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Give up boating? Not on your life

Did skyrocketing fuel prices change the way you went boating last summer? A National Marine Manufacturers Association study found that while the price of fuel did have an impact on the amount of time boaters spent on the water, most said it did not stop them from boating altogether.

Findings from the study include:

• Only 1 percent of powerboat owners say they stopped boating as a result of fuel costs.

• Eight out of 10 boat owners who took their boats out less often last summer than in 2007 say it was related to the cost of fuel.

• Nearly 76 percent say they don’t plan to make any changes to their boating habits in 2009.

Rescue No. 6,000,thanks to NOAA

When two people were rescued near Concrete, Wash., after their airplane crashed this fall, it marked the 6,000th person rescued in the United States with the help of satellite technology.

The COSPAS-SARSAT system has been credited with supporting more than 25,000 rescues worldwide, according to a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA’s polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites pick up signals from emergency beacons and relay them to search-and-rescue authorities.

“With an average of more than 250 rescues each year in the United States alone, it’s clear this system is a valuable tool in saving lives,” says Chris O’Connors, program manager for NOAA-SARSAT.

The system has been steadily expanding since its inception in 1982. The four original member nations — Canada, France, Russia and the United States — have been joined by 36 other nations that operate 66 ground stations and 29 mission control centers worldwide, or serve as search-and-rescue points of contact. It continues today as a model of international cooperation, according to the report.

NOAA is reminding all boaters that as of Feb. 1, 2009, the system will only detect signals from 406 MHz beacons. The older 121.5 and 243 MHz units are being phased out because the new digital beacons can be detected faster, are more accurate and provide SAR responders with important registration information from the owner.

— Elizabeth Ellis

Hurricane Ike damage caught on videotape

When Hurricane Ike roared ashore at Galveston, Texas, in the early morning hours of Sept. 13, thousands of recreational boats stood in harm’s way. BoatU.S. captured the storm’s impact on the boating community with exclusive video of local marinas and yacht clubs. The footage, shot with the assistance of the BoatU.S. Marine Insurance Catastrophe Team as it processed claims, is available at www.BoatUS.com/podcasts.

BoatU.S. estimates that nearly 15,000 boats in Texas were affected by the storm, with approximately $175 million in damage. Another $25 million in damage to recreational boats occurred in other states along the storm’s path.

“We hope that every boater and marine professional in the hurricane belt will view this footage so we can learn from Ike and always try to improve our hurricane plans,” says BoatU.S. director of public affairs Scott Croft.

In addition, more than 1,000 photographs and Catastrophe Team blogs are available online at the BoatU.S. “Hurricane Resource Center” at www.BoatUS.com/hurricanes, which offers free planning materials such as a hurricane preparation worksheet, a Guide to Preparing Boats and Marinas for Hurricanes, and checklists for what to do before and after a hurricane strikes.

This story first appeared in the January 2009 issue.