Today's lake level: 1,071.05
Your complete online news, information, and recreation guide to Lake Lanier
Nov. 26, 2015
1:51 am


Captain's Comments

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 about exhibitors. The website’s exhibitor pages are richer in content now, and photos of boats and their specification and locations at the show are available. Now you can go to the show on a laptop in the comfort of your home.  

Atlanta’s Boat Show will again be in January 2016. Since boating is on the rebound the boat shows will have many more new models and equipment.

Practice safe boating, be courteous, wear a 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.

October 2015 column

It's now time for boaters to winterize

Winter is not far away and that means our boating season is essentially over. Now is the time to winterize your boat and do it properly so you will have less “get ready” chores next spring. Here are some tips:

Outdrives and outboards need to have the lower units checked.  Drain out the gear case oil and inspect it for water. If it has water in it that means the prop seal has failed and needs to be replaced.  This can be caused by age. Or monofilament line (fishing line) could have wrapped around the prop shaft and damaged the seal. Remove the prop and inspect. If your prop has damage, send it in for repair or upgrade to a new one. Remember, oil and seals are cheap, lower units that get frozen because of water in the gear case are expensive.

Inboard boats and four cycle outboards need to have an oil and filter change. Don’t wait until spring because the acids in old oil can damage your engine’s internal parts. Fuel filters and water separators should be cleaned and inspected.  Replace where needed. Check fuel lines and hose clamps. Make sure fuel line is U.S. Coast Guard approved for fuel using ethanol, replace if not. Also, use only approved stainless steel hose clamps, and double clamp. Add Sta-bil or an approved additive to your fuel tank.

Inspect bilges for hose and clamps, as well as wiring and connections. Replace or repair with approved parts where needed. Check navigation lights, remove bulbs and spray WD-40 in bulb socket. It’s something you won’t have to do come spring. Check your batteries and stow properly. Make sure connections are clean and use a proper charger whether you leave them aboard or remove to store. If batteries are old and need to be replaced, wait until spring battery sales. Check your zincs and replace where needed. If they have excessive wear then find the cause.

Those of you who keep your boats in the water year round do the same winterizing on engines and generators (houseboats, cruisers, and sailboats). You should also haul your boat once a year to inspect the bottom and running gear after pressure washing. Paint if needed, and replace zincs where needed. A good wash down, clean and wax will make it easier to get ready in spring.  

If you trailer your boat, don’t just park and forget it. Remember to check tires, bearings, winch and line, trailer lights. Note: you might want to upgrade your trailer lights with a new and waterproof L.E.D. kit. It will end all that fooling around with lights.  

If you cover and stow your boat outside you might want to put some moth balls in a bowl to keep out the little varmints that think your boat would make a great winter home.

Check your engine manuals to make sure you haven’t missed anything on your particular model. If you have lost your manual they are available online.  

Check your electronic gear and if it’s in need of repair send it in so it will be ready come spring. You might want to wait and see what new electronics are available at the 2016 Atlanta Boat Show in January and replace with new and updated models.

Remember to record everything you do in your maintenance log. If you are not recording a log, you need to start one, as it will help you sell your boat. Go online to find logs. There are several available that will make it easy. The more you do during winterizing the less you will have to do at spring get ready. If you have  more questions or need more details go online to: and see the “Time to Winterize” section.

Treasure hunting
Many boaters, when they head offshore, wonder if sunken treasure could be below. Especially if they run across what could be a wreck when looking for structures via their depth finder. A lot of this mystery of discovering millions in sunken treasure was fueled by Mel Fisher’s discovery of the sunken “Atocha” and what that treasure was worth.

The sunken wrecks are not that far offshore either, 11 Spanish ships laden with gold, silver and other goods went down during a hurricane on July 31, 1715 while sailing from Cuba to Spain. One wreck was found 1,000 feet off of  Ft. Pierce in 15 feet of water.  Another one is off Vero Beach in six feet of water.

They use a pipe called a mailbox and use prop wash through it to deflect sand around the wrecks and then they dive on the area using metal detectors. Their usual find is lead sinkers and beer cans. One salvage vessel treasure hunting the 11 wrecks from that hurricane found more than 350 gold coins valued at $4.5 million on July 30-31, the 300th anniversary of the hurricane that sunk the ships.  

The money for the artifacts that are found are divided in such a way where the treasure hunter doesn’t receive everything. When found near Florida, the first 20 percent of the artifacts they find go to the state of Florida for display in the historical museum in Tallahassee. The remaining 80 percent is split between the boat and the salvage permit holder. The boat’s share is usually divvied up between the crew. It’s a lot of work and you need a lot of luck to get your fortune.

Three new and different boats
Winder Yachts U.S.A. sells the new Winder 32’. The Italian boat was introduced at the Cannes Boat Show last year. It’s powered by a pair of 260 hp Mercruisers and has all the bells and whistles. Check it out at:

The Neb/Zurn 38 is a head turner new yacht designed by Doug Zurn of Marblehead, MA. and built by New England Boat Works of Portsmouth, RI. It is powered by twin 435 hp Volvo Penta D6 diesels with ultra-jet drives which cruised her at 36 knots with a 40 knot top speed. This boat is designed with on deck comfort.  This is a great boat for diving or gunk holing. Check it out at

The fastest growing boat brand in Europe is Axopar. They offer 10 models from 23’ to 40’. They are powered by Mercury outboards which provide great cruising speed with excellent economy. The design is a bit different, but it’s performance will grow on you. Check it out at: or

250 mile endurance race
The sailboat race from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska is over. One sailor, Robert Mann braved the 750 miles through the notorious Inside Passage. He experienced 50 degree water, double digit currents, storm force winds, snorting whales, and a lot of lonely scenery. His boat was a Hobie Mirage Adventure Island Trimiran. The sailing kayak is not even 17 feet long. He loaded the boat with 42 pounds of dehydrated food and water. First place was $10,000.  Twenty five teams dropped out. Roger said he feels lucky to finish the race. I’m surprised the Coast Guard even allowed the race.

Free charts
Global Chart making specialist NV Charts is giving away charts from the Canadian border to Key West. Download the NV App on your smart phone or tablet and access charts of the entire East Coast. NV Charts provides a complete tool kit for navigation including a route menu, range and bearing measurement tool. Not many times can you get something for free when dealing with boats.

Be courteous. Practice safe boating. Wear your PFD and watch the weather.

September 2015 column

High school anglers descend on Lanier this month

In some of my past columns I mentioned a national high school fishing association. Little did I know that three tournaments had already been held on Lake Lanier this year. There will be five conference championship tournaments held throughout the U.S. this year. The tournament that covers Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North and South Carolina and Tennessee will be on September 26th, on Lake Lanier in Gainesville. It will be based out of Laurel Park. Sounds like it will be another busy tournament. (See story elsewhere in this issue.)

Last year’s Georgia high school fishing champions were Dalton Anderson and Dawson Lenz of McIntosh High School with a five bass limit that weighed 12.30 pounds. Sounds like a lot of fun.  Who knows, maybe one of these young fishermen will become a bass pro and win some big money tournaments. Check it out at, for more tournament or team information.

Speed records
When I first started boating with outboards I became fascinated in ways to make them go faster and eventually started racing stock outboards. Recently I checked some water speed records of boats and water sports. Some seem totally unbelievable. The fastest boat speed on record is 317.596 mph set by Spirit of Australia in 1978. I don’t know how they kept the boat on the water. The first speed record to exceed 100 mph was set by Gar Wood in 1931 at 102.256 mph. In water-skiing, bare-footing has some interesting records. In 1969 Scott Pellaton stepped off behind a drag boat and recorded the quarter mile with a terminal speed of 135.76 mph. There is also barefoot jumping. A record of 13.25 meters set by a British footer in 1976. I wonder what they will think of next.

Uber-like service goes boating
Coastal FE, which originated in St. Petersburg, Fla. in May, uses GPS technology to connect riders with drivers who pick passengers up in their personal boats. As soon as you start the ride, there is a $7 flat rate. Then, for every mile you travel its $2.97 and for every minute it’s 37 cents. Boats need to be 18-20 feet, less than 20 years old and in good condition. This is a service that’s bound to grow like Uber. A great opportunity for someone to get their boat paid for. I’ll bet we will see it on Lake Lanier.

New weather book
Weather is one of the most important things that a boater must consider. It can ruin or make your boating day. The third edition of The Weather Handbook (Bloomsbury, $18) is now available. It has been updated to include new sources of information, specifically digital. It also brings an understanding how weather develops. The goal of the book, which includes color photographs and diagrams, is to teach readers to be able to look at the sky and interpret its signs. The more you understand about the weather the safer and better cruise you will have. Every boater should have a copy in his boating library.

It’s here: Charter in Antartica
The sailing yacht “Vertigo” is now available for charter in Antarctica. She is 220 feet long by 41 feet beam by 16 feet draft. The yacht has been specially outfitted for cruising this part of the world and welcomes 12 guests, or should I say explorers and crew to cruise the waters of the southernmost continent and surrounding islands.  They will follow in the steps of explorers Sir Ernest Shakleton, and Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd.  Shakleton is known to have had some near death experiences as well as surviving storms and going back to rescue his men to bring them home. Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd was a later explorer who used Fokker and Ford tri-motor airplanes to cover more area. He wrote his autobiography “Alone” which covers his extensive travels of this fascinating and strange part of the world.

My father used to take me to the Detroit Institute of Arts for some of their programs with famous individuals of that time. One of the programs was with Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd which showed movies of his Antarctic adventures and a meet and greet afterward.  This was in the late 1940s and it really impressed me. It also impressed on me the importance of exploring and history. It was one of my best subjects throughout high school.

You start your adventure charter from Punta Arenas, Chile for a 700-mile airplane trip across Drake Passage to a special airstrip in Antarctica. This flight is known as “the most exclusive transcontinental flight in the world.” While visiting South Georgia Island you will see and hear literally thousands of king penguins trumpeting while male elephant seals, which can be 20 feet in length and 8,800 pounds are watching their harem of 40 to 50 females. You can visit Iceberg Alley by kayak or tender. While there you can scoop up thousand year old chunks of ice that Vertigo’s crew will later mix your favorite cocktail with.

Sir Ernest Shackleton is also buried on South Georgia Island. He died there after returning to the area after his infamous Endurance expedition. At Deception Island, which is a flooded volcano caldera, guests can float on the Arctic Sea surrounded by glacial ice with warm currents coming from the hot rocks below.  

The charter runs from two to three weeks and would be the trip of a lifetime for a family or group of 12 friends. Contact: 1-954-278-3970.

Summer’s last days
As Labor Day approaches and summer is over, I hope you had some great boating memories.  This means it’s time to get out your maintenance log book and get ready to put the boat away for the winter. Make your list which should include some of the following: Add “Stabil” or other accepted additive as directed to your fuel tank, change and inspect fuel filters and water separators. Change oil and filter on inboard boats and four cycle outboards. Outboards and I/Os should have lower unit drained and inspected for water. If water is found replace prop shaft seal and re-fill. Remember, oil is cheap, gear cases are expensive.  Inspect engine wiring, replace where needed. Complete tune-up so you’ll be ready next season.

Don’t forget a good inspection of your trailer. You might want to install LED trailer lights and update your trailer. Round up that team that enjoyed boating with you this year and plan to have a clean- up and waxing party before you store the boat.  

Last but not least fix the one or two other problems your boat had this year, every boat has them. Get this done and get ready next season will be much easier.

Shore Sweep 2015
Don’t forget that Shore Sweep is Saturday, Sept. 26th. Call 770-503-7757 for more information. Boaters should always have a garbage bag aboard and properly dispose of it at the end of the day.  Keep your lake clean and enjoy it.

Be courteous, wear a PFD and practice safe boating. See you on the water.

August 2015 column

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.

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 ski
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