The Coastal Star

On the Water: Warnings against E-15 use in boats gain steam

The sign at Palm Beach Yacht Center in Hypoluxo assures boaters that gasoline it sells at the fuel docks contains no ethanol.

By Willie Howard

Most South Florida marinas offer boaters non-ethanol fuel because of problems associated with ethanol use in boats. Boaters who trailer their vessels to gas stations can find “Rec 90” or similar non-ethanol fuel at many gas stations in Palm Beach County.

Although problematic, the E-10 gasoline blend that contains 10 percent ethanol can be used in most modern boat engines.
But boating organizations are warning boat owners against using E-15, the 15 percent gasoline/ethanol blend available at some Florida gas stations.

President Donald Trump recently allowed year-round sales of E-15, previously banned during the summer because of concerns that it contributes to smog in hot weather.

BoatUS, the nation’s largest recreational boating organization, says gasoline containing up to 10 percent ethanol (E-10) can be used in pleasure boats. But gasoline with a larger percentage of ethanol, such as E-15, voids many boat engine warranties, BoatUS says.

Labeling of E-15 at the pump has become a concern in the marine industry.

In May, U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel of Florida and Austin Scott of Georgia, members of the Congressional Boating Caucus, introduced the Consumer Protection and Fuel Transparency Act of 2018, which would require clear labeling of E-15 at the pumps.

“Many consumers assume that all products sold at gas stations are safe, which is not the case when it comes to fueling marine engines with E-15 fuel,” said Martin Peters, senior manager for government relations at Yamaha Marine Group. 

Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, gives credit to Frankel and Scott for their legislative efforts: “American consumers and 141 million recreational boaters will be better insulated from the danger of improperly fueling their boat engines with an unsafe, unreliable and often incompatible fuel.”

The legislation would require more detailed labeling of gas pumps that dispense E-15, noting that it can damage engines in boats and small engines such as those on lawnmowers, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles as well as engines in cars built before 2001.

The legislation also would require the Environmental Protection Agency to create a public awareness campaign that advises consumers about the risks of using E-15.

“This bipartisan bill educates people on their fueling options to keep boats running well,” Frankel said in a statement. “In Florida, recreational boating is more than just a way of life. It’s an $11 billion industry supporting more than 56,000 jobs.”

Google mapping waterways by boat

Google Maps, which uses cars fitted with cameras to offer “street views” of landmarks, is going nautical with its first mapping boat to cruise South Florida waterways.

Google Waterway View mapping began in March in Broward County.

Google plans to map the Intracoastal Waterway from Pompano Beach to Lake Worth and from Lake Worth to Jupiter Inlet.

The mapping boat, a 35-foot Boston Whaler, also will head south along the Intracoastal Waterway to the Miami River and to Ocean Reef near Key Largo.

Members of the team on Chips Ahoy led by Capt. Chip Sheehan of Boynton Beach (back row, second from left) celebrate their win in the June 9 Sail Inn KDW Charity Fishing Tournament. The 21-pound kingfish they caught in the final few minutes was the largest fish of the 31-boat tournament, which raised $12,000 for Hospice of Palm Beach County. Photo provided by Chip Sheehan

Chips Ahoy wins Sail Inn tournament

Capt. Chip Sheehan of Boynton Beach and his fishing team on Chips Ahoy caught a 21-pound kingfish to win largest fish in the Sail Inn KDW Charity Fishing Tournament, held June 9 at Palm Beach Yacht Center in Hypoluxo.

Sheehan said fishing was tough that day because of stormy weather. His team caught the winning kingfish on a live cigar minnow in 110 feet just south of Boynton Inlet with only eight minutes left to fish.

Mike Bone and his team on Mojo won top dolphin with a 12.8-pound mahi mahi.

Team Fish Nix weighed in the only wahoo, at 12 pounds.

The 31-boat tournament, organized by the Sail Inn Tavern in Delray Beach, raised $12,000 for Hospice of Palm Beach County.

Florida boating accidents killed 67 last year

Sixty-seven people died and 437 were injured in Florida boating accidents last year, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission reports.

The FWC released its 2017 boating accident statistics in May, showing a total of 766 reportable boating accidents last year statewide, including 41 in Palm Beach County.

The leading cause of boat collisions last year: inattention or failure to maintain a proper lookout.

“It’s critical for operators to be aware of what is going on around them,” said Lt. Seth Wagner of the FWC’s Office of Boating and Waterways.

Drowning was the leading cause of boating deaths in Florida in 2017. Of those who drowned last year, 81 percent were not wearing life jackets.

Coast Guard Auxiliary member is boating educator of the year

Andrea Rutherfoord, a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 36 in Boca Raton, was named the state’s 2017 Boating Educator of the Year by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Rutherfoord, of Delray Beach, has been teaching boating safety classes since 1992, including the About Boating Safely classes held monthly in the headquarters building at Spanish River Park.

She also coordinates annual boating skills training for the Naval Sea Cadets.

She credits the success of the Boca Raton flotilla’s boating program to “the dedication and expertise of all the auxiliary instructors.”

Coming events

July 14: Basic boating safety class offered by Coast Guard Auxiliary, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the headquarters building at Spanish River Park, 3939 N. Ocean Blvd., Boca Raton. Fee $35. Register at the door. Bring lunch. Call 391-3600 or email

July 25-26: Two-day sport lobster season for recreational divers. Daily bag limit 12 lobster per person except for Monroe County and Biscayne National Park, where the daily limit is six. No egg-bearing lobster may be taken. Spiny lobster carapace, or head section, must measure at least 3 inches. Lobster must be measured in the water and landed whole. A Florida saltwater fishing license and lobster permit are required, unless you’re exempt. Call 625-5122 or go to

July 28: Full-moon wahoo tournament organized by the West Palm Beach Fishing Club. Also Aug. 25. Entry fee $60 per team. (Each fishing team must include at least one West Palm Beach Fishing Club member.) Cash and merchandise prizes. Call 309-1397 or see

July 28: Basic boating safety class offered by Coast Guard Auxiliary, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the classroom building next to the boat ramps, Harvey E. Oyer Jr. Park, 2010 N. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach. Fee $25. Register at the door. Call 704-7440.

Aug. 1: Early-entry deadline for Mark Gerretson Memorial Fishing Tournament, which benefits youth causes in Delray Beach. Captain’s meeting 6 p.m. Aug. 9 at Delray Beach Elks Lodge, 265 NE Fourth Ave., Delray Beach. Fishing day: Aug. 11. Entry fee $200 per boat by Aug. 1 or $225 thereafter. Call 436-0622 or visit

Aug. 6: Regular spiny lobster season opens and remains open through March 31. Details: (click on saltwater fishing regulations).

Tip of the month

Diving for spiny lobster this summer? Don’t forget lobster-measuring gauges and diver-down flags.

Use gap gauges to measure spiny lobster in the water. If the lobster’s carapace, or head section, doesn’t exceed 3 inches, release it. Also release all egg-bearing lobsters.

Boats supporting divers should display red-and-white dive flags, at least 20 by 24 inches, from the highest point on the boat. Divers in the water should tow a float-mounted dive flag (or similar diver-down warning device) measuring at least 12 inches square. Boat operators who spot diver-down flags should stay at least 300 feet away on open water — and at least 100 feet away in rivers, inlets and navigation channels. Those approaching closer should do so at idle speed.

Willie Howard is a freelance writer and licensed boat captain. Reach him at

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