Guest Commentary

For several months now I’ve been talking to people about some proposed changes to our navigation aids – particularly some local buoys – and encouraging boaters to take an interest in, and speak out about, ideas being considered by both National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Coast Guard. I’ve attended two public listening sessions (Long Beach and San Diego) and hosted a meeting of key players over the chart table at Seabreeze Books and Charts in San Diego. At this point I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that these agencies want to hear from all of us. From those meetings we now have word that our San Diego approach buoy will be replaced in its original configuration, with all the elements we’ve relied on for years. And other proposals may get more study before decisions are made.

The bad news is that so few of us in the small-boat world bothered to take an interest.

For those in attendance, all these meetings were encouraging and very productive. We got our buoy back in San Diego, and we learned about, or were reminded about, the resources available to us to bring out concerns to the powers that be.

I believe that the people involved at NOAA and the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers and the weather services really do want to make the right decisions. What they need from us is feedback. The current hot button is electronic navigation. It’s coming. How it evolves will depend on real communication. If we – the small-boat public – don’t say anything, those who decide can only assume that everything is OK. If we speak up about real issues in rational ways, we can help to bring the very real benefits of electronic navigation to more mariners at a pace that doesn’t overwhelm.

If we don’t pay attention, make the extra effort to go to a meeting, make comments, share experiences, we probably deserve whatever we get.
Start with these:

• U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center website:
There’s a lot on this page, so I suggest starting with the “News and Notices” on the right side, and the “contact us” tab to make comments, ask questions.

• NOAA’s U.S. Coast Survey website:
These are the people who produce, and change, and correct our charts. They offer a newsletter by e-mail that can let you know things like when the San Diego buoy is finally back on station, and what charts have been updated, and where you can even get PDF versions for free. They also have a “contact us” tab.

I’ve learned that when you speak up about something that’s bothering you, and thank the deciders when it gets fixed, you really can solve problems. But, as I said before, if you don’t . . . .

Ann Kinner
Owner of Seabreeze Books and Charts

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