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Is boating finally being pushed to the limit?

Boaters and anglers . . . they’re generally a lay-back group. That’s why they became our customers and got into boating in the first place – we sell them their great escape! They usually aren’t extremists, either. They don’t hyperventilate or cry-out the world is ending. More likely than not, boaters simply ask for no hassle and a chance to get out on the water in peace!

Peace, you say? Good luck on that one. If we take time to look around these days, we’ll see that boating and fishing are being “hassled” more than ever before. So points out BoatU.S. president Nancy S. Michelman in the latest issue of BoatU.S. magazine . . . and she’s absolutely right!

Fittingly, Michelman sees that our customers are being unfairly singled out in a variety of ways. She offers some definitive examples:

The bill in Congress called the “Ending Taxpayer Subsidies for Yachts Act” would eliminate the second home mortgage interest deduction currently allowed for boats with a galley, head and berths. The inequity of this bill is that only boaters would lose the deduction, while RV’ers and second vacation homeowners would not be touched! That’s as outrageous as the Oregon county that shut down a 7-year-old’s lemonade stand because the kid lacked a restaurant permit. 

How about being singled out this way: Washington state recently passed legislation banning the use of copper antifouling paints. You guessed it – applies only to pleasure boats. The myriad of commercial and military boats on Washington’s waters, which Michelman rightly contends use far more copper paints than pleasure boaters, are exempt. Why? Because the bill wouldn’t have passed if commercial vessels had been included.

Want more hassle? Go to any of several Army Corps of Engineers lakes and be prepared to be either fined ($175 on Pine Flat Lake – Calif.) or thrown off the Vicksburg (Miss.) District lakes of Arkabutla, Sardis, Enid, Grenada if you’re not wearing a life jacket. On Pine Flat, it means all boat of all sizes, although the corps claims it’s just not going to enforce it on big houseboats. In the Mississippi area, it hits all boats 26-feet or less. (Note: Dealer Outlook will update the mandatory life jacket issue here next week.) Interestingly, when BoatU.S. members were surveyed, a whopping nine to one opposed mandatory life jacket wear for adults. 

Here’s another: Recreational fishermen cannot catch any gag grouper in the Gulf of Mexico because the National Marine Fisheries claims gags are “overfished.” But, apparently not so “overfished” so the commercial fishermen can still take 100,000 pounds of gags! It clearly illustrates the NMF’s unfair favoritism toward commercial operators. Score: Commercials 100,000 lbs, Anglers: 0. It makes me gag!

That and a lot more beg the question: Is boating finally being pushed to the limit? Should we get “mad as hell?” What is it about boating that puts a target on our backs? Michelman contends that lawmakers, to single out one obvious group, simply don’t get it that boaters are not “fat cats.” She’s right, again. 

As an industry (and as boaters) we must loudly and consistently drive that message home these days, because it seems making laws and regulations that, in effect, restrict and hassle our customers has become to government what a buffet line is to a bulging waistline. Please feel free to add to this sampling other hassles you see boating facing in your area.

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