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Back to the Bering Sea with the Discovery Channel

The Discovery Channel returns to the Bering Sea for a second season of the original cable TV series “Deadliest Catch.” Viewers again will voyage to icy Alaskan waters as crab fishermen perform the most dangerous job in the world, one with a nearly 100-percent injury rate and an average of one fisherman lost every week.

Crewmembers pull 20-hour shifts and face sub-zero temperatures, 40-foot seas and 50-knot winds while meeting demanding seafood processor deadlines, and minimizing rising fuel costs. This season the men also must deal with new state regulations designed to make the industry safer. Under the new system, the “come one, come all” style of fishing is replaced by crab quotas allocated to fishermen, processors and communities, based on their histories in the fishery. Rather than frantic seasons that lasted just days, the Bering Sea crab fisheries now occur over several months.

The premiere of the first season in April 2005 was the Discovery Channel’s highest-rated series premiere this decade. “Deadliest Catch II” debuts March 28 (check local listings). www.discovery.com

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An artificial reef of military proportion

When the 911-foot Navy aircraft carrier Oriskany is sent to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico this year, it will be with the distinction of being the largest ship sunk as an artificial reef.

After she was decommissioned in 1975, the fate of the Essex Class carrier was undecided for decades. Plans to scrap the ship fell through, and special permitting required by the Environmental Protection Agency held up scuttling plans. With EPA clearance, the Oriskany reportedly will be sunk by June 1, before the start of hurricane season.

Oriskany’s keel was laid at the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard in 1944, but construction was suspended, then restarted during the Korean conflict. She was commissioned in 1950 and became the first aircraft carrier to round Cape Horn in 1952.

The 27,100-ton vessel with a 147-1/2-foot beam will become an artificial reef in about 200 feet of water about 23 miles south of Pensacola. A safety zone will be established around the Oriskany before the scuttling, which will be done with explosives. The carrier is expected to take about five hours to sink, and the top of its superstructure will be about 60 feet below the surface at mean low water. www.ussoriskany.com

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SunshineState rules the boating world

Florida edged out California as the state with the most registered boats, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s recently released 2004 U.S. Recreational Boat Registration Statistics Report.

Florida had 946,072 registered boats in 2004, according to the report, compared with 894,884 boats in third-place California, which had held the top spot in 2003. Michigan was second in 2004 with 944,800 registered boats. Nationwide there were nearly 12.8 million registered boats in 2004, down less than 0.1 percent from 2003.

Rounding out the top 10 boating states are (in descending order) Minnesota, Texas, Wisconsin, New York, Ohio, South Carolina and Illinois. Copies of the report cost $150 for NMMA members and $300 for nonmembers. To order call (312) 946-6209. www.nmma.org

— Jason Fell