Monday, July 21, 2014

Unmanned Container Ships?
Rolls-Royce Recommends Robo-Ships

Crewless Ship Concept Design
You may have noticed the latest technology trend: unmanned machines. There is a noticeable decline in the need for the physical presence of humans to operate everything from supermarket cash registers (self check-outs) to bank ATMs. More recently, Amazon has proposed delivery drones and Google unveiled its driverless cars. And now, Rolls-Royce has revealed its vision of crewless cargo ships.

According to Oskar Levandar, vice-president of innovation, engineering and technology at Rolls-Royce, the shipping industry could benefit in a number of ways if unmanned vessels were operated from a remote control center. Among other incentives, Levandar suggests the absence of an on-board crew would lead to lower fuel consumption, increased cargo storage space, and piracy deterrence (as there would be no available hostages).

Empty Helm Chairs?
[Photo | Getty Images]
Needless to say, this crewless cargo ship concept has been met with skepticism by others in the maritime industry. And these concerns, including technology failure, are not without merit. We all know computers crash and screens freeze. Then there's always the threat of operator error or GIGO (garbage in, garbage out).

Furthermore, leaving all operations under the control of computers and remote cameras may simply invite a different type of piracy: hacking. Today's "pirates" may be more interested in re-routing the shipment than taking human hostages. It seems that theft may be easier to accomplish in the absence of a captain at the helm with the ability to manually override navigational commands from a computer.

While Levandar predicts the advent of unmanned cargo ships within the next decade, it remains to be seen whether maritime regulatory agencies would even approve the proposal. In the interim ...

What are your thoughts?

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

From The Triton: Legal Marijuana Illegal Onboard

We encourage all captains and boat owners/operators to read the following article by Dorie Cox of The Triton, one of the publications on nautical news and maritime topics we highly respect:

Marijuana is illegal onboard boats. Period.

Nevermind the fact that more than 20 U.S. states have legalized marijuana in some manner, U.S. federal law deems it illegal and dangerous, and a captain can have his license revoked if it is found onboard.

Whether medicinal or recreational, natural or synthetic, cannabis, also known as pot, is not allowed under the highest law of the land.

Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma, U.S. Coast Guard District 7 public affairs officer, explained several maritime ramifications of the drug for The Triton this month.
Q. If marijuana is found onboard, can a vessel be seized or a captain's license be taken?
Somma: “Yes. Under 46 U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 5.59, revocation of a mariner's credential or endorsement is mandatory when a charge of possession, use, sale or association with dangerous drugs is found. Revocation is also mandatory if the mariner has been a user of or is addicted to a dangerous drug, or has been convicted for a violation of dangerous drug laws, whether or not further court action is pending and a charge is proved.”
William Dolphin, a writer for Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group for legal access to cannabis for therapeutic uses and research, said U.S. laws are complicated with overlapping jurisdictions and policies.
But in all cases, the federal government allows no exceptions to prohibitions. That means if it is illegal with the feds, it is illegal with the USCG.
Dolphin said it is routine to confiscate cars for connections to drugs and those same laws will apply to yachts.

Q. What if the owner or a guest with marijuana has a prescription for it?
Somma: “During the course of a boarding where U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement officers encounter personal use quantities of marijuana, allegedly possessed in accordance with state laws which allow for personal possession for medical or other purposes, the Coast Guard Boarding Officer shall advise the individual that possession of marijuana, for whatever purpose, remains illegal under federal law.”
Captains should anticipate that people may try to come onboard with cannabis, Dolphin said. A patient who claims to have been given a prescription actually has what is legally called a "written recommendation," he said.
"A doctor can't use a prescription pad because writing prescriptions is linked to federal use," Dolphin said. "They may feel strongly about their right to use it and say that they are legal or in need. Many people think if the state has legalized it then it is legal, but federal law hasn't changed."

Q. Yachts carry small amounts of controlled medications, as required by International Maritime Code, for the ship's medicine chest. Can marijuana be considered medication?
Somma: “No. Regardless of any state medicinal marijuana laws, possession, use, sale or association with marijuana on navigable federal waters of the United States is illegal under federal law.”
Drugs are regulated through the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is in charge of enforcement. Under these laws marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug defined as having no accepted medical use and with a high potential for abuse.
The category includes heroin, LSD, ecstasy, methaqualone, morphine, codeine and peyote. The CSA does not recognize the difference between medical and recreational use of marijuana.

Q. What if the yacht owner is resident of a state where marijuana is legal and his vessel is registered in that state. Is he legal to have marijuana aboard in the waters of his state?
Somma: “No. Where a state-registered vessel is in state waters where marijuana is legal, the vessel may still be subject to federal jurisdiction. The U.S. Coast Guard routinely enforces federal law where jurisdiction is shared with respective states.”
Legislation on the legality of marijuana is pending in many states, but at press time, coastal states with some level of legalization included Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Washington, DC.

Q. If the owner's boat is documented with a hailing port/home port within a marijuana-legal state, can he legally have marijuana aboard while cruising offshore and or within the waters of a non-permitting state? Is his vessel protected property of the owner's state and vessel's home port state?
Somma: “No. The Coast Guard enforces federal law, to include illegal possession or use of dangerous drugs, within all navigable waters of the U.S. The vessel registration does not create a ‘protected area’ around the vessel allowing it immunity from federal law.”

Although captains are aware of drug laws as they pertain to yachting, many crew and guests may not understand state and federal discrepancies. As state laws on the legality of marijuana continue to be tested in U.S. courts, it is expected that federal law will prevail for the current time.

Capt. Gregory Clark of M/Y D'Natalin IV summed up the situation for captains:
"It’s my belief that despite the new laws in some states that permit possession and use, it has to remain a zero-tolerance issue for any professional operation on board a yacht."

Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at

For smooth sailing and zero stress ... call SYS!©

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Know Your Maritime Lingo: Flotsam and Jetsam

Some people mistakenly use the terms "flotsam" and "jetsam" interchangeably. However, each has its own very specific definition, as explained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
Flotsam and jetsam are terms that describe two types of marine debris associated with vessels. Flotsam is defined as debris in the water that was not deliberately thrown overboard, often as a result from a shipwreck or accident. Jetsam describes debris that was deliberately thrown overboard by a crew of a ship in distress, most often to lighten the ship's load. The word flotsam derives from the French word floter, to float. Jetsam is a shortened word for jettison.
The distinction is important (and not just so you can impress friends during trivia games) because, under maritime law, the original owner can reclaim flotsam, whereas it's generally a case of "finders, keepers" in the case of discovered jetsam.

NOAA's  Marine Debris Program aims to mitigate problems caused by the presence of flotsam and jetsam in our national waterways. Boaters should always practice responsible disposal of all waste materials, including fishing gear, for example, which can "entangle, injure, maim, and drown marine wildlife and damage property."

So, now you know, friends - mind your flotsam and jetsam!

For smooth sailing and zero stress ... call SYS!©

Monday, December 23, 2013

From our charter yacht captain & crew to all of you ...

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Watch This Amazing Rescue!
Capsized Tugboat's Cook Survives Almost 3 Days In Air Pocket!

When the Jascon-4 tugboat capsized in heavy seas off the Nigerian coast, it was feared all 12 souls on board had perished. But, some 60 hours after the tragedy, divers were stunned to discover a sole survivor in an air pocket beneath the overturned hull.
Survivor, Harrison Okene
Photo | REUTERS/Joe Block
Mr. Okene, 29, only drew the attention of the divers when, by chance, he saw the light of a torch piercing the waters which were gradually rising around him.
In this moving video, you will see Mr. Okene reach out to the diver and hold his hand at the 5min 38sec mark. [If the video below is no longer working, click here].

Certainly, this is a powerful testament to the human will to live! Congratulations to Mr. Okene - a true survivor! Wonderful work by the dive team, too!
H/T @itvnews
For smooth sailing and zero stress ... call SYS!©

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

NOAA To Cease Printing Nautical Charts

Effective April 13, 2014, the government will stop the lithographic printing of NOAA nautical charts.

No new paper charts soon! 
NOAA's Office of Coast Survey and its predecessor agencies have been responsible for printing traditional lithographic paper charts since the Civil War. However, given modern innovations, including partnerships with print-on-demand (POD) distributors and the popularity of digital alternatives, NOAA concludes "it is no longer justified as a use of tax dollars" to continue printing the charts, as much as they'd "like to continue the tradition of lithography".

As for the future availability of charts in alternative formats, NOAA explains :
We continue to improve NOAA electronic navigational charts (for display on computers, mobile apps, and electronic chart display systems) and NOAA raster navigational charts (used in a variety of electronic charting systems). We are also testing a new product: during a trial period from Oct 22, 2013 to Jan 22, 2014, we are making about a thousand nautical charts available in printable PDF format for free download. We plan to issue a Federal Register Notice asking for comments on continuing free public access to PDFs after the trial period. 
Whistler Chart
And don't worry, collectors! You can always download and print historical charts, including some from the 1800's, when James Whistler (known for the iconic painting “Whistler’s Mother) and John Muir (founder of the Sierra Club) worked for Coast Survey, from

For more information about the change, click here.

For smooth sailing and zero stress ... call SYS!©

Thursday, September 26, 2013


If you missed the last (almost) 3 weeks of amazing sailing, and we hope you didn't, let us be the first to tell you, you missed one of, if not THE most, EPIC COMEBACKS IN SPORTS HISTORY! 

Oracle Team USA celebrates!
From seemingly insurmountable odds, Oracle Team USA recovered from a 2-point deficit (due to previously assessed penalties) and a scorching 1-8 loss ratio, to win EIGHT STRAIGHT races, retaining the America's Cup in what can only be called one of the greatest displays of athletic resilience, persistence, competence and courage. 

At one point, it seemed the feisty Emirates Team New Zealand, helmed by Skipper Dean Barker and needing only one more victory, would easily snag the trophy but "Mother Nature" apparently had other plans and the wind fell flat on what should have been their match winning effort, forcing the race to be abandoned even as TeamNZ rounded the final marker.   

Oracle was handed a chance for a miracle. And the so-called "Bat Mobile" delivered. 
With some minor changes on board (crew and equipment), Team USA improved its performance every race. The tacking got smoother, the jibes were better timed and more efficiently designed. Simply put, Oracle took the course and conditions over. And they won. Boy, did they win!

We extend our heartfelt kudos and bow our heads in respect to Skipper James Spithill and his amazing crew. It was an honor to have watched the 34th America's Cup!

For smooth sailing and zero stress ... call SYS!©

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book a relaxing charter this Labor Day Weekend!

For smooth sailing and zero stress ... call SYS!©

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Beware The Current!
A Reminder About Electric Shock Drowning

Photo | Brian Fitzgerald
It's the height of summer and nothing sounds more tempting than jumping into the water to cool off. As with all things, remember: SAFETY FIRST! Our friends at Boat US have published a timely article about one of the hidden dangers of taking the plunge, especially in fresh or brackish water: Electric Shock Drowning or ESD.
One year ago, over Fourth of July weekend, Alexandra Anderson, 13, and her brother Brayden Anderson, 8, were swimming near a private dock in the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri when they started to scream. Their parents went to their aid, but by the time the siblings were pulled from the lake, they were unresponsive. Both children were pronounced dead after being transported to a nearby hospital. About two hours later, Noah Winstead, a 10-year-old boy, died in a similar manner at Cherokee Lake, near Knoxville, Tennessee, and Noah's friend, 11-year-old Nate Parker Lynam, was pulled from the water and resuscitated but died early the following evening. According to local press reports, seven other swimmers were injured near where Noah died. These were not drowning victims. In all of these cases, 120-volt AC (alternating current) leakage from nearby boats or docks electrocuted or incapacitated swimmers in fresh water.
We encourage all of our fellow boaters to take a moment to read about electric shock drowning, what you can do to prevent it, and how to recognize the symptoms if you or your guest is a victim. Here is some basic info from the Boat US article by Beth Leonard:

Electric Shock Drowning:
What You Need To Know

In General
  • ESD victims are good candidates for successful Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Learn to perform CPR and maintain your training.
  • To retrieve a person in the water, reach, throw, and row, but don't go.
  • Tell others about ESD. Most people have never heard of it and are unaware of the danger.
  • Make sure your children understand the importance of not swimming anywhere there could be electricity. Don't let them roughhouse on docks. Tell them what to do if they feel a tingling or shock in the water (see below).
In Marinas
  • NEVER swim within 100 yards of any freshwater marina or boatyard.
  • Talk to marina owners or operators about the danger of ESD. Ask your marina operator to prohibit swimming at their facility and post signs.
  • Ask marina operators if they are aware of and following the guidelines from NFPA 303 (Fire Protection Standard for Marinas and Boatyards) and National Electric Code (NEC) 555.
If You Have A Boat
  • Have your boat tested once a year to see if it is leaking electricity, or buy a clamp meter and test it yourself. If you find any problems, have your boat inspected by a qualified electrician trained to ABYC standards.
  • Have a qualified ABYC electrician install an ELCI on your boat (refer them to the ABYC E-11 Standard) or use an ELCI in the shore power cord. As an alternative, install an isolation transformer on the boat.
  • Test the GFCI/ELCI at least once a month or per the manufacturer's specifications.
  • DO NOT do your own 120-volt AC electrical work on a boat or hire an electrician who is not familiar with ABYC standards to do it. Many of the problems that lead to electrical faults result from the differences between shore and boat electrical systems and standards.
  • DO NOT use common household extension cords for providing shore power to your boat. Use, and encourage other boaters to use, shore power cords built to UL standards.
  • NEVER dive on your boat to work on underwater fittings when it is plugged in to shore power, even in saltwater.
If You Have A Private Dock
  • NEVER swim within 100 yards of ANY dock using electrical power!
  • If you have not electrified your dock or put an AC system on your boat, weigh the risks carefully before doing so.
  • If you need electricity on your dock, hire a licensed electrician and make sure the wiring meets the requirements in NFPA 303 and NEC 555. If your dock is already wired, hire an electrician to check that it was done properly. Because docks are exposed to the elements, their electrical systems should be inspected at least once a year.
  • Exercise your GFCIs/ELCIs as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • If you normally run a power cord from your house or garage to charge your batteries, make sure the outlet has a GFCI and include an ELCI somewhere in the shore power cord.
  • NEVER swim off your dock without shutting down all shore power to the boat and the dock.
  • Even if you adhere to all of these rules, nearby docks can still present a shock hazard. Educate your neighbors and work together with them to make the waterfront safe.
If You're In The Water And You Feel Tingling Or Shocks
  • DO NOT follow your instinct to swim toward the dock!
  • SHOUT! Drowning victims cannot speak, let alone shout. Let everyone know what's happening so they'll understand the danger and react appropriately.
  • Try to stay upright and back out of the area the way you came, warn any other swimmers in the area of the danger, and then head for shore 100 yards or more from the dock.
  • Alert the dock or marina owner and tell them to shut the power off to the dock until they locate the problem and correct it.
  • Go to the hospital to make sure there are no lingering effects that could be dangerous.
If You Have To Rescue An ESD Victim
  • Know how to distinguish drowning from ESD (see Alert for how to recognize "normal" drowning; tingling, numbness, or pain all indicate ESD).
  • Fight the instinct to enter the water — many rescuers have died trying to help ESD victims.
  • Call for help. Use 911 or VHF Channel 16 as appropriate.
  • Turn off the shore power connection at the meter base and/or unplug shore power cords.
  • Get the victim out of the water. Remember to reach, throw, row, but don't go.
  • If the person is not breathing or you cannot get a pulse, perform CPR until the Fire Department, Coast Guard, or ambulance arrives.

Here's to enjoying the rest of the summer! Safe boaters are happy boaters!

Other resources:
Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association
Tips on Electrical Systems and Use
Reach, Throw, Row, Don't Go!
Electric Shock Drowning Resource Center

For smooth sailing and zero stress ... call SYS!©

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