Today's lake level: 1,067.73
Your complete online news, information, and recreation guide to Lake Lanier
Aug. 30, 2015
7:50 am
Humidity: 76
NE at 5mph

Captain's Comments

Are the waters now clear to travel by boat to Cuba?

Not so fast … Center consoles that now can cruise in excess of 45 – 50 knots can travel the 97 miles from Key West to Morro Castle that lies at the entrance of Havana Harbor in two and a half hours or less. The trip there is easy as long as the weather cooperates. However, when you arrive, there are only a few places to clear into Cuba. Some travelers say it takes hours and also may require bribes.  Also because of the economic embargo that is still intact even though the U.S. and Cuba are re-opening their embassies, insurance companies will not cover your yacht in Cuban waters.

Remember, it’s been 54 years since the U.S. cut ties with Cuba.  If you thought it would be nice to cruise the northern coast of Cuba forget it, as all the bays and coves are closed. It will take a while for marinas that are almost nonexistent now to open up and provide the services that Florida yacht owners are used to. Keep in mind the average wage for Cubans is $20 per month and most have no phones.  Poverty is a big problem. The yachting trade should provide some help when legal issues get solved.  

At a recent yacht symposium it was estimated 30,000 to 40,000 boats a year crossing to Cuba to explore her shores.  For more information log on to: or Also the St. Petersburg to Havana route is being discussed to be on again.  The SORC (Southern Ocean Racing Conference) use to have 30 to 40 boats sailing to Havana each year. Many stories were told as well as the ones on shore at the Tropicana.

On the south shores of Cuba there are Cuban fishing centers that an Italian-owned outfitter is licensed to bring anglers to five destinations. One of these areas is named Jardines De La Beina, the Gardens of the Queen (so named by Christopher Columbus). The area was set aside by the Cuban government in 1996 as a protected marine archipelago. It’s an area almost 160 kilometers long and made up of more than 600 cays.  The fishermen use almost exclusively fly fishing gear to catch Tarpon, Bonefish, Permit, Barracuda and Man Grove Snapper. This little used area is probably known as the Cuban honey hole for fly fishermen and their guides. For more information go to:

For those of you who don’t have a boat, ferry service will resume soon from four Florida locations, which are: Port Manatee on Tampa Bay, Port Miami, Port Everglades, and the port of Key West. As soon as the negotiations are complete I’m sure you will see the advertisements. You might check out, Havana Ferry Partners of Fort Lauderdale, United Caribbean Lines, Airline Brokers Co. and Baja Ferries of Miami. They all say they would like to provide services before the end of 2015. I’m sure the stories of the first trips will soon appear in a favorite boating magazine. It should be interesting.

Children and boating
If youngsters and teens are part of your boating family, they need to be properly taught the ways to perform certain tasks while being aboard and underway. Start with say the 4 to 8 year olds, who should always wear a P.F.D. when on the dock or onboard even when not underway. The Coast Guard Auxiliary also has a class for youngsters and they get a coloring book to help teach them terminology and rules of the road. 

Marlinspike Seamanship is great to teach them. Get them a 10 to 12 foot piece of 3/8” line and teach them how to splice, tie knots and the proper way to stow lines. They can learn how to handle dock lines and fenders. Next they can learn how to use a boat hook. As they get older and more skilled teach them the proper way to deploy the anchor and rode. Go through M.O.B. (man overboard) drills and teach them how to throw a line to the M.O.B. Then of course there is always a maintenance and wash down. Remind them that the clean up after the fun is part of boating.

As they get older assign them tasks that they know they can accomplish. The sooner they can complete these without a problem, the sooner they will be referred to as First Mate. As they grow into teenagers and want to run your boat or a P.W.C., teach them boat handling and what they will need to pass the test so they can pilot a boat on their own when qualified.

If you are new to boating go to the Discover Boating website which includes a new directory of youth boating programs, more than 3,000 local and national programs are listed. Boating and fishing allows families and friends to spend more time together. The better boaters know the safety and rules the safer the future of boating will be.

New source for cruising info
When planning your next cruise of the ICW, Tennessee River, Atlantic or Gulf Coast and you want to know what marinas have to offer, or places to visit, you can now log onto Active Captain ( and review experiences and comments from those who have cruised before you. Active Captain helps cruisers avoid visits to marinas or areas that don’t live up to expectations. Also, there will be comments on any navigational changes on charts. So use and contribute to Active Captain for better cruising information.

New fishermen’s magazine
Several months back I was given a copy of the recently introduced Anglers Journal for Serious Fishermen. William Sisson, past editor of Soundings, created the new publication, and Mary South, the present editor of Soundings is deputy editor. Stories and photos concern fishermen who have caught a world record and how it affected their future angling. Also included: the latest in boats designed exclusively for fishermen. Then there are just the plain interesting stories.  Jack Hemingway, Ernest’s son and Sasha Tolstoy, Leo Tolstoy’s great great grandson tell some great fishing stories and refer to themselves as trout fishing bums. The magazine is published four times a year. To subscribe call: 1 800-877-5207 or email: Cost is $19.95 per year.

Ethanol percentage may increase

Boat U.S. has notified its members that the EPA wants to increase ethanol in all fuels. The organization is seeking comments from boaters so they can present them to the EPA and hopefully prevent it from happening. Contact them at: We have all heard and experience the fuel problems caused by ethanol.  Here is your chance to be heard. Write or send an e-mail.

Practice safe boating, be courteous, wear your PFD and I’ll see you on the water.

Mike Rudderham is a veteran marine surveyor with more than 40 years experience in the marine industry.

July 2015 column

The real story of 'The real McCoy'

We’ve all heard the expression: “The real McCoy,” meaning authentic, not a substitute. Many believe it originated from the story of two McCoy brothers back in the 1920s. Bill McCoy and his brother Ben had been building yachts for wealthy clients when prohibition began. Someone approached Bill to captain a rum runner from Nassau to New York. He made a trip to check out the boat he would use, which turned out to not pass his survey, but the idea to make some considerable money running booze fascinated him. So he headed to Gloucester, Massachusetts to buy the first of his fleet of rum runners. By this time he had talked his brother into joining him.

When they reached Nassau to pick up their first load, McCoy put the vessel in British registry, and when setting sail he would claim Halifax, Nova Scotia his destination port. At this time in probation the rum runners would stay past the three mile limit where it wasn’t illegal to off load rum. Souped up contact boats would receive their load of booze and then try to outrun the booze police and U.S. Coast Guard with their Liberty engine powered speed boats. The liquor would end up in illegal gin- mills and speakeasies. Many other rum runners would dilute their haul in order to increase profits. McCoy never did. Thus the saying started when the buyers would ask, “Is this the real McCoy?”

Actually, the original version of the phrase seems to date back to 1856 where “A drappie o’ the real MacKay,” was part of a Scottish poem published in Glascow. Regardless, McCoy clearly received credit from his thankful customers for not watering down his product.

Pictures of McCoy onboard his sailing schooners show a dapper man wearing a suit with a tie looking nothing like an old salt, more like he should be working in Manhattan. He also had a Newfoundland hound on board named “Old Faithful.” The dog  stayed in his cabin and when McCoy had excess cash from his off-loading rum, he would take the money, usually in excess of $50,000 to his cabin for Old Faithful to guard.

McCoy became one of the most wanted liquor runners of his time. But in fact there was no law against selling liquor past the three mile limit. He went before a judge and told him, “I was outside the three mile limit, selling whisky and good whisky to anyone and everyone who wanted to buy.” Prohibition turned Bill McCoy into the adventuring romantic hero of the era and the saying; “The real McCoy” has stuck with us. If you want to learn more about Bill McCoy get hold of Frederic F. Van De Water’s biography, “The Real McCoy.”

Father’s Day memories
Father’s Day always bring back special memories. In my early years my summers were spent in Northern Wisconsin at my granddad’s private fishing lodge. After I learned to swim at an early age I was always down at the boat docks and after it rained I got to bail the boats. As I got older I progressed to rowing and canoeing.
My granddad wouldn’t allow outboard motors so many times I would row the fishermen. I would discover the hot spots, and if they got their limit in small mouth bass I would get an extra tip. My father was manager of stores like Macy’s and Rich’s so he had a limited time to spend with us at the lodge.  When he did come we would go fishing. One summer after I started what I now call guiding, I took him to the hot spots. We reached our limit quickly. We took pictures of that stringer of fish and showed it to folks for years. It was one of the most memorable fishing trips we ever experienced.

In the early 1950s we moved to Clearwater Beach, Fla. where I discovered water-skiing. My father had a 24’ cruiser with a large fishing cockpit. One morning he said the speckled trout and red fish were biting on shrimp on the flats near Carluel Yacht club. He convinced me to stay off the skis for a day and go fishing again. I never experienced salt water fishing that good. We caught more fish than we really wanted to clean, and had another memorable father and son fishing trip. Every time I get my tackle ready I wonder if this trip will be as good as either one of those trips. Take a kid fishing and enjoy your own fishing trip and the memories.

Corrosion problems
It seems like the most common problem in boats these days is making sure you have fresh fuel. By using Stabil or another reliable fuel protective additive you’ll eliminate most engine problems. But let’s not forget about other things that can cause problems and corrosion is one of them.

When is the last time you checked your navigation and anchor lights? If the bulbs or sockets don’t look good replace the bulbs and lubricate the sockets with WD-40. If your steering or shifting is stiff and not working properly check the cables and grease points. Go to the bilge and check the fuel shut off valve.  Sailboats need chain plates and rigging toggles checked and replaced when needed so you won’t have mast and rigging failure. If you have a problem or need some advice check out

How many passengers?
In recent boat reviews I’ve noticed most boats have increased the number of passengers they can have on board. Boats have a plate on the interior transom stating passenger limits. I’ve recently seen where some 20’ to 24’ boats can have accommodations for 10 to 12 people. Personally I don’t want the responsibility of 10 people on board, especially if the majority are children. Pontoon boats can probably legally handle more passengers. My advice is to create a buddy system like we did when swimming on Boy Scout trips, or have a good crew of adults keep a watchful eye on the youngsters.  Remember to wear your PFDs. The fact is that the majority of drowning victims (88 percent) weren’t wearing a life jacket. So be prepared and have a safe cruise and don’t become a statistic.

High school fishing teams
High school fishing teams in Texas and Louisiana are growing in number every year. Recently on Lake Sam Rayburn there were 300 high school teams in competition on the same day. One of the pro-fishermen helping to run the tournament said, “They have traded the X-box for the tackle boxes.” The teams are affiliated with the Student Angler Federation (SAF) which is a collaborative effort of the Bass Federation and FLW Outdoors. Cost is $25 a year and includes benefits plus a FLW E-Edition magazine and insurance. I would like to see this happen in Georgia. We have some of the greatest bass lakes in the nation. Our young fishermen will be the conservationists of the future, so let’s get them started early.

Practice safe boating, be courteous and wear your PFD.

June 2015 column

Boating season is here - finally!

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day on the water and the excellent maintenance you performed let you cruise around with no problems. Keep in mind that anyone on your crew that is under 13 years of age must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved P.F.D. (personal floatation device.) Also, state law requires any person born after Jan. 1, 1998, must have completed a boater education course approved by the Georgia DNR before he or she may legally operate a motorized vessel. As I have stated before, completion of this course may result in a reduction of your boat’s insurance premium. I always recommend that your crew or family take the course. Then you would have someone with boating knowledge aboard in case of an emergency with the regular captain.  You always need to be prepared.

Boaters, whether you just bought a used or new boat, make sure you keep an up to date maintenance log. When you get ready to trade or sell your boat the log will offer a record of the ownership and ongoing maintenance schedule. A proper log will increase your boat’s value. If you read the boat broker ads recently as I have you will notice many ads stating “service records available.”  

With our electronic age today it’s easy to keep a log. “Vessel Vanguard” can put your boat’s service manual and records on your computer as well as alert you when service needs to be performed.  Visit and set up your maintenance log records and time for service to be performed. Another suggestion I would offer is to join BoatU.S., it’s very informative about boating, and if you get into any problems with your equipment they might very well help you to solve the problem. They also have TowBoat U.S. which I hope you won’t need to call. But in an emergency they will be there to assist whether it be a grounding, run out of fuel, sinking or crew emergency they will be there when you call. Lake Lanier has this service and they have an excellent reputation for answering distress calls from boaters. Visit or

Watersports boats, equipment
The new models of watersports boats have come a long way since I started water-skiing in the early 1950s. I had a 14-foot plywood runabout with a Mercury Hurricane 10 hp motor. The only extra we had was a Michigan Wheel Company power prop to help us get up faster. My next boat was a 16-foot Century Palomino with an Evinrude Lark 35 hp which I traded for a Mercury 40 hp Mark SS.  That was a great boat for trick ski routines.

Fast forward, the new water sports boats look like they will do everything but fly you to the moon.  The Malibu is something else and will pull water toys, skis, wake boards, and even surfers. They also have a barefooting pole, which years back “Banana George Blair” used at Cypress Gardens. He “footed” until he was 92 years of age. Bill McGill CEO of Marine Max is also a bare footer and uses the pole. He tournament skis in tricks and slalom. I think the barefoot pole makes it a lot easier to barefoot than when I used to use just the standard water-ski rope.

If you are thinking of buying a watersports boat this year you certainly have a great selection to choose from.

Byproducts from fisheries
A commercial gillnet fisherman in southeast Alaska has founded a company called “Tidal Vision” which has developed a unique way to process and manufacture goods from fishery byproducts, specifically salmon leather and textiles made from a fiber found in crab shells. Tidal Vision is aiming to be the first large scale fin fish tanning and manufacturing business in North America. Their 24-step aquatic tanning formula, which reportedly yields leather stronger than most cow hide. They have a 6,500 square foot facility in Washington State.

They buy wild salmon skins from processors to tan salmon leather for different companies and designers, as well as their own product line of wallets, belts and bags. They expect to expand into commercially tanning fin fish soon.  In addition to tanning Alaskan salmon skin into leather, Tidal Vision will be processing crab shells for the textile and apparel industry. “Tidal Vision” believes it will soon be the leaders in innovations and leaders in cutting edge leather and high-tech clothing as well. Visit: for more info.

Another byproduct from the sea comes from of all things, the horseshoe crab. We have all seen them on the beach when their carcasses wash up. Since they don’t have much meat I never thought much about their value and never heard of them being harvested until I read an ad in a fishing magazine, “Horseshoe crabs wanted.” Seems Delaware Bay has one of the largest populations of horseshoe crabs, where they were originally harvested for bait. In the 1990s demand for horseshoe crabs blood for biomedical purposes increased.  Their price in 2014 was $2.50 each and should increase in harvest and price.

Fishing tournaments
We all know about the pro bass tournaments where the bass boats remind you of floating NASCAR cars. The fishermen make big bucks. Tournaments in Texas and Louisiana tournaments worth up to $1 million plus goodies like a free truck, boat, or scholarships. I like their idea of the biggest fish per hour part of the contest. The 15 top fish per tournament hour receive cash prizes. This is part of the tournament that helps fishermen with tournament expenses. Georgia has fishing tournaments but I have not seen much publicity.  

The state of Georgia is having hearings about raising prices of fishing and hunting licenses because the state needs more money to keep parks and lakes attractive for fishermen and campers. Here’s an idea: pick eight or 10 lakes throughout the state, Lake Lanier being one of them, and stock them with tagged large mouth and stripers. Special tags would offer a cash prize. A fishing lottery, if you will. It would increase fishing license sales and also supply information on the health and growth of the fish.

This could end up being a year ‘round tournament. I think it would work, and could spread to other states. It would also provide added money to help our states natural resources.

Remember, take a kid or a veteran fishing this boating season. Practice safe boating, be courteous and wear your P.F.D.

May 2015 column

Electric engines are much closer than you think

In the 1893 World Fair in Chicago, Elco Electric Launch Company had 55 electric launches to ferry attendees. Internal combustion gas engines and diesel engines have been the main source for marine power since.   

Electric power is more practical and cleaner, but the batteries don’t stay charged long enough to make long cruises. Fast forward to today, Elco is still manufacturing electric powered marine engines with success.  

Getting the batteries to supply lasting power and getting the cost down is now the problem. The lithium-ion battery shows hope, but the price is high and they still don’t have the longevity to be practical for long cruises. More manufacturers and boat companies are experimenting. I think because they know if electric power becomes competitive, practical and affordable they want to be one of the first to offer this power in their boat lines. Currently Elco has electric power in several boats. Performance is under 10 knots and cruising distance is under 25 nautical miles.  On the fast side, Mercedes’s is experimenting with a 2,200 horse powered twin power plant which will reach 120 mph in a 38-foot cigarette “Top Gun,” but at that speed it will only last for seven minutes.

Meanwhile battery research is going so strong that Wall Street is recommending investment in that industry. Elon Musk, whose company has delivered 55,000 Tesla electric automobiles, purchased a large tract of land in Nevada to build a battery research and manufacturing facility. When these new batteries come online and are used in Tesla automobiles, I’m sure longevity and cost will be improved.

Meanwhile lithium battery research is advancing with the lithium-sulpher, and lithium-air batteries which will drastically improve the batteries and reduce their cost. The advancement will increase the probability for electric power to match the cruising range of popular yachts, as well as reduce the cost.  

Estimates are we are 10 years away from this happening. Those in the know say it will be similar to when cameras went to digital chips from film. Stay tuned because things will be happening fast.  Check with your stock broker and maybe you can make some money as these developments take place.

Element XL debuts
It’s described as a family boat at a reasonable price. Bayliner Boats introduced its new M-hull design with a spacious interior to compete with pontoon boats. Several models will be available with Mercury Verado power. They start at under $18,000 for boat, motor and trailer.   The boat is designed for cruising rivers, lakes and bays where it is more comfortable and safer than a pontoon boat which would cost more. Go online or check your Bayliner dealer. You’ll be surprised at how much boat you get for that price.

Sailors beware
The Fresnel Hydrofoil Trimaran may be the future of fast sailboats.  It sure doesn’t look like any conventional sailboat I’ve seen. This 115-foot sailing yacht uses renewable energy in every way possible.  It is a “perpetual motion-like” machine with a fixed-wing sail powered by sun and wind. Three electrical motors run on solar-charged batteries. In Trimaran mode it can reach 40 knots. When the owners want to outrun the wind, hydrofoils lift the yacht above the water. The project is scheduled for completion in 2016. For more information on this radical yacht visit: It will be interesting to see this yacht perform, I’m sure the shakedown cruise will be in a boating magazine.

Six hundred, twenty seven hp
Seven Marine, which manufacturers the most powerful outboard at 557 horsepower, has announced the introduction of its new 627 hp outboard, which has a horizontal V-8 power head. It also has LED illumination on the cowl. I guess that’s so you can see it at night. I can remember in my outboarding days wishing for a 100 hp, but in my greatest dreams and imagination never did I think there would be a 627 hp outboard. Price is not cheap at $89,685. The LED cowl is $2,999 extra and I’m sure the 30’-40’ center-console crowd will jump on this for added power on the transom. Check it out at:

Oh, for an ‘EPIRB’
As the U.S. Coast Guard, Boat U.S. and responsible mariners know, you shouldn’t go offshore without an EPIRB (Emergency Position-indicating Radio Beacon).  Lucky sailor Louis Jordan set out on his 35’ sailboat from a marina in South Carolina for a fishing trip.  Sixty six days later he flagged down a German container ship.  His boat had been dismasted and rolled over several times. He survived on water he collected in a bucket and snagged fish that came alongside. The Coast Guard had abandoned a 10-day search for him. When found, Jordan was in remarkably good shape for the time he was lost at sea.

Over confident sailors always think this couldn’t happen to them, but when it does you need that EPIRB or PLB (personal locator beacons). If you are going to cruise offshore this device is as important as your PFDs. Whether you have bad weather, mechanical problems or a crew emergency, the EPIRB or PLB will get rescue help immediately. Some mariners say they are too expensive. That’s no excuse.  Boat U.S. will rent them to you for a small fee, so if you go offshore, go with confidence and have an EPIRB or PLB on board for you and your crew’s safety.

Tarpon fishing in Boca Grande
The first full moon in May starts tarpon fever in Boca Grande Pass on the west coast of Florida just north of Ft. Myers and Sanibel Island. The pass full of boats fishing for the silver king will resemble a Wal-Mart parking lot on a Saturday afternoon sale. It gets interesting when four or five boats in close proximity hook-up. They fish on incoming or outgoing tides.  I prefer fishing the flats on a slack tide floating a crab for bait. One of my best fishing trips occurred doing this. I had built a 24’ center-console for a fisherman and was using it on a flats fishing trip when we “hit” a double header with two tarpon about 150 pounds each. It doesn’t get much better than that.  Check out other fishing adventures at: or

Seasickness be gone
We have all heard of the many ways to cure seasickness. This time its clothing that uses a specialized membrane. The European Innovative Textile Center supported 18 months of testing and has shown that the clothing is effective 80 percent of the time at sea.  Check it out at:

Next America’s Cup date
I recently read that the next America’s Cup which is several years away was announced. This is great, I’m glad Bermuda gets its chance at holding this prestigious competition. Here’s the problem, it’s during hurricane season. As I remember reports of Atlantic hurricanes always end up in Bermuda or close by. It shall be interesting, stay tuned and good luck to them.

Remember to wear your P.F.D. Be courteous and practice safe boating.

Editor’s note: Mike’s wife of 30 years, Frances, passed away on April 11 following a brief illness. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mike and his family.

April 2015 column

Mercury outboards increase horsepower

As the headline notes, there’s more horsepower coming from Mercury outboards. The new models – Verados –  are 2.6 liter in line, six cylinder, with 156 cubic inch displacement, producing 350 and 400 horsepower. The supercharged engines received a pressure boost of 6 percent, a new liquid cooled supercharger, new camshaft profile, new valves, new reshaped cylinder heads, ventilated fly wheel cover, and new snorkel. The engines have been tested on the open ocean for a full boating season by experienced test drivers and also were run for 300 hours at 6,400 rpm in the lab in a test tank in Fon du lac, WI.  The engine weighs in at 668 pounds which is almost 100 pounds less than the Yamaha 350 H.P. V-8. The engines are offered in 20, 25, and 30 inch shaft lengths.

The Verado 350 has a list price of $27,500 in a 20” shaft length.  The 400R comes under the Mercury Racing Banner and has a Sport Master lower unit with a cambered skeg which compensates for side torque. The crescent shaped sport master case is designed for speeds over 85 mph and has dual water pick-ups.  Prices start at $31,500 and it has a two year warranty.  

In the outboard horsepower race this puts Mercury in the number two position with the new 400R. Seven Marine has the top horsepower with a 557 hp converted Cadillac V-8. Yamaha comes in third with their 350 hp V-8. Stay tuned, I’m sure we will see some more new large horsepower outboards introduced to power all the new off shore fishing and cruising center consoles.

Oldest navigational aid
We usually think of lighthouses being in the northeastern part of the U.S. Their photos are on hundreds of post cards, from Maine to Connecticut. Lighthouses, however, are helping boat captains all over the world. Their origin goes back to Egyptian and Roman times as coins were stamped with lighthouse images.

The most famous of these was the Pharos lighthouse which marks the port of Alexandria in approximately 280 B.C. The pharos lighthouse is believed to have been more than 350 feet high. Taller than any other lighthouse in history it was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Pharos lighthouse consisted of three levels, which may have included a large colonnaded base, an octagonal middle section and a conical upper section that was topped by a statue of either Alexander the Great or Ptolemy I Soter, the General who succeeded Alexander. The statue depicted the ruler in the form of the Greek Sun God Helios.

The most recent account of this lighthouse functioning is from the 12th century. These houses were lit by fires called a brazier. The Romans built stone lighthouses, some of which survive today. The Dover Castle Lighthouse in Kent, England is typical of Roman lighthouse construction. The era of the most lighthouse building was in the 18th century which coincided with an increase in Trans-Atlantic commerce.

The original light was provided by wood and coal fires. This fire source was replaced by oil (kerosene). Sperm whale oil was used in the Great Lakes lighthouses because it wouldn’t freeze. Near the end of the 19th century, electricity began to replace oil systems as the source of light. It was more efficient and cleaner. This also led to the automation of lighthouses.

French physicist Augustine Fresnel developed a system based on light refraction, which bent the light source into a narrow beam, which was made even more intense by a center lens shaped like a magnifying glass. For many centuries, fog signals were hand-rung bells, or in some cases cannons which were fired regularly during periods of fog. Steam whistles were also used.

Lighthouse keepers are a thing of the past, and have been eliminated by automation which is much more accurate and sophisticated navigation equipment on ships and boats meant that a lighthouse was no longer required. Even though lighthouses remain more than a historical symbol due to modern navigation systems on boats, local boaters and fishermen still find them useful. They indeed occupy a place in maritime history.

New drive from Volvo-Penta
With the increase in the wake surfing sport a new “forward drive” has been introduced by Volvo-Penta. With the forward drive, the propellers move from an exposed position beyond the transom to underneath the hull, safely away from the surfer. The exhaust also exits under the water keeping it away from the rider’s face.

The forward drive was developed with the input of boat builders like Bryant Boats, which invited Volvo-Penta to demo the prototype on its 233X model at the Volvo-Penta facility. Regal, Cobalt, Four Winns, Monterey, and Chaparral have also participated in forward drive testing and may offer it on new or modified boat models this year.

Volvo-Penta intends to offer the forward drive with gasoline engines from 200 to 430 hp but expects the prime application will be from 300 to 430 hp. Specific props have been designed for the drive, to be designated the K series prop sets. Volvo-Penta say forward drive will cost about 10 percent more than a traditional stern drive.  

Get ready for the season
Here are several items that you may have overlooked when you winterized. It’s getting close to boating time so check these out:

If your boat is trailered make sure you check the tires, wheel bearings, light system, and winch.  There’s nothing worse than having a flat tire on the way to the lake with a carload of kids. Next check your battery system.  Make sure all connections and wires are clean, properly connected. If your batteries are getting close to being replaced, you might want to go ahead and move up to the new longer lasting batteries. Last but not least, check and organize equipment like your P.F.D.s, anchor and rode, flashlight and other safety items, like navigation lights. Remember the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will inspect your boat and give you a sticker when you pass. Get it done now, not after the season starts.

Waterway guide
If you are thinking of traveling the Gulf, I.C.W. or rivers this boating season, you need the Waterway Guide or the Waterway Cruising Club. They will provide detailed mile by mile coverage to the best destinations. It’s also good reading on a rainy day. Info: 1-800-233-3359 or

Alan Jackson and Guy Harvey
Country Music star Alan Jackson and marine wildlife artist Guy Harvey have collaborated on a message behind the music to raise money and awareness for ocean conservation and research. Harvey created a colorful logo depicting Jackson in a fighting chair with a leaping sportfish to adorn several official 25th anniversary items, including an official t-shirt that will be sold at each concert.

Alan Jackson and Guy Harvey have agreed to donate back $5 for every item sold to marine conservation through the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, a non-profit that advocates sustainable fishing practices, funds inspired scientific research and supports innovation educational programs. Last year, Harvey’s foundation distributed approximately $1 million to more than 60 organizations involved in research and education. Visit: or

March 2015 column

Boat show stories and news about new toys

With the completion of the Miami Beach Boat Show in the middle of February, the boat show season is mostly over. Most builders featured larger yachts than years past with more electronics and equipment than most yacht owners have seen in recent years.

Joy sticks and side, forward scanning fathometers are now mostly standard and connect with your iPhone. Coupe is now the description on a lot of cruisers in the 30’ to 45’ class. Several smaller boats in the 18’ to 25’ class have new models powered with jet drives. Georgia builder Chaparral has two or three jet drive boats that offer comfortable cruising and are equipped for water sports.

Boat shows always have some stories that you will remember.  The Atlanta Boat Show had one of those several years ago. I’m sure some visitors will remember when the wakeboarding pond broke and water went cascading down the aisles. A lot of things got wet but nobody was hurt. Everyone hopes that’s the last time that happens.

My story was when I sold the Queen of the Miami Boat Show – one of the first 46’ Bertrams. A client wanted a 46’ Bertram. I had just sold his 36’ Trojan flybridge so he and a friend met me in Miami.  We toured the Bertram facilities and went to the show. After he checked out the boat he said “I’ll take it,” so I went to the Bertram desk to get the sales agreement together. I went to find my client and his friend and couldn’t find him. After some time had passed the Bertram man said he needed a deposit and signature. So I made arrangements and signed. I got back to Clearwater, and no client.  His wife called and wanted to know where he was. About 10 days later I was advised the boat was in St. Petersburg and ready to be delivered. I was sweating. I didn’t have that kind of money. About that time he called and said he was ready to close and take delivery. He told me that he and his friend went to the Bahamas to go to the casinos. I felt much better after piloting the yacht to his slip after closing.

There are a lot of good stories heard at boat shows about boats and the characters that own and pilot them. Here are a couple more stories heard at the show, like “Let’s buy a boat together,” bad idea, and could be the end of a friendship. No two people take care of a boat the same or uses the boat the same. That’s when disagreements start.

My father and I went halves on a boat. I bought the boat and he had the motor. It was only 19’ long, but when it came to scraping barnacles or sanding and painting you know who did that. Families owning boats together are fine if for a living like fishing or lobstering. Then there’s always the guy who says, “You buy the boat and I’ll borrow it once and awhile.” A dyed in the wool yachtsman would think that’s just like lending his wife to someone. It never ends well.

Different alcohol fuel additive
By now everyone in the boating community knows what ethanol can do to an engine, ethanol is corrosive, it’s a solvent and it absorbs moisture, especially if you don’t pay extra for a fuel additive for preventing the adverse effects of long term ethanol fuel use. Since 2010 the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) have been testing isobutanol. They have found it doesn’t affect engines like ethanol does. Also, you won’t have the extra expense of an additive you need to add for protection from ethanol.

The most recent data on a 90 H.P. E-tec and a 90 H.P. four-stroke Mercury suggest that isobutanol blended at 16 percent volume can be used in marine engines without significantly affecting the atmosphere or engines. The higher quality of biologically derived isobutanol in the fuel will help to move beyond the current ethanol blend without affecting fuel and decreasing emissions. The producers of isobutanol will be pushing up the production and testing what the proper fuel ratio will be.  Check out or to see how progress is going. Hopefully this will give us better and more efficient marine fuels.

Ski boat, no driver
Yes, there is a skier-controlled boat with a 70 H.P. gas engine with jet drive, featuring top speed of 40 mph. The skier operates the boat with a six button tow rope handle. The boat is a tri-hull built of fiberglass and is eight feet long and has a 40 gallon fuel tank, plus an automatic bilge pump. The boat shuts down when the skier/operator drops the handle. Better check where it’s legal to operate or have a chase boat. Price is $17,000. Visit for more information.

The first all-electric hydro foiling personal watercraft is powered by an electric outboard motor. It flies over the water at over 20 knots. There is almost no annual maintenance cost. This makes it the most efficient PWC on the water.   When it’s underway and airborne on the foils it makes for a smooth ride. Power steering helps make your ride easier, and the steering wheel has an integrated touch screen display. The hull is built from composite materials, and because it is hollow, it is unsinkable. The quadrafoil comfortably seats two on ergonomic soft seats.   Again, as in other electric powered machines, recharging varies, based on time of use. It sounds like a lot of quiet fun. Price is $27,000. Visit

New prop from Mercury
As outboards got more powerful, aluminum and bronze props started showing blade fatigue and some blades might break off after going off a wave and re-entering the water. I was using bronze racing props on my 6 cylinder Mercury BP (blue printed) outboards. I had had a single and a twin rig, and also 3 rigs with standard Mercury outboards. We tested and checked these boats thoroughly before each race.

We traveled to Smith Mountain Lake near Lynchburg, VA. for the Outboard Marathon Nationals, one of the largest if not the largest event of the year. As I remember it was eight hours long over a long course. I put my boat in for a test run, but it wouldn’t get on plane. I was extremely embarrassed. My sponsor Mr. Kiekhaeffer (Mercury) was there and I couldn’t get on a plane, let alone race. I went to Mercury’s prop truck and the prop technicians I knew laughed a bit and then said they would help. They came out with a pair of stainless steel 3 blades with 2” more pitch. They said these were the new props we had been talking about and they will get on top because stainless steel props have thinner blades and the engines can handle more pitch. I went for a test run and it popped right on top and went a couple mph faster than my last test, which I thought was good.  We figured out that since I had tested in salt water which is denser is why I couldn’t plane when I tested in fresh water.

Today most larger outboards have stainless steel props. They are more durable, efficient and perform better for cruising or watersports.  They are not cheap, but are the best way to go. Mercury has just introduced its latest stainless steel prop; the Enertia Eco Prop, and Mercury says you’ll save 10 percent on fuel.  Tests performed for Boating Magazine showed 20 percent or better fuel economy. Some say the Enertia Eco Prop is far ahead of the popular Mercury Mirage Plus or Revolution 4 Props. Cost is $795, but fuel savings might make you look seriously at it. Usually when one company comes out with new props others are soon to follow, so stay tuned.

Be safe and courteous and I’ll see you on the water. Wear your PFD.

February 2015 column

Water wars continue with Georgia and its neighbors

The Georgia-Tennessee northwestern border has been in the news often since the 2008 drought when Lake Lanier and surrounding areas were seriously affected. This controversy was started in 1818 when surveyors (three-man teams from both Tennessee and Georgia) met at Nickajack to find the 35th latitude north and plainly mark and designate the same for Georgia’s northwest border.

The Georgia team member James Camak, a mathematician and astrologist calculated that the line was south of Nickajack, when in fact the 35 latitude north was in fact a mile north in the middle of the Tennessee River. Camak not only made this mistake the first time, but in 1819 went back to survey the area again and made more mistakes. No mention as to where Tennessee surveyors calculated where their line was. The original border was written as the 35th latitude north on the books, but the mistakes are on the border line today.

Governor Sonny Perdue signed a law strongly urging negotiations with the governors of Tennessee and North Carolina to correct Camak’s flawed survey; nothing happened. The 2013 legislature tried to do the same, with no action.

Florida is suing Georgia to release more water from Lake Lanier to aid the oyster industry. As stated in last month’s Lakeside a special master has been appointed to pursue a settlement. Common sense would say that all states involved should meet to solve this problem, but common sense is lacking in government these days. If the border line is corrected to 35 latitude north where it was stated to be in 1818 and Georgia gets to tap into the Tennessee River, the main problem would be resolved.

The water would enter the Chattahoochee River, which would keep Lake Lanier at 1071 even with the additional releases to aid those down river where it would eventually aid the Apalachicola River and the oyster industry and Florida. The extra water could power two hydro-electric generators which would pay for themselves. The Tennessee River would have an outlet for spring flood control which is a problem when the snow melts and Atlanta would also have ample water supply. Waterfront businesses and those related would thrive and continue to pay taxes. You would think the powers to be would recognize this.

So how about it governors, let’s get Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, and North Carolina together and work something out with the federal government.  Common sense would answer all existing problems.

Boat show results
The Atlanta Boat show was the best in quite a few years. Other shows I’ve read about were also a great success. Boat sales and accessories have provided renewed fascination for boaters.

There’s a new boating term: the CCY (Center Console Yacht) 35’ plus center consoles like Intrepid, Boston Whaler, Cobia and many others. All have what the fisherman want, plus a head, small galley, and berth beneath the console, thus the yacht designation. Electronics are more compact for mounting at the helm along with more bells and whistles.

PWCs enthusiasts had the lower cost “Spark” last year. This year there will be more models to choose from as competitors are offering models in this lower price class. Remember if you just bought a boat take a boating safety class and you might save 10 percent on boat insurance.

Bass money
Sealy Outdoors is again having bass fishing tournaments which offer great prizes. Two of these would be close enough for Lake Lanier fishermen to travel for a chance at winning for your efforts.  Lake Guntersville in Scottsboro Alabama tournament is March 27-29. Kentucky Lake in Buchanan, TN., has a tournament Aug. 15-16.    The Guntersville tournament has $215,000 in cash and prizes, with hourly payouts, and heaviest bass. Kentucky Lake has similar prizes.  Both offer a Triton Bass boat with a Mercury motor as part of the winner’s prize. Entry fees are under $300 and with all the prizes you could recoup much of the cost. Contact or call 1-888-698-2591 for information.  This is a great family opportunity.  Let Lakeside share your story and photos if you go.

Fast ride
Looking over the brokerage pages of one of my recent boating magazines my eyes hit on the cruising speed of one boat; 104 knots and in a 50’ boat. Then I saw 139 knots top speed. “Whoa,” I thought. The boat is a 50’x12’ beam Nor-tech Catamaran with four Mercruiser 1125 hp engines.  Fuel capacity is 560 gallons, which probably won’t last long. But your cruising speed is probably four or five times faster than most boats.  Cost is 695K. She has a professional crew headed by Al Copeland’s “Popeye’s” racing team which was a six time National Champion and three time World Champion. The crew is willing to work with the new owner.  The boat, named “Gold Rush,” would be great for poker runs, or running offshore. If you want more information contact: www.atlanticyacht&

Lucky to be alive
Former Miami Dolphins fullback Rob Konrad was going to take his 36’ Grady-White “Compass Square” from Hillsboro inlet to Mariner Marine in Rivers Beach for servicing. He thought he’d do a little fishing on the way.  He put his boat on auto-pilot, rigged his lines for trolling and waited for some action. One of his lines hooked a fish, then a large wave rocked the boat, flipping him overboard. The boat, being on auto-pilot, continued its course. He realized he was in real trouble.

He was nine miles off shore treading water with no P.F.D. He started thinking of hypothermia. So he began swimming. During the night jellyfish stung him and a shark circled him. A search helicopter hovered over him and shined a light, but did not see him. He finally washed ashore at 4:30 a.m. on Palm Beach and found he couldn’t walk. He said thinking of his wife and two daughters kept his faith and helped him stay alive.

This story had a happy ending  with no lives lost, but it is a reminder to wear your PFD.  P.F.D’s can also have locater beacons attached, which would have made for a quick rescue in this case. Also file a float plan if you are going offshore or a trip on inland waters. If something happens you know someone will be looking for you.

As you all know gas is now $2 or a bit less, marinas are a bit more, but most are ethanol free, which is good. I’m sure marina gas prices will continue to follow gas prices and go down. Meanwhile, boaters that commute to the lake by trailering their boat will stop at the $2 a gallon gas station and fill up with ethanol tainted fuel. You think you are saving money, but if you don’t use an additive like “Stabil” you can end up with fuel and engine problems.

Be safe and courteous and I will see you on the water.

January 2015 column

Is there an electric boat in your future?

Electric boats have been around longer than you think. The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition celebrating Christopher Columbus’ first voyage, for the first time on a large scale, 11,000 kilowatts of electricity illuminated 250 electric light bulbs. Scores of electric motors sparked life into fair exhibits, including George Ferris’ revolving wheel which soared 264’ above the fairs central midway.

On the waterfront there were 55, 32’ electric powered launches built by Elco-Electric Launch Company. They sold like hot cakes, and there are still several of these boats shown at classic boat shows. These boats had D.C. engines which needed commutators serviced and brushes replaced.  Fast forward in time and Elco is still in the electric motor business. They now have an A.C. motor using an inverter. These new motors require no maintenance for 50,000 hours. The head of Elco, Joseph Flemming, states that in the near future a 250 hp motor will weigh 10 pounds and fit in your arms.  

The lithium ion batteries longevity price and weight is the issue, though. They need to be charged frequently and this does not allow them to compete with internal combustion engines that will run continually for five or six hours on a tank of fuel. Also, lithium ion batteries are very expensive. Some auto companies lease the batteries to make replacement more affordable. In the near future batteries will come down in price, weight and last longer. I would estimate electric motors might be the standard for power in boats within the next five years.  

This year’s boat show should have some examples of the future of electric motors and improved batteries. Electric or battery powered motors have made it into aviation as well, with a few small planes, and predictions that say within 20 years there will be electric powered airplanes the size of a 737 passenger plane. The main problem as I said before is the longevity of charges. When batteries (lithium ion) become lighter in weight, less in price and will run at speed for up to four hours without a charge, well, that is when we will start buying electric powered boats.

This could be sooner than you think. Tesla, the electric car company (recently in the news with a lawsuit against the Georgia Automobile Dealer’s Association for selling their cars directly to the customer and not through a dealer), has opened a massive battery factory in Nevada. With their research and development we should see batteries longer lasting, lighter in weight, and batteries that will cost less. This will lead to electric power being more dependable and less costly, which leads to electric boats being popular in five to 10 years. Stay tuned.

Atlanta Boat Show
This year’s edition, running January 15-16, 2015 should be the best in years  The lake is up, recession is over, and because of this boat manufacturers have great new models for families and water sport enthusiast to enjoy. Go check them out.

Remember if you purchase a boat be sure to sea trial it to make sure it will suit your needs. Also if the boat is larger and more complicated whether new or used I would recommend a marine survey. You would be surprised what a surveyor might find on a new boat as well as a used one. If you buy a used boat make sure you check the maintenance log, and if it’s a new boat start a maintenance log. It will make your boat worth more when you eventually sell it.

Be sure to check out the new water sports accessories on display as well as fishing equipment.  Check out the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary booth and sign you and your family up for a boating safety course. Enjoy the show and lets hope we have an early start to our boating season.

Winter hobby
On these cold winter days when everyone is stuck in the house and wondering what to do after growing tired of their electronic toys, why not make some fishing lures.  I’m sure if you attend the boat show you will find a fly-tying kit or casting lure kit. Buy one and challenge the kids to make a better lure than you can. When the weather gets warm and fish are biting check out your lures and see who catches the first fish.  

When I was a kid I used to swipe, uh, borrow my mother’s round clothes pins to make lures.  I’d try and copy the colors of lures in my dad’s and grandad’s tackle boxes. I’d have red and whites, green for frogs or minnows, attached hooks and swivel and I was ready to go fishing after the snow and ice melted, and fishing season opened. I had some luck catching fish, but live minnows and night crawlers were my favorite bait. Try making lures and see who catches the fish. I’m sure it will create family memories as well as great fish stories.

Special boats
Every year at boat show time, boat owners always remember a special boat they owned or wish they had, and then the debate begins. Some of my favorites are the 31’ Bertram Moppie designed by C. Raymond Hunt. It won the Miami-Nassau race hands down in rough water. This design started Bertrams deep-V design in models from 25’ to 60 plus feet. Having sold and delivered many 46’ Bertram convertible fly bridges, it is one of my favorites. C. Raymond Hunt also designed the original Boston Whaler which was the original boat for a lot of families and tender for yachts.

The Donzi “Sweet 16” was designed by Don Arronow of Magnum, Donzi, Cigarette, and Blue Thunder fame. It is a great ski-boat or sport boat. Powered by a Holman-Moody V-8 and Eaton outdrive. It cruised in the high 40 knots. It has a great profile.  

The 41’ Hatteras designed and built to fish off the coast of its name was designed by Jack Hargrave. It also became a popular offshore convertible sport fisherman. Hargrave also designed the Lazy Days Houseboat that was built by Jack Beachem. He also raced a Lazy Days in the Miami-Nassau race, and finished. There are a lot of great boats that have been built and cherished by boat owners. What’s yours?

New Year’s resolutions
  • Get your boat inspected by the
  •  U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. It’s free and they give you a sticker.
  • Add fuel stabilizer when you fuel up.
  • Keep up your maintenance log.
  • Follow float plan.
  • Take a boating safety course.
  • Frequently check you trailer.
  • Always pilot your boat when sober.
  • Check weather before a cruise.
  • Replace any gear that malfunctions.
  • Take a kid or a veteran fishing.

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and will have a safe and Happy New Year. Be safe and courteous and I will see you on the water.

December 2014 column

So can you identify a Kisbee Ring?

After writing about the U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides) last month several readers inquired about what kind of life jackets she had on board. They come in two forms, those that are worn and those that are thrown. They have been known by many names including; Kisbee Rings, Mae Wests, Life Buoys, Perry Buoys, Cork Jackets, Life Savers, life jackets and present day PFD’s (personal flotation devices).

In early times inflated skins or sealed gourds were used to assist in crossing rivers. In the 16th century Leonardo Da Vinci sketched a diving suit with a life belt. It wasn’t until lifesaving services began to form that the issue of safety was taken seriously.  

Norwegian seamen were the first to build lifesaving devices using blocks of wood or cork-stuffed vests. A 1680 issue of the Universal Magazine volume 10 contains a letter from W.H. Mallison trying to gain support for his invention, the “Seaman’s Friend,” but it was not adopted.  Usage of the devices eventually became prevalent when organizations like Britain’s Royal National Life Boat Institution began using them. By 1855 the Institution was using a type of ring buoy known as the Kisbee Ring. Also a cork life belt was being used during this time. In 1852 the U.S. Congress passed a law requiring ships to carry life preservers and set up a board of supervising inspectors that set standards and rules.  

Cork was the first material used in modern life preservers, followed by kapok fiber introduced in the early 20th century. It was later banned for being flammable and its quick loss of buoyancy. It was then reapproved in 1918. Cork life preservers were heavy and bulky. But kapok could be added to watertight pockets for better flexibility and comfort.

In 1928 after the loss of British passenger steamer Vestris with all lives lost, an international convention for safety of life at sea was convened. Kapok was seen as the superior material for life jackets because it kept the heads of unconscious victims above water.

After World War I balsa wood was also used in life preservers, but by World War II foam was in use and eventually supplanted kapok. The first inflatable life preserver was invented by Peter Markus in 1928, receiving a U.S. patent. It was nicknamed the “Mae West” in reference to the well-endowed entertainer. Wearers of the vest were thought to resemble the buxom actress.

In 1940 Congress passed the Motorboat Act and less bulky vests were designed. The idea was that if they were easier to wear more boaters would wear them, and lives would be saved. During the late ’40s and early ’50s water sports, water-skiing, aqua planning and disc’s became popular. This was mainly due to the affordability of outboard boats with engines large enough to pull skiers. The sport was no longer restricted to those who owned expensive, high-powered boats.

I was one of the outboard runabout owners shortly after moving to Florida in the early ’50s and I immediately took up water-skiing.  Previously while living in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota I had done a lot of snow skiing and jumping, so water-skiing fit right in. We never heard of a ski-belt or vest, even going to AWSA (American Water Ski Association) tournaments to compete. I continued to compete and I was captain of the St. Petersburg Jr. College water-ski team in 1958, when we won the World Inter Collegiate Tournament.

Several weeks later Mr. Kiekhaeffer (Mercury Outboards) wanted to set the record of most skiers pulled by outboards. I and some of my teammates were part of the group of skiers. Mr. K’s boat pulled 21 skiers with twin Mark 78’s on a 21’ hydrodyne hull. That same afternoon Joe Cash (Cypress Gardens skier and champion), told all the skiers if they wanted to do some more skiing, jumping and slalom we should go to the Sarasota Skeearees Club location in Sarasota. We all enjoyed jumping and the slalom course. My friend Bobby Miller decided to make a few more jumps. He went off, fell but didn’t surface. Joe and I started diving for him immediately and when we finally got him to the shore it was too late. I always thought (and was even told)  Bobby’s death was one of the reasons states passed ski-belt and vest laws two years later.

In 1964 the U.S. Coast Guard realized that the required life preservers were still not suitable and decide
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