Wave of Shortages May Follow Japan Earthquake

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The horrific tsunami in Japan may affect boaters in Newport Harbor, not by a massive surging wave but by an interruption in availability of marine supplies that are produced in Japan.  Both Yamaha and Suzuki have shut down or suspended their manufacturing facilities, and that could cause supply shortages in the United States of not only outboards and PWCs, but electronic equipment and chips. Radar, GPS, and radio equipment potentially might have a shortage of parts as well.
The summer season is only a few months away and consumer spending appears to be on the increase for boats and marine gear, and supply inventories are limited with the just-in-time inventory model. Of course, the factories in Japan are trying to recover in the aftermath of the tsunami and begin production again as quickly as they can.

While we are on the topic of equipment, BoatU.S. has announced the winners of its life jacket design contest.  The “Innovation in Life Jacket Design Competition” drew 35 entries from those trying to answer a simple question; can you build a better life jacket?  The contest, which began last year, invited anyone to enter who can think outside the box and design a life jacket that has wearability with comfort, reliability without the wearer having to do anything, affordability for the average boater, and innovations such as new materials.  The competition’s goal is to encourage and solicit innovative ideas and new technology to design a life jacket that the majority of average boaters might wear.

These personal floatation devices, which are commonly known as life jackets, should be referred to as floating aids since they have not been tested nor certified by the Underwriter’s Laboratory, and the designs are not yet approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.  However in the spirit of the competition, we can call the designs life jackets that are in the research-and-development stage.

The judges choose The See-Tee by Float-Tech Inc. out of Troy, NY, as the first-place winner.  The Sea-Tee is a standard rash-guard shirt that many water sports enthusiasts are used to wearing – but with a twist. It has a built-in inflatable bladder similar to most inflatable life jackets.  The company received the $5,000 first place prize, awarded by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), for their efforts.

Second place went to the Directors Bureau’s Float Coat based in Los Angeles.  The Float Coat is a windbreaker with added floatation. While not a unique design, judges felt that the distinctive placement of the floatation, which included never-before-seen hollow “microspheres,” or small spherical particles, along with fashionable styling, made it stand out. The firm took home a $1,000 prize provided by the National Safe Boating Council.

Third place went to the St. Thomas More High School’s Aqua Buoy designed by a team of high school seniors Josh Jankowski and Nathan Karabon of St. Thomas More High School in Milwaukee, WI. Their design marries traditional foam floatation with a modern inflatable configuration, and they took home a $500 prize awarded by the BoatUS Foundation.

You can see the winners and their videos at BoatUS.com/foundation/winners.  The BoatU.S. Foundation is making plans now for the next design competition for 2012, and I am hoping to see a design from the Newport Harbor area be chosen as one of the top three designs in 2012.  What a great project for the Sea Scouts, high school teams, or a graduate student at a local university.

Tip of the week is tax day is approaching fast, and boat owners may qualify for federal tax deductions if you pay interest on a boat loan.  Boat owners can use the second home mortgage interest deduction if the loan is secured and the vessel has living accommodations that include a galley capable of preparing meals, a head, and sleeping quarters.

Keep in mind that you have to stay aboard your boat overnight for at least two weeks out of the year.  How you prove the time I did not see specified, but you probably can use your logbook entries, and receipts from marinas that you visited during the year.  You do log your time aboard in the ship’s logbook, right?

Second home qualification makes sense as many boats are called weekend floating condos, as owners spend their weekends aboard their boats, much like owning a house in the mountains or desert.  However, double-check with your CPA or tax preparer, as I am not a tax expert and Joe Stack, who is my CPA, completes my taxes annually.

And don’t forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead’s Boathouse Radio Show, broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network every Saturday at noon, Pacific Time and replayed on Sunday at 10 am Pacific.  Join Chandler Bell and me as we talk about “all things boating.”  You can find the station listings, cable TV channels, live streaming on the Internet, and now available are apps to listen to the show for your iPhone, Blackberry, iTouch, Android, Palm, and Windows Mobile at www.BoathouseTV.com or www.BoathouseRadio.com.

Until next week, Safe Voyages!

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