วันพุธที่ 27 สิงหาคม พ.ศ. 2551

Scrap crooks become the new pirates

Commodity crooks are turning their attention to the sea, with boat owners suffering a spate of thefts aimed at stripping their vessels of valuable metals.

Bronze propellers, lead keels and copper cladding on hulls have all been stolen as higher scrap metal prices bring increased rewards for crooks.
The problem mirrors a surge in metal theft on dry land, as Financial Mail reported last month. Lead from church roofs, copper phone wires and even garden furniture are being stolen for their scrap value.

Crooks are also targeting valuable platinum in the catalytic converters in car exhausts, hacking them from parked vehicles.

Simon Tonks, development manager for specialist marine insurer Navigators & General, says: 'We've seen a huge rise in the number of claims for metal theft in the past year.

'Propellers, plaques, copper sheathing and even ship's bells have been stolen.

'In the past fortnight we've heard about two classic racing yachts that had their lead keels unbolted and taken.'

Natasha and Neil Grant suffered at the hands of metal thieves last month when the propeller was stolen from their Glastron speedboat. The boat was parked on its trailer in the couple's front garden in Brixham, Devon.

Natasha, 36, says: 'It was fine on the Saturday night, but when we hooked it up to the car on the Sunday morning to take it out I noticed that something wasn't right and realised that the propeller had disappeared.'

She and Neil, 46, a long-distance lorry driver, use the boat for fishing and water-skiing. Natasha, who prepares fish at Brixham's fish market, says: 'We try to get out in the boat most weekends, but since the theft we've been stuck ashore.

'Some of the fishermen at the harbour have also had problems, with people in diving gear going underneath the boats to take the propeller.'

Sometimes these thefts are not covered by insurance, with policies limiting cover only to forced theft from the interior of a boat. The advice is always to check before you buy insurance.

Richard Langford, managing director of specialist insurance broker Noble Marine, says: 'People are still very price-focused and looking for cheap cover. They don't read the policy wording and expect everything to be covered and it is not.'

The Grants' insurance with Navigators & General does cover the £430 cost of a replacement propeller. Meanwhile, the couple have moved the boat into their garage.

Dearer fuel has also seen crooks stealing marine diesel from boats. Narrowboats moored on isolated canal banks are particularly vulnerable. There are fears that fuel theft will rocket when a tax rise doubles the price of marine diesel in October (see below).

But unlike the theft of home heating oil, which is covered under home insurance, the loss of marine fuel may not be insured.

Tonks says: 'Fuel is deemed a "consumable store" so it is not always covered under pleasure-craft insurance policies.' Boat owners face other risks too.

Langford says: 'Theft of accessories and equipment continues to be a problem. Outboard engines are being stolen in big numbers, with dozens of thefts reported each month.' A new 60 horsepower engine from a reputable manufacturer such as Yamaha costs more than £5,500, making outboards a tempting target.

Langford recommends that owners post details of thefts on sites such as stolenboats.org.uk. This means there is a public record of the theft and gives anyone offered an engine second-hand the chance to check they are not buying stolen property.

วันเสาร์ที่ 23 สิงหาคม พ.ศ. 2551

Boating on a budget

For Dean Rubin, there's nothing better than taking off on a pleasure cruise from Beverly Harbor on a boat he doesn't own.

"You go down, and the boat is waiting for you," Rubin said. "You enjoy the harbor, come back, get your stuff, and walk away. There are no hassles at the dock. You just get out of the boat and go home."

He and his wife, Tracy, of Beverly, are part of a new trend: Membership clubs that let people get out on the water without the expense and responsibilities of boat ownership.

Mike Saunders brought the trend to Massachusetts in 2005 when he opened a Freedom Boat Club franchise at Marina Bay in Quincy. He now owns similar franchises in Plymouth and Beverly, and there also are locations in Newburyport, West Dennis, Falmouth, and Rhode Island. The Navigator Club in Charlestown, owned by Edward Mancini, offers similar memberships.

Saunders compares it with a country club membership. Just as golf club members call to reserve tee times, boat club members call to request any of the seven boats the club keeps on the Beverly dock. The boats include bow riders, cruisers, fish ing boats, and a sailboat.

The Navigator Club at Constitution Marina in Charlestown is the newest among the on-demand boating clubs, opening this year.

"I was in boat sales and yacht brokering, and saw that a lot of people just didn't have the time to maintain a boat or to deal with some of the traditional boat ownership tasks," said Mancini, who considered opening in Newburyport, where he once docked his boat, before deciding on his current location. "I didn't want to be a franchise guy, and felt I could do a better job. I also have a passion for water, so if I can show prospective members that, it brings new people into boating."

Membership in the clubs provides the same privileges that come with docking a boat at the marina - which can include use of clubhouses, pools, restaurants, or whatever other facilities are available at the marina.

There are different fee structures, including a onetime joining fee of $4,500 for a weekday membership and $5,900 for a seven-day membership, plus fees that come to $2,500/$3,500 annually for the Freedom Boat Clubs in Beverly, Quincy, and Plymouth. Navigator Club fees run from $5,595 for a weekday membership to $7,495 for a seven-day membership.

That's less than the cost of boat ownership, which beyond the purchase price can include insurance, slip rental, harbor fees, maintenance, and winter storage.

"It costs substantially less" than boat ownership on average, "less than half," Saunders said. "Many of our members are previous boat owners who choose this because it's a no-hassle alternative. They don't have to worry about maintaining the boat."

Both clubs offer training programs, but the majority of members are people with some experience on the water.

"I just make a reservation, come here, and jump in the boat," said Joe Sharron of Windham, N.H., a Navigator Club member who used to dock his boat in Newburyport. "It's clean, the facilities are clean, I don't have to worry about maintenance. Somebody else does all that. I just go out, come back, park the boat, and I'm done. It's a great concept."

Donna Wadden of Andover decided to take up boating to celebrate her fifth cancer-free year, but found that the $10,000 she'd set aside "doesn't buy much boat . . . maybe a rowboat." Through word of mouth, she found the Freedom club's Beverly location, and has been a member for nearly three years.

"It's like my dream is back in my hands again," she said. "And in the fall, when my friends complain to me about taking their boats out of the water and putting them into storage, I can say, 'Not me. My crew is putting my boat away.' "

For the Rubins, who formerly owned Yamaha Waverunner jet skis and a Hobie Cat sailboat, the club has allowed them to get back onto the water, which the first-time power boaters hadn't done since moving to Beverly 13 years ago.

"To be near the water and not on it is a crying shame," Rubin said. "We finally said, 'Enough is enough; let's get into it.' "

วันจันทร์ที่ 18 สิงหาคม พ.ศ. 2551

Hot Bay Area Olympians: Scott Gault

Surely you're familiar with the Oakland Strokes. No? You might want to be. It's a great name, for one. For two, rowers will give you some of the most provocative crotch shot pictures of any sport. Oakland Strokes alum and Piedmont High grad Scott Gault competes in a form of rowing known as the Men's Quad Sculls, where four guys pile on a boat and go at it in unison.

The U.S. Men's Quad Sculls rowing team advanced to the finals this morning, rowing 2,000 meters in just under 5 minutes 53 seconds. They'll row at a chance for the gold medal tomorrow. At that point, Scott's 2008 olympics is finished and he'll come back to Piedmont, where he'll resume his life as a dashing pilot and aviation insurance salesman. Something tells us that this guy gets more action than, say, bloggers.

วันอังคารที่ 12 สิงหาคม พ.ศ. 2551

S. Korean Vessel Likely to Get Compensated for Collision

A South Korean vessel that collided with a North Korea fishing boat earlier on Tuesday in the East Sea will likely receive compensation in accordance with related international insurance regulations.

The South Korean vessel was confirmed to have been insured for 850-million won with the Korea Shipping Association and Dongbu Insurance.

However, the insurance payments will take some time given that a third party, instead of the insurers, will investigate and interview the fishermen and crew of the two vessels to determine accountability for the collision.

The 658-ton Dongi-1 collided with a small North Korean fishing boat at 2:35 a.m. some eight kilometers off the coast of the North’s Jangjeon port.

In the accident, two North Korean fishermen went missing and two others were rescued by the South Korean ship.

วันอาทิตย์ที่ 10 สิงหาคม พ.ศ. 2551

Mitigation fund helps fishermen navigate limits to their catch

GLOUCESTER - Some fishermen are bitter about making a deal with gas companies. Others said they had no choice. All said they'd rather not have to take the $12.6 million from the two liquefied natural gas companies that are planning terminals off the North Shore coast.

But if you head down to the docks along Gloucester Harbor and speak with fishermen, they'll also tell you that the $12.6 million could be the key to keeping their depressed industry from collapsing.

"This could end up being the only thing that keeps us in the fish business," said Vito Giacalone, a fisherman and longtime advocate who opposed the LNG terminals that were approved by the federal government last year. In his public comments against the Excelerate Energy LLC and Neptune Energy LLC terminals, Giacalone suggested that any mitigation funds be directed toward North Shore fishermen who would no longer be able to work around the LNG sites - home to fertile fishing grounds.

The state Environmental Protection Agency agreed, and directed the largest portion of the $47 million - $12.6 million - toward the creation of the Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund. With Giacalone serving as president of the nonprofit, the fund just completed its first year. It is designed to subsidize fishermen who want to work more than their standard federal allotment of 48 days a year.

Over the last year, the fund has spent more than $4 million to purchase 25 federal fishing permits. Those permits represent more than 800 workdays at sea, and under the fund's program, North Shore fishermen are eligible to lease the days for an average of $75 a day - a fraction of the going daily rate of $200 to $250. Last year, 63 fishermen took part in the program, with each receiving an average of 13 days. Giacalone said that over time, his nonprofit would spend at least another $6 million to acquire additional federal ground-fish fishing permits.

"The fund is a lifeline, for sure. It means survival for us," said Dustin Ketchopulos, who keeps his boat in Rockport but fishes off the Gloucester coast.

Just 25 years ago, fishing was king in America's most storied fishing harbor. Back then, there were almost 1,000 fishermen working on the harbor, and there were no limits on how many days a year one could work, or how much fish could be caught. There were more than 250 boats in the harbor, and most were used for overnight trips lasting up to 10 days.

"There were so many boats in the water that you could almost walk across the harbor," Giacalone remembers.

But with strict federal regulations introduced to limit overfishing and to rebuild stocks such as cod and flounder, most of those boats and fishermen have disappeared. In the last six years, the new regulations cut fishermen's days at sea from 88 to 48, while setting catch limits such as 800 pounds of cod a day.