Tourboats have smaller capacity with new weight limit

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Captains operating charter, scuba-diving and snorkeling, or dolphin cruise boats now have to comply with a federal regulation that bases passenger capacity on the statistic that an average fare weighs 185 pounds rather than the previous 160 because of the growing average weight of Americans.

The result is lower maximum passenger capacity for vessels ranging from small to large and maybe less profit for the businesses, according to The Destin (Fla.) Log.

The party boat American Spirit, owned by Capt. Jim Westbrook, saw its “stability” rating drop by almost 18 percent. Originally legally able to carry 304 people, the vessel is now temporarily licensed — a final stability letter is pending — to allow 250.

Though American Spirit is currently used as a party boat licensed to carry fewer than 250 fishermen because the weight of their gear and other conditions have to be considered to minimize the risk of capsizing, Westbrook said the new maximum capacity was expensive to determine and could affect his bottom line if he has to re-purpose the boat or sell it.

Westbrook paid $15,000 for engineers to test American Spirit’s stability.

“It lost a substantial amount of capacity,” Westbrook told the online newspaper. “I don’t know what the future of my vessel will be. … You want to maintain the largest stability letter possible.”

The party boat Destiny’s passenger capacity was recalibrated using another option, a math formula.

Its capacity dropped by nine people, which Capt. Chris McConnell said might have a noticeable impact on ticket sales during Spring Break and midsummer’s red snapper fishing season.

Emerald Coast Scuba Inc., which operates boats Aquanaut and Down Under, saw passenger capacity drop from 22 to 19 and 49 to 41, respectively.

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