Coast Guard Targets Ospreys, Charter Boats


August 25, 1991|By Capt. Bob Spore

Warning! A rumor is circulating that the Coast Guard has given recreational boaters another month's grace to get their federal, recreational boat user-fee sticker.

I had a Severna Park boater tell me today that he wouldn't need a sticker because he always puts his boat away in mid-September.

I checked Thursday, and this rumor is only half-true. If stopped after Sept. 1 without the sticker and you can prove satisfactorily tothe Coast Guard that you have ordered the sticker, you will not be ticketed. The additional month grace period is only for those who haveordered stickers that have not arrived.

And speaking of the fearless Coasties, one evening last week we were sitting on the deck when a Coast Guard buoy tender came by. It was about dark, and the buoy tender pulled into a marina for the evening. The next morning I left early on a fishing trip.

I noticed that many of the osprey nests in the Magothy River had been cleared from the navigational aids in the river. When we returned home in the afternoon, the buoy tender was gone, and the remainder of the osprey nests had been destroyed.

I can understand if the nests were obstructing the boaters' views of the navigational aids, or if the nests were blocking the sun from the solar battery chargers on many of the aids. This was not the case.

The Coast Guard is moving up in the world. Not only does it harass recreational boaters and charter boat captains, now it has added the poorosprey as its prey. And you thought the osprey was protected.

TheCoast Guard is gearing up for another big program. Beginning in October, it will board recreational boats to enforce FCC maritime radio licensing rules.

When you purchase a VHF marine radio you must apply for a license to operate it. Often a blank form is provided with the radio; you fill it out and send it in. It's not a big thing.

Apparently the Coast Guard has received information that a group of recreational fishermen are operating their radios illegally and must be dealt with.

By the way, licensing rules also apply to hand-held VHFradios and EPIRBs (emergency position indicating radio beacons). If you don't have a station license for your craft I suggest you get onebefore the Coasties get you. Call your local FCC office for a license application.

The next attack plan for the U.S. Coast Guard against the charter boats is about to come off the drawing boards. It is called Operation EPIRB and it is going to cost you more to go fishing on charter boats.

EPIRBs are strange-looking devices found on mostocean-going vessels. Should an emergency arise, the unit begins transmitting on 121.5 MHz and some on 406 MHz. Airlines and some satellites are programmed to receive the emergency signal and provide locating information to the Coast Guard.

EPIRBs are a part of most offshore charter boats' emergency equipment kits. I honestly do not know anoff-shore captain who does not carry an EPIRB on board.

The CoastGuard, however, does not differentiate between situations and soon will require all charter boats, no matter where they are located, to be equipped with an EPIRB.

The Chesapeake Bay out front of Sandy Point State Park is about four miles wide. I'm not certain if the locating systems aboard either aircraft or satellites could tell if an active EPIRB was located on the eastern or western side of the bay.

That will make no difference. The Coast Guard will say that all charter boats will be required to have an EPIRB. And these little critters are not cheap. Current prices for EPIRBs are between $1,800 and $2,500. And who do you think is going to pay for the EPIRB in the long run?

If you are getting the impression that I am anti-Coast Guard, you are right. If these folks can't do constructive work, then the Coast Guard resources should be given to the Navy.

Bob Spore is a Coast Guard-licensed charter boat captain from Pasadena. His Outdoors column appears every Friday and Sunday in the Anne Arundel County Sun.

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