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Boating fatalities

reach a record low

U.S. recreational boating fatalities fell to 676 in 2004, the lowest on record since 1960, according to the Coast Guard. The statistics indicate a continued drop — 750 fatalities were reported in 2002 and 703 in 2003 — despite more boats on the water. Nearly 13 million boats are registered in the United States, and an estimated 77 million people take to the water for recreational activities each year.

Of the 484 boaters who drowned in 2004, some 90 percent of them weren’t wearing a personal flotation device, according to the Coast Guard. Statistics also show that 70 percent of boat operators involved in accidents had never taken a safe boating course, and alcohol was a factor in at least 32 percent of accidents.

The agency estimates more than 33,000 lives have been saved since the Recreational Boating Safety Program, a partnership among numerous organizations, was created in 1971. www.uscg boating.org

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BoatU.S. stores are

changing names

On Feb. 1, most BoatU.S. Marine Centers will become West Marine stores. West Marine bought the BoatU.S. retail chain three years ago and kept the BoatU.S. name while store inventory and services were aligned. The stores — about eight of which will retain the BoatU.S. name primarily due to existing leasehold agreements — can now be operated and marketed more efficiently under a single name, according to West Marine.

Officials predict little change for customers. All BoatU.S. member benefits will remain the same, and West Marine will continue to offer BoatU.S. memberships, towing, insurance and financing at its 400-plus stores. www.westmarine.com

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Pro-Line manufacturer unleashes ‘Metal Sharks’

American Marine Holdings Government Services has launched Metal Shark, a new commercial aluminum boat brand that complements its existing Pro-Line and Donzi commercial fiberglass boats.

Metal Shark is a partnership between AMH Government Services and Gravois Boats, a 35-year-old Jeanerette, La., company known for aluminum vessels. Models to be available are center consoles and dual consoles in lengths of 21, 23 and 25 feet; a 23-foot landing craft; a 25-foot utility boat; and a 30-foot soft-sided pilothouse.

Metal Shark was one of three builders selected for the Coast Guard’s TANB (trailerable aids to navigation) boat program. The agency will test the three, and the winner will build the remaining 99 boats in the contract. www.amhgov.com

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French adventurer sets

third record of ’05

Olivier de Kersauson, sailing the 90-foot trimaran Geronimo, set a new Trans-Pacific record Nov. 18 for the passage from Los Angeles to Honolulu. It was the third sailing record the French skipper and his crew broke in 2005.

It took Geronimo 4 days, 19 hours, 31 minutes and 37 seconds to complete the run. Bruno Peyron had set the record of 5 days, 9 hours, 18 minutes, 26 seconds in July 1997 aboard the 86-foot catamaran Explorer.

“I worried a number of times during the race that we would not make it but we have, and the crew did a very good job,” de Kersauson said in Hawaii. His mostly French crew included U.S. sailors Cam Lewis and Larry Rosenfeld.

Last July, de Kersauson set the around Australia record and in August set a record for the passage from Sydney to Papeete, Tahiti. In January, de Kersauson and crew planned to sail from San Francisco to Yokohama, Japan. The current record for that passage — 19 days, 15 hours, 18 minutes, 9 seconds — was set in May 1996 by American Steve Fossett, aboard the 60-foot trimaran, Lakota. www.super yachting.com

— Jason Fell