“EPIRBs, PPIRBs and GPIRBs – What?!”

By Vincent Pica, Assistant National Commodore, Recreational Boating Safety, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

Many of us have heard of satellite systems hailing the USCG when a boater pulls the (cord, pin, string, wire – pick one). A signal goes up from the boater’s device to a satellite (in the old days it went up to planes that were, hopefully, flying by) and down to the Coast Guard’s Rescue Coordination Center (RCC).  This would start the “rescue clock starts now” clock at that point. The device is called an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon – an EPIRB (pronounced “ee-purb”).

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Quick, Honey, Put This On!

By Vincent Pica, Assistant National Commodore, Recreational Boating Safety Directorate, US Coast Guard Auxiliary

A number of years ago, as I was doing a (free) vessel exam for the owner of a very substantial yacht, I got to the part where I ask to see the life jackets. He pointed me to a locker, which I opened to find the life jackets, stowed under an anchor, chain and additional rode. This column is about that.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Prevention of Collision at Sea – Gee, How Does GPS Do It?

By Vincent Pica
District Commodore, First District, Southern Region (D1SR)
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

Volvo Ocean Race skipper Ian Walker looks back as RMS Queen Mary 2 overtakes Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Volvo Ocean 65 Azzam in the Atlantic.  © Matt Knighton/Abu Dhabi Ocean RacingIn 1951, a Raytheon PhD, Dr. Ivan Getting, born in New York City in 1912, suggested to the U.S. Government that satellites could be used for navigation and positioning. The concept was developed only from a laboratory standpoint for many years – until October 4, 1957. “Sputnik” sent shock waves through the defense establishment when it became immediately apparent that the Russian satellite’s radio signal was a lighthouse in outer space. By 1960, the U.S. Navy had a working model, and it went live with

Volvo Ocean Race skipper Ian Walker looks back as RMS Queen Mary 2 overtakes Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Volvo Ocean 65 Azzam in the Atlantic.  © Matt Knighton/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

“Transit” in 1965 for the Polaris fleet.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Remember The Maritime 3 Rs:

Rescue, Recovery and Re-Warm

By Vincent Pica, Commodore, First District, Southern Region (D1SR) United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

A lifesaving mnemonic: Triple R. Just like on the road, where remembering to call AAA can get you home, on the water – especially in cold weather – it’s all about recalling RRR: rescue, recovery and re-warming. More and more people are keeping their boats in the water later into the fall and winter, and frostbiting dinghies and other small craft is more popular than ever. Though the water may be slightly warmer than the air at this time of year, it gets colder and more dangerous by the day. And the waters will still be cold once April comes around and the moorings go back in. This column is about that.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Heavy Weather Skippering

By Vincent Pica
District Commodore, First District, Southern Region (D1SR) United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

As the temperatures continue to drop, we need to focus now on skippering in heavy weather – because it is coming. This column is about that.

Heavy Water

Why is heavy weather more dangerous as we move into the fall? Well, putting hurricanes – which are in their own class – aside, heavy weather in the colder months has its own set of challenges. First, hypothermia is but a small slip away. Second, as the water chills, it gets denser per cubic foot. Denser means more “oomph” behind those chops. Third, it gets darker sooner. What used to be an all daylight trip out to a favorite fishing spot is now a return under the cover of night. Believe me, once one thing goes wrong, the chances of something else going wrong before you can focus on and fix the first problem just went up. Now you have a spiraling and accelerating danger curve on your hands. So, what to do if caught in heavy weather…?

Read more
Add your reaction Share

We’re Being Boarded by the Coast Guard – Now What?

By Vincent Pica
District Commodore, First District, Southern Region (D1SR)
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

If you’ve ever seen the reflection of the blue-rotating hailing light in the reflection of your windshield, you’ve felt the quickening in certain parts of your body…“Jeez, what did I do wrong?” The United States Coast Guard can and will board you at their discretion. They need no search warrant, no provocation, and no reason other than, “Good Morning, sir. My name is Officer Jones with the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is here today to ensure you are in compliance with all applicable federal laws and regulations.”

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Hurricanes May Miss Us – But They Leave Deadly Rip Tides

By Vincent Pica

District Commodore, First District, Southern Region (D1SR) United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

Hurricane season is in gear. Arthur piled up water along the eastern seaboard last month before heading out into the Atlantic. This column is about rip tides, rip currents and undertows, which are what distant storms leave us. Lest one of us comes to grief…

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Scotch & (Sea)Water – A Deadly Cocktail

By Vincent Pica
District Commodore, First District, Southern Region (D1SR)
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

Drunk driving, whether that be in a car or in a boat, is one place where I actually feel the legal penalties are too lenient. If a person, uninfluenced by booze, drove a car or a boat recklessly and hurt or even killed someone, they would get a more severe sentencing in many jurisdictions than doing the same thing while drunk, “under the influence” as the legal saying goes. In past ages, drinking and still being able to drive, whether that be a car or boat, might have been considered a badge of honor in certain circles. Today, thank goodness, it is considered reckless lunacy. And things are worse on the water than on land. This column is about that.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Summer Isn’t Far Away – But Warm Water Is

By Vincent Pica

District Commodore, First District, Southern Region (D1SR) United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

We’ve had a few mild days here in the Northeast. This reminded many of us that summer isn’t far away…and my wife to say, “You’re not thinking of putting the boat in the water already, are you?” And we’ve had a cold, rainy spring for the most part, but summer is close aboard. However, even then the water will be cold for several weeks and you need to be aware of how dangerous that can be – if you aren’t prepared and savvy. This column is about that.

 

Read more
Add your reaction Share

An Act of God…Just What Is That?

by VINCENT PICA - COMMODORE, FIRST DISTRICT, SOUTHERN REGION (D1SR) - UNITED STATES COAST GUARD AUXILIARY

Any school child knows, or at least believes, that a terrible storm or other natural phenomena that causes damage to your property, or causes your property (your boat) to damage someone else’s (another boat), is an Act of God. Behind this “fact” lies protection for the insurance company that may, or may not, have to pay (check the fine print and be sure of what you are paying for) or for you when your boat sets down on someone else’s during a storm and sinks it. Or does it? What are the facts?

Read more
Add your reaction Share