Dispatches: Tugmaster shares view of the world

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Boaters encounter them all the time near major ports - tankers, freighters and barge-pushing tugs - and they are wise to give them wide berth.

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Bill Brucato is captain of the articulated tug barge Nicole L. Reinauer, based in New York Harbor and with an area of operation that includes all major ports from Bucksport, Maine, to Norfolk, Va. He started as a deckhand for his father in 1973 and has been licensed and steering since 1978.

What makes Capt. Brucato different is that he's a regular blogger. While dedicated to the commercial maritime field, he offers hard-learned lessons and advice that's applicable to anyone who spends time on the water. He also offers a perspective of what recreational boat traffic looks like from the bridge of an articulated tug barge. Visit captbbrucato.wordpress.com.

Decision on E15 expected soon

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to delay until the fall its decision on whether more ethanol than the current 10 percent limit can be blended into gasoline. The EPA had been expected to render its decision in June.

Growth Energy, an organization representing the nation's ethanol producers, has petitioned the agency for a waiver to allow ethanol blends of up to 15 percent. An EPA statement, provided to Dow Jones Newswires, says more testing still needs to be conducted on cars to see how they run on a 15 percent ethanol blend. EPA says preliminary results "look good," and Department of Agriculture officials called that good news for the ethanol industry.

Many boating industry organizations, including the National Marine Manufacturers Association and BoatU.S., have been urging the EPA to base its decision on sound scientific data, and contend that higher ethanol levels could cause problems for boat engines. E10 has led to the disintegration of fiberglass fuel tanks, the gumming up of fuel lines, and piston and valve trouble. These problems have raised concerns among boaters and marine safety advocates.

The federal government set a 10 percent limit on ethanol about three decades ago.

Boston Whaler adds to its Super Sport offerings

Promising more speed, space and versatility, Boston Whaler has introduced a third model - a 17-footer - to its Super Sport line.

"We saw an opportunity to bring a simple skiff to the market that people could customize like you can with the 130 and 150 [Super Sports] but on a bigger platform with a bigger engine," says Ron Berman, Boston Whaler vice president of product development and engineering. He says the builder also wanted to keep the 170 Super Sport's price low. "Compared to a 17-foot Montauk, it gives a customer a way to get into a 17-foot Whaler for much less money," he says.

Base prices with a 60- or 90-hp Mercury 4-stroke and trailer are $20,662 and $22,549, respectively. A 170 Whaler Montauk with a 90-hp and trailer is $29,076.

Boston Whaler 170 Super Sport.

The 60-hp engine will push the 170 Super Sport to a top speed of 33 mph, while the boat tops out at 47 mph with the 90-hp 4-stroke. "The 60 provides adequate performance, but if someone wants to seriously wakeboard or water ski, I would have to recommend the 90 because it gives you that much better holeshot," says Berman. Some customers, however, prefer a slower boat. "Super Sport owners let their children or grandchildren use the boat and run around in it, and they don't want a boat that's going to go super fast," he says.

The 90 provides excellent fuel economy - more than 8 mpg at 20 to 30 mph. With the 60-hp engine, the boat gets 3.5 to 4.2 mpg at 20 to 27 mph. "The 60 has to work much harder to achieve those speeds, which accounts for the efficiency differences," Berman says.

Standard features include a dash compartment and watertight Pelican Case, an anchor locker, molded fiberglass side console with storage, and a port-side storage shelf with a storage net below. Options include a towing arch, poling platform, sun top and a bow rail. Contact: Boston Whaler, (877) 294-5645. www.whaler.com

— Chris Landry

This article originally appeared in the September 2010 issue.