1 LiveBloggin' the ICW

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Bonus edition - Two Rants!!! Georgia On My Mind, and West Marine Dinghy Design

I can hear everyone's heart going pitter pat with this announcement - not one, but two of Wally's world famous rants. This will be epic. Sit down, grab some popcorn and your favourite adult beverage, and enjoy!

Georgia On My Mind...

As many of you know, I've been involved in the Georgia anchoring debacle since late May when it became publicly known that the state wanted to create anchoring permits, charge people for anchoring, and limit where they could anchor. The cancer that we have been dealing with in Florida is metastasizing northward, sorry to say.
What really gets my goat however, is how this came to be. The original complaint which led to the DNR creating this horrendous legislation allegedly came from a judge who claimed to have observed someone pumping sewage overboard from their boat. This information came to me through a political source and was trustworthy, but not quite on the money. Here, publicly for the first time, is how this monstrosity, HB201, was conceived.
This bill got its birth because a GA judge, former Brunswick Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Amanda Williams, was upset over an old Navy vessel legally tied to a dock near her office building. She made a complaint to her House Rep, Don Hogan that a boat anchored out was pumping waste overboard. So she lied about the boat if this is true, and can anyone please tell me how she knew the boat was pumping out anyhow?  Hogan, fyi, sponsored HB201, probably dealing with the DNR to create it. I'll get back to this point.
GAMBA, Georgia Marine Business Association, became involved. Why, when and how isn't entirely clear, but there appear to be significant connections between Williams and marina operators who are GAMBA members.
Now Williams,  who was the source of the original complaint, isn't your typical upright and honest judge. She was formally removed from the bench some years ago and very nearly faced jail for serious charges - see this - Former Judge Booked and Released on Bond
That is not the worst of it however, not from where I stand.
One of the beneficiaries of her brand of justice was the son of the current owner of a Georgia marina. Quite a few years ago, he was placed in a drug court diversion program, over the protests of the district attorney, for his offences. Nonetheless, successfully completing the program ensured that the participant would not have a criminal record, which I'm sure you agree is a substantial benefit. Don't get me wrong - if someone completes the program and stays on the straight and narrow, I'm all for it. It's a good thing, but that's not the point here.
This marina stood to gain from this legislation that this judge wants, and in particular the 1000 foot rule, because it eliminates an anchorage that they object to adjacent to their marina.
That being said, there is no evidence that the man's family interceded on behalf of the erring scion. Perhaps the judge is just a kindly soul and did this on her own. 
A favor was done, solicited or not. A debt was created, acknowledged or not.
Next, the president of GAMBA, Charles Waller, would receive a significant benefit from the 1000 foot setoff that was proposed. It would eliminate a USCG anchorage that is adjacent to his marina that he apparently finds problematical. Without any valid reason that I can see, I would add.
Again, there is no evidence to substantiate this motive, but I do have emails from GAMBA that alluded to this issue and Waller's problems with it.
Was this why GAMBA was so keen on this legislation, because two of their members stood to benefit from it? Seems likely, but I doubt we'll ever know for sure, and GAMBA is all on the side of cruisers' rights now.
Anyhow, what we are seeing is that Hogan got a call from Williams about someone pumping overboard from the ex-Navy boat, and then got together with the DNR to deal with Williams' issues. Along the way, members of GAMBA saw that they could benefit from this legislation and got behind it.
The bill got passed with no studies, no public input, nothing. Only one vote against it.
Then we, the boating public, found out about this at the end of May and raised a huge stink. GAMBA reversed its position, with Exec Director Amy Thurman telling the media that GAMBA wasn't supporting, never supported, the 1000 foot rule. Unfortunately for Ms. Thurman, I have the emails from her to prove she said exactly the opposite, that in fact, GAMBA strongly supported the 1000 foot setoff proposal.
Then - the judge who I'm told was the complainer showed up to speak at the DNR hosted public hearing in Brunswick last week. She made a lovely little speech, but never told us who she was.

However, a cruiser at the meeting was a retired FBI agent - I just love that touch, lends drama to the whole thing - and he busted her for her deceptions the next day in a post on the Save Georgia's Anchorages Facebook page.
Since then, we've determined that the boat in question was behind her office, not her home. How did we do that? Her state House Representative Don Hogan, the bill's sponsor, made specific reference to it in his talk that night.
It appears quite likely that House Representative Hogan was fed a line of crap about what was actually going on, was given a considerable amount of bad or dishonest advice from a number of people, including some at the DNR, and trusted people he should not have to do the right thing. It didn't help Hogan that the complainer was someone of significant influence, not just any upset waterfront property owner. Talk about caught between a rock and a hard place.
So what happens next, now that the old boys (and girls) network has been caught out?
The Save Georgia Anchorages group (see their Facebook page here) is now working with the various members of the Georgia legislature to ensure that HB201 is brought back before the legislature in the 2020 session to be properly amended. We are also preparing a presentation for the Coastal Committee Board of the DNR, to ensure that cruisers' issues are properly presented to them before any new rules are put in place. And we need your support in this work.
What can you do to support this? It's important that the DNR be aware that boaters object very strenuously to HB201. You can make your views know by writing to Kelly Hill, Coastal Resources Division, One Conservation Way, Brunswick, GA 31520 <Kelly.Hill@dnr.ga.gov>
Talking points, sample letters and other useful information are available at the Save Georgia Anchorages page. Please join us in defending your rights to anchor in Georgia.

Is This Any Way to Build a Dinghy? NO!

I just launched a West Marine inflatable after selling my 10 foot aluminum, which I now sorely miss. But hey, I got a great price for it.
Now there's nothing really wrong with the new inflatable, but there is ONE thing that drives me nuts, and it's the same thing I hated about the first one of these I had ten years ago: the drain plug.
Just how hard is it to design a properly functioning drain for these little boats? Apparently, VERY hard.

The first one of these I had had a fancy design with a lever, a screen, all sorts of little doodads to it as you can see from the photo. I am absolutely certain that the engineer who designed this monstrosity was overhyped on caffeine on a Monday morning. There is no other rational excuse for this thing. Ok, maybe LSD or magic mushroom, but other than those...
The problem is, it caught every single piece of debris in the dinghy, and plugged up. And when it plugged up, as often as not it would then bugger up the drain so that the drain leaked water into the boat.
So we have a drain that won't drain when you need it to, and lets water into the boat at all other times. To fix it involved removing it from the boat, disassembling, cleaning and then reassembling and reinstalling it. Sometimes that was a weekly occurrence - but only when it wasn't happening every other day.
So I eventually sold that boat, bought the aluminum, and then a few months ago, moved back to a new inflatable sportboat from WM. It does not have the same drain. If anything, this one may be worse.
It doesn't have the fancy engineering. It's some kind of rubber flap, kind of a one way thing that supposedly keeps water from entering your boat, provided the plug is in place. We'll return to the plug in a moment, but suffice it to say, if the plug is in place, the flapper isn't needed.
The problem is, the drain doesn't allow water out of your boat unless you continuously 'tickle' it with your finger. Why? I presume it's because minute particles of debris plug it up. At least the old design, bad as it was, needed a visible piece of crap to bugger it up.
Then, it takes forever to drain because of the flapper valve, and because it keeps plugging up with tiny, invisible pieces of crap.
Now, to the drain plug. This rubber beauty goes in the outside of the drain hole and is attached to the boat with a piece of string. If you lose one - which according to my extensive survey of Sportboat owners who were in Marsh Harbor on April 22 - takes 4. 873 days on average, it will cost you $20.95 US to replace it.
That's right. An Achilles Rubber Self Bailer Drain Plug with String (Part #ACHC441B), a 1 3/8" plug that is guaranteed to be lost will cost you more than three Kaliks at Snappas. That's just wrong.  So if you're smart like me (ignoring that I was dumb enough to lose the stupid thing in the first place), you go to the local hardware store and get a rubber chair tip for $2.44 (but $5 in Marsh Harbour) which fits perfectly, AND you have a choice of beige or black. It's all about style, baby!
So, I'm asking West Marine CEO Ken Seipel to get involved here.
Ken, I know this isn't your fault, you've only been there since last December. But please - tell these engineers that designing a functioning drain plug for your inflatables is NOT rocket science. It's not.
Here's how you do it.
You drill an oversized hole low in the wooden transom of the dinghy. You then fill the hole with fibreglass resin, let it cure, then redrill the hole to fit the $20.95 goldplated drain plug. You put the drain plug INSIDE the dinghy, where it won't get broken off and sink into the depths. You use something more durable than a piece of "string" to attach it to the boat.
If you want to save your customers some money, you use West Marine part Model # 375493, pictured to the left, which retails for $10.99 but that, because of its design, is unlikely to be lost. I know, because I had one in my aluminum boat for 6 or 7 years. Never had a moment's problem with it.
Uh, full disclosure here - I bought it at a competitor's place of business for $5.95. Sorry.

Please, Mr. Seipel, just do this before I buy my next dinghy. I don't know if I can stand the frustration of dealing with another overdesigned, underperforming drain plug. You can do this, Sir, and I and thousands of Sportboat owners beg you to do this.Thank you.

Ok, enough ranting, on to happier things. The Fifth Annual Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is moving along well, and we're half full now. Our departure date from Hampton will be October 21, one week after the end of the Annapolis Sailboat Show. Our anticipated arrival in Miami is December 12, after eight weeks of fun and adventure on the not so high, but imminently comfortable, safe and enjoyable, seas of the ICW.
During that eight weeks of fun and frolic, there will be shrimp boils, a blue crab feast, a visit to a rum distillery for the pirates amongst us, dinghy raftups, dinners out, dinners onboard, and an all round great time for all. We're even considering an alligator bbq...yes, you read that right: gator burgers and steaks, done by a professional chef.
If you want more information, or a brochure on the Rally, or even a free copy of my free ICW ebook, or all three - go to the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally page and you can request it from there.

Bonus Rant #3 - The Last Straw

Some time ago, nine year old Milo Cress created a first-world fuss over straws. By his calculations, suspect at best, and as reported by USA Today: "as Cress began to dig into research on plastics and the environment, he noticed there wasn't much data: "I couldn’t find anything on our use of straws in the United States," he said. 
Gee, really? In all of history, nobody studied straw usage? I can't believe it, there has to be some useless little university researcher out there who had nothing better to do with $50,000 in grant money than to figure out what the story was behind straws.
So Cress determined the status of straws through a truly questionable study - about the kind of thing you'd expect from a precocious but misguided pre-teenager.He called straw manufacturers himself, asking what they estimated to be the straw market in the United States per day. Some gave him a yearly estimate, which he divided by 365. "Others gave an estimate of around 500 million straws," Cress said. "That was the number that I stuck to, because it seemed to be around the middle of what they were saying.""
That's his research. On this sort of thing do our fates turn - a nine year old's guess at something of minimal importance in the greater scheme of things.

So of course, following the young lad's revelations, everyone got all eco correct and decided to ban plastic straws. Good move, right?
Well, have you ever tried to drink a great thick milkshake - the only proper way to have one - through a paper straw? You end up with your lips caved in from sucking so hard, the staff at the Steak and Shake or Sonic Drive In laughing at you as they watch on their video monitors. How humiliating is that?

All of this over a 9 year old boy's unproven and unprovable contention that we use too many straws.