Thursday, December 11, 2014

Do you hear the bells?

Lately, when I watch and read the news, the world has felt scary and raw. There is a strong urge for me to stay positive and bright, even keeled. Encouragement comes naturally for me. I see the value in creating a positive environment around me.

This last month has been really heavy. There has been much injustice in the lives of many, and I've been - for the most part - reading and listening; thinking and hoping. Hoping for an outcome that will resolve some of the tension that bubbles just beneath the surface of today's society. Tension that has bubbled dangerously close to the surface, and recently begun to boil over. And I've felt powerless and I've been silent, and I've felt confused. Wondering what I could say or do that would make a difference without contributing to the hate and vitriol that is being thrown around.

So it was easier to make myself a sandwich; read another book. And turn off the world; the noise; the reality.

Desperately trying to get in the Christmas spirit, I was listening to Christmas music on Pandora radio, and one of my Father's favorite Christmas songs came on. I listened to the wise, powerful words of "I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day”:
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
And the reminder arrived: Yes of course our society is broken. Our systems are not functioning correctly. Perfect peace and good will - by our definition - remains unattainable. Because what is peaceful to one does not bring good will to men. And what is peaceful to men does not bring good will to all.

And the bells ring.

The bells ring every day, whether we hear them or not. There is a church in my neighborhood that plays hymns on its bells every day of the year. At the top of every hour, from 7AM to 7PM, the bells ring. This time of year, they switch to Christmas carols. Undoubtedly at some point, "I heard the Bells..." will play, just as it does every year. Sometimes I hear the bells ringing, other times, I do not hear them. They become part of the background noise of life. I am not paying attention to my surroundings. Lost in my own thoughts, the bells seem silent to me. It occurred to me that I haven't heard those bells recently.

And the bells ring.

Sometimes hope arrives after a terrible injustice. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to see it; to be invited into it. To watch it unfold, as though it were a motion picture, with front row seats and open arms. We see the happy ending as the music swells and we clap and rise, hearts bursting as we file out into the world.

And the bells ring.

Other times, of course, the happy ending doesn’t make it to the screen. It’s behind the scenes, or on the cutting room floor, or perhaps hasn’t yet been created. And so the story we see playing is one of darkness and judgment and anger and hate. The story is still being written while we are living through it. And in those times, our eyes fail us. And so, we open our ears.

And the bells ring.

They ring daily – in good news and bad. They ring, always, setting our world in motion to a rhythm we don't feel; a song left unsung; a wish never made. Just like the bells in my neighborhood, the bells of life ring whether we hear them or not. Always ringing like clockwork. Every hour. Every day.

When we really pay attention, we hear them louder than the collective sounds of crowds mourning, mothers grieving, babies giggling, children playing, communities shouting, families feuding, neighbors dancing, enemies fighting.

And the bells ring. They sound still, small. Quiet. A bit like a voice.

Yes, the bells ring. Every day. Listen for them so they don't go unnoticed. Hopefully someday, as the song goes,

"The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Do you hear them?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

I try to keep it strictly boating related here on SS, but I couldn't resist taking a moment to wish all three of my readers a very happy Thanksgiving. I sincerely hope that you enjoy some down-time with your family, enjoying whatever old or new traditions you have in store this year.

November is the time to be thankful, a time to remember and to embrace those who enrich our lives. Thanksgiving was originally in celebration of the good crops and abundance of food, yet today we have more to be thankful for than our forefathers. Today we eat turkey and cranberry sauce and forget to say, a simple, ‘Thank you.’ I, for one can think of a number of reasons why I am - and should be - thankful. I am thankful for many people - my wife Janet, our son Dylan, who is growing into a fine young man any parent would be proud of. I am also very grateful to have gainful employment and the means to afford the wonderful hobby of sailing. I am very blessed and I know it.

In closing, I'd like to leave you with a few of my favorite Thanksgiving quotes:

 "Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving." ~W.T. Purkiser

"For, after all, put it as we may to ourselves, we are all of us from birth to death guests at a table which we did not spread. The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath are parts of the banquet.... Shall we think of the day as a chance to come nearer to our Host, and to find out something of Him who has fed us so long?"
~Rebecca Harding Davis

"I have strong doubts that the first Thanksgiving even remotely resembled the "history" I was told in second grade. But considering that (when it comes to holidays) mainstream America's traditions tend to be over-eating, shopping, or getting drunk, I suppose it's a miracle that the concept of giving thanks even surfaces at all."
~Ellen Orleans

"May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off of your thighs!"
~Grandpa Jones

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The 2014 Annapolis Sailboat Show

For all the years I've been a sailor, I've only attended a handful of boat shows in Annapolis. This year I decided to attend on Thursday (VIP Day) to hopefully avoid some of the crowds. As it turned out, Thursday was the best weather day of the entire weekend.
The view from the rooftop at Pusser's
As I had hoped, the crowds were more manageable and I had room to wander the docks at will without traffic jams. I'm not seriously in the market for a new boat, but it sure was fun to check out the state of the art in boat design these days. I did experience some things that made me shake my head, but by and large, the day was fantastic and the visit was extremely worthwhile.

Small Boat area
This show truly had something for every type of sailor. Along with the extensive collection of larger boats on display in the harbor, there were small boats on display in the land based areas. Annapolis goes all-out for this show, and not a square foot of space in the harbor area is wasted. There are tents where you can visit with all manner of vendors who sell sailing and boating related gear. I was on a mission to talk with many of the various marine electronics manufacturers about an electronics upgrade for September Song. They were most helpful and I came away with a game plan of sorts, along with a way to do it in stages to save me from the expense of doing it all at once.

I spent a considerable amount of time wandering the docks, looking at new boats I can't afford, and actually found that I couldn't see everything in one day. Unfortunately, my weekend plans and the foul weather forecast for the remainder of the show meant that I would not be able to return for a second day.

Speaking of new boats that I can't afford, check out Tempus Fugit. She is a 90 footer, built in 2013 out of wood. For sale because her owner is having a 120 footer built to replace her. Yours for a cool $5.5 million. Viewing was "by appointment only", unlike most other boats where they let the unwashed masses come aboard.
Tempus Fugit
I also spent a considerable amount of time on catamaran row, checking out the new cruising catamarans. One thing I noticed - there are very few new catamarans under 40 feet these days. Yacht builders are you listening? There is a market for cruising catamarans under 40 feet and not many new models out there. Gemini and Lagoon seem to be the only ones. PDQ quit making the smaller cats when they switched over to Antares. I did learn that Gemini has recently signed a contract with Catalina Yachts to build their catamarans in the future. Good news, because Catalina has a great reputation when it comes to supporting their customers.

I also noted some innovative design features. Leave it to the french to put a wine locker in the bilge...

In a nutshell, if you're a sailor, even if you're not on the market for a new vessel, the concentration of hardware, apparel, electronics vendors, and yacht sales people all in one place make the Annapolis Sailboat Show the "place to be" in early October!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Space Heater ≠ Winterized

The saddest thing I have ever seen...

The fire in this video caused 23 MILLION DOLLARS in damage to the boats and the marina, and resulted in an environmental disaster due to all of the fuel tanks that leaked diesel and gasoline into the water.
This week's entry brings you winterizing tips. As in "how NOT to winterize your boat." While I wish I could sail away to the Caribbean (like Mike and Rebecca), I am still stuck in the land of the J.O.B. for now, so I need to store my boat every winter for the time being.

The other night, there was a boat fire in Baltimore in which two boats burned. One caught fire, burned through its dock lines, drifted across the harbor, and caught another vessel on fire, where they both burned and sank. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

Photo credit: United States Coast Guard
Since the cause of the fire is still under investigation, one can only speculate on how it started. But the news of the fire got me thinking about cold weather, boats, and heaters. That particular night was one of the first nights in Baltimore this year where the temperatures were forecast to get down near freezing. Some boat owners think that they can avoid or delay winterizing their vessel by putting an electric space heater on board to keep the cabin above freezing. Some even skip the space heater and just leave a 100 watt light bulb lit near the engine all winter. They feel that this eliminates the need to properly winterize the boat: draining water tanks and putting anti-freeze solution in the water lines.

There are several problems with taking this short cut for winterizing your boat:
Fire caused by spark: Most people think that the electric "radiator" type space heaters are safe on a boat because they don't have red-hot coils exposed. The problem is that many of these devices make sparks internally when their thermostat goes on and off. If your boat runs on gasoline, all electrical devices that are installed on board must meet United States Coast Guard regulation 33 CFR 183.410 for spark resistance. Devices that meet this standard are certified not to make sparks during normal operation that could ignite any gasoline vapors that may be present. Space heaters made for home use were not designed to meet these standards. A UL listed device that is deemed safe to use in your home may not be safe in a marine environment. There aren't usually flammable vapors present in your home environment, but if your vessel has gasoline tanks, there is always a chance of gasoline vapors collecting inside, especially when your boat is sealed up for the winter without regular ventilation.

Fire caused by poorly maintained or improperly connected electrical wiring:  Many boats have limited shore power service. If there is any problem at all with your shore power receptacle or boat wiring, running a 1000 watt space heater for hours on end will certainly find it. Boats have been known to burn to the waterline just because the shore power receptacle was poorly maintained or improperly connected. Leaving a high power device running unattended in an enclosed space just doesn't seem wise to me. See the following article on why shore power receptacles burn up. Fellow blogger and marine electrician Maine Sail has written an excellent article that is a topic all in itself. If you overload a poorly connected receptacle it could overheat without tripping the breaker, resulting in a fire. Make sure you TWIST LOCK the connector or it will result in a poor connection and overheat!

Fire caused by contact with a flammable object: If you think that all this can be avoided by just leaving a 100 watt light bulb lit all winter, this one's for you. That light bulb will get very hot. If it's not properly secured, it could come into contact with something flammable, and before you know it, your baby will be a pile of melted fiberglass.
Seacock with freeze damage

Freeze damage caused by a power outage: As if all of the above fire hazards are not scary enough, what happens if there is a power outage during sub-freezing temperatures?  By the time you realize there is a problem, your engine and water lines will be frozen and split.

When I first started boating, I didn't realize the difference between power available at home and the very limited power available on a boat. On a boat with a single 30 amp shore power cord, you will not be able to use more than about 24 amps. When you think about all the things that people want to run on board these days, that starts adding up fast. At home, nobody thinks twice about plugging in another cell phone, vacuum cleaner, coffee maker, etc. But on a boat with limited power available, you can quickly overload your electrical system without even realizing it. Space heaters (or anything else that generate heat with electricity) are some of the biggest power hogs - and most likely to overload circuits.

Many marinas have strict policies when it comes to boats in winter storage and do not allow any type of unattended shore power or extension cord connections to boats that are stored in the yard.

Bottom line - taking shortcuts when it comes to your boat can cost you dearly. And as bad as you think you would feel if your boat burned, would you be able to live with yourself if your boat fire also destroyed a neighboring boat because they happened to be unlucky enough to be next to you?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Not putting your best foot forward

Yesterday I spent a very long day at the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, MD. I will be writing up a complete report on that experience later on. This is just a quick set of observations  - things that I noticed and experienced that disappointed me. Here's the thing: Boats are expensive. People pay a lot of money for anything that says boat or marine because they are subjected to an extreme environment. As such, the quality of the design, parts, and manufacturing processes need to be exceptionally high. We pay more for that quality. It disappoints me when I see an otherwise beautiful and well put together vessel where there are obvious shortcuts taken. It makes me wonder what else is happening in areas that are less visible. If airplane manufacturers built planes the way some boat manufacturers operate, we would have a lot of planes falling out of the sky. And this is why I recommend that ALL vessels (used AND new) are surveyed as part of the purchase and delivery process. Your surveyor will undoubtedly find quite the list of things that need attention even on a brand new vessel.

Three things that did not impress me:

1. Shoddy workmanship: Can you spot the poor workmanship here?
Oh Beneteau... What were you thinking?
Boats move. A Lot. and because they move, objects that touch each other tend to do more than just touch. They rub. If one of those objects is harder and sharper than the other, it will wear or cut right into the other object in a heartbeat. Really, how hard would have been to run those wires inside the mast until they got below deck and put some kind of a bushing or chafe guard around the wiring coming out of the mast? I walked around a LOT of boats yesterday. Beneteau was the only manufacturer that even exposed the mast wiring in this way and it was VERY poorly executed. Additionally, the wires could be stepped on by a crew member and over time they will be damaged from being crushed. Since the visible part of the job was poorly done, one also wonders if the deck fittings were properly bedded to protect the core from water intrusion. After I spotted this problem, I made it a point to check every Beneteau on display. They were all consistently done this way. So it was clearly not a mistake or one-off done on this one boat.

2. Poor design: I don't have a photo of this one because it's hard to document it with photos. The new 2015 Hunter 31 debuted at the Annapolis show. This vessel has a unique engine arrangement. The engine is turned around backwards with the drive shaft pointing towards the bow, with a Sail Drive unit attached to it, forward of the engine. Hunter claims that the more central location of the Sail Drive gives the boat more power and maneuverability while motoring. However, there is no access to the side of the engine where the dipstick is located. You have to access it from the rear berth and reach back (forward?) along the side of the engine to get at the dipstick. History shows that poor maintenance equals early death (or rebuild) when it comes to boat engines. If you make it difficult to check the oil, fewer owners will take the time to actually do it, or any other maintenance for that matter...  I asked the sales rep about it and he said - and I quote - "We're still working on it. This is hull #1 and it's going back to the factory after the show to address that issue and a few others."  This reply blew me away. I know you want to show off your new product, but don't rush it to the show when there are still issues to fix!

3. Rude sales people: As I walked around the show, visiting boats, most of them have a sales rep on board to engage with customers. If you make eye contact with any good sales person, they will always greet you first. I stepped on to a Catalina 355 and there was a sales person sitting in the cockpit that clearly found his cell phone more interesting than greeting customers. I tried making eye contact but he wouldn't even look at me. I said "hello" - no answer. So I went about inspecting the boat on my own. After 5 or 10 minutes, I walked by him on the way off the boat. He STILL didn't acknowledge me. Good thing I wasn't in the market for a new boat. He definitely would not have gotten my business! Remember that scene in Pretty Woman where Vivian goes into the swanky clothing shops on Rodeo Drive and they wouldn't help her? Same thing here. BIG mistake. Only I'm not buying, just blogging about it!

Considering how much money is spent on marine equipment and boats in general, you would think that poor workmanship and design would be less prevalent. These were just a few examples of many. As for rude sales people, I guess there are rude people in all lines of work...

Monday, October 6, 2014

Bacon - not just for breakfast...

Back in August, on a beautiful, windy Saturday afternoon, my son Dylan and I were sailing along on a father-son weekend getaway. We were in the middle of the Chesapeake bay, tacking our way to the next night's destination when disaster struck. As I was setting the Genoa on the next tack, the sheet slipped out of my hand and in its flailing, it popped the winch handle overboard. Later on, my son admitted to me that he has never heard me say THOSE words before. <grin>  I guess he now knows what cursing like a sailor means...

Luckily, September Song came with a decent inventory of spares (courtesy of the PO) and I was able to go below and pull out the spare winch handle. However, it was a shorter handle and did not provide me with the same amount of leverage that the lost handle did. It made managing the 150% Genoa on windy days a little difficult, especially for the first mate. I started pricing replacement handles and after I saw how much new ones cost, I decided that it would be an off-season purchase. Or maybe I would ask Santa for one.

I had my eye on the Lewmar One-Touch handles but was put off by the $100+ MSRP. I have known about Bacon Sails in Annapolis, mainly for their used sail inventory but I had never spent any time in the store shopping in their consignment area. I had some spare cash and a free morning recently on a Saturday and I decided to stop by and see what they had in the way of used (previously loved) winch handles. To my surprise, I found exactly what I was looking for, laying right on top of a giant bin of winch handles: a 10" One-touch, Power Grip winch handle for $31! SCORE! Priced new at $102 on Amazon.

As I was wandering around the rest of the store, I found a wealth of used hardware, electronics, lines, canvas, railings, stanchions, spars, shackles, winches, etc. I just couldn't believe my eyes. Below are a few pictures. If you get the chance to visit, make sure you ask to see the back room. There is some amazing stuff back there!
GPS, anyone? There are stacks of used electronics!

Found my winch handle in the blue bin
 To the left you can see all of the previously loved electronics. I found a few items that really weren't that old for half the price of new. Below is the aisle where I found the winch handle - right there in the blue bin!
They have some winches...

All kinds of canvas items!

How about an anchor?


On the left you can see they have an extensive inventory of used winches. Some of them quite nice. Sorry, I did not see any wenches...

Here you can see they have shelves full of canvas items. Dodgers, biminis, sail covers, you name it...

They also have an entire section of used anchors for sale. some are well worn, others look hardly used.

A few spars!

 Along the wall in the back room is a complete collection of spars. Booms, whisker poles, spinnaker poles... you name it, they probably have one for sale. I'm pretty sure I had a big grin on my face when I walked out of there with my treasure. I will definitely be back!

The other great thing about Bacon is their used sail inventory. They have a comprehensive list of pretty much every production sailboat made in the last 40 years with all of the vital measurements. On their web site, or in the store, you can tell them what kind of boat you have and what type of sail you're looking for. Their used sail consignment registry will pop up a list of all the used sails they have on hand that will fit your boat. Check it out at Bacon's web site.

Now I realize that not all sailors are as fortunate as I, to live less than 30 minutes away from Annapolis, MD, where you can find just about any sailing part or service that you desire. For the rest of you, here is a link to a comprehensive list of sailing related consignment shops all over. Do yourself a favor and visit one soon. You'll be amazed - and you just might score a used part for a fraction of new like I did.

The exhaustive list of consignment shops from all over

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Knot tied down

Recently on a cool, beautiful evening at the marina, I was assisting a neighboring slip holder as he attempted to get his boat tied up in his slip. This sailor is not new to boats, in fact he has been sailing for years, from what I have heard. Watching him tie his dock lines on the cleats, it hit home for me that there are many "experienced" boaters out there who still don't know how to properly fasten a line to a cleat. After I was done helping him, I took a walk up and down the docks in my marina and did a little unscientific survey of my own. I wanted to see how many boats had their lines properly cleated, versus having a big pile of line on top. After my little survey, it would appear that proper cleat tying is a dying art. Actually, there are many things about good seamanship that are a dying art. Many states now require boaters to pass a "Safe Boating Course" but there is no section on proper knot tying of any kind. This is my attempt at helping with the problem.

How you should NOT tie your cleat knots
I thought it would be helpful to share a little bit of information on how to properly secure a line to a cleat with the minimal number or wraps and prevent jamming. Whenever I have guests aboard September Song, I almost always feel the need to go behind them and tie the lines to my satisfaction after we are docked. After all, it is my boat and I want it to be there when I come back, and I also want to make sure it is safely kept away from pilings and docks so that the nice, shiny, scratch free hull stays that way!

The biggest mistake most people make is that they  just keep wrapping the line over and over in a figure eight until the cleat is completely buried. Often, they compound that mistake by securing every turn with a locking hitch. If you ever need to untie the cleat above in an emergency, you would be better off cutting the line with a knife.

How to tie a proper cleat hitch
Tying a proper cleat hitch is as follows:  You must start your cleat hitch on the end of the cleat AWAY from the load. This will distribute the pulling load across all of the bolts holding the cleat down instead of just one end. The first turn of the line around the cleat should go around the base of the cleat - under each horn ONCE and then begin the figure-eight pattern. Do not continue the first wrap around the base back to where you started. This could create a jammed line if you're trying to untie it while it is under load. You will see in the image here,  that after the base wrap goes under both horns, it is then crossed over the top of the cleat to the opposite side. Then you do that once more, and finish with a locking hitch. Take care to twist the locking hitch in the proper direction as illustrated here. When finished, your knot should look like a bridge with two roads running under it. If your knot looks like a pair of ski goggles instead of the finished knot on the right, it means you've twisted the locking hitch in the wrong direction. This is important because when you twist the locking hitch incorrectly, it is possible for the knot to work itself loose over time, especially when the boat is drifting around the slip and tugging repeatedly on the dock line.

At the end of this blog post, there is a Wall of Shame, featuring some of the worst examples I could find online. I thought it might be creepy for me to walk around the marina taking pictures of other people's boats. Plus I don't want to embarrass any of my dock mates.  <grin>

One last thing about these hitches. Only use the locking hitch on dock lines and other important lines that you don't want to untie in a hurry. Never use the locking hitch on a jib sheet or main sheet. Use an extra crossover and call it done. If you get hit with a wind gust and need to dump the sail or tack unexpectedly, that extra time to untie the locking hitch could cost you precious time in an urgent situation.

What about all this left over line now that it's not wrapped around my cleat?

Properly tied cleat with a flemish coil beside it.
Not the best choice for long term stowage.

Many people think there's nothing more beautiful than a nice tight flemish coil laying on the deck. They are nice to look at but I would never leave one for weeks at a time (or longer). Over time, moisture and dirt will accumulate under the coil and leave dirty, moldy circle on your clean decks, as well as degrade and stain the line. Another problem is that the line gets all twisted and it doesn't handle well, especially after the curls have baked in the sun for weeks. As you can probably guess, I am not a fan of flemish coils. It's fine if you're leaving it for a couple days while cruising, but not for the long term.

Left: Lifeline Coil          Right: Hanging Coil
A better way to secure the lines would be to coil and hang them from a lifeline or other fitting that is convenient nearby. Two ways of hanging them are shown here,the lifeline coil, and the hanging coil.

I use a lifeline coil when, for instance, I want to keep a jib-furling line or other lighter line quickly accessible but out of the way. After coiling the line, I drape it over the top lifeline or pulpit railing. Reaching from inboard through the middle of the part of the coil nearest me, I grab all the line outboard and pull it through the loop inboard. (See photo, left.) It can be easily undone when it's time to use the line. Care should be taken to ensure that the line never comes under strain while coiled or it could pull your stanchions out.

The hanging coil is the traditional way, basically a regularly coiled line, secured with a wrap and the bitter end pulled through, which is then tied to whatever fitting is nearby. To fashion a hanging coil, coil a line and leave a longish tail, about three-quarters of a loop. Beginning about a quarter of the way down from where you're holding the coil, and starting low and working up, wrap the tail tightly around the whole coil, but no more than three or four times. Reach through the top part of the coil and pull a loop of the tail through. Take the remaining part of the tail and from the other side of the line put it through the loop you've just made. You'll have a neatly coiled line ready for hanging.

Cleat Hitch Wall of Shame

All the load is on one bolt at the dock.

At least he didn't use a flemish coil!

And the grand prize winner!

Class adjourned. Now GO SAILING!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Save The Pots!

Here on the Chesapeake Bay, during the summer months, it is very common to encounter large fields of crab pots while out boating. Many pleasure boaters hate them because the line that attaches the crab pot to its marker buoy can get wrapped around your propeller shaft and leave you stranded. It can be an issue during times of low visibility or at night. During the day, it's a matter of keeping a good watch and making course adjustments to get around them. Compounding the problem is that every waterman paints their buoys in a different color scheme. Some of the color choices are hard to see from a distance. I have even seen black ones. These are nearly invisible until you're right on top of them. At night, forget it! You will surely not see the black ones.

Enter line cutters. Line cutters are very sharp blades which attach to the propeller shaft of the vessel. If a line of any kind gets wrapped around the propeller, the blade will cut the line before it gets severely wrapped and fouls the prop or shaft. There are many different styles of line cutters for various different propeller arrangements. Sounds like a great idea, right? No more diving under your boat with a mask and a knife to cut away those pesky lines. Anyone who has had to do it will attest to the PITA factor, as well as the possibility of being injured while swimming under your boat while it is rocking in the waves.

Many years ago, I had a co-worker with a powerboat and he was proud of the fact that he had line cutters installed on his boat. When he encountered a field of crab pots, rather than carefully dodging them, he would just plow straight through them, cutting any lines he happened to encounter. By doing this, he was intentionally causing derelict crab pots. What's the big deal?, you say... That stupid waterman shouldn't have put these things in my way! I'll just cut the lines and teach him a lesson!

Now I don't necessarily have an issue with line cutters. It's a safety issue. If I pick up a stray line accidentally and it wraps around my prop shaft, it could render my boat inoperable at at an inconvenient or possibly dangerous moment depending on the current, wind, and surrounding shallow areas.

The "big deal" is the environmental and fisheries impact of all those derelict crab pots littering the seabed. In 2010, a study was done on the impact of derelict crab pots on the Chesapeake Bay. It is estimated that as many as 150,000 additional derelict crab pots are added each year by a combination of abandonment, buoy loss, and lines being cut. When a crab pot is lost, it continues to catch crabs because it still has bait in it, even though the waterman will never be able to retrieve it. Eventually, the crabs and fish that enter the pot will die, in effect re-baiting the trap and attracting more crabs and scavenger species. A lost crab pot will last about four years before it eventually rusts away and is no longer a hazard. Doing the math, that means that as many as 600,000 derelict crab pots are littering the Chesapeake Bay at any given time. The study estimates that every abandoned crab pot on the seabed will kill about 50 marketable crabs per season. That's up to 30 MILLION crabs a year lost to derelict pots! And that's just the marketable crabs. What about the smaller ones that are not marketable which are also killed? These crabs will never grow into larger, marketable crabs, and will not get a chance to reproduce for next year's crop. Here's a couple of pictures of derelict crab pots that were recovered during the study:

 So I've said all that to make a point about line cutters. I don't fault anyone for installing them. I get the safety aspect of having them installed. But please be responsible in their use. Consider them emergency equipment that is only used when you accidentally pick up a crab pot line. Don't go blindly plowing through every crab pot field in your path without regard for all the marine life you will kill, as well as the livelihood of the watermen who  spend their lives doing hard work so that you can eat delicious steamed crabs. Just one more way you can do your little part to help the bay and the environment.