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In the News

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Consumer database now available online

For 20 years the BoatU.S. Consumer Protection Bureau has maintained a nationwide database of consumer complaints and safety information reported by boat owners, the Coast Guard, manufacturers, and marine surveyors and technicians.

Now accessible online to BoatU.S. members, the database contains thousands of reports about boats, engines, accessories, dealers, marinas and related boating services, as well as information about how, or if, the companies involved responded to complaints. Also included are manufacturer’s defect recall notices, safety alerts published by the Coast Guard, and service bulletins issued by boatbuilders.

The database can be searched by boat and engine make, model, year, or hull or serial number, or by the type of problem. New problems also can be registered online. The database is located at www.boatus.com/consumer , where BoatU.S. was offering memberships at a special online rate of $19.

Nautical charts reflect latest route changes

OceanGrafix announced earlier this year that its print-on-demand charts reflect recently announced NOAA changes. For example, last fall NOAA urged ship captains to use new recommended routes when entering or leaving the ports of Jacksonville and FernandinaFla., and Brunswick, Ga., as well as Cape Cod (Mass.) Bay. The intent of the new routes is to reduce ship strikes with endangered right whales, while also considering the safety and economic impact to mariners.

In winter right whales typically travel south from waters off Canada and New England to calving and nursery areas off Florida and Georgia, traversing areas frequented by ships. Females and their calves then return to more northerly feeding grounds, aggregating in Cape CodBay during the spring, also an area with substantial ship traffic. www.oceangrafix.com

Beacons earn a stamp of approval

Five Pacific lighthouses will be honored on stamps for their roles in guiding vessels safely through perilous waters. The five stamps depict Diamond Head Lighthouse in Hawaii, Five Finger Lighthouse in Alaska, Grays Harbor Lighthouse in Washington, Umpqua River Lighthouse in Oregon, and St. George Reef Lighthouse in Northern California.

Each stamp features an original acrylic painting by Howard Koslow based on recent photographs of the lighthouses. Koslow also painted the five Southeastern lighthouses for stamps issued in 2003, as well as the five stamps in the 1990 lighthouses booklet and the five Great Lakes lighthouses stamps issued in 1995. He was commissioned to provide the paintings for stamps issued in 1990 of the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Maine and Sandy Hook Lighthouse in N.J.

A noble ending for old boats

Boaters with an interest in on-the-water safety and forensic science can use their trailerable boats or PWC as tax write-offs under a new program to help waterway accident investigators improve training and better understand collision dynamics.

The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators plans to stage a series of collisions using the donated boats, and the BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water is assisting in collecting donations. The groups are looking for a variety of trailerable vessels — small cabin boats, bass boats, open runabouts, PWC — that are in operating condition. Boat, motor and trailer certification of legal assignment will be required.

Funded by a grant from the Coast Guard, the program will begin in September in Virginia. After the staged collisions, the vessels will be transported to the National Transportation Safety Board’s TrainingAcademy in Ashburn, Va., where they will be examined during NASBLA boating accident investigation training. Boat owners interested in donating a vessel should contact NASBLA at (859) 225-9487.

— Jason Fell

73 million Americans on board last year

A third of U.S adults (73 million) went boating last year, an increase of about 1.3 million Americans from the 2005 total, according to findings from the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract. The 2006 abstract also reveals that the number of boats in use increased to nearly 18 million and boat registrations surpassed 13 million for the first time since 2001. The industry grew to an all-time high of $39.5 billion in U.S. sales and service last year, a 6-percent increase from the previous year.

While total boat unit and dollar sales were up more than 5 percent — buoyed by growth in ski/wakeboard boats, personal watercraft, canoes and kayaks — the traditional powerboat segment saw a decrease in unit sales of nearly 5 percent to 291,900. Total new-boat dollar sales edged upward 2 percent to $11.5 billion, reflective of an overall increase in the price of traditional powerboats, which also increased 2 percent to $9.6 billion. NMMA attributes these increases to a rise in production costs for manufacturers, including the escalating price of petroleum-based inputs and efforts to develop cleaner, more fuel-efficient engine technology. www.nmma.org