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Returning U.S. boaters may have re-entry eased

Congressional legislation allowing recreational boaters returning from outside the U.S. to report in using a videophone at Florida marinas and public docks — rather then being forced to travel to federal customs and immigration offices — was strongly supported by BoatU.S. in testimony before Congress in May.

The bill, named the Recreational Boater Streamlined Inspection Act, was introduced by Congressmen Mark Foley, R-Fla., and Clay Shaw, R-Fla.

Upon returning to the U.S., boaters are currently required to find transportation and potentially travel many miles to report to a government office in person. These federal offices are often in inconvenient locations or not open on Sundays — when many boaters return.

“The current method of enforcing these regulations is inconvenient, inadequate and inefficient,” said BoatU.S. president Jim Ellis, who testified before a House Homeland Security subcommittee. “Law-abiding American citizens are turned into scofflaws by a system that has not changed to meet the needs of the times.”

Videophones are used extensively in the Great Lakes for boaters returning from Canada.

Florida approves new manatee speed zones

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in June approved speed zones in Lee County’s southern Matlacha Pass.

The zones are identical to an existing federal manatee protection rule, which calls for a 25-mph speed limit in the channel and slow speed outside the channel. Officials say having state regulations as well will allow both state and federal officers to issue citations. Officials also say the administrative process will take several months before state zones are in effect.

The commission also approved staff-recommended biological review panels and established deadlines for completion of biological status reports for the manatee, bald eagle, gopher tortoise, and Panama City crayfish.

Panel members will include biologists, federal and state agencies, universities, and private groups and organizations. A state biologist will chair each biological review panel.

Cruisers reels in NASCAR’s Earnhardt Jr.

NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt Jr. has taken ownership of a 2005 model year 400 Express yacht manufactured by Cruisers Yachts.

Earnhardt bought the 43-foot express cruiser in May from Lake Wylie Boat and Yacht Sales in Charlotte, N.C. He planned to dock it at Lake Norman, also in Charlotte.

“He entertains often on the weekends and he said the yacht will be a perfect hangout with friends and for his dog ‘Killer,’ his black boxer and boating companion,” says Dan Zenz, regional sales manager at Cruisers Yachts.

Zenz says Earnhardt told the company he was attracted to the 400 Express because of its “walkthrough windshield and overall spacious cockpit layout.”

The 400 Express, which was completely redesigned for 2005, is one the first yachts available with Volvo Penta’s new IPS propulsion system.

Tow provider adds two Fla. ports

TowBoatU.S. has opened a new port at Palm Coast, Fla., the fourth port for owner Capt. Brian Stebleton, who also operates ports in Daytona, St. Augustine and Titusville.

The new port is located at the Palm Coast Marina. Capt. John Netts, who is also the vice-mayor of Palm Coast, will operate the port’s 23-foot Wellcraft. The boat carries a full complement of towing and salvage equipment to handle every breakdown from running out of fuel to running aground.

Boaters in need of towing assistance can reach TowBoatU.S. Palm Coast 24 hours a day, seven days a week by VHF radio on channel 16; by calling the company directly at (386) 767-7711; or through the BoatU.S. toll-free dispatch service at (800) 391-4869.

TowBoatU.S. also welcomed a Steinhatchee, Fla., operator to the fleet.

The port, the 65th in Florida, offers an extended service area that assists boaters up to 50 miles offshore.

Located at River Haven Marina on the Steinhatchee River, TowBoatU.S. Steinhatchee is owned by Capt. Bill Paine, who operates a 33-foot Coastal towboat and a red 22-foot Anna Capri. Both vessels carry a full complement of towing and salvage equipment, including extra fuel and battery “jump packs.”

Boaters in need of towing assistance can reach TowBoatU.S. Steinhatchee 24 hours a day, seven days a week by VHF radio on channels 9 and 16; by calling the port directly at (352) 498-0709 or through the BoatU.S. toll-free dispatch service at (800) 391-4869.