Today's lake level: 1,069.32
Your complete online news, information, and recreation guide to Lake Lanier
May. 28, 2016
5:48 am


Captain's Comments

The Chinese treasure ships were real after all

Reading one of the many boating magazines I subscribe to, I ran across this story I thought you might find interesting. Back in the time of the Ming Dynasty, the third emperor “Yongle” had a Mongol eunuch as his right hand man and he chose him to be the admiral of his fleet of ships. He was known as Admiral Zengh HE. 
 But the ships are the story. They were much larger than those used by Vasco Da Gama or Christopher Columbus. The largest of the treasure ships fleet was 450’ long x 160’ wide with four decks and nine masts for twelve sails.  The ships were called Bǎochuáns.  They even had private rooms for travelers. Maybe this was the first cruise ship. It also had water tight bulkheads that created compartments that kept them afloat if rammed. The compartments were also used for fresh water for the crew and animals on board. The boats were capable of carrying 500 passengers. 
The stories of these ships and their travels were largely considered a myth, until a spring day in 1962. Workers were dredging on the Yangtze riverfront of Nanjing when they discovered a buried wooden timber 36 feet long. It was a steering post, and embedded in the mud alongside were the decaying remains of a rudder whose surface area works out to 452 square feet. It’s big enough to maneuver a 21st century aircraft carrier. The remains of the rudder are nearly 600 years old. Overnight an improbable myth became reality.  These Bǎochuáns, as they were called, must have been a sight with 60 of them under sail with accompanying support ships. 
Admiral Zengh HE made seven voyages. The first was the largest with 317 ships, 60 being the huge Bǎochuans. Sounds like a huge armada. These voyages took them as far as East Africa and numerous ports in between. Admiral Zengh HE died during the final voyage and they buried him at sea.
The Chinese used celestial navigation and also were using compasses a century before British and Spanish explorers. A stone pillar was erected at Chang Le A Harbor in Fujian providence. Admiral Zengh HE’s voyages were recorded on the stone pillar. The pillar is now in a small museum near the harbor. The calligraphy is worn after many centuries of weather, but you can still make out the more than 30 countries, large and small, where the fleet landed. 
If you want to check out more on this history search the web for: Fred Wakeman Jr., University of California, Chinese Treasure Ship, and Admiral Zengh HE.  
Two new boats
The new 35’ Bertram Hull #1 being built in Maine by Lyman Morse Shipyards looks to take off in sales like the old 31’ did. The first 31 became famous in the 1961 Miami-Nassau Powerboat Race, which was one of the roughest races to date with 8-12’ seas, 30 knot winds. The 31 made the crossing in eight hours and finished first. The other boats finished the next day. 
The first 31 was designed by C. Raymond Hunt who was commissioned by Richard Bertram after testing one of Hunts’ V-hull yacht tenders off Block Island. The first 31 was wooden and was named after Bertram’s wife “Moppie,” as is hull #1 of the 35’.
Three famous names in yachting were aboard that first race.  Besides Bertram there was Sam Griffith who drove the boat, and Carlton Mitchell who was navigator. They used the wooden 31 for a plug and started building 31s.  They entered and won the 1962 race. The boat was called “Glass Moppie.” The 31 became legendary and Bertram told Jim Martenhoff of the Miami Herald, “that he had so many damn yachtsmen waving checkbooks at him that he had to go into the boat business.” They finally retired the 31 after building 1,860 in 16 years. 
The new 35 improves on what the old 31 didn’t have, more cabin room and a larger fly bridge. The twin diesels should give the boat a 40 knot top speed with a mid-range cruise which should save fuel. It should hit the waves in July.  Check out:
The other boat is a 38’ Galeon. It’s a euro-styled hardtop express cruiser from Britain’s mega-yacht designer Tony Castro. Galleon designs have consistently earned European Powerboat of the year awards, including in 2016. She’s powered with twin Volvo Penta 370 H.P. D6 Diesels, which give her a top speed of 36 knots. 
The interior offers two private staterooms and heads, plus a dining area. It has three oversized skylights plus a long one in the master stateroom. There is plenty of room for entertaining top-side or just for enjoying the cruise.   The boat tests all say “look at the details.” Wow. Each drawer, locker and cabinet is fully lined with real walnut, some of them with real maple. They do everything in house so quality is well above what many boats are.
Galeon yachts are built in Poland where they have been building yachts since 1982. Marine Max is their U.S. dealer. Visit: or call 888-890-4187 for a catalog. 
Both boats would be great. The Bertram is more offshore fishing, while the Galeon is for cruising and entertaining. Both are tops in my opinion. Check them out and see what you think.  
Record your catch
In 2015 more than 40 anglers received the Angler Award from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. This award program recognizes those who catch fish that meet or exceed a specific weight or length for the particular species. 

Qualifications are: 
  • Catching fish by legal hook and line sport fish methods in Georgia. 
  • Meet or exceeding minimum weight or length requirements. 
  • Taking the fish to a division fisheries biologist for positive species identification, including a clear side view photo of the fish.
  • Complete and submit Angler Award application. 

Applications are available at: Send it to Wildlife Resources Division/Angler Award application, 2070 U.S. Highway 278 S.E., Social Circle, Ga. If you win you will receive a certificate and an embroidered hat with your name, species, weight and length of fish caught, plus the bragging rights. 
Kite surfing
A new sport from the South Pacific where you don’t need a boat (but would be a good idea to have a chase boat if you are on a lake). The only power required is the wind. Three kites are available: radar kite, switch blade kite and driver kite. One is for learning, the others are for light air or windy conditions. The sport has become popular with people who charter yachts and travel to remote islands.   It’s easy to learn, most people can master it in four or five days of practice. All the equipment can be carried by one person comfortably.  A kite surfing kit costs between $2,500 and $3,000. Just think: a water sport featuring no gas! Visit:
Do your part
One piece of gear you want to have aboard this year is a garbage bag. Yep, that’s right, a garbage bag. Make it a practice to collect your trash and dispose of it properly. You might consider picking up the trash left behind by someone who doesn’t practice clean boating. Teach your children and crew and they will get in the habit. The Lake Lanier Association will appreciate your effort when shore clean up time comes around.  
Our oceans are getting more cluttered with refuse. The Northern Pacific had a patch of garbage that covers 10 square miles of ocean.  Jacques Cousteau who invented the SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) was one of the first people to talk about keeping our oceans clean. His son Jean-Michel Cousteau has started a non-profit marine conservation organization whose motto is “Explore-Learn-Engage-Protect.” Check it out at:  Let’s keep Lanier and all our waters clean. 
Be courteous, practices safe boating, wear your PFDs 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.

April 2016 column

Take the proper steps to get ready for boatiang season

The U.S. Coast Guard’s motto is “Semper Paratus,” meaning “Always Ready.”  The question is, will your boat be properly equipped and running for the start of this boating season. Now is the time to check your maintenance log to make sure you have completed your spring “get ready” list. 
Re-inspect all fuel lines, water separators and filters. Check all of your wiring and make sure you didn’t have any nesting birds or squirrels over the winter. Nests and munched on wiring or hoses can be a mess. Check thru-hull fittings and sea-cocks, make sure the valves open and close easily. Make sure bilge pumps operate properly. All hoses from thru-hull fittings should be double clamped, with U.S.C.G. approved stainless steel hose clamps. Don’t forget fire extinguishers and PFDs and replace if needed. Make sure electronics are properly working. Check all navigation lights. Inspect all U.S.C.G required equipment.  
If you are not entirely sure of the equipment you are required to have on board your boat, get a copy of C.G. 169, usually available at your marina store and other outlets (West Marine). You can also call the Coast Guard Auxiliary to sign up for one of their free inspections. They give you a windshield sticker which shows you passed inspection. This could help you from being stopped for an inspection by patrolling officers.
Remember, your maintenance log can be kept online, with reminders for maintenance that will need to be done. If you use a boatyard for boat maintenance, try It’s a software tool that brands itself as the solution to bridge the coordination and information gap between boat owners, service professionals and boat builders. You can even use your smart phone to pay your yard bill. 
Set up that maintenance schedule and log, keep up with what needs to be done, and you will be “Always Ready.”
Tattoo your topsiders
Sperry Topsiders have been around for years and regarded as perhaps the best boating shoe around. Mr. Sperry noticed how well his dog or cat stayed firm on deck in rough weather, so he magnified the foot pads and used that pattern for the Topsiders sole. I’m not sure if it was a dog or a cat, as I’ve heard the story both ways. Now one of Sperry’s employees who was a customer of Rob Hotte’s “Solid Gold Tattoo Parlor in Queens, N.Y. got some tattoo’s on his Topsiders. Next thing you know he had tattooed 300 pairs of employee shoes. The tattooing must be a success as Sperry is flying Hottee to a different city every weekend for special events and store openings. They even flew him to New Zealand. People are putting boat names, ship wheels and anchors. Maybe they will put port and starboard on so they will get the shoe on the right foot.  Check with Sperry Topsiders if you want your shoes tattooed. 
Update on heads
Thetford has come out with an award winning marine porta-potti.  It’s a lightweight and convenient non-permanent sanitation system.  Flushing is battery powered and it has level indicators for both the fresh and waste tanks. MSRP is $150. Check out: For permanent installation heads, research Dometic’s Vacuflush 5009. It fits a wide array of small power boats. Also Headhunter and Raritan have excellent new models ranging from $600 to $1,500. All have good ratings, it just depends which one is best for you boat.  Every head should have a sign that states “Don’t put anything in here unless you have eaten it first.” Invariably you get land lubbers on board and they throw trash in the head which stops it up and creates a nasty clean up job. Some of the new heads have macerators. So mind that sign and you won’t have a bad clean-up job. 
Bow fishing
That’s right, fishing with a bow and arrow. Since we have an overabundance of Asian Carp in some rivers and lakes, the compound bow is being used. The compound bow is rigged with sights and a line that’s attached to the arrow. The line comes off a reel that looks like a Zebco 202. Tracker Marine has made a special boat for bow fishing. It’s called the Grizzley 2071 MVX. It has a raised platform that will accommodate two hunters/fishermen with lights under the platform that show where the fish are. The boat even has a small generator to keep the batteries charged.   Competition has been so keen that the Bow Fishing Association of America (BAA) has formed, and they keep track of record fish that are caught. Bass Pro Shops has taken the lead in starting tournaments The U.S. Open Bow Fishing Championship which has a $25.000 prize. They have also had the first Bass Pro Shops Bow Fishing World’s Fair which is a seminar with accomplished bow fishermen.  The B.A.A. recorded the 244 pound 8 ounce Alligator Gar shot by Robin Parks of Texas and a 92 pound 8 once Big-Head Carp shot by Darren Opel in Illinois. If you want to try bow fishing contact B.A.A. or check with Bass Pro Shops.
Record fish 
Wes Carlton, of Gainesville, GA was fishing on Lake Rabun on February 19th when he landed a large walleye pike. He knew it was large for a walleye. After a weigh-in and contacting the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division, he found out his 14 pound 2 ounce, 31 and a half inch fish had beat the state record established in 1996 by almost three pounds. A new state record has to be one ounce or greater. The Wildlife Division says it’s been expecting some large catches out of Lake Rabun. More walleye information can be found at: Congratulations Wes. 
Griffin fisherman wins
Byron Kenny of Griffin tallied a five bass limit totaling 16 pounds 17 ounces to win the FLW Bass Fishing League Bulldog Division Tournament on Lake Lanier. His catch earned him $4,763. He used a shad colored fish head spinner, a citrus shad colored strike king KVD and a HC square bill silent crank bait. After fishing all day he didn’t think his fish weighed enough to win. He was wrong. Power-pole was the tournament sponsor. 
Tips for buying used boats
You have been to the boat show and decided you could save money buying a used one. Well, you can, but you have to be careful. Ask the owner to see the maintenance log. Check the power plant. Dirty oil and corrosion will give you an indication of what kind of maintenance it has had. Check hull for damage or repairs. A fiberglass hull with wood in the transom or deck could have dry rot. Decks can also have plywood below the fiberglass that can dry rot. Check for stress cracks.  Inspect electrical systems, especially the batteries, all navigation lights and electronic devices, VHF radio, and depth sounder. Chances are the canvas, upholstery, carpet and vinyl will show wear and may need replacing. If it is a boat with a trailer, make sure you check tires, bearings, rollers, bunks, lights, and winch.  If after checking all that I have listed you feel it’s a good buy then contact a marine surveyor to go over the boat and conduct a sea trial. You have to have a survey for your insurance and financing so get a surveyor that they will accept. Finally, take the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary’s safe boating course and have your boat inspected. 
Safety advice
Get PLB’s (personal locator beacons) on all PFDs. That way, if someone goes overboard, especially at night, they will be easier to locate. If you go offshore make sure you have an EPIRB unit. I know they are expensive but you can rent one for your trip from Boat US. Last but not least tell someone on shore where you are going and when you will return. If you have a problem they will know where to start looking. Combined with the previously mentioned electronic gear, in case of an emergency you and your crew will be found quicker. Don’t be a statistic, boat smart and safely.
Practice safe boating, be courteous and I’ll see you on the water.

March 2016 column

Will butanol replace ethanol in our fuel?

Gulf Marine on the East Coast will soon offer ethanol-free gasoline. Instead of adding 10 percent ethanol it will add an EPA-approved concentration of 12.5 percent isobutanol. This has been tested for the last five years by the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association, American Boat and Yacht Council, the Department of Energy, and the U.S. Coast Guard.  Also several manufacturers like BRM (Bombardier) are also testing butanol which has a 30 percent higher BTU rating. This biofuel also comes from the same feed stocks (corn) as ethanol, but it has greater energy density. Most important it does not absorb moisture or allow phase separation. It also does not corrode or damage fuel tanks, fuel lines or engine components. 
Burtamax and Gevo have reached an agreement in which each will pursue the development isobutanol markets. Gevo is jet fuel and Butamax is land fuels. Gevo currently produces it for Gulf Marine. Gulf Marine has 17 plus marinas and it is growing, supplying this fuel on the East Coast. Cost will probably be $1.50 to $2 per gallon or more. But you don’t get the problems you do with ethanol. Ask your local marina if  they will switch to butanol added fuel instead of ethanol fuel. 
New items
A Swedish company has come out with a 200 hp diesel outboard called the OXE, which is Swedish for ox. They say it burns 40 percent less fuel than a 200 hp gasoline outboard. The engine is a GM 2 liter inline 4 cylinder that weighs 700 pounds. Check with Cascade Engine Center in Seattle for price and more information.
Gibbs Sports announces its Quadski, an all-terrain vehicle that turns into a personal watercraft. The Biski transforms from an 80 mph motorcycle to a 32 knot PWC almost seamlessly. This is a toy that should really take off. Visit for price and more information. 
New book
Several years back you will probably remember a fisherman whose 25’ boat broke down off of Mexico; 14 months and 6,000 miles later he was rescued from the Pacific Ocean. The fisherman, Salvador Alvarenga, tells his unbelievable tale of resourcefulness, faith, and an unrelenting will to live. Read his new book from Simon and Schuster by Jonathon Franklin called “438 Days.” The cost is $18 at  It will make you appreciate the little things in life. 
Things to do
Your boat has probably not had much attention since last year, with the holidays and football. So now is the time to get started. Get out your mechanical log and start completing some of the items you can do now, so they will be done when the warm weather hits. I’m sure you made some notes when the boat was winterized. Maybe a trip to West Marine is necessary to replace old equipment such as PFDs, fenders, line, anchors and rode, flashlights, flares, first aid kits, and I’m sure there is more.

Remember to complete any mechanical service that pertains to your boat. Remember that all the ground hogs didn’t see their shadow this year, so we don’t get six more weeks of winter, so spring should come early. So be ready. Don’t forget to record what you did in your mechanical log. You have no excuses. It can be all online now. If you have any questions go on line to www.boatingmag.comand direct your questions, they sure can help out. If you don’t have a boat, but are considering one this year, check out for boat tests. They have 1,300 plus tests so you are bound to find the boat for you. 
New engines
Volvo Penta, who gets their marine blocks from General Motors, has new V-6 and V-8 engines in their 240 hp and 300 hp range for customers in 2016. GM builds the aluminum block engines and Volvo marinises them with aluminum parts. So now Volvo has two all-aluminum engines and they claim they are the power-to-weight champions. Some of the boat manufacturers who are using the new engines are: Chaparral, Chris-Craft, Cobalt, Cutwater, Formula, Four Winns, Monterey, Regal and Stingray. Both engines have closed cooling systems. This sounds like a good reliable engine for your future boat. 
New engine additive
“Motor Whiskey,” no it’s not for your cocktail hour, but a new additive which is a fuel stabilizer, fuel enhancer, octane booster and fuel system cleaner. It is available in four treatments, one being for diesel engines. Check out:
Past racing days
Well, the Miami Boat Show is over and I’ll bet it set records. The mentioning of the Marine Stadium brought back some racing memories. I had the Cobia Racing Team that was sponsored by Mercury Motors and Ashland Oil Company, which owned Cobia boats. It consisted of five race boats; two 18’ twin rigs, one 16’ rig, and two 15’s.  We raced OPC (outboard pleasure craft). We had just finished the Miami-Key Largo race and there were a lot of single engine unlimited class boats. So the race committee decided to have a race with this class with a $10,000 first prize. As I remember it was a 50 lap race on the Marine Stadium course. Well I had one single unlimited 16’ called the “Red Baron” and I also had a stock 15’ Cobia. So I took one of the twin rigs’ unlimited engines off the twin rig and put it on the 15’ which was called “Lil Snoopy.”  All but one of my boats was named after “Peanuts” characters. The unlimited twin rig was “Snoopy’s Revenge.” The standard twin rig was called “Muck Muck” because my godson couldn’t say Mike. The other 15’ rig was a “G” class (80 hp) called “Good Grief Charlie Brown.” So we got the “Red Baron” and “Lil Snoopy” ready.  The command to go to the starting area came and “Lil Snoopy” idled out to the area with the 30-40 other boats.
I was driving the “Red Baron,” but as I was ready to start the engine and idle out, the “Red Baron” wouldn’t start. We tried to figure out what was wrong, but we just couldn’t get it to start. I was destined to not start the race. One of the notables in the race was “Renatto Molinari” whose Molinari Boats had set numerous speed records in his single engine tunnel boats. Well the race started and “Lil Snoopy” and the Molinari were at the front. The announcer couldn’t keep quiet over how fast and great the Molinari was. While this was happening, “Lil Snoopy” found the right water and blew by the Molinari. The announcer didn’t know what to say. About three laps later “Lil Snoopy” limped into the pits when the bottom de-laminated.  When we got home we took the “Red Baron” to the water and it started right up and ran perfect.  “Lil Snoopy” was beyond repair and was retired. I guess the racing Gods didn’t want me to race at the Marine Stadium. 
The SS United States
A preservationist group is trying to save the 1950s era ship which set records crossing the Atlantic as well as being known for having presidents, kings and queens, and actors aboard for cruises. William Francis Gibbs was the visionary shipbuilder who directed the ship’s construction at the Newport News Shipyard. The conservancy, founded to save the ship and make it a waterside attraction, is headed by his granddaughter Susan Gibbs.  The ship has been saved from the scrap yard several times. She is now docked in Philadelphia. There is even a song written about the ship and sung by the Virginia Children’s Chorus of Norfolk to raise money. Fast forward to today, Crystal Cruise Lines will purchase the ship, refurbish it and place it within it fleet.
For boaters that trailer
Boaters that trailer to different lakes and rivers need to thoroughly clean boats and trailers for any aquatic weeds that might be stuck on the prop or trailer.  The aquatic plants that you carry from one lake to another can literally take over a lake and ruin fish population, recreational boating and sports. Weeds such as salvinia must be controlled. Do your part and check your trailer and boat to make sure you are not transferring aquatic weeds from one lake to another.  Make sure your boat is clean when launched in the lake. 
USCGA classes
The boating classes that are under the direction of the USCG Auxiliary would be a good family project. You will all be better boaters for it. Also you can save 10 percent on your insurance premiums. The USCG Auxiliary also conducts free boat inspections.  This publication has dates for the classesand how  to get your inspection.
Be courteous, practice safe boating and I’ll see you on the water.

February 2016 column

News and notes from the boating world and beyond

Bertram is introducing the Bertram 35’, which is the replacement for the much enamored 31’ “Moppie.” The Moppie was made famous in the ’60s and ’70s as one of the best all-around fishing boats as well as the hull being one of the best for offshore powerboat racing. The hull’s sea keeping abilities were renowned.

The new 35’ takes all the qualities of the 31’ Moppie and adds some new features. The fiberglass hull is now built with up to date techniques and materials. The 35’ fly bridge is a great improvement over the small F/B on the 31’. It has a 12’5” beam and a draft of 2’6” so you can go in those shallow gunkholes for a swim or relax at anchor. Top end speed is 40-plus knots.  No news as to the price, but it will be in the showrooms by May or June. Go to: to view the photos. It looks like a real winner.

Bertram has changed hands recently and was purchased by Beniamino Gavio, who also owns Baelietto and CCN Yacht Builders.  He is a successful entrepreneur and boat builder who promises nothing but the best in the Bertram’s future.

Bertram has always been one of my favorites. A 46’ was the queen of the Miami Boat Show in 1970, and I sold it to a client. After that I sold and delivered quite a few Bertrams in various sizes. One of my last deliveries was a 46’ Bertram from Pompano Beach to St. Petersburg, a great two-day trip.  Look for more new models out of Bertram in the near future.

Boat shows
I hope everyone enjoyed the Atlanta Boat Show. Those of you who purchased a new boat and have not taken the boating safety course, you should do so before you hit the water. U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary course dates are in this publication, for your convenience.  You can also have your new boat inspected by them, it doesn’t cost anything, and you will feel safer.

The Miami International Boat Show will be February 11-15. This is probably is the largest boat show of the year. There are 600,000 square feet of exhibitor space, and 1,200 boats on display. Make sure you’ve got your best walking shoes on. This show has also taken over the Miami Marine Stadium Park and basin. We use to have heat races at the stadium, and the Miami-Key Largo-Miami marathon race started and ended at the stadium. The show will have demo docks, so you can take your dream boat for a ride. You will probably view parts of the show online, check for details at:  Remember, you need two or three days to see the whole show.

Young angler earns scholarship
In previous columns I’ve reported how high school and college fishing teams have grown in popularity. Now there is a high school graduate who made good grades, but also did well on his schools fishing team. Cody Stahl a graduate of Crosspoint Christian Academy in Pike County, Georgia along with his fishing teammate Tate VanEgmond dominated the Georgia High School Fishing circuit the last few years. They won first place trophies in Georgia Bass Nation High School Fishing Tournament action. The two also took their talents to the Bassmaster High School National Championship this past July and finished 10th in the nation.

Stahl’s scholarship at the Savannah College of Art and Design will help him in his major of industrial design and minor in marketing. In his spare time he’ll be fishing on SCAD’s college team.
Stahl will join local angler Noah Pescitelli of Buford on the SCAD fishing team. Pescitelli, 18, recently received an athletic and academic scholarship at the college as well.

We wish them luck. I’m sure we’ll be hearing about them in Bassmaster Tournaments in the future. Hey, high school students that want a fishing team, get a teacher to be a coach and start one.

New safety equipment
It seems like it takes a tragedy like the loss of those two boys in Florida last July to create new and less expensive lifesaving electronic gear. One of the parents is working with Florida legislators to offer boat registration discounts to those who show proof that they carry registered EPIRBS and/or (depending on vessel size) PLBs onboard.  ARC Electronics is already donating to the non-profit foundation aimed at keeping kids safe on the water.

There may come a day when all boats will be required to carry a U.S. Coast Guard approved EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon). Ocean Signal has a new affordable unit if it becomes law. It’s ideal for boats up to 25’ in length. You activate it manually or it automatically activates when immersed in water to send an emergency signal to a rescue response center anywhere in the world. The 66 channel GPS helps responders home in on your location. It also has two high intensity strobes which maximize visibility at night or in a fog. The unit has a 10 year battery life, and will broadcast at 12 watts for 48 hours when activated. Cost is $399.95 at:

ACR offers a “ResQLink+” PLB (personal locator beacon) that is designed to secure onto your life jacket. In rough seas or a catastrophic situation people can become separated and the PLB will help locate them. They sell for $250 and it’s a good idea to have one on each PFD in use onboard. I know from experience a lot of boaters will say, “I don’t need that, I just boat on a lake.” But they forget the one or two trips to the Gulf or the Atlantic shore. Don’t be a statistic; if you are going off shore you need U.S. Coast Guard Approved devices such as these.

Here are a few more safety devices being offered this year:
  • The Throw Raft TD 2401:  Throwable flotation devices are essential to have onboard, especially for a man over board situation.  Cost $130:
  • Flares are included in most safety units onboard. Aurora flares are a waterproof hand held red flare and should help in a quick rescue or for assistance. Cost is $30.  Contact:
  • The Spot Trace and Gen 3 are widely used by delivery captains and long distance cruisers to keep people informed of their locations when cell phones won’t work.  They also have an SOS button.  Cost is $150. Contact:

When you go boating with these items onboard you and your crew will be much safer in case of an emergency which I hope you don’t have.

PWC update
Bombardier’s Sea-Doo that started the PWC craze in 1968 used engines from their successful Ski-Doo snowmobiles. Both were in their trademark bright yellow which was recognizable on water or land as one of Bombardier’s successful recreation products. The new RXP-X model seems light years ahead of the 1968 models. It still has a Rotax engine, but most similarities end with the logo on the engine. The new model has a 1600 cc engine rated at 300 H.P. - that’s 17 times the original model.  The power is substantially boosted by the combination of a super charger and inter-cooler. Top speed is reached in 1.5 seconds when it tops out at an electronically limited 67 M.P.H. You know some owners will try to disconnect the electronic limiter.

In my opinion I think PWCs are traveling too fast now. I look to see more accidents because of speed and unfamiliarity with the machine.   They now have what is called the intelligent brake and reverse system. It will rapidly slow the craft, ultimately bringing it to a stop in 160 feet which is a shorter distance than comparable makes.  Electronic throttle gives more control, plus a cruise control lets you rest your throttle hand. Check with your dealer for a price and ride.  Sounds like another reliable product from Bombardier.

Anglers Journal
Anglers Journal, which I recommend for all fishermen, will now be on television on Destination America, part of the Discovery Network. The show is hosted by respected angling personality and Editor John Brownlee. The first episode was filmed in Hopedale, Louisiana, home waters of big red fish. Viewers can expect strong story telling from a fast paced show that is really fun to watch.  For more information:  www.facebook/   

Be courteous, practice safe boating, wear your PFDs and I’ll see you on the water.

January 2016 column

Start the new year off right with boating resolutions

I hope you and your family had a very Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year! Don’t forget a few boating New Year’s resolutions:
  • Add Stabil or a like additive to your fuel tank. It will save you from costly repairs or being towed.
  • Have properly fitting PFDs (life jackets) and wear them when you are on the water. The USCG states that at least 80 percent of victims who drowned in boating accidents were not wearing PFDs.  Don’t become a statistic. If you’ve noticed recent boat ads everyone on board wears a PFD.
  • Enroll you and your crew in a USCG Auxiliary or US Power Squadron safety course. You will find the dates in this publication.  Remember, course completion could get you 10 percent off on your boat insurance.
  • Join Boat US, it’s the organization all boaters should belong to.  They have a very informative bi-monthly publication and if you need a good answer to a boating problem you can contact them and one of their pros will help you.  Contact: It only costs $24 and it is worth it.

Now’s the time to charter
If you are tired of looking at boating magazines in this cold January weather, why not consider chartering a boat in Florida or the Bahamas. If you are qualified you can bare boat charter, it’s like having your own boat with your crew and you are the Captain. You can cruise the west coast of Florida, the  Keys, or Florida’s east coast where you can cruise to the Bahama Island of your choice. The west coast of Florida has Tampa Bay to Charlotte Harbor and farther south to Naples and Marco Island. In the Keys you can go diving on one of the world’s largest coral reefs.

Chris Caswell, who writes for many popular boating magazines, says that a new trend taken from European charters is called social chartering or a flotilla of friends chartering numerous vessels. The charter company puts together a package for a particular destination, perhaps the Virgin Islands for a dozen or so boats. The charter company provides a Captain, service technician and a hostess. The Captain meets with the bare boat skippers each morning and goes over the charts and discusses the plan of the day, which could be the perfect cove or beach to have lunch or a dive on a coral reef.

Some think they will miss out on destinations with a social charter. That’s not likely, your lead crew is intimately familiar with the area.  You’ll get more out of your social charter, because you will go directly to your destination instead of searching for it. Perhaps that fun loving crew you hang with at the marina or beach at Lake Lanier might want to do a social charter this winter. Just think of the stories you will have to tell dockside next summer.

For more info on Florida and Bahamas cruising contact: for a cruising directory, it’s only $16.

If you are a fisherman, here’s the trip of a lifetime, especially if you are a bass fisherman. How about a trip to Mexico to fish Lake Picachos. It’s full of Florida largemouth bass, the ones that grow the fastest. Fly in to Mazatlán and about a 50-minute ride puts you at the Anglers Inn. They will meet you at the airport. Packages start at $1,695 per angler for four nights and three days. Call 1-800-gota-fish or also check to view the latest fish reports and videos.  They say 10 pound largemouth are average.

Charter resources
Here are some basic charter resources:
Le Boat cruises the canals in France which go through small towns with great wine and food.  These cruises are getting more popular. No rough water, just canals and locks, and great scenery.  If you go on a charter please share your story and photos with Lakeside readers.

Chitwod Charters is a familiar one for me as I captained a 48’ Grand Banks trawler for a client on a week’s charter in the Sarasota to Ft. Myers area, everyone was satisfied. Southwest Florida Yacht Charters will also teach you sailing when chartering.

More on Cuba
Cruising Cuban waters is legal with the proper licensing. General tourism is still not allowed and your trip must fall under one of 12 (fairly comprehensive) categories.  The 12 permitted categories of travel are: family visits, government business, journalism, professional research and meetings, educational activities, religious activities, participation in public performances, clinics, workshops, exhibitions, sports and other competitions, support for the Cuban people, humanitarian projects, work of private foundations and research, exportation, importation, authorized export transactions.  You can also refer to: and you will see some of the frequently asked questions to get your papers.

Since this past September when these regulations were set, sailboat racers have been busy. The Conch Republic Cup will comprise a series of races starting the last part of January 2016. They will go from Key West to Varadaro and then Varadaro to Havana, and then the last race will be from Havana to Key West. Check out: for more information.

Another race was set for Dec. 3, 2015. It was promoted by the Varadaro Yacht Club in Cuba along with the Lake Kegonsa Sailing in Wisconsin. Guess they wanted to get out of the cold. Check out:

The Pensacola Yacht Club is also considering a race to Havana.  The Sarasota Yacht Club has scheduled a race from Sarasota to Havana next April 2-12. Visit: They expect more than 20 entries.  

Meanwhile the charter business is picking up. Check: For the fisherman, the Hemingway Yacht Club is expected to begin tournaments like they had in Hemingway’s famous fishing tournament on “Pilar,” his 38’ wheeler.

An interesting note about Hemingway’s second wife Pauline, who was from the small town of Piggot, Arkansas. Seems like when the kids came along he didn’t like diapers, feeding and colic, so he didn’t stay at the Key West home, he would go to Cuba and fish. So as a lure to keep him in Key West Pauline convinced her uncle to purchase “Pilar.”

National fisherman Roger Fitzgerald has fond memories of Cuba. His father was in the Navy and stationed at Guantanamo Bay. He grew up there and caught the fishing fever as a youngster when he caught a cubero snapper. That’s a red snapper on steroids and they run a pretty good size – 20 to 40 pounds plus. He has visited Cuba many times in recent years with no problem. He would fly to Cancun, Mexico and catch one of 10 or more flights on Mexicana or Cubana Airlines. However if the Cubans got caught talking fishing they might end up in jail. I’m sure things are changing and the spring boating magazines will have many stories of a revitalized Cuba.

An unusual boat
The Galeon 50 flybridge yacht is one of the new yachts that features the euro-style profile and a spacious flybridge. She cruises at 24 knots, but that is just part of it.  When you reach your favorite cove or party destination you push several buttons and the five foot long windows slide forward into the bulkheads, then the aft bulkheads fold down into the balconies just a few feet above the water. There is an alfresco bar on one side and a balcony with a chaise lounge on the other. Quite a party barge. If you were anchored in a cove with other boats, this is the one that would have the party and cookout.  Fold out balconies were originated by designer Tony Castro for his super yacht designs. Galeon is represented in the U.S. by Marine  Max. Check out:

Large electric outboards
Trolling motors are not the only electric outboard motors; Torqeedo introduced an 80 hp and ReGen Nautic, a 180 hp, with a 300 hp model on the way. They have even experimented with a 38 foot cigarette with 2,200 hp. However battery power will only last for 30 minutes, going at 70 mph with a burst to 110 mph. They are very efficient, but only for a short time because of the batteries. The cost would be about three times that of a gas outboard. The problem is the lithium ion batteries, which are heavy, don’t stay on a charge long enough, and they are expensive. When these three problems are solved we will see electric outboards competing in price. Elon Musk (of Tesla electric cars) is now working on this at his new battery factory in Nevada.

If you go out on the water be sure to practice safe boating and I’ll see you on the water when it gets warmer.

December 2015 column

A couple of strange stories from the sea

There are a lot of unusual happenings in this world, but I’ve always thought sea stories were the most unusual. Here are a couple I found strange:

Two teenagers growing up in Ocean City, Maryland became interested in fishing, so they hung around the docks trying to learn what they could. One day they signed on to one of the uncle’s fishing boats to learn everything they could about what would be their future profession. Their next step would be to get their Captain’s license and find a fishing boat owner to hire them, which they did.

They fished out of Ocean City in white marlin tournaments with some success. One Captain had a 53’ Monterey in which he traveled the world – as far south as Venezuela and west in the Pacific.  Both Captains stayed in contact and the world traveler decided to go home to Ocean City to be closer to relatives and his fishing buddy.

A white marlin tournament was being held, and the well-traveled fishing Captain entered it. By the last day of the tournament they had caught five white marlins. A sixth white marlin was caught and the Captain noticed that it was a tagged fish, something he was very familiar with, having tagged over 600 fish down in Venezuela. They clipped off the tag, re-tagged and released the fish. Back at port he filled out the tag and mailed it to the Billfish Foundation which recorded the card’s information, such as when and where it was caught, and who caught it.

It is always interesting to read the cards when they comeback. Sometimes they were tagged half way around the world. When the Captain read the card his jaw dropped. The fish was caught by his teenage fishing buddy. Out of a boat in which he had been captain! And it was caught within a mile of where he was fishing, exactly one year to the day, almost to the hour. That’s like lightning striking twice in the same place. Needless to say that evening they had to toast the occasion, and they came to the conclusion that “Great minds think alike.”

A friend of mine gave me his copy of The Texas Fish and Game Magazine and a letter about a 7’ diameter sea turtle and it reminded me of my encounter. Manual Lopez who was a bartender at the Pelican Restaurant on Clearwater Beach would send me prospective customers to my yacht sales business. One day he called and said he had a close friend who had passed away and his sister and nephew would like to present his ashes to the sea. I said I would take them out in the Gulf.

So one beautiful morning we left the dock at about 6:30 a.m. We cruised to about five miles off shore. The boat was one of my trade-ins: a 24’ Fibra with an I/O. I slowed to an idle and told them I would make slow circles at idle while they presented the ashes and said quotes from the Bible. I made about four 300’ circles and “bam” I hit something. I shut the boat off and went astern where the largest sea turtle I’ve ever seen was giving me the evil eye.

I apologized for what happened, started the engine and continued to make circles. I made about two more circles and “bam” again. I repeated what I did before and there was that turtle again. I raised the outdrive to check it, and sure enough the second strike bent the prop. I figured it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t continue, so I started making circles so we could finish.  Again “bam” and the engine revved. I checked again and found out the drive shaft was broken, and there was that sea turtle again. He had a satisfied look this time. I told my crew that we would try to hitch a tow from one of the fishermen nearby. After flagging down three or four boats for a tow we finally got one. It cost $150 for the tow and the boat repair was $350.00.

I told a Conservation Officer who had been in the U.S. Coast Guard with me and he said, “You had one of those new shinny props on didn’t you?” I said yes and he said running the way I was, the sun reflected off the prop blades. It was like a kingfish chasing a Reflecto spoon. That is one of the strangest events to happen to me on the water.

Anniversary stamp
The U.S. Postal Service will have stamps to honor the U.S. Coast Guard’s 225th anniversary.  The Coast Guard was signed into law by President George Washington in August 1790. It provided for 10 vessels nicknamed “revenue cutters.” The stamp has the 295’ cutter Eagle “Americas tall ship” and an MH-65 Dolphin “helicopter” rescue craft. The Coast Guard has more than 49,000 active-duty members, 7,300 reservists, 8,300 civilian employees and 30,000 volunteer auxiliary personnel.

Santa is near
It’s time to think about your boat, Captain and crew. If you have an older boat maybe replacing some standard equipment that’s getting old like PFDs, lines and fenders, spotlights, anchor and rode, fire extinguisher, update electronics, VHF, depth finder, radar or PLBs would make great Christmas gifts.  

New recreation toys that have just hit the market would make a great gift. Maybe a 28 pound kayak would provide fun for you crew. It folds up into its own back pack for easy storage on board or in your car. The high pressure drop stitch inflatable kayak is super rigid and easy to paddle. Contact: or call for color catalog 1-800-748-8066.  This would be great fun for kids, or adults. It would also be great for quietly sneaking up on that favorite fishing hole.

There is also a stand up paddle board that conveniently folds up into its own back pack for convenient stowing or traveling. Hobie also has an inflatable kayak with pedal driven mirage drive. It’s also easily storable and is made from rugged PVC. Contact:

If you have a crew member or passenger who gets seasick, a good stocking stuffer would be the Anchor Nutrition Bar. This tasty treat starts working within 15 minutes after eating, it’s good for you, and it lasts up to three hours. The cost is $11.99 for a three pack.  Contact: T-shirts or hats with your boats name on it for Captain and crew is another suggestion.

If you plan an off shore trip make sure you have the proper safety equipment like a “EPIRB” or other safety equipment you might need for an emergency.  Don’t be in next year’s statistics, make it home safely. Contact the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadron if you need a list of proper off shore safety equipment you might want to give Captain and crew for Christmas.  

A membership in Boat/U.S. would be a very worthwhile gift. It not only helps you on the water, but they have a great magazine the whole family will enjoy. Cost is very reasonable so get ready for next season and join. It could be your best present from Santa.  Contact:

Cuba invitation
The Commodore Eschrich and the board of directors of the Hemingway International Yacht Club of Havana has extended an invitation to U.S. boaters to come to Cuba and enjoy what they will also have to offer American cruisers. They would like to organize conferences, seminars, courses, sailing and motor racing, fishing tournaments and other boating events. It sounds like they will be ready to go as soon as diplomatic relations are completed. Visit:

Boat show time
The Atlanta Boat Show will be from January 14th to the 17th.  Since boating has come back from the bad times of the recession you might be thinking of a boat for the family. Start selecting what you want now and what you can afford and it will avoid confusion at the show.

Practice safe boating, be courteous, and wear a P.D.F and I’ll see you on the water.

November 2015 column

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary began as 'Coastal Picket Forces'

During World War II there were close to 60 ships sunk by German submarines off the northern Gulf Coast. One sinking was the S.S. Robert E. Lee about 25 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Almost 100 lives were lost.  The Coast Guard escort ship would claim the only sinking of a German submarine off the southern U.S. coast line. This incident was one of many that also occurred off the East Coast and Florida straits. The German U-boats referred to it as the “American Hunting Season.”

Around this critical time a surprising ragtag fleet of recreational boaters, owners of schooners and power boats offered up their personal boats for anti-submarine operations along the American coastline. They called themselves “Coastal Picket Forces.” One of the most famous of these volunteers was Ernest Hemingway and his 38’ Wheeler “Pilar.” They cruised the Florida straits in search of German U-boats while armed with only grenades and Thompson submachine guns. These volunteers also became vital in rescuing seamen from torpedoed vessels, freeing up the Coast Guard to actively hunt marauding U-boats.

In 1941, Popular Science Magazine ran an article discussing this new citizen wing of the Coast Guard that recently organized. By the end of the war, the Coastal Picket Forces were formally recognized, and the organization was absorbed into what is now known as the modern day U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary which still patrols our coastlines today.

They also inspect your boats for proper equipment and safety. And they have boating classes, and if you pass and get a certificate it could lower your boat insurance by 10 percent. The U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary has a proud and dedicated history in boating.

High school fishing
The Southeastern Regional Conference Championship Fishing Tournament was held at the end of September on Lake Lanier. Forty five teams competed; the last four teams were skunked. The winning team: East Hall High School Vikings’ fishermen; Tristan Thomas, Dakota Crumley and Hunter Buffington had 12 lbs. 13 oz. of fish to beat out the second place team, Hazel Green, 12 lbs. 10 oz. The teams will now go to the national championship later this year. High school fishing teams are getting more popular each year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a women’s team or two soon.  Stay tuned and we’ll give you the tournament updates.

New I/O engines
Mercury Marine now builds its own total motors and does not use automotive blocks like the old 454c.i. model that was quite a gas guzzler. They have introduced a 6.2 liter V-8 engine in 300 and 350 H.P. models for inboard and I/O, built from the ground up. These models are more economical and much quieter as the air intake faces toward the stern rather than the helm.

Volvo also has some new models based on GM’s 4.3 liter V-6.  They are 200 and 240 H.P. for both inboard and I/O installation. I can’t help but think what would happen if GM quit making V-8 and V-6 blocks and the automotive company had to buy their engine blocks from Mercury Marine. That would sure be a switch, but interesting to say the least.  

Diesel outboards are being built by Mercury Marine since the Department of Defense made a “one fuel directive,” meaning diesel. This engine will not be available in a civilian version. The horsepower also was not noted with this announcement. I would guess the horsepower would fall between 200 and 300 H.P.

A Swedish manufacturer has introduced the OXE 200 H.P. diesel outboard which complies with NATO’s single fuel directive but is also being tested for non-military applications. It is based on a General Motors diesel, mounted horizontally with the transmission at the power head and belts driving the propeller. Check this out at You might see this one at a boat show.

Florida to Cuba record
Forest Johnson, known for his fast 37’ prowler boats, set a record from Florida to Cuba in 1958 of 6 hours and 24 minutes. The record was recently broken by “Apachestar” recently and the 100 miles was covered in one and a half hours: a new powerboat record.

I met Forest Johnson at his factory on the Miami River when he had some 24’ molds for sale, which my partners and I bought. I finished the molds and we built a 24’ center console and cuddy cabin. It was powered with a Mercury inboard and was a great boat for Tarpon fishing. We sold a bunch of them and then sold the molds. The last one I saw was a police boat in Naples, Florida.

Jack Beachem, who built Holiday and Lazy-Days marinas here on Lake Lanier, as well as Lazy-Day houseboats, had an open Forest Johnson prowler. It was a similar model to the one that was in the 1970 Bahamas 500.  Prowlers were famous for rum running; they were fast and sea worthy.

Treasure hunting update
Brent Brisben, who bought the rights to the 11 ships that were lost in a 1715 hurricane off Vero Beach Florida from Mel Fisher’s heirs, not only hunts for treasure himself, but sublets the right to other treasure hunters. One family found 50 gold coins; most were what are called “Royals” which were crafted to look and feel impressive. The coins were worth about $1 million. Brisben’s own team found 350 coins, and nine “Royals,” a total value of about $4.5 million.

He says the trick is getting in the trough between the reefs and the beach. There is about five or six feet of sand which has to be blown away. They then go through broken limestone with gaps, shelves and fissures. They excavate that and then all the cracks and fissures hold hundreds of gold coins.  Brisben says there is another $400 million out there and plans to keep looking. If you see a 50’ boat with divers in close around Vero Beach, Florida they could be treasure hunters. Go online and research “Treasure Hunting.” Maybe you’ll catch the bug and go hunt gold coins.  

It’s boat show time
The 2015 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show runs November 5th thru 9th. (Thursday through Monday). The show is branded as a world class event, with billions of dollars in boats. Show Management, which produces the show, has launched a streamlined, easy to navigate and mobile compatible consumer website with detailed maps of the show and information abo
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