By Steve Chaconas
Up for Sail!
Boat ownership got much better 50 years ago when Richard Schwartz founded BoatUS with a vision for better representation, safety and providing quality services at competitive prices. Today the range of boats covered has grown, including bass boats, and critical boating issues have expanded.
The impetus for starting the worlds’ largest boat owners association came when Schwartz launched on a friend’s new boat and was boarded by the Coast Guard. As his friend was cited for having faulty engine compartment ventilation, Schwartz learned manufacturers had no liability to build boats in compliance with government safety regulations. Finding no organization fighting for or representing boat owners, Princeton University and Yale Law graduate Schwartz set up the Boat Owners Association of the United States. In 1964, the BoatUS name was registered.
In 1966 the BoatUS launch brought the official informative newsletter and with a goal of 100,000 members, 1000 signed up. The start was slow and challenging. Boat manufacturers didn’t accept what was good for boat owners as Schwartz took to Capitol Hill to inform legislators of the unfair burdens placed on new boat owners. In addition, insurance companies would also take exception as Schwartz began offering policies written in plain English, not gobbledygook forced on boaters.
In the 70s, the BoatUS Consumer Protection Bureau bridged the gap between boaters and builders to facilitate dispute resolutions, including sharing recall information. The wheels, or propellers, really began to turn when President Nixon signed the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971, which Schwartz had a hand in writing, to provide the Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety the authority to regulate boat manufacturers to reduce recreational boating injuries and fatalities. The opening of the first official BoatUS retail store and headquarters was in 1977 in Alexandria. By 2003 there were 62 BoatUS Marine Centers nationwide, including a wholesale division.
Money solves problems and so Schwartz worked on President Carter for 2 years to sign the Recreational Boating Safety and Facilities Improvement Act authorizing $60 million in boating fuel taxes to be spent on boating safety programs and boating facility improvements in the early 80s. This “user pay, user benefits” concept also facilitated an important piece of legislation for boating and fishing: The Wallop/Breaux Trust Fund. Schwartz reached his first goal of 100,000 members!
In the 80s BoatUS entered its 20th year, picking up their 200,000th member. By the end of the decade, membership grew to 300,000. A new graphics department offered affordable boat name graphics. The loss of Coast Guard towing funding resulted in a major boating industry move. TowBoatUS was launched to provide on the water assistance; fuel drop off, battery jumping, along with towing.
In the 90s, BoatUS was instrumental in eliminating the federal tax on diesel fuel used in recreational boats. The BoatUS Foundation completed a comprehensive study on inflatable PFDs leading to US Coast Guard approval. BoatUS towing launched a 24-hour toll-free dispatch. Cell phone calls could be routed directly to towboat Captains. BoatUS established the Cooperating Marina Program, enabling discounts on gas, ramp fees and other member services. Over a million boaters have taken free on-line safety courses. The Trailer Assist & Towing Program features a 24-hour roadside assistance dispatch and towing for trailers and tow vehicles.
BoatUS become Alexandria’s second largest employer in 2000 in time to handle claims from the most devastating 14-month period for boaters from hurricanes including Katrina. Supporting college bass tournaments, the first ever BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship was held in Texas. The collegiate program has expanded to over 600 colleges making bass fishing the fastest growing team sport in the US. In the single biggest battle for boaters, BoatUS has led the war against ethanol to prevent E-15 expansion and expand ethanol-free gas availability.
In the decade to follow, a BoatUS Towing app was created. Another major victory came when BoatUS hand delivered over 15,000 comments to the Federal Communications Commission demanding private company LightSquared not be allowed to take over the GPS band, a move that would have disrupted all land, air and sea navigation. But this decade will be remembered for the 65,000 boats damaged by Hurricane Sandy and the largest boat catastrophe team ever assembled by BoatUS. Other milestones have been reached: 600 TowBoatUS boats, the 500,000th call for assistance on the water, total hull value of BoatUS insured boats exceeded $7.4 billion. Sadly, last year at the age of 85, founder Richard Schwartz passed away.
In the 50 years since its inception, BoatUS has provided services, worked for safety and has set standards in the boating industry for the benefit of all who boat. Today the motto “service, savings and representation” still rings true.
Potomac River Bassing in JULY
Summertime topwaters. Over matted grass, try Mann’s Goliath frogs on 60-pound GAMMA Torque braid. With more water, use Lucky Craft walkers like Gunfish and G-Splash poppers are perfect for clear and calm water with overcast skies! Walk the dog with the Gunfish and don’t stop when fish strike! For poppers, pop and stop, varying retrieves until a cadence produces. Also try Mann’s Waker over cover.
Mann’s Baby 1-Minus over grass and around wood will get bites most days, but when the sun comes out, try pitching Texas rigged Mizmo tubes on a 3/0 Mustad Mega Bite hook. Try 14-16 GAMMA Edge fluorocarbon line. Use scents like garlic Jack’s Juice Bait Spray.
Mann’s Reel N’ Shad is deadly this time of year. Also try swimming jigs like Mann’s Stone Jigs with a HardNose Reel ‘N’ Shad around cover. Beef up tackle for this technique.
Mann’s Classic ¼ ounce spinnerbaits with white skirts are effective around shallow cover. Try these and chatterbaits close to grass, wood and rock, bumping cover or snapping free from grass.
Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide & contributing writer for BoatU.S. (BoatUS.com) Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates: info@NationalBass.com.