought ashore. This includes refuse. It also includes dog feces where reasonably possible.
5. Fires on crown land. When going ashore for a picnic, always abide by fire safety rules including temporary fire bans. Some sites are posted for "No Camp Fires". In such areas, the best alternative is a cooking stove. If you must have a fire and you are in an area where fires are allowed, attempt to use safe public fireplaces and be sensitive to overuse of "deadfall" which upsets the ecological balance of the site. It's best if you bring your own fire wood. Always drown your fire before leaving.
6. Minimizing noise from vessels or cottage. We are all entitled to quiet enjoyment of the water and shore. This applies especially during the evenings. Keep noise to a reasonable level. Use of PWC's is a growing concern. Use of these or other noisy craft should be limited out of respect for both people and the environment Use of un-muffled exhausts is prohibited by law within 5 miles of shore.
7. No wake in anchorages. All boaters should make no wake in bays where boats are anchored. Beware of anchor lines, swimmers and small watercraft.
8. Responsibility for wake impacts. All boaters must be aware of the impact of their wake and abide by speed limits. Minimize your wake in narrow channels, near cottage docks and in government posted speed zones. All boats should minimize wake for small runabouts, kayaks and small sail craft whenever possible.
9. Respect the difficulty of manoeuvring larger vessels. Smaller craft should maintain a reasonable distance from larger cruising yachts. Larger craft need longer to respond and can't see smaller craft close to them. Please refrain from recreational activity such as tubing, fishing, windsurfing and swimming in major boat channels.
10. Gray and black water. We all have equal right to enjoy the water and responsibility to keep it clean. Polluting the water with unlawful black water and other discharges is a crime. We can all go further by using environmentally friendly, biodegradable cleaning products, refraining from bathing in the lake, ensuring septic systems are operating within code and limiting gray water discharge in enclosed/confined bays to the extent possible.
2014 Is The Year
Many years beyond the worlds financial recession, we are still looking for that growth that puts the tough times behind us. Five years is an extremely long time to wait for a return to anything normal economically. Will 2014 be any different for the boating industry? We believe 2014 is the pivotal year for bringing things back on track.
When all the leading indicators are added up into the OECD composite leading indicator index we see a year of successive increases. This wasn't the case immediately following the time of fiscal stimulus in 2009/2010. The leading indicators are rising now in a sustainable way pointing to a strong upsurge in the economy. There is strong evidence of pent-up buying pressure in the USA, EU and Japan. Folks can only put off purchases for so long before things need repairing or replacing. This applies to car repairs/replacement, house repairs ... and yes boat repairs and replacements. It's a more discretionary form of spending, but guess what ? - the emotional attachment makes up for it. Consumers and businesses are finally at a point that they have to spend. Generally speaking they cannot put it off any longer.
One of the important developments in the economy of late is the return of confidence. For the best part of five years it has been absent, stalled at recessionary levels. About six months ago, confidence reappeared into the normal range in the U.S. & Canada and consumer confidence has hit post recession highs in Japan and the EU. This new mantra to get back into the economy “actively” suggests that from a psychological point of view, a ramping up of activity in 2014 is already here.
For years public sector cutbacks had taken a lot out of the economy. We all want governments to be more efficient and they have been. But government spending is also an incredibly strong driver that filters through the economy. The worst of austerity is now behind us in North America & Europe and government cutbacks are expected to be less pronounced in 2014. This suggests an economic growth spurt that is the result of the end of austerity. Without growth, there is no need for cutting back on tapering. Central banks have seen sufficient proof that the economy is gaining momentum and building up a head of steam.
There has been a decided change in the publics negative discourse in the post recession period toward the next economic problem, the next negative political event or government scandal that has fanned the flames of gloomy expectation. Over the past six months, general word of mouth has made a shift: growth chat is now in fashion. Boat shows are way up in attendance. Folks are buying. Used boat prices have stabilized and are moving up. There is a growing amount of evidence that suggests 2014 is going to mark a significant positive economic growth departure from recent negative economic experience in the marine industry. Get ready to roll.
Be In The Moment
I recently viewed the Sam Harris video IT IS ALWAYS NOW.
Mr. Harris is a cofounder and the CEO of Project Reason, a non profit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. He received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA. This is a very moving video about death and the importance of living in the moment.
Most of us have to work and pay bills to get by in life. Sometimes it's hard to find balance and we get caught up in day to day struggles that in the grand scheme of things are really not that important. The Harris video got me thinking about what is really important to me and what I like to do most of all. In other words if I can choose and enjoy when I can be in the moment what would that look like? Well for me it would probaly look like this ... first and foremost is time with my family and friends. Second is I like to experience new things and places. Travel usually facilitates this and it is a great way to leave all the minutia and small issues behind. Right behind that would be boating. Yes I suppose boating can be travel too. I love everything about boating – cruising to different anchorages and marinas, just being on the water, talking to boaters on the dock, working on the boat, shopping for boat gear and yes attending boat shows.
Why attending boat shows? I'm not 100% sure why ... I just know I feel right and in the moment looking around and talking to people at boat shows. I travel far and wide to boat shows – Miami. Fort Lauderdale, Annapolis and shows in our home province of Ontario. I always take a few days to enjoy the Toronto International Boat Show. I love the smell of fiberglass and new boats. I appreciate the craftsmanship of a quality built boat. Most of all I just like to poke about on boats for ideas. This year Boating Georgian Bay will be at the boat show with our own booth at G 315. We really don't have much to sell at a boat show so we are there primarily to have fun and talk boats and Georgian Bay cruising. It's an escape I guess. Anyways if you are at the show stop by for a chat and be in the moment.
Don't Learn This Lesson The Hard Way!
The captain of a ferry that recently capsized about 1,500 metres offshore from Pattaya has turned himself in, telling Thai police he was high on drugs. The Bangkok Post reported that the 42-year-old skipper turned himself into police, hours after his ferry capsized while returning about 200 Thai and foreign tourists from a day trip to Koh Larn. A police chief said the captain confessed to officers that he took some drugs before going to work, and that he and the crew lost control of the vessel as a result. He allegedly confessed the ferry wandered off course, and hit rocks. Thailand's Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation confirmed to the Bangkok Post that six people died - 3 foreigners and 3 Thais. Another 18 were treated for injuries.
In Canada we have plenty of our own examples where drinking or drugs has lead to boating accidents ... including a fairly recent commercial ship accident in British Columbia. The penalties for drinking or drug use while driving a car are the same for drinking or drug use piloting a boat. However if you have an accident and damage your boat that is the least of your worries. If people are injured, there will likely be other criminal charges filed and of course civil lawsuits that follow. Another big problem is your insurance policy will not cover your loss or legal fees, as most have exclusions for being intoxicated and operating a vessel. One thing is for sure, if you have a boat accident while intoxicated it's going to ruin what's left of your life.
So there's a lot more to it than just the issue of law enforcement catching boaters at the helm intoxicated. I am surprised that quite a high proportion (no pun intended) of boaters do drink and drive their boat, while perhaps entertaining guests on board. Simply put it's not worth it. The risks are way too high. Even if you are sober and some inebriated guest falls overboard and bangs his head on the way down you're facing criminal negligence. In Georgian Bay there is always an anchorage somewhere close at hand to every port. If you want to party, wait until the anchors down and then have some fun. If your not staying at anchor over night, the skipper should be designated driver so to speak. It's surprising how many folks would never consider drinking and driving in their car, that think it is somehow acceptable to do so on their boat. In most cases they know better, but assume the risks of getting caught are low ... and they probably are low until the unexpected happens. Overall the risks are huge and running your boat requires just as much attention or more than driving your car.
Get Ready For Higher Water Levels On Georgian Bay
We have brought forward an article from this page from a few years ago ... when the panic about low water levels started. Not because we want to say “see we told you so” but because it illustrates the point that mother nature has her cycles and we humans have to learn to chill out rather than moving towards drastic man made changes like concrete barriers on the bottom of the St Clair River.
Spring 2013 showed a reversal in the trend to lower levels with record inflows into the Great Lakes. The French River, by example, last spring was absolutely cascading record out flows into Georgian Bay. Lake Superior levels are the biggest factor on what comes downstream into the other lakes. Lake Superior is on the rise. Here are some outtakes from reporting on the Lake Superior Board of Control this past summer:
The International Lake Superior Board of Control has ordered six gates open in the compensating dam above the St. Marys rapids to “significantly” increase the outflow of unexpectedly high Lake Superior water levels. “This past month the level of Lake Superior rose 14 cm., while on average it rises four cm during the month of July. ”The board reports a rise of 24 cm, the second highest since 1918, a result of snow melt and above-average precipitation. ” Lake Huron-Michigan rose 12 cm. On average it rises eight cm in May.”}
And since that reporting lake levels continue to rise at record levels. We have more water flowing into the Great Lake basin since anytime back to the early 1900's. So you know what is likely to happen over the next few seasons don't you? A couple years from now will likely look like 1986 when many areas of Georgian Bay were flooded. Yup ... your going to get flooded before too long.
Why? Because that is what mother nature and evolution dictates to ensure diversity of species. Only humans buck the natural selection thing. The old saying “what goes around comes around” is also true of water levels on Georgian Bay. Now it wouldn't be a good thing if all the intervener groups just disappeared over night because low water levels are no longer a problem. In my opinion it's always a good thing when various groups are paying attention to what is going on and robust discussion is a learning experience for us all. But in the end humans just need to sit back and minimize their impact and let mother nature do her thing.
Water Levels Are Falling! ... Don't Panic
The lowest water level ever recorded on Lake Huron/Georgian Bay was in 1964. The highest water levels were in 1986. Some of you might remember that because the Parry Sound docks were flooded in 86. Fluctuations of about a metre of chart datum are normal even on a short time horizon. Currently Huron is hovering around chart datum and it is expected water levels will increase again ... given time.
Geologists say there are seven historic shorelines and it is currently possible to see four of those. At Cave Point Bruce Peninsula there was once wave action that carved those caves 20 metres above the current water levels. In contrast there are carbon dated cedar roots just few miles away that are 10 metres below current water levels. So as you can see water levels fluctuating at least 30 metres over time has happened historically in the past. And to think that we complain about a few feet of water fluctuation levels these days.
Sierra Club wants to put big concrete curbs at the bottom of the St Clair River - water speed bumps. Other have said private sector companies are grabbing the water and floating it overseas in giant bladders. Get real people! Sit down relax and have a beer, mother nature is just doing her thing. Water flows from the Great Lakes to the ocean one way or the other. Planet earth maintains the same amount of water overall as it doesn't escape through the atmosphere.
Humans see things on a short term time horizon. Mother nature remains clearly unconcerned with what mankind sees as normal or abnormal.
Breaking Bad Yacht Captain Arrested
Just like the TV show ... crime rarely pays. Why folks take on this kind of risk is beyond me. There are easier ways to make money without the consequences associated with drug smuggling.
- lesson one ... with extreme greed comes extreme risk!
- lesson two ... the Captains quarters on a 106' yacht are a heck of a lot nicer than the inside of a jail cell ... no doubt the food on the yacht is better too than that in prison!
- lesson three ... there are no friends amongst criminals – everyone gets ratted out!
Jonathan Costenbader was the 34 year old Captain of M/Y Secret Spot (a 106-foot Lazzara private yacht) and he was arrested Oct. 6/13 as he unloaded duffel bags containing cocaine at the Palm Harbor Marina in West Palm Beach, Fla. Captain Jon Paul Costenbader has worked with the Discovery Channel for shark week and with Spike TV for a series on surviving disasters and now faces federal charges. Costenbader received his 100 ton Master's captain license in 2006 and has had 10 years of experience with a charter scuba diving boat in the Bahamas. Diana Nyad, who recently swam from Cuba to Key West credits Jon Costenbader as part of her Shark Safety Team during her record breaking swim.
Michelle Daniel and Steven Davis were also arrested and the three were charged with conspiracy to import more than five kilograms of cocaine and conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver. About 621 pounds of cocaine was seized by the authorities. Daniel was arrested when she was seen in the salon onboard with bags of cocaine. Davis was arrested when Costenbader worked with officials to sting the intended recipient of the cocaine. DEA agents conducted a controlled delivery to Davis using fake cocaine. After the exchange was concluded, the investigators made the arrest. Davis disclosed to the authorities that he was expecting to receive about 200 bricks of marijuana and/or cocaine from Costenbader and he admitted to arranging to meet with Costenbader to receive the cocaine. Costenbader had received the cocaine from a vessel in waters off the Bahamas and planned to deliver the bags to Davis via a pickup truck.
The investigation began when the yacht Secret Spot was seen offshore by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and put under surveillance by Homeland Security as it traveled to Florida's Lake Worth inlet and through the Intracoastal Waterway to the marina while not clearing customs. I guess Secret Spot wasn't so secret after all!
The owner of the yacht at this point is unclear. A Marshall Islands flag is on the back of the yacht. The yacht is for sale for $4,595,000. Let's hope the yachts' owner had nothing to do with this ... or his beautiful yacht will become the property of the federal government and could be auctioned off at some point following court proceedings..
Life Jackets Save Lives
If your like me, you don't always have your life jacket on when your on the boat. It just doesn't seem needed when your up on the bridge or inside the boat or for that matter swimming in the water. That is, until something goes wrong and you have to find it and get it on. That situation might arise if someone else fell off your boat that you had to rescue ... or God forbid your boat starts taking on water in a hurry.
Recently someone told me a story about a boat that just left their marina and the skipper went back to the swim platform to adjust the dingy being dragged behind the boat and he fell overboard. His Admiral didn't know how to stop and manoeuvre the boat to go back and get him (that's another safety issue to talk about later). Lucky the water was warm and the guy could swim. He made it to a nearby island. Sounds funny, but there could easily have been another unhappy ending.
The thing is, when the weather gets cool and the water gives off it's heat, you don't have the luxury of a lazy swim while you wait to be rescued. Hypothermia, exhaustion and cramps set in quickly in the Spring and Fall, so every second counts - and a life jacket can turn a potentially tragic situation into a happy ending. Heck you can be unconscious with cold and some good Samaritan can drag you out and warm you up ... and life goes on.
You can leave the swim suit behind if you want when you end up in the water ... but you should really have a life jacket or floatation with you even if your a good swimmer and you're just out fooling around in the water. Your swimming ability won't save you if a Sea-Doo comes by in a busy anchorage and accidently clips you in the head. I'm always surprised when I'm snorkelling out doing an anchor check or just goofing around some distance from the boat at how many boats don't see you when they are coming or going from an anchorage, and you have to make your presence known by waving. The bright orange or red of a life jacket also makes for high visibility when your in the water.
You probably won't change your ways in the summer ... but in Spring and Fall do yourself and your family a favour, and put on the life jacket while underway or swimming in the water.
Well I was sitting out in a busy anchorage the other day watching people pull up their anchors to depart for home on a hot Sunday afternoon. The amazing thing is most boats still have the puny undersized and underrated anchor that came with the boat. Very few production boat builders put a decent anchor on a new boat. Some of the higher end builders will put enough weight out on a standard no name plow anchor, but most will ship with a tiny plow or perhaps an undersized Danforth. Boat manufactures have cut expenses for profit and competition. Unfortunately most of those anchors are unsafe in stormy or windy conditions when ground tackle is most needed. Heck ... on a calm day a brick will hold a 50 foot yacht on the bottom. Sooner or later all those boats that get some serious time at anchor will get into trouble dragging when the bottom conditions are not perfect and the wind gusts up. Only then when a boat owner has been sufficiently scared silly in the middle of the night, or worse yet the boat has dragged and has been damaged hitting another boat or ending up on shore, that the owner finally realizes it's time for some serious ground tackle.
A cursory glance down our dock and most of the anchors are vastly undersized - and I'm guessing there's not much chain in those lockers either. Most 50 foot boats have factory anchors that belong on a 30 foot boat. Every boat should have a minimum 200 feet of chain plus a few hundred feet of rode. Better still, if your boat is weak in the chain department, sell your tackle at a garage sale and go all chain and you'll sleep much better at night. I learned my lesson thirty years ago when I dragged anchor on our 36 foot sailboat in a blow down in Moorehead City North Carolina. My 35 lb. CQR with 75 feet of chain and a 100 feet of rode let go and I had to motor around all night in the harbour along with half a dozen other boats who also dragged. Very soon after that incident I had 300 feet of 3/8 “ chain on that boat ... and I always slept like a baby in any weather after that.
Everyone has their favourite anchor - Bruce, Delta, Danforth ... but for all conditions I recommend Rocna, Quickline Ultra, Manson Supreme style anchors that roll over well and set fast and deep even on weedy bottoms. The harder the pull the deeper they go. Your biggest problem is breaking the anchor free in thick mud/clay conditions. I'm sure people look at the Rocna's I had on the last two boats and shake their heads at how big they are for the boat size. I always go to the upper end of manufacturers suggested weight, so my Rocna on the 345 Whaler is 55 lbs. and 200 feet of
3/8 “ chain and 300 feet of rode. Last boat was 52 feet and went all chain rode and 88 lb. Rocna. Did I say I like to sleep at night?
Caution - Avoid Rattlesnakes
We are not trying to scare you ... BUT you should be aware there are rattlesnakes in the 30,000 Island area and you need to give them a wide berth when encountered. Having said that, if you are careful, you are not likely to encounter a rattlesnake ... unless you spend a lot of time tramping around islands and even then, your odds of a bite are extremely low. MNR and medical officials are advising vacationers to take precautions with more Massasauga Rattlesnake bites than normal reported this summer. The Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake lives in areas around Georgian Bay and is commonly seen in the 30,000 Islands from Midland to the North Channel. It is Ontario's only venomous snake. In 2009 it was a busy season and there were fourteen snake bits - and this season there are already six. Usually snake bits don't get reported very often until August or later. Massasauga Rattlesnakes are very common on most islands that have a food source (and the main land too) on Georgian Bay's eastern shore and the Bruce Peninsula. They are excellent swimmers looking for rodents, frogs etc. and just because you were on a small island and didn't see one before, doesn't mean there isn't one now. This year there are three factors prompting early-summer interactions between rattlesnakes and humans. It's mating season so the snakes are active, and cooler weather in June meant snakes stayed on the higher ground instead of moving to cool off in the swampy areas that have fewer people intruding.
People likely won't even notice the snakes because of their excellent camouflage. If you hear the rattle pay heed and back away from the sound even if you can't see the snake. They will hold their ground when threatened usually and may strike if you do not back away. Most strikes are the result of people trying to coral or scare the snake away or by accidentally stepping on them. Appropriate footwear and long pants are essential for walking in the bush in the 30,000 Island area. It gives me the willies when I see kids and the dog (without leash) dingy to the shore and start hiking around the rocks with sandals and a bathing suit. In Ontario's history there have been two fatalities related to rattle snake bites and both happened more than 40 years ago due to a lack of appropriate medical attention. But prompt medical attention and antidote is required and bites or especially multiple bites should not be taken lightly as the objective is to avoid organ damage. The anti venom is super expensive and in limited supply so if your pet dog gets bit rooting around in the bush your odds are not good for the dog.
The species is threatened and the Massasauga Rattlesnake are a protected species. Killing a Massasauga Rattlesnake carries a hefty penalty of up to one year in prison and a $250,000 fine. When someone is bitten by a Massasauga Rattlesnake, the immediate step is to get to a nearby clinic or hospital promptly and limit exertion and stay calm to slow circulation keeping blood pressure stable.
Read this account to put some perspective on the situation www.georgianbayassociation.com/rattlesnake-story/
The West Parry Sound Health Centre is the hub for the province's anti-venom program for Massasauga Rattlesnake bites.
West Parry Sound Health Centre Foundation
6 Albert St
Parry Sound, ON
705 746 4540
Georgian Bay General Hospital Foundation
112 St. Andrews Dr
PO Box 760
705 526 1300
The Future Of Recreational Boating
I recently read through a study presented by a Doctor/Professor at a well respected US university. The study predicted some fairly dire consequences to boating recreation as a result of many emerging external factors. Some of the logic of his conclusions would be hard to refute with unemotional numbers or statistics. It looked like a very thorough study. There is a long summarized list below that deals with many factors including demographics but it does not jump to conclusions on changes in boat manufacturing.
- population has more free time on weekdays than it does on weekends
- people have shorter attention spans and tend to think of recreation activities as being wrapped up by dinner
- implies that after dinner is relaxation or media time as opposed to recreation time
- people are taking shorter vacations due to economic and job protection factors
- there is a negative association with drinking & boating
- people are looking for more adventure in their activities and they want that adventure to come in a narrow time band
- some people perceive the stuffy “yachty” image as being old school
- boating is becoming more regulated creating barriers
- geographically getting to a boat is becoming more difficult
- ability to use a boat is contingent on many factors
- changing demographics ... smaller households but bigger houses and responsibilities, shift to women as prime purchasers, half of adults are not marrying, ethnic minorities are growth area of population and have a declining interest in outdoor recreation, rapidly aging population, prolonged adolescence, increased urbanization, rapidly shrinking white families, economically divided middle class
- good fishing locations are getting further from home
- fishing not seen as environmental stewardship
- work and family responsibilities get in the way of boating
- impact of global warming and rising coastal waters as Antarctic ice cap melts
Well all of these factors carry some weight. The notion that rising coastal waters will dwarf all other issues is a scary one. A metre rise in the Atlantic translates to 1/3 of Florida disappearing and an over all decrease of land in North America of 14%. 30% of existing beaches would disappear. At the same time inland fresh water resources are said to be affected the opposite and heat and evaporation will drop those levels. The whole ball of wax sounds pretty terrible doesn't it?
But let's step back and take a sober second look at the situation. First of all the effects and outcomes of global warming are not conclusive. There very well may be rising ocean levels over the very long term, but nature and humans are very adaptable given enough time to adjust. Global warming might be the least of our worries when it comes to catastrophic events. It is futile to sit around and ponder when a comet may streak down and wipe us all out or when a volcano might erupt spewing the atmosphere with corrosive ash. There is no sense or logic in crawling into a bunker to wait for a meltdown that may or may not ever happen. So let's strike the catastrophic stuff off the list.
All industries and activities have their ups and downs. Boating requires disposable income and without question consumers have been through a tough patch. It has been a slow post recession recovery but finally the signs are looking positive and American economies have some momentum behind them. In the 80's housing and boat manufacturers especially had a tough time then and things came around as they always do. In fact since the 1790's we have a had a parade of 47 recessions that have come and gone and over time and the overall economy has always strengthened during the prosperity periods. Ask yourself – are we as a society better off today then we were 20 or 50 or 100 years ago? Of course we are. Moving forward expect more of the same. Strike economic doom and gloom off your list because the downtimes are always short lived in the comparison to the good times.
Most of the other detriment factors are lifestyle or demographic based. Let me state these truths:
- humans like to have fun
- humans for the most part are attracted to water
- people are resilient and bounce back quickly from economic negatives
- the old saying goes “what goes around, comes around” ... and things are coming around in a positive way
- given disposable income, people will inherently spend for their own enjoyment
Most important is ... boating is sexy. It doesn't matter whether your young or old, rich or poor. Most people given the opportunity want to get out on the water and have some fun whether it's fishing, sunbathing, cruising or just relaxing with family or friends. There will always be many people that see the value of boating as part of their lifestyle and they will spend the money to participate. The population will continue to grow and even though the demographics are shifting like sand dunes in the wind, there will be a robust and healthy market for recreational boating mainly because ... IT'S SO MUCH FUN. Boat manufacturers will innovate and technology will become increasingly efficient but the one thing that will remain constant is the emotional attachment people have to the water and the NEED to get out there and boat. That attachment goes back to the earliest days of man when dug out canoes were the top of the line boat and that emotion not going away any time soon as long as humans reside on earth.
Watch Those Toes!
You should be careful when your sitting on your swim platform and wiggling your toes over the edge. Why? ... because most of those scenic little coves you anchor in have more than a few big snapping turtles cruising around under the water. In an anchorage a few weeks ago a guy had his toe bitten by a snapping turtle and it was a small one compared to some I have seen swimming around. Now I'm not going to tell you what anchorage, because it's a popular one and I don't want people to be afraid to swim.
When you are going in for a swim, dive right off and make a splash.They will then avoid the area. Even the biggest snapper won't be interested in a human splashing about. But hang those toes over and wiggle them and that's an edible snack size meal and your asking for trouble. Now don't run off and start killing snapping turtles please. They are important environmentally and they keep these anchorages cleaned up of dead fish and other wildlife. They certainly won't bother you if they understand that your a great big human ... they didn't survive since the dinosaurs by not being able to distinguish prey from danger and humans are plenty dangerous to a turtle.
A bit about the snapper ... your neighbour in the anchorage. They are the largest freshwater turtle in Canada. They can live to be 70 years old and can grow to tortoise size proportions (31 inches/250lbs.). The triangular spikes look like they belong on a stegosaurus dinosaur and indeed they have been around that long too. Adult snappers have few natural enemies (except humans), however they swim away when threatened. If you corner them or harass them, they will fight back. Females don't breed until they are 17 to 19 years old. They lay 50 round eggs buried in a nest in sandy soil near the water. They like slow moving water with a mud or sand bottom and plenty of vegetation along the shore. They hibernate close to the shore buried in mud or silt. They do not swim particularly well in comparison to some other species of turtles and they can often be observed walking along the bottom. 90% of their diet is dead animal and plant material although they do eat frogs, snakes and some fish. They are not endangered but are considered threatened and both the turtles and their habitat are protected by law since 2007. You cannot eat them as they live to be so old they become toxic over time from all the bottom feeding and build up of metals in their flesh from dead fish etc..
So you will see big snapping turtles now and again if you peer over the side of your boat, or you may see them basking on shore or on logs. However they are harmless to humans as long as you don't harass them or unless you dangle feet in the water and they accidently don't recognize there's a human attached to the other end. By all means swim around your boat and claim your temporary territory and you won't have a problem.
Canada Needs A Tropical Island
Most of the civilized countries in the world have a tropical island stashed away somewhere in the world for it's citizens to vacation or retire in a warm place, while still having the benefit of their home countries health care, currency, tax status, rule of law and cultural expectations. Our good friends to the south have many choices – US Virgins, Puerto Rico, Hawaiian Islands and of course many other options just off the mainland like the Florida Keys.
I know summer is approaching ... and I also know by the time it gets here it will be gone eight weeks later and we'll be back freezing our butts off. It seems uncivilized that a well respected and well to do country like Canada can't hook up with a tropical island somewhere that needs us as much as we need them. It almost happened with Turks & Cacaos back in the 70's but somehow that fell apart.
We need it really bad now and I will go on record to say I will vote for any Federal party for life regardless of their politics if they find us a Canadian tropical island I can vacation or even retire too. Heck lets make it another province ... Great White South. I'll speak whatever language their culture demands and gladly pour my hard earned tax dollars into that new province. I'd be up for giving them even more concessions than Quebec to keep them onboard and happy. I already know the economy of this island is going to boom and the current residents can all get incredibly wealthy if they are willing to share a little. Quality of life on the island will be supreme for all.
I'll bet anyone, that in our current demographic cycle of retiring boomers that even the worst politician could get elected running on a tropical island for Canada platform. Let the negotiations begin and sign me up for a waterfront condo with a sand beach. Any ideas how we get this rolling?
It's A Special Place
Seeing astronaut Chris Hadfield's pic of Georgian Bay taken from the space station orbiting earth put it into perspective for me. Georgian Bay seems large and endless when cruising on it's waters but from outer space it really is a small oasis in a sea of humanity. There is no where like it on earth. The oldest mountains in the world, part of the fur trade route that opened up Canada, rich in first nations history and historic home to many native American tribes, British fall back position during the War of 1812, Group of Seven painters backdrop, shipbuilding history, shipwreck history, lumber barons paradise, fisherman's paradise, major shipping port for western grain to the world, host to early steamship tourism, cottage country, host of small towns, yacht cruising like heaven on earth - all of these things ... and it has endured before man covered by warm seas and glaciers and once host to mountains higher than the Rockies ... and it will be around no doubt long after mankind ceases to exist.
As temporary guardians of the Bay it is our duty to protect it, preserve it and yes have fun on it. Happy to say that Georgian Bay is probably in better shape today then it was 100 years ago when industrialization and the lumber industry was at it's peak in the area. Don't take it for granted. By shear luck of location and geography it remains as a pristine example of unique rugged Canadian landscape that was named by Cruising World to be one of the top 10 yacht cruising destinations of the world. We are so lucky to have it in our backyard. Care for it like it was your own.
Model For Lighthouse Preservation
As we have reported before many lighthouses coast to coast – including Georgian Bay are threatened to be dismantled because of underfunding to protect and preserve these historic tourism legacies. In some cases with public pressure they can be protected and in some cases private groups or local governments can adopt and maintain some lighthouses. But many have and will soon be torn down because the continue to deteriorate and are of no navigational use to the Canadian Coast Guard. Unfortunately in the federal government, seldom do different government entities shift responsibilities from one budget to another. Logically Coast Guard dollars would be shifted to Tourism to give these icons of the great waters a chance to live on and play testament back to the days when they were vital to the safety of ships, crews and their passengers. No light house should be razed – there are always options regardless of condition or location.
One good example of practical preservation is the 1907 McKay Island lighthouse at Bruce Mines in the North Channel. The wooden lighthouse/residence was 32.8 ' above the water level and had 5 mile visibility and was built by the federal government on land supplied by Bruce Mines Copper Ltd. for the ships who picked up from the copper mine and timber industries. Joseph Harvey was the original light keeper until his death in 1913. Angus James McNeish had tenure from 1915 –1946. Merritt Strum then took over for one year followed by Gordon Inch 1947 – 1953 and the last light keeper Harold Wing until 1955 where it became uninhabited when the season ended. After that point it was manned only part time by a non resident. The commercial ships stopped coming to Bruce Mines by the late 1950's.
In the late 1960's, for cost reasons, the Canadian federal government decided to tear down the abandoned, dis-repaired lighthouse. Mr. Harold D. Peterson, town resident negotiated with the Federal Government to reconsider the destruction of the old lighthouse by selling it to him. Mr. Peterson was the owner of McKay Island and wanted to preserve the landmark as a heritage. Both the Federal Government, and Mr. Harold D. Peterson, shared in the cost of installing electricity to McKay Island from the main power grid. It was also agreed that the beacon from the old lighthouse would never be lighted, as long as the replacement steel tower light existed.
In 1971, renovations began with Mr. Norman Beilhartz as the prime contractor. Mr. Beilhartz was a skilled carpenter, plumber and electrician. Carpentry work included handmade pine cupboards and the structure was fully el ctrified. A pressurized water system and septic system were also installed. The lighthouse is still under the care of the Peterson family, doing business as Bruce Bay Cottages and Lighthouse. The lighthouse is an all-season, self-catering lighthouse resort. You can still climb the ladder to the beacon's rampart for an amazing panoramic view of the North Channel of Lake Huron. Guests can accommodate in the lighthouse and relive history. The survival and ongoing use of the lighthouse as an income producing property is a good example of what the government can do to preserve these structures when they are motivated to do so by public pressure rather than tear them down.
Want to help others by contributing to CANWARN? This Government of Canada Weather Office group depends on volunteers to report timely news of developing storms called their Watch and Warning program. They offer training which can come in handy if you're a boater and want to learn more about reading the weather. And you will be helping other boaters and folks on land avoid dangerous weather conditions.
If you want to attend a training session, please RSVP to email@example.com
Here are some training locations that would be useful for our Georgian bay audience:
Hamilton - April 20th 9 am Nash Auditorium Chedoke Hospital Sanatorium Rd.
Orillia - April 27th 9 am Rama Fire Hall 7454 Williams Rd.
Toronto - May 4th 9 am Environment Canada 4905 Dufferin St.
Toronto - May 8th 7 pm Environment Canada 4905 Dufferin St.
Our parent company First Page SEO supports a number of not for profit causes like Volunteer Dental Outreach, All Those Movies, Highland Yard, HATVA, Dorset Community, SPCA. Accordingly Boating Georgian Bay tries to do it's part on a smaller platform.
When we launched our Boating Georgian Bay “Seriously Great” Boat Cleaner http://www.boatinggeorgianbay.com/boatcleaner.html we said we would donate 10% of the profits (about 50 cents per bottle) ... so we just made our donation on the first 400 bottles to Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. North Channel Preservation Society/ GB Land Trust, The Shark Trust. All are worthy causes ... especially The Shark Trust that is doing what it can to stop the mindless slaughter of sharks for finning which is driving some of the species close to extinction. If the shark population collapses ... so the goes the rest of the fish in the ocean that are closely tied in a delicate balance of nature.
We hope that if folks continue to like and purchase our environmentally friendly boat cleaner we can contribute a lot more in the years to come. We also encourage you to help if you can. A little bit from many goes a long way.
Thinking About Doing The Loop?
If you have a boat and are dreaming about travelling America's Great Loop Waterway ... send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a pic of your boat attached and your address and we will snail mail to you a FREE one year America's Great Loop Cruising Association Membership valued at $59. No strings attached - you just input the code from the postcard we mail you and it gives you access to full membership on http://www.greatloop.org/
Information collected is not used for any other marketing purpose than to join the association.
Sleep Like A Baby
It seems it took me forever to realize where I was. In realty it was a matter of seconds that seemed like minutes. The bed did not feel familiar. I scanned the room as my brain began to recognize it's surroundings. The gentle lapping of water along the hull confirmed what I should have known. This was the same gentle water movement that put me into a deep sleep. Then I remembered ... yup I was on the boat in a safe anchorage. If you're like me ... and the weather forecast is for calm seas, there is nowhere comparable to a boat for a deep restful sleep. My AGLCA burgee that swivels on an aluminum post on the bow pulpit is my alarm clock should the wind pick up even the slightest. On one those starlight sultry summer nights where there is hardly a breath of wind, even the smallest current is enough to bring about the faint lap along the hull and the night sounds through the open hatch that is so hypnotic and reassuring that it drops one into a transforming REM sleep in minutes.
So now the sun is up and the day promises to be hot with leading indicators as I open the stateroom door and the bright light blasts in through the glass cockpit doors. A few are already up and about. Hmm I guess I better get out there and mop the dew off the boat before the sun dries it. It's amazing how shiny a dew mopped boat is when it dries. Soft water I guess ... and the dew gives the boat a good overnight soaking loosening up anything adhering to the boats fiberglass ... including the bits and pieces of whatever from the previous nights wine appreciation session in the cockpit. Hey someone's in the water. Oh it's one of my favourite crew. Where's your suit? Can I take your picture. No? Ok I'll take it anyways – a bit of skin always adds spice to the Boating Georgian Bay website. Ok I'm sorry. Maybe I should start a tabloid or something. Naw too much work.
Well ... time to get mopping. Funny, work on the boat never seems like work. Hey do I smell bacon? After breakfast it's time to read for a bit. Maybe go for a dingy ride and a swim. By noon it's happy hour somewhere. A cold glass of Pinot Grigio washes down that Prosciutto and grilled vegetable sandwich very nicely. Wonder what we should BBQ for dinner tonight? Steak & shrimp maybe?
Ok lets take the dingy and visit some boats and swap pirate stories and tales of the sea. Man that BBQ was good. Look at those stars – there's a billion of them and satellites and shooting stars are as common as cars on the freeway. Boy I'm getting sleepy. Time to hit the sack. Ugh ... one more day and I've got to pull anchor and get back to work. I wonder why all the folks back at the office wonder why I spend so much time and money on the boat. I guess if I wasn't on the boat I'd be mowing the lawn, watching TV or sitting on the deck looking at a neighbours house or something. Oh well - their loss ... they really don't know what they're missing.
No really, if your reading this and don't have a boat you don't know what your missing. Save your life and call a Yacht Broker today before it's to late. Life doesn't give rain checks - seize the day.
So Your Buying A Used Boat?
Most folks that are buying a new “used” boat must sell their existing boat first. Sounds easy, but to do a deal through a Broker chances are there are several buyers and sellers lined up for every deal and if any one boat fails a survey, financing conditions or for any reason fails to close, you have a cascading domino affect that leaves more than one prospective boat buyer back where they started from.
It's tricky business and Brokers have to work hard to put these multi boat deals together and see them through, especially in these uncertain economic times. Most offers have several conditions including a survey and a successful sea trial. Usually the boat buyer isn't committed to the boat purchase until his/her own boat sale is consummated. Nobody wants to end up with two boats. So deposits change hands and everyone waits on pins and needles hoping that all goes well with surveys, sea trials and closings and the Broker sweats it out. Timing on a lot of the steps never seems to coincide. One boat in the chain is in heated storage while another is not and must wait for mild weather for the survey. Sea trials have to wait until winter is over. Banks that might be providing financing can get cold feet sometimes for no apparent reason.
If you are a buyer with cash and you don't have another boat to trade you truly are in the drivers seat and things get a lot smoother. But not glass smooth. If you have ever tried to move a US boat to Canada and register it as a Canadian vessel you know how many steps are involved in that process. Typically you need a broker on both sides of the border. Most US boats are financed because they take advantage of tax deductions in the US. That means bank checks and often bank releases. Coast Guard title changes, taxes landed in Canada, measuring the boat and registration follow. You have to work hard to own a boat. Just to get it found and locked down is an ordeal and it has to be paid for and maintained. As they say everything worth owning is worth fighting for ... and that my friends is why boaters really love their boats and empty their wallets without hesitation for the sake of the boat. The reward is those long sunny weekends in some secluded harbour with a cold beer at hand. Owning a boat defies logic and any practical semblance of cognitive reasoning - but most boat lovers have stars in their eyes ... and logic can go suck.
What's In A Boats Name?
You can look around any marina and guess at the character of those that own the boats, judging by the boat names. My favourite boat name of all time is Spellbound. Spellbound was a 100+ foot yacht that showed up in the night when we were docked along the Erie Barge Canal and it departed in the early morning hours when it was still dark. I thought the name was appropriate when the yacht arrived in the night all lite up like a spaceship from Star Wars. Only a super yacht can get away with a name like Spellbound.
I am the type of personality that likes boat names to be serious and cool. I would never think of naming my boat Lucky Sperm or Breakin Wind. Some folks show their boats no respect ... or maybe they just have a unusual or over active sense of humour? Here's a few names I have come across – Ship Happens, Bull Ship, Wasted Seamen, Cirrhosis Of The Liver, D-Cup, Miss Adventure, Lady Candy, Mama's Money ... and so it goes.
The most bizarre name I have ever seen was on Georgian Bay – Tits R Real ... and what a proud wife she was to have the boat named after her and have the hoot spa to hang out on the boat to acknowledge those passing by, chuckling at the name.
The most common name is Aquaholic, and you know that anyone that names their boat that, has either had too much to drink, or they aren't very creative in coming up with an original name. Next to Aquaholic comes On the Rocks.
Then there's are the middle of the road semi funny names like Rock Buster, Vitamin Sea, Cay Nine, Just Sayin, Sea Ya, Chicken of the Sea. Middle of the road boat name owners I'm guessing are team players, with a good sense of humour ... and they probably work in little cubicles in some big corporation. How cruel it is to name your boat Chicken of the Sea.
Serious sailors that like to compete use names like Liberty, Defender, Reliance, Resolute, Enterprise, Courageous, Intrepid. These are macho manly names that cry out confidently looking for challengers.
Some smart guys name their boats after their wives like SS Melinda or Suzie B. I bet they had to ask their wife's permission to buy the boat.
Then there's the cranky owners that use names like Back Off and Up Yours. Kind of rude I think. You might think twice about inviting Up Yours over for a drink when you're sharing the same anchorage. You might even want to change anchorages.
My wife likes Messing Around from the book Wind In The Willows ... cute, but no thanks. Had a sail boat named Rascal which seemed ok at the time ... but not anymore.
My neighbours boat is his business email. Maybe he thinks that's enough to let him write off his boat against the biz? Didn't want to say, but boat expenses on a tax form are a red flag to any Cdn. tax auditor. Tiger Woods named his yacht Privacy. That worked out well didn't it. It's for sale now at a 50% plus discount to the purchase price.
A lot should go into thinking through your boats name. It has to have the right balance. Not too goofy, not offensive and not too pompous. Something meaningful. I know, how about Fiscal Cliff?
When Things Go From Bad To Worse
No one expected a hurricane the size and scope of Sandy to coincide with full moon high tides and collide with to other frontal systems setting it on a destructive path for the most populated area of the north-east USA. The flooding created massive destruction and significant loss of life. Current count is 60 human lives and 45 billion in economic losses. We have to remember that Hurricane Sandy affected 1/5 of the population of the USA in some form and many island countries suffered equally the devastating consequences of the storm. Even in Canada we had several deaths and significant property damage.
Two weeks after the storm nearly 700,000 homes and businesses still don't have power and it may be another week or more before all power is restored. In the Caribbean it may be many more months before things are back to normal. Some people blame it on global warming, some say it's an act of God but whatever the reason mother nature is now and has been forever unpredictable and cruel at times. Storms this big just don't normally come this far north this late in the season and turn west into the mainland. Yes there is logical reason it did follow this unusual pattern, and the hurricane trackers and predictors did a pretty good job giving all the warnings they did but the surge was unprecedented and caused far more damage than anyone could anticipate.
As boaters we like to live and play by the water but we know from experience there is more vulnerability on the coasts or even inland lakes and waterways. Most of those Canadians that died in Hurricane Hazel lived along rivers and creeks that flooded.
Many cruising boats had waited out the 2012 hurricane season in the Chesapeake and were just in the process of moving south thinking it was the safe normal time to do so. Many marinas in the New York basin and along the New Jersey shore right down to the Delaware were totally wiped out – no docks left, all boats damaged or destroyed. There is not much hope that they will rebuild anytime soon in the current marine economic environment. No doubt some will be lost to condos and other uses as time marches on. Marinas are having a rough go all around North America with few exceptions.
So what is the point and what is to be done? We are all always at risk and mother nature has no favorites. Perspective wise, mush less severe single storms on Georgian Bay has caused greater loss of life as ships went down. Boating has some risks that we all accept in exchange for the pleasure of being on the water. But it behooves use to take precautions as to watching the weather and respecting it, equipping your boat with as many safety systems as you can afford, understanding the mechanical systems and capabilities of your boat and learning as much about good seamanship as one can absorb. Oh by the way, check your insurance and make sure your covered for events like this. In the worst storms other folks are usually to busy trying to save themselves and simply can't save you so you must count on your own capabilities. While many of you may have read about the sinking of the tall ship HMS Bounty and their loss of life off of Hatteras during Hurricane Sandy there were dozens of other pleasure boats heading south that ran smack into it. The storm was just too big to avoid or skirt around ... even large high speed powerboats and cruise ships got caught. But most of those offshore sailors survived battered and bruised with their boats in tatters ... but alive to tell the tail, and with more experience to show for it.
And remember next time you complain about how much it costs to keep your boat in a marina ... think about how the marina owners in addition to their overhead take on significant risk running a business like that on the water. Need proof? Attached is a pic of Obama hugging a marina owner who lost it all and not enough insurance to carry on. On Georgian Bay almost every marina on a yearly basis suffers some kind of storm damage, ice damage or costs associated with changing water levels. Usually the damage is manageable but every once in a while mother nature presents a total wipe out, just to keep us all on our toes.
Enough Of The Politics
Many of our viewers are US based. Up in Canada when the US sneezes Canada catches a cold. Fortunately Canada has weathered the recession better than most. Our banks luckily were rock solid. I am a news nut ... so I spend an hour or two each day between CNN, BNN, BBC and CBC. My motivation is primarily business and the effect world events have on business.
It is hard to ignore the US election. After all, the positioning and campaigning has been going on for two years! A new President barely gets into office and the campaigning is already starting. It strikes me that US politics is a very polarized blood sport. Many voters tend to line with their “brand” or “team” and stick with them come hell or high water – only about 10% are undecided voters. The truth gets stretched, promises are made, self interests are apparent, policies change on the fly, campaign promises are rampant, details are hard to find. It seems it is more important that your “brand” wins than what might be best for the economy – like getting people back to work or paying down debt.
From an outsiders perspective there is lots of policy overlap and much of the debate is simply splitting hairs - while in the bigger picture the country is going down the toilet economically ... and it seems many don't want to recognize that reality. The fiscal cliff looms, cities are going bankrupt, housing is still more or less in crisis mode and unemployment (especially youth) is a disaster. The surprising thing won't be who wins or looses the election – the surprising thing is time marches on, things are falling apart and the politicians can't get together to help the country because they are too busy at any cost fighting with each other. It doesn't matter who the leader is if one side can't agree with the other side ... even when issues that are blatantly obvious slap them on the side of the head. It is politics run amuck. Control for the few at the expense of the electorate – rich or poor.
What does this have to do with boating? The industry teeters in the balance. Many builders went bankrupt in the last recession wave. Those that survived restructured, laid off staff, stiffed investors, shut down plants, sold off brands. There really are no healthy boat manufacturers at this point. The ones still operating are counting on an economic recovery. It has been slow to materialize and the recession ended two years. Boat manufacturers hold on by the skin of their teeth. Europe dithers wallowing in debt, US politicians won't address the fiscal cliff until after an election and the US debt also soars out of control. You could flip a coin as to whether the USA like Europe will fall back into a full blown double dip recession. The multi billion dollar boating industry will not survive a second major recession – they have not yet recovered from the last one. Glimmers of hope are quickly dashed by political indecision and paralysis. Consumers are frozen like a deer in the headlights of a car speeding towards them. Just to make sure the coffin lid will be nailed shut tightly, both Republicans and Democrats are talking about closing “loopholes”. One of those loopholes is the US tax deduction on yachts. China meanwhile rises in stature and emerges as the worlds economic leader ... and they just so happen to own the lions share of the US debt. WHAT A MESS!!!
Don't we all agree it's time that these politicians on both sides of the border (who incidentally are our employees) get to work, drop the perks and pork barrel benefits and for once work hand in hand with each other to salvage the economy (including the boating industry)? We need leadership and constructive solutions to eliminate government waste and help folks get back to work by addressing bureaucracy and inspiring confidence. We need politicians with a “lets fix it together” mentality, not an “I'm right and your wrong” mentality. If your child was in the hospital with a life threatening injury would you put up with doctors who spend hours bickering about who has the right course of action while the patient dies? Well the US is in the hospital and has a life threatening economic injury and politicians won't get together to save the patient.
Enough already – at every opportunity tell the politicians and their cronies to set aside their petty differences and get back to work and cooperate to get the country back on it's feet ... before the situation becomes permanently irreversible.
Never Look Back
A complete stranger from Quebec called me the other day and we got to talking and the conversation went something like this:
It's been my lifelong dream to retire to my boat to cruise south during winter and perhaps keep sailing indefinitely seeking other adventure. The wife doesn't mind visiting but has no interest as a permanent live aboard, partaking in the cruising lifestyle. There is enough pension money to cruise indefinitely as long as my health holds up. I feel like life has passed me by and I want some adventure before it's too late. I love sailing and have a magnetic attraction to the water and that is the way I want to see at least part of the world. Am I crazy?
Feeling like Ann Landers, my part of the conversation went something like this:
No, your not crazy. Many individuals, couples and families are drawn to the adventure of a cruising lifestyle but few fully execute such a move. Too bad about your wife - think that one through as it might screw up your marriage. Sometimes this kind of arrangement works and sometimes it doesn't. I have seen cruisers literally chuck the phone in the water and head south planning on never returning only to find themselves back in the rat race the next spring and I have seen cruisers head south for one winter that never come back. When you strip away the glamour of the cruising adventure and realize the boredom and sometimes sleepless nights and hardships, your perceptions might change once your doing it - it's not for everyone. Nothing ever goes according to Hoyle. You'll have good days and bad days. You will miss your family and you will probably miss your warm bed on firm ground at some point. You will encounter good people on your travels and you will also find the scum of the earth who will take advantage of you at every opportunity. You need thick skin and some level of self sufficiency or a dam big bank account
His part of the conversation continued like this:
I feel I have to do this, or I will regret my life sitting in the old age home. I have worked hard all my life and have sacrificed my dreams for a practical lifestyle and things I no longer care about. I want to shed the baggage and I want a fresh start.
My advice for what it is worth went something like this:
Dude it sounds like you need to get this out of your system, or at least test the waters. You can't plan this type of thing beginning to end, you just go with the flow and adjust along the way. Nothing is forever. Life is really short and you have to do what you have to do ... but you will no doubt have other regrets in any event so weigh that out, as it's a big decision. Everyone has regrets and impulses. Lots of people lead a nomadic life quite happily and thrive on the uncertainty and adventure but on the other hand, lots of people who think they want that, figure out along the way it wasn't really the answer they were seeking.
Humans come programmed with some strange emotions. You know humans are the only animals that cry and can hate without reason. Thorold said “Never look back unless you are planning to go that way”. Life rarely unfolds to the grand plans of man ... so perhaps the lessen is go with the flow rather than fight the current and just enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
Water Levels Are Falling! ... Don't Panic
The lowest water level ever recorded on Lake Huron/Georgian Bay was in 1964. The highest water levels were in 1986. Some of you might remember that because the Parry Sound docks were flooded in 86. Fluctuations of about a metre of chart datum are normal even on a short time horizon. Currently Huron is hovering around chart datum and it is expected water levels will increase again ... given time.
Geologists say there are seven historic shorelines and it is currently possible to see four of those. At Cave Point Bruce Peninsula there was once wave action that carved those caves 20 metres above the current water levels. In contrast there are carbon dated cedar roots just few miles away that are 10 metres below current water levels. So as you can see water levels fluctuating at least 30 metres over time has happened historically in the past. And to think that we complain about a few feet of water fluctuation levels these days.
Sierra Club wants to put big concrete curbs at the bottom of the St Clair River - water speed bumps. Other have said private sector companies are grabbing the water and floating it overseas in giant bladders. Get real people! Sit down relax and have a beer, mother nature is just doing her thing. Water flows from the Great Lakes to the ocean one way or the other. Planet earth maintains the same amount of water overall as it doesn’t escape through the atmosphere.
Humans see things on a short term time horizon. Mother nature remains clearly unconcerned with what mankind sees as normal or abnormal.
What Goes Around Comes Around
Docking a big boat into a narrow slip can be tricky if the winds are not favorable. Ever noticed that in some marinas neighboring boats rush to the aid to assist incoming and outgoing boats with their lines on a regular basis while in other marinas folks can be sitting on the boat right beside you and won't lift a finger to help. I notice this especially at marinas that have a lot of transients coming and going.
From my perspective, whether the boat coming in is your long time marina neighbor or a visiting boat, the right thing to do is make an effort to help. I worry that courtesy is becoming a lost art. Many people just don't seem to care anymore unless it's something that benefits them. Recently I was in line at a drug store and a twenty some year old walked right to the front of the line with his energy drink purchase and butted in. The lady at the front of the line was afraid to say anything not wanting to start a commotion. The clerk pretended she didn't see it avoiding a potential conflict I suppose. I couldn't help but address the situation, and for that he just glared back at me and walked away after making his purchase. At the Midland Dock Party this summer I witnessed young people who were fighting over and high jacking cabs rather than wait their turn. There seems to be a lot of disrespect in our society today due to the self centered nature of a high percentage of society.
Now if your reading this and thinking ... who cares – you are probably the type of person who wouldn't lift a finger to help others out of common courtesy. But think about this for a moment. Everybody needs and appreciates a helping hand at some point. Maybe it will happen tomorrow and maybe it will happen when you're in the old age home ... but as sure as the sun will rise, it will happen sooner or later. Maybe some night you will have to come into the dock with a pop up storm happening and you will require help with the lines because the marina staff have gone home. You are more likely to get help if you have helped others on the dock. Besides, it's a good feeling to help others ... even holding a door open for someone benefits both parties.
Here's a great way to chill and stay limber while cruising. Yoga on the boat. In Florida where there are as many boat services as there are stars in the sky, yoga and boating have gone hand in hand for many years. You can hire a personal yoga instructor to come to your boat and do regular yoga classes as a way to relax and stay flexible.
As you get older, you tend to loose your flexibility and there is nothing like yoga to condition it back. I confess I attended a Yoga class series once, along with my Muscle Plus training and I really enjoyed it. Gail of Holness Yoga www.holness-yoga.com demonstrates just how easy it is to find a spot to spend and hour doing yoga on your boat. Like everything else when your cruising yoga is even better on the boat, because the motion of the boat adds an element of balance complexity.Take a conventional onshore yoga class and then apply it on your boat. It's hard to get enough exercise while cruising so try it ... you'll like it.
Every Boat Has Character
Boating can often be a status driven thing for many. It's always nice to look at a sleek new yacht, but lets not forget - rich or poor, new boat or old boat, the main thing is to get out in the water and enjoy. Most would agree that everyone likes their own boat regardless of condition or age. It's like their child – unconditional love ... well behaved or unruly ... beautiful or homely – what counts is it's yours and yours to care for and enjoy.
Sometimes marina boating communities can be cliquish. Certain boat owner groups tend to hang and cruise together based on size and status ... a pecking order perhaps.
I've seen some very unusual and homemade boats at dock and anchor that are not normally what most boaters would call a boat. I've seen people poking fun at them with the owner out of earshot. But you know what? - if the owner has fun with it, and can get away to some secluded cove and drop anchor to spend the weekend with friends ... I'm guessing he/she is just as happy as the million dollar sleek yacht owner that may be on the hook beside them.
One thing I noticed down south cruising is that cruisers share a common bond, and it is normal that folks from a large power yacht might invite folks from a small sailboat (and vice versa) to drop over for drinks and a snack given that they are both at the same anchorage and both share an affinity for cruising and the shear joy of living and traveling on a boat. The camaraderie crosses age groups and economic demographics. You see less of that up in Canada than you would in the Caribbean by example.
Maybe it's because up here most boats are coming from a home base marina and they don't feel like real cruisers. When live aboard cruising, one usually learns that you make friends along the way where you find them and everyone depends on each other. Or maybe it's because Canadians in general, are warm and friendly people ... but somewhat reserved and private by nature.
This summer I'm going to make a point of saying hello and sharing a few kind words with the other boats in my anchorage regardless of power or sail, size of boat, homemade or just out of the factory. It's the way it should be. Pass it on.
Not Enough Courage
The 952' Italian Cruise ship Costa Concordia was built in 2006 for Costa Cruise Lines which is owned by the Carnival Cruise Line. It sank on January 13, 2012 when it ran aground the Isola Del Giglio at Tuscany Italy. 4252 people were evacuated and 27 people died with others still missing. The ship was Captained by Francesco Schettino. It was the ships first leg of a 6 port cruise and the passengers had yet to go through their life boat evacuation safety drill. After clipping a reef that was part of the island, it had it’s diesel/electric engine areas flooded and lost all power where it drifted in deep water for about an hour until the winds finally pushed it back aground on an underwater shelf protruding from the island.
Ships Officers told the passengers the problem was a repairable electrical fault. They told the maritime authorities it was an electrical "black out". The Captain delayed evacuation of the ship while he tried to figure things out. He was on the phone to a retired Captain discussing his sail past when they struck the rock. The sail past was endorsed by the cruise line and the Captain was under steam at more that 15 knots steering visually only, off the normal course for ships and without the aid of instrumentation which had been overridden to take the ship off course for the sail past.
The ship was as close to land as the overall length of the ship as it sailed past the island. The normal shipping channel was 5 miles offshore. As the ship listed and rolled over, aground on the rock ledge, the life boats on one side of the ship could not be lowered due to the list of the ship. The Captain left the ship during the evacuation leaving behind 300 passengers and claiming he fell into a life boat despite orders by the Italian Coat Guard to get back on the ship via the pilot ladder.
The Captain was charged with many offences related to the incident including multiple manslaughter and abandoning the ship. Seven other Officers are under investigation and may be charged for abandoning incapacitated passengers. One Officer and the ships Doctor stayed aboard through the entire evacuation. By tonnage, it is the largest passenger ship ever to sink. Fuel is being pumped from the vessel in a race to save the local ocean environment. The plan is to refloat the ship but it is already collapsing in the mid section which is unsupported and bridged between rocks. All in, after insurance repayment and negative stock impact the accident could cost Carnival $175 million.
Many more lives most surely would have been lost if the ship had not drifted back to the island where it grounded, avoiding a complete sinking in deep water. It was also a stroke of luck that the boat listed down to a level on the lee side that lifeboats could take passengers off the partially submerged ship from the lifeboat deck ... otherwise many more would have had to jump and be drowned in the surf.
Here is a fascinating GPS recorded account of the ships course as it approached the island and hit the reef and drifted back to it's final grounding spot. It is clear the Captain made the turn far too late and the side slippage of the vessel meant that the ship travelling at an excessive speed for it’s proximity to land was a very risky maneuver that ended badly.
None of us were in the Captains shoes, but the evidence is very condemning. People make mistakes, but it was unforgiveable for the Captain to abandon ship in advance of his passengers who struggled to live and as an aside, also in direct violation of Maritime law. Even though the ship was not imminently on it’s way to the bottom, the Captain made the morally bankrupt decision to leave the ship. Everyone knows, including the Captain, that he should have been be the last to leave the ship. He may have been a good person who made a mistake, but he is also a coward in the eyes of the passengers and general public. So the question is, at what point does a human being toss great risk and personal threat to the wind and execute ones responsibilities? Complete strangers often do put their own lives on the line to save others without giving it a second thought. In this case it was not only a moral responsibility ... it was a legal accountability issue and one that any Captain of a vessel should be fully committed to, regardless of consequences.
Perhaps one of the questions in a job interview for any prospective qualified Captain seeking employment should be - "If you are selected as the ships Captain and Commander - are you 100% certain you have the courage to give up your own life, as may be necessary, to save your passengers and crew with whom you are charged with the responsibility of their safety and well being ... YES or NO?"
Yacht Sales Track The Stock Markets
Well I guess it's no surprise that boat sales can be plotted against the ups and downs of the TSX & DOW. Some enterprising broker types with time on their hands have discovered that every time the US/Canadian stock markets rise, so do boat sales rise ... and every time there's bad news and the markets fall, so do boat sales fall. Why the US and Canada markets together? Because in most cases, with a few exceptions, they rise and fall together. The two economies are very much tied together.
What seems kind of strange is that the ups and downs are not so much seasonal anymore. In the current market, boat sales cycles can change in just a few weeks time ... based on where the markets are headed. And these days with the up and down influences from the European crisis it's like follow the bouncing ball. Now luckily the overall trend has been up for a while and most wouldn't argue that the USA is in a technical bull market ... yacht sales have improved in an upward trend with a lot of little setbacks along the way. It's frustrating exercise for everyone on the selling and buying side, trying to guess that market - but confidence is returning albeit very slowly. Knock on wood that most of the European debt problems are priced into the market already - but who really knows for sure?
Parks Canada Attendance Down
The number of visits to Parks Canada attractions fell 7% from 21.8 million visits in 2006/2007 to 20.2 million visits 2010/2011. In 2009 the government announced a freeze on Parks Canada fees that has been extended into 2013 for the general public and into 2014 for groups. They have recently launched a Parks Canada clothing line to try and raise revenue and are considering other money making concepts.
Parks Canada has hired the Toronto marketing firm Veritas for $395,000. over the next two years to learn how the parks can better promote themselves and to look at other revenue building opportunities and in general boost the Parks Canada brand. The program specifically includes national parks and national marine conservation areas of which Georgian Bay has many. They are looking for a 10% increase in visits by 2015 and will be targeting urban centre new immigrants.
Come 2014 ... hang on to your wallets as the Parks Canada bureaucracy will ratchet up the budget and go about making up for lost time. Parks Canada does a pretty good job protecting and operating the Parks at the on site level, but the overhead and bureaucracy is staggering and for this reason, catching up at some point is almost a given - unless the politicians extend the freeze further into the future.
You'd think with all that government employee talent and exposure to the day to day park management situation they could save the consultant fees and invest that money in their own brand awareness destination marketing campaigns. Remember the Veritas contract is only consultant advice – after that you can be sure an advertising budget and other overhead will be required to deliver the consultants recommendations. Otherwise it will just become another report sitting on the shelf with no budget to support it right?
Personally my read is - leave it alone and the situation will mostly correct itself once the economy clearly turns around and folks have more discretionary income to travel. Of course the other longer term issue is demographics. Parks are very much family places and the wave of boomers is getting older and they are empty nesters for the most part, with kids off to work and university. So a shift to more couples and seniors attendance is inevitable. That's probably what the consultants will tell them for $395K.
I believe the fortunes of federal and provincial park attendance are largely tied to the effectiveness of provincial tourist marketing. Provincially, Quebec and Newfoundland are doing a great job on tourist marketing - but Ontario through their private sector Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership has done a tepid job and many of the new RTO geographic catchment areas have nothing in common and the dollars are being squandered on overhead and wages with little going into destination marketing.
Anyways, hats off to the men and ladies on the front lines who run around the parks keeping order and cleaning things up ... and a raspberry to the Parks Canada administration who should wean themselves off consultants and get out in the field and enlighten themselves as to the issues at hand and do this work themselves.
Perhaps all the senior Parks Canada staffers need take an all expenses trip to Greece to see how they manage the state parks there . Peter McKay can be their escort and arrange the flights and accommodations! I hear he knows a lot about arranging special flights and he sure knows how to pick nice hotels. Or maybe Peter can pay for the Parks Canada study – after all he just spent about the same amount of money redecorating his executive suite in Ottawa. And yes I'm Conservative .. at least last time I checked.
Will The European Debt Crisis Hit North American Boating Industry?
Lately there has been some good news pertaining to the boating industry in North America. Boat show sales are up. Consumer confidence is rising according to the USA Conference Board. Dealer sold boat sales has risen 11.6% nine months ending Sept. 30th 2011 over the same period 2010 based on Spader Business Management dealer reported statistics. 2011 dealer operating profit is up 3.9% the highest level since 2007 at 4.4%. New boat sales overall are up 16.2% and used boats up 11.6% this year. The average spend transaction rose 9%. Info Link Technologies reports outboard motorboat sales over 15 ft. went up 7.4% Sept 2010 to Sept 2011 ... first positive growth in over 5 years.
But there is a dark cloud looming. In Europe and Australia boat sales are falling. Australia has just lowered their interest rates after a number of hikes post recession. Asia manufacturing is slowing along with the raw materials they purchase from the west. And Europe - well it's a heck of a mess with all European countries paying higher or unsustainable bond yields to raise capital, austerity measure implementation in some European countries like Greece, Italy, Portugal & Spain ... high unemployment, banks going under, the Euro falling ... and it doesn't look like any short term solutions are on the horizon.
So far the North American economy has been able to shake off most of the fiscal problems and the affects of an imminent recession about to sweep Europe. Standard & Poors has all European countries (even Germany) on credit watch to downgrade. That could make bond yields really out of reach for many European countries when they are already at unsustainable levels of 7% now. Corporate earnings coming from the US and Canada have been fairly positive and most companies have cut costs and paid down debt and are in healthier shape than they have been in many years. But there's nothing much left to cut and future growth depends now on innovation, hiring and consumer spending. Signs have been looking very positive in North America but the million dollar question is how badly will Europe's problems affect America on this side of the pond? Lately it looks like the DOW & TSX markets are taking it in stride but how long will this last? It is possible that the European Union will get their act together and come up with a plan that can best manage a very bad situation over the long term, spreading out some of the pain while taking immediate measures to be fiscally more prudent. But short term they face certain recession and austerity and in this time of globalization it's a small world ... and domino affects can panic edgy markets spinning things out of control in a hurry affecting other markets an ocean away.
The Miami Boat Show and Toronto Boat Show will be a very important boat shows for reasons one might not have normally considered. Because of the timing to the European fiscal drop dead dates while stick handling these European issues. These two shows will be the virtual "Canary in the mine" for the marine industry in North America and the ongoing recovery of boat sales as a disposable income expenditures will show the industry clearly whether it will continue to lead out with it's recovery or fall back to the abyss of the last four years. Clearly the industry would be positioned for a major positive roll if it were not for this European uncertainty! Stay tuned and lets see if these two upcoming shows will deliver the prospects and sales that we hope for ... and that consumer optimism continues to rise from the ashes. Cross your fingers.
Trickle Down Economics
I had a interesting discussion recently on the Occupy Wall Street type protests that are going on around the world. While lately some of the focus of purpose is being lost to other fragmented interests, the original direction was clearly:
- the need for jobs
- the erosion of the middle class including the bigger divide between rich and poor
- the perception of inequities in taxation of the wealthy
- inequities of tariffs and low cost offshore produced goods flooding the markets that can often result in industries that no longer compete domestically in manufacturing
I think a lot of people who work and are well off have much sympathy and support for those that want to work but can't find jobs. We all want economic prosperity and both rich and poor are frustrated by the anemic economy, lack of political leadership in some cases and the constant turn of reoccurring bad fiscal policy and lack of regulation in the financial jurisdictions of many countries. I believe it's also reasonable to assume that most don't want to see CEO's of poorly performing private or public institutions or derelict businesses rewarded unduly by shareholders or with government taxpayer money for bad decision making. People have a right to complain and protest - that shouldn't translate to riots in the street and violence though.
But what I don't hear people talking about is the benefits that trickle down in some industries that result in a high ratio of economic benefit across all class structures. I heard that the "Occupy Wall Street" movement was planning on disrupting the Fort Lauderdale Yacht Show to make their point that life is not fair and those that can afford big yachts should be sharing more of their wealth. While it wouldn’t be fair to comment on individual cases (because I don't know any billionaire yacht owners personally), I think it is fair to say that the yachting/boating industry is in general an excellent example of how a manufactured product can have widespread positive economic benefits to many. Sometimes "trickle down economics" work.
Consider the following:
- boat building is still a labour intensive process ... many are employed from design, production, marketing, sales and post sales service
- boats use more than their fair share of raw materials from a broad cross section of suppliers including petroleum based resins, steel, other metals, plastics and wood
- many individual parts of a boat are subbed out to a wide variety of manufacturers
- the financial services industry and charter industries greatly benefit from boat builds, especially large yachts
- boats trade often and new boats are built to replace old boats that depreciate quickly but continue to require healthy amounts of cash for maintenance
- boats burn fuel (environmental concerns aside) and the oil industry is a huge and has far reaching positive economic impact around the world from the guy that pumps the fuel ... to the chemist in the refinery ... to the guy that drilled the well
- boat owners spend 10% - 20% per year of the purchase price of the boat paying for storage, dockage, maintenance, insurance, upgrades, equipment, fuel and all the taxes that go with those things
- everyone benefits ... marinas, local retailers, restaurants, grocery stores, parts suppliers, electronics, fuel suppliers, sundries & supplies, third party maintainers, sometimes crew and certainly all local businesses within a few miles of where the boat is docked or anchored
- service rates for yachts are much higher than service rates for mechanical products with wheels or white goods that sit in your house
- although there are usually relative low hours of actual operation added to a yacht yearly, the hourly averages to own and run a boat are in the $200 – $300 dollars per hour range (for actual use with costs rolled in) that trickles out and around ... even for boats in the 35' to 50' range (and exponentially higher as size increases)
Every yacht owner knows the shocking reality of the cost of ownership of a boat or yacht. The family car pales in comparison and quiet frankly a garage full of Ferrari's doesn't even come close to the kind of expenditures that even a 50” boat takes to maintain and the resulting dollars that it spreads through the economy.
You know the old saying – "a boat is a hole in the water that you pour money into".
IF YOU WANT TO SEPARATE A WEALTHY MAN FROM HIS MONEY IN A HURRY AND HAVE IT TRICKLE EVERYWHERE THROUGHOUT THE ECONOMY - PRAY HE BUYS A YACHT
Now if your planning on buying a boat don't let this scare you. It only hurts when you write the cheque or pull out the Visa card and the rest of the time it's PURE HEAVEN! Boats are an overall excellent investment in your well being – but perhaps not so good to your pocketbook. However you can sleep well, knowing that you have done more than your fair share to help others in a very diversified way ... spreading money throughout the economy. You can't take it with you anyways - and it's a much better and more effective way to help others then say, general tourism or buying real estate.
So to those that were going to protest the Lauderdale Boat Show I say to you ... you're harassing the wrong folks! These boat buyers and boat owners are the sharers of wealth - not hoarders of wealth.
Gales of November
Georgian Bay is littered with hundreds of shipwrecks that have accumulated over the years. Even with modern navigation and forecasting capability mother nature still claims many a boat caught unaware by rapid changes in weather. There is no area on the Bay that isn't a grave for at least one ship, but around the east perimeter of Georgian Bay from Tobermory to Britt is where the largest concentration of wrecks can be found. Maybe "found" is the wrong word because there are still plenty of boats known to have gone down that have never been found.
If you are a captain on a recreational or commercial vessel and you believe in stats or the folklore of the "Witch of November" then this would be a good month to avoid the Bay. November is the month when the weather really turns over and the south and west winds tend to shift from the north as the jet stream pushes to the south. Cold fronts move south and clash with the still very warm air pushing up from southern USA. Boat sinking's due to gales and blinding snow storms are legendary during this month.
These ships are known to have gone down in November on Georgian Bay: Reliever, Mapledawn, W J Martin, Atlantic, June McLeod, Seattle, Northern Belle, Hibou, Gargantua, Michigan, Marquette, New Yago, James C King, China, Alice G, Wabuno, Hibou, Mary Ward, J H Jones. Many lost their lives that were caught off guard. Check out our Ship Wreck page for more information.
Most recreational boats are off the water by November but there are work boats and commercial vessels where November is just like any other month. Even the occasional bought or sold recreational boat gets delivered from A To B in this month. Mother nature can be cruel and the odds of having problems turn against you. Like a friend once said to me, "minor emergencies on a still day turn into all hell breaks loose catastrophes on a windy day". If you’re out in November the other boats that can assist are few and far between. Lifejackets, EPIRBS, liferafts, ditch kits all take on a whole new meaning during the gales of November. Even if ship wrecked and survivors were able to make it to some rocky outcrop, chances are one just prolongs the inevitable as exposure takes hold. The nights are long and cold in November.
So if you have to be on Georgian Bay in November ... respect mother nature, go prepared and take your best good luck charm with you to ward off the Witches of November. Most of all remember the weather forecast is only right about 75% of the time and it's the 25% when it's wrong that catches you with your pants down.
Etiquette While Underway
The three specific comments that we get most often are as follows:
Well after our last piece on anchoring etiquette we received half a dozen emails suggesting doing an editorial on being nice to your fellow boaters while underway. So here it is.
- Local cottagers race around everywhere is smaller power boats and cut in and out of traffic with no adherence to speed limits close to shore or the wakes they are causing.
- Larger yachts do not slow down when passing other boats causing tremendous wakes that throw the boat and it’s contents all over the place.
- Boats entering narrow channels are not respecting the VHF Security warnings of others and they enter channels without responding to the Security warning causing a dangerous situation.
Now lets discuss a bit about each one.
Have any of you been through Honey Harbour lately on a weekend? Well I'm here to tell you it's a complete zoo. The problems I see are not with the bigger boats cruising through but with the small local boats running way to fast and weaving in and out of other boat traffic and across channels with total disregard to safety. I had one boat roar by and then stop dead in front of me in a narrow channel while the skipper pointed out landmarks to his passengers. A blast of the air horn was required to wake him up. Small boats don't realize (or maybe don't care) when they roar through narrow cuts that big boats are carefully crawling through the channel trying to avoid shallow water. The wake causes rolling on the bigger boat that can make it difficult to keep the big boat safely in the channel. I have seen small boats on the Small Craft Route race by big boats within a foot the boat in narrow channels. Often it is teens driving the boat but many adults are guilty as well. Not much can be done about this. These local runabouts in a race to nowhere don’t monitor VHF and they are obviously ignorant and self centered and will probably never change their ways.
Larger yachts are also guilty of passing slower boats with wakes that pitch slower moving boats all over the place. Usually it is power boats doing 15 knots passing sail boats doing 6 knots. In any event it is disrespectful and unnecessary. Faster boats passing slower boats should do a slow pass which only takes a few seconds or closely match the speed of the slower boat and creep by until the wake is past the slower boat. If you are doing a slow pass let the skipper of the slower boat know you will be coming up at speed behind the stern and then gliding by to port. I suggest that if you are waked by another boat passing, that you let the captain know on VHF 16 that you don't appreciate the wake and don’t forget to mention the boat name. Maybe peer pressure can help correct this common problem in the busier areas.
Two large boats in narrow channel meant for only one large boat is a recipe for disaster. Large boats entering a narrow channel are obligated to broadcast a Security warning on VHF 16 with location, direction and time to channel. Other boats are obligated to respond if they are in the channel or if they are also entering the channel from another direction and have an objection. First come first serve, so if you hear a security southbound and you are getting close to entering northbound then you should be waiting outside the channel for the boat that issued the security to pass. Everyone can make the mistake of missing a Security on occasion (and radio apology is in order) but some boats are habitual offenders and never acknowledge Securities and enter the channel regardless, playing chicken in the channel. It drives me crazy when I give a security and then halfway through the channel watch other boats enter without waiting and without acknowledgement. Twice in the last month I've had to wait in narrow channels for other boats that come in after the fact and want to push through regardless of the danger. I suggest admonishing the Captain by boat name on VHF. Something like this. "Captain of xxxx vessel you ignored my Security go channel xx" and then "Vessel xxxx why did you ignore my security endangering both boats? If you can’t follow some basic rules of the water then you shouldn't be skippering a boat - you should park it" and back to 16.
It's only going to get worse if boaters don't start showing some respect for fellow boaters and start following the rules of the water. I have heard from some safety conscious boaters that they avoid some areas because of the boat kayos ... so there are also some economic considerations at play as well. Just having the discussion can help and we all need to do our part. Treat you boat with the same care you would driving your car - with the chance of a cop around the next corner.
The second weekend of July was to be a hot one so we headed out on a Thursday to make sure we got our preferred anchorage for the weekend. Sitting on the bridge watching the boats come into the harbour to anchor inspired this editorial, which I write as we swing slowly at our anchorage on a calm Saturday. The anchorage is busy but not full. Here are some observations.
Anchoring protocol is that you follow the lead of the first boats in the anchorage. Typically some boats will tie stern to along the shore out of the way and usually boats in the harbour are swinging on one anchor. If the first boat in out in the harbour drops a stern anchor then you should too. I was really surprised to see several boats come in forty feet from another and drop a stern anchor when the rest are all swinging freely. It was calm so it seemed there was space but as soon as a breeze comes up the swingers had the stern anchored boats as obstructions. Given that there was still tons of room to anchor safely and swing freely or tie stern to shore it is perplexing to say the least to see the lack of judgment of some folks who are operating boats.
It was also interesting to watch boats come in and scout a spot in amongst the already full areas of the harbour rather than take advantage of good anchorage spots on the perimeters of the existing boats already anchored. Bizarre ... it was like they wanted a group hug at the cost of damaging boats. Several put anchors down and ten minutes later figured out they didn't have the swing room and then picked up and left the anchorage to look for another while good spots with plenty of swing room get left ignored as if some disease lurked below.
Remember it is your responsibility as a skipper to ensure that you don't interfere with boats already at anchor before you. That means as you enter the anchorage you scout out possible spots and take note of wind direction, chart depths and whether existing boats have stern anchors down or not. Anchorages generally fill from the core out so why try and squeeze into the crowded centre of the core when the good available spots are on the perimeter?
The weirdest thing I saw was boat vacated a prime free swinging location just a ways behind me and before he was even out of the harbour another boat came in and set anchor with his boat twenty feet away to my starboard while starring right at this expanse of prime available swing room real estate just behind me. Boats all around him (including me) were giving him the stink eye wondering what the heck he was thinking. He had his anchor up and down three times within ten feet of his original drop point. He moved on his own eventually and left the anchorage after a little hissy fit with his wife who was manning the bow.
I guess one of the other common things you see is a big boat (say over 50 feet) with safe amount of chain down (say 100 feet in 12 feet of water) and a little boat comes in and drops 30 feet of rode straight up and down and doesn't even back into it to set the anchor. When the big boat swings there is going to be trouble so ere on the side of caution and put at least 7:1 down as you know the bigger heavier boats might have 10:1 down or more depending on the weather outlook. Remember it's usually too late to adjust scope when the anchorage is busy and a storm blows in in the middle of the night.
The last thing on my rant that drives me crazy is boats that anchor near me that don't have the tackle for the boat. Granted most manufacturers supply anchors and rode that are not adequate for serious safe cruising but good judgment says you go out and buy yourself an anchor and chain that will hold your boat in all conditions so you are not a liability to the rest of the boats at anchor. Sometimes it can be comical - there was a guy on mid 40 foot express cruiser who was overheard saying "I got 16 feet of chain down and 20 feet of rope" in an anchorage that was 12 feet deep. That's all he had and his plow anchor was puny. If you want fellow cruisers to think you have an idiot stamp on your head, do what this guy does. When you see a 40 foot boat with a 40 lb. anchor sporting all chain and lots of it you know the skipper means business and you appreciate that because you'll be able to sleep at night. In my opinion any boat over 30 feet should be carrying at least a minimum 100 feet of chain plus rope rode.
That's my rant and I'm sticking to it.
Watch The Weather
It seems every year the extremes in weather get less predictable. When you get one of those powerful warm fronts from the south supporting hot muggy days and a cold front from the north pushing back ... all hell can break loose with down drafts, waterspouts and even tornadoes. Waterspouts are seen commonly on Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay and usually they are not accompanied by unusual weather around the area – just hot sunny afternoons. Downdrafts and tornadoes are hard to predict and they can be sporadic or spotty touching down in an area and completely missing everything around the surrounds or they can touch down and stay down cutting a swath over a wide area as happened in Midland during 2010. The weather forecasters do not have a good track record of predicting tornadoes downdrafts or waterspouts until they are imminent or happening on the ground in bordering areas. If the weather is very hot and humid and the barometer is falling and perhaps afternoon or evening thunder showers are forecast then plan for the worst. On June 8th downdrafts hit the Kawartha & Haliburton regions causing major damage and power outages for up to week. Georgian Bay got some of that too in specific areas. Wye Heritage Marina experienced some boat damage and in general things were all over the place. By example my boat had much debris in it including gravel and dirt blown across the Bay. Blew the button down canvas off my cockpit bench seating. My wood picnic table was moved down the dock and the umbrella was snapped off just above table level. The picnic table beside us was in the water with the umbrella still in it. Neighbor on one side ... big gas BBQ all over the place and neighbors dock box on the other side upside down with the contents spilled.
A fella a few docks down did a video of the storm from his truck. It was wild and looked like a hurricane with waves coming up onto the dock causeway that is ten feet above the water level. It was forecast as possible thundershowers and 15 km hour winds. Now if you were at anchor when that came through ... even in a very sheltered anchorage with two anchors down you would be in trouble. Earlier the week before, another neighbor got caught at anchor in Lost Bay in a much lighter gusty blow and he dragged in the night and ended up against the rocks. For your own safety and to avoid boat damage watch the weather (check the weather page and in particular the NOAA Weather radar on this site) and if the barometer is falling on a very hot humid day while you're out at anchor, head for a dock before mid afternoon or nightfall. It could save your boat and even your life.
In the early days of sailing commerce it was common for sailors to have their ears pierced to improve the eyesight. If they were gold earrings they could ensure a proper burial if they die at sea or in a foreign port. Crosses were tattooed to the soles of feet to ward off sharks and a rooster on top of the foot with a pig on the other could prevent a sailor from drowning.
Seeing a green flash right at sunset was a sign of good weather to come -
"Glimpse you ere the green ray
Count the morrow a fine day"
Sailors would also tattoo a sparrow or swallow for every 5000 nautical miles sailed and to ensure they could always find their way home as sparrows and swallows apparently do. It was bad luck to have a woman aboard a navy sailing ship ... except for bare breasted figureheads of women which could shame nature and keep the waves down. I personally believe that bare breasted women on board can ward off bad weather don’t you?.
Even today we accept red sky in the morning sailor take warning - red sky at night sailors delight. It is well documented that most good Captains and Second Mates could easily predict hurricanes in the Caribbean well in advance in time to take cover - by a variety of strange methods related to wind and wave directions. And lets face it, how did Newton ever come up with the theory that lead to the octant and sextant for navigation? Observe and ponder!
People were serious observers of nature at one point in history and had an animal like fixation on the subtle signs that could mean the difference between life and death whether on land or at sea. It was self serving and provided a sweet reward in the days of natural selection.
These senses have been lost to all but a few in the world we live in today - chart plotters, weather radar, satellite communications have numbed our senses into oblivion. Like the recent situation in Nevada with the couple stranded for seven weeks because they blindly followed their GPS even when the road turned to a goat path - the wife survives and the husband has not been found at the time of this writing. We depend heavily on technology. There was a time when humans could wander on land or sail on the seas of the world and survive perilous conditions and have their place in nature with the rest of the animal world.
One thing hasn't changed - the water can still be a dangerous place for those who get too complacent about mother nature and depend solely on technology. Study up on folklore as it isn't always as silly as it seems and use "the force" of your own senses in combination with technology and you will have rewarded yourself with something worth knowing that just might keep you safe in certain situations.
Think About It
Nibbling on sponge cake, watching the sun bake
All of those tourists covered with oil
Strumming my six string, on my front porch swing
Smell those shrimp they're beginning to boil
You know the song - everyone knows Margaritaville. So what if Jimmy Buffet makes a hundred million a year, tours relentlessly, owns two restaurant chains, merchandizes Parrot Head paraphernalia up the wazoo and lives in a West Palm mansion. The point is he did do business from a Caribbean island telephone booth at one point in his life. For that reason alone he deserves to remain high on the cool scale.
I wonder if Jimmy ever looks back and wonders if life was simpler and less complicated sitting on that porch swing in West End Florida before the lawyers, business managers and publicists came along. I wonder if he sometimes yearns for those days when his pockets were for the most part "empty" and time stood still on those hot sunny days - just like when you were a little kid and the days went on forever and the summers were endless. Maybe adults can live like that too, all through their working lives ... with less work and more adventure? Maybe Jimmy dreams about it and maybe he doesn't. Everyone loves Jimmy Buffet because his brand personifies what we all aspire to have deep down in our hearts - a laid back carefree adventurous lifestyle with little responsibility and no baggage.
I got thinking about this after reporting on the two couples who are working the marina for a season at Killarney Mountain Lodge to build up their cruising revenue to set sail once again for a multi decade never ending continuance of their sailing adventures around the world. Yes there are real people out there doing this. I met a few in the Caribbean and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. What goes on in the human mind that creates lifelong boat bums. Did we get it wrong? Way back in our twenties when we sailed off to the Caribbean, did we take the wrong fork in the road when we returned to the civilized corporate world? You can't buy back time and you can't do it over again but you can pass the benefit of knowledge to others with the bigger part of their life in front of them still. Comfortable life (maybe too comfortable) - no regrets - but we might all do it differently ... if we had a second chance.
Did I tell you about the couple we met going south forever on their sailboat who threw their telephone into Lake Ontario and ripped up their phone bills. They got as far as Florida and a year later they were back at the marina with their boat for sale. Not that easy to break the chains that tie us to our normal predictable lives. But there are those out there who are anchored right now in some remote harbour with no plans for tomorrow or the year after tomorrow.
One thing is for sure, on my death bed I'm not going to be thinking about 30 years of corporate meetings and the rat race. I'll be thinking of my childhood, wife and kids and the good times including the cruising in my 20's and the cruising in my 50's. My advise for those "ready, willing and able" is that the rat race isn't all it's cracked up to be. Go cruising for a year or two or do the loop while you can. There will always be a job when you need it - if you want it ... and you won’t be missed that much in the grand corporate scheme of things, whether you're the CEO or the guy that mops the floors - go cruising for a year or two ... or maybe ten. It's not the destination but the journey.
Focus Group with Parks Canada
Boating Georgian Bay was involved in a Focus Group with Parks Canada last fall and they were looking to understand what boaters want and how that may or may not coincide with Park use. Specifically they were looking to glean insight from the Georgian Bay Islands National Park that could be applied to the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve in British Columbia. It is an important balance. On one hand Parks Canada has an obligation to insure minimum impact on the environment and on the other hand there would be no need for much of Parks Canada to exist if it were not for the tourism component of Park visits. Of course humans always impact on any environment to some degree. So it really begs the question as to how human activity is managed in balance with the impact by activity and how much is too much.
So over the course of the Focus Group discussions both sailors and power boaters gave their opinions on many issues related to cruising preferences, Park attributes, management issues, how to handle certain situations etc. Parks Canada really wanted to hear things from a boaters perspective and it was clear that they already understood the issues at hand and some of the rub points between those that want to enjoy public space and those that want restrictions on public space and those environmental purists that want no human activity whatsoever on public space.
Even inside the boating community it became apparent that there is a divergence of opinion between sailors and power boaters and even between yacht owners and small boat owners. By example there were a few who were endorsing generator free anchorages. Others were suggesting time windows for generator use in anchorages. And some like myself were suggesting not running a generator a few times a day is not an option for bigger boats in isolated anchorages - and it was more a matter of courtesy of use and education than the suggestion of banning generator use altogether. Most seemed to agree that it was really the portable generators sitting on swim platforms that created most of the noise issues and disturbances at anchorages. The bigger issue is perhaps the all night partiers rather than generator use and even the ability for legal enforcement when there’s a problem. Point is though, there was no overall consensus on many issues among boaters.
Now some of you may know that a few good folks have fought long and hard in the courts to insure that those boating on the water still had some rights and freedoms as to the use of the water. Most realize their has been some incredible battles over the public use of beach property vs. the right of ownership above the water line. You may also be aware that in some municipalities there are bylaws that allow the sale of water rights below the high water line for the purpose of permanent docks and mooring in front of homes. Most often this has been a grandfathered loop hole going back to when these properties were in use for mooring large ships where the ship terminal owned the land under the water. Everyone has an opinion and it is a murky situation indeed.
I have always been suspicious about government involvement pertaining to the rights and freedoms of others. For one, if you give a government bureaucrat and inch they'll take a mile. The second typical outcome is the public welfare gets paralyzed by an over abundance of rules and regulations. The third issue is when government creates structure they also want money to run the bureaucracy that comes with the new structure ... as if we don’t pay enough taxes already. However, few would argue against the notion that there is a need for some rules and regulations in our society.
So where am I going with this? I want to talk about boat moorings in public waters as one example of many that are coming down the tracks. In British Columbia they already have designated mooring locations at some Park anchorages and they are planning more. In Florida municipalities cannot control the offshore anchorages unless they implement mooring buoy fields which then gives them the right to charge and regulate the service. The cost is usually low (but out of your control) and in some cases a "turd tug" will even come to your boat to pump out the waste tank - perhaps a good idea, given the number of live-a-boards that frequent anchorages in Florida. In the Bahamas some of the small towns let free enterprise reign and local entrepreneurs will just drop an engine block to the bottom and attach a mooring buoy and next thing you have a business where they collect from those boats that want a mooring buoy rather than anchoring out. I can tell you in the Bahamas ... I was always happy to pick up a mooring buoy for a few bucks rather than take the trouble to set the anchor - and of course there is always the issue of dragging anchors in a tight harbour during a storm. Been there and done that, and it's not pretty in the middle of the night blowing 60.
In Georgian Bay particularly around the Park islands the anchorages can get very crowded and sometimes out of control on summer weekends.
The pro side of Parks Canada putting in mooring buoys might be:
On the con side perhaps:
- more boats could fit into some of these tiny anchorages as swing room would be minimal
- you wouldn't have a three ring circus every time a storm comes through and a quarter of the boats are dragging anchor
- you would spend more time enjoying the anchorage and less time putting ground tackle down
- in theory you could eliminate anchorages being so overcrowded with boats to the point of being ridiculous
- it would potentially give some enforcement body the right to manage the anchorage and have some say and jurisdiction over objectionable activities by few that ruin it for everybody
- it would create less disturbance on the bottom of the anchorage and would be environmentally responsible
- it could encourage more "stay at marina" boaters to become cruisers and spread their wealth more broadly into the economy
- some Park CO in uniform with a gun could be bugging you, telling you what you can and cannot do
- the person above is likely going to be collecting money for the service
- mooring buoys would make it too easy and attract boaters who would otherwise be staying at a marina somewhere in bad weather
- mooring buoys might encourage overcrowding via rafting
- it's against the principals of freedom and rights where when you own a boat, you can pretty much drop anchor wherever you want and no one can tell you to get lost
- it gives some enforcement body control of a mooring field and you end up with other enforcements and bureaucracy (like generator use policies)
- it could hurt transient marina business
So what is the answer? I don't know - but it is something we will have to deal with sooner than later because it's being talked around now. There are dozens of looming issues like this. As populations continue to grow, we all face potential changes. My only advice is that boaters should be on the same page together and should have in place a strong enough lobby that they have a seat at the table when these decisions are made by government and various hired consultants. My experience has been that often the decisions are almost in stone before the consultants are hired. The public hearings and consultants reports only serve to valid the whim and locked down wishes of the bureaucracy in a particular Ministry.
There are many boating organizations of various ilk's - from clubs to power squadrons to private sector industry groups both non profit and for profit. It is time that some kind of Canada wide alliance with teeth was formed between all boating organizations that want a managed approach and a seat at the table before policy gets dictated by various levels of government? If you love boating then get involved in an organization and have your say.
Tell us what you think via this survey.
Well just in time for boating season fuel prices are on their way up. Tensions in the Middle East have created some concern in the market place as to the availability of an uninterrupted supply of crude down the Suez Canal. Already Libya has most of it's wells and refineries shut down as civil war ensues. One can only hope that some form of democracy emerges, given the blood that has been shed by young revolutionists that want nothing more than the basic freedoms we all take for granted.
Most of the Libya oil goes to Italy, and virtually none goes to North America. In fact most of the US oil comes from Canada - followed by Saudi Arabia. So why are we getting whacked on fuel prices? Because oil is a worldly commodity controlled by speculative markets. Oil has far reaching affects that go way beyond filling up your tank. Manufacturing, farming, food processing, transportation, raw materials production and the list goes on. Oil is integrated into everything you do and everything you own. And yes, that includes your boat.
At the time of this writing, oil in North America is over $104 a barrel. Brent Sea Crude is even higher and Europe is really going to feel the brunt of the Middle East turmoil. At $125 dollars a barrel oil is likely to force the US back into recession. US officials are already trying to calm frazzled nerves by suggesting that supply can be supplemented from the US reserves over the short term ... but no one really believes that the situation in the Arab states will be a quick fix easy solution as the political outcome of the area will take years to evolve and hopefully land back on it’s feet.
We are very well off in Canada and our good fortune in resources will no doubt temper the downside of a double dip in the US economy. But that's not to say that we get away completely unscathed, as we are economically glued at the hip to the USA - and our other markets like China are not yet fully developed.
So what does this have to do with boating? Well a few things really. First of all, boat manufacturing is highly dependent on petroleum for the manufacturing process. Most boat manufacturers have just picked themselves off the ground are are still staggering as they restructure and get ready to ramp up their future production as the recession had just started to wane. Boat manufacturers truly will be out for the count if the US enters a double dip recession. The industry simply can not raise capital and pay down debt in such an environment - and the banks won't be giving any second chances. The remaining
could be gone for good this time around.
The other factor of course is sales. In the last six months yacht sales have achieved some traction, but most boats are bought with a combination of discretionary income and bank financing - and when the markets turn down both dry up, and the boating industry gets whacked severely.
And there's one last thing and that is the operating costs for existing boat owners in fuel and repairs. Looking back the last three years there certainly were many boats that didn't leave the dock for fear of a repair bill or just the general expense of burning fuel.
- The boating industry is a significant player in the overall economy and the positive benefits are wide reaching spin through all aspects of the market place. Neither government or private enterprise can afford to see this industry flat on it's back so soon right after this past recession. So keeping business taxes low is good news but we should also continue to push our elected officials to squeeze more inefficiencies out of the process of governing.
Now we can't do much about the oil situation in the Middle East but on a micro scale, marina suppliers, operators and boat services have something they can contribute to keep the industry healthy. Fuel prices are going to rise at the docks ... but please don't gouge the users on fuel prices or the boats will stay at the docks again and there will be fewer of them. Margins on marine fuel have always been high at both the supplier and seller level when compared to the automotive sector. And it's not just a volume thing ... most busy marinas take on fresh fuel every few days and lets face it boats are high volume consumers when they are running. Yes everyone has to make a buck but please ... adjust your percentages accordingly. When fuel prices rise 40% the margins don't have to remain straight line as the price per litre goes up.
Believe me there's not many Canadians that are going to feel sorry for you when the yacht has to stay parked at the dock - but the marinas and the rest of the economy will feel it because cruising boats spend money that goes well beyond fuel ... into repairs, maintenance, transient dockage, food and discretionary spending. Fuel cost is the big psychological barrier and if the price at the pumps on the highway matched the price at the pumps at the gas dock, that would go a long ways to quelling the fears of the average boater ... and they might be around for another year to buy more fuel and pay for their dockage rather than sell the boat.
So boaters do your part and spend at the marina and marinas do your part and provide the best value and service you can ... given the situation at hand.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.