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EPIRBs, PLBs save lives — 353 last year alone

The increase in people using EPIRBs and personal locator beacons has translated to more lives saved, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which tallies the annual number of rescues attributed to satellite technology.

Last year, 353 people were rescued in the United States thanks to PLBs or EPIRBs, a 30-percent increase over the 2006 total of 272, according to NOAA. The agency says 235 people were rescued at sea, and Florida and Alaska had the most rescues, with 73 each.

NOAA’s polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites are part of the international search-and-rescue system known as COSPAS-SARSAT, which has been credited with more than 22,000 rescues worldwide in its 25 years of operation.

“Anyone with plans to hike or camp in a remote area, where cell phone service is not reliable, or sail a boat far from shore should not leave home without an emergency locator beacon, registered with NOAA,” says Chris O’Conners, acting program manager for NOAA SARSAT. He says the number of emergency beacon registrations last year increased to 29,710 from 23,383 in 2006.

Older beacons that transmit on the 121.5 and 243 MHz frequencies will be phased out by Feb. 1, 2009, making 406-MHz beacons the standard. www.sarsat.noaa.gov

— Elizabeth Ellis

Coast Guard to continue HF weather broadcasts

Following months of public comment, the Coast Guard will continue broadcasting high-frequency high-seas weather forecasts for single-sideband voice, facsimile charts and text messages over radiotelex. The agency had said that the infrastructure necessary to provide these services had exceeded its life expectancy, and significant costs were involved to continue offering them.

“The responding public collectively perceives that the USCG HF broadcasts are essential to their safety,” says the Coast Guard in a statement. “There is no viable alternative to the USCG HF broadcasts because present alternatives are perceived by the public to be out of financial reach. Also, marine weather forecasts available through these alternative sources may not guarantee the same level of accuracy, timeliness and/or sufficiency as provided by the USCG HF broadcasts.”

While the Coast Guard says it doesn’t have the funds to replace all of its HF transmitters, it will be able to replace the 20 used for weather broadcasts. The final report is posted on the Coast Guard Navigation Center Web site at www.navcen.uscg.gov .

Pearson picks up PDQ catamarans

Pearson Composites of Warren, R.I., has acquired the power catamaran business of PDQ Yachts in Whitby, Ontario. The PDQ line comprises 34- and 41-foot cruising power cats.

“PDQ is a wonderful complement to our Alerion Express sailboat and True North powerboat products,” says Patrick Burke, CEO of Pearson Composites, which for years was the exclusive U.S. builder of Lagoon catamarans.

Under Pearson, PDQs will be built using the SCRIMP construction technique, a building process Pearson says is less harmful to the environment and will make the boats lighter and stronger. The PDQ 34 is powered by Yanmar 110s, while the PDQ 41 is equipped with Yanmar 260s. The first Pearson-built PDQs are expected to launch in September. www.pearsoncomposites.com

Ship’s chief engineer sentenced for pollution

The former chief engineer of an American-flagged car carrier was sentenced earlier this year in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to six months in prison for conspiracy to illegally discharge oily waste and lying to the Coast Guard. The sentence was announced by Ronald J. Tenpas, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland.

According to court papers, Mark Humphries deliberately bypassed the pollution equipment on the Baltimore-based Tanabata, then concealed the crime by making false entries in the ship’s official oil record book, a required log regularly inspected by the Coast Guard. At the trial, it was proven that Tanabata had a removable pipe that was used to discharge oily waste without the use of a separator, a required pollution-control device on oceangoing vessels. Humphries reportedly referred to the bypass pipe as the “illegal pipe” and directed that it be hidden when the ship was in port so it would not be discovered by the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard crews curl up with new books

The Coast Guard Foundation’s Books for Boats program delivered gift cards to 89 cutters to enhance their on-board libraries. The foundation sent each cutter a $250 gift certificate to purchase new books, and each ship received a copy of “So Others May Live,” a narrative of true stories about the work of Coast Guard rescue swimmers, and “Rogue Wave,” an historical account of the Coast Guard’s response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. www.cgfdn.org

Ballast-water permits for Joe Boater?

The Recreational Boating Act was introduced last year and is designed to protect boaters from new commercial ballast-water regulations.

“Requiring family boaters to secure a Clean Water Act permit so they can wash their boat, fish or go water skiing is ridiculous,” says Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., in a statement. “This permit requirement is unnecessary and onerous.”

For 34 years the Environmental Protection Agency has exempted recreational-boat discharges from the Clean Water Act permit system. However, a U.S. District Court ruling intended to address the ballast-water permitting issue cancelled the exemption.

“Without congressional approval of the Recreational Boating Act, the court’s existing decision means that everyday boaters will have to apply for the same expensive permits as oceangoing commercial vessels,” says Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, in a statement. Oceangoing commercial vessels are blamed for some 10,000 invasive species introduced into U.S. waters.

The court-mandated deadline is September, requiring the EPA to have the permitting requirements in place. The NMMA, in partnership with BoatU.S. and other outdoor-recreation partners, has created a grassroots Web site at www.boatblue.org to mobilize the boating community on the issue. The site includes a “Take Action” button, with information on how to help get the Recreational Boating Act passed.