Home On Watch American Flags and Orca Task Force Findings

American Flags and Orca Task Force Findings

by Peter Schrappen

Much has happened since my last iteration of On Watch. For one, I attended the world’s largest boat show, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS). Along with 170 of my closest friends, we attended the annual Northwest Party that opened the festivities on the first night, and then we launched into the show with the Superyacht Northwest booth and magazine. As Kevin Klein would instruct, you fish where the fish are. It’s this mindset that compels the 30-or-so marine businesses to sponsor the 10’ by 20’ booth. Boating trips are determined at this show, it is incumbent upon us to be there in mass to help steer them to the Northwest corner.

Speaking of superyachts, the biggest buzz around government affairs success at FLIBS had to do with the recent passage of the John McCain National Defense Authorization Act. National Defense Act, you say? In part of this legislation was a passing mention of ships that are 300 gross tons obtaining the ability to fly an American flag.

What may seem like an insignificant line to many, U.S. Superyacht Association has made this issue their top priority for the last six years because boats flying American flags are always a good thing. Not only is it important for many yacht owners to fly an American flag, but it also means that the taxes and jobs stay here in our country versus other ones.

Not only was there a whole lot of backslapping about this victory, but Northwest boating leaders, including yours truly, met with U.S. Coast Guard personnel during FLIBS to hammer out these new regulations. If you are a faithful reader of this column, then you are aware of the adage that if you aren’t at the table, you are on the menu.

We were literally at the table with the Coast Guard, and there’s no way that this success would have occurred without some harried work that took place at the American Boating Congress (ABC). How’s this for a local tie: Washington state’s Congressman Adam Smith (Democrat-Tacoma) stepped up in a big way during ABC and afterwards worked across the aisle to push through this change.

That’s two discrete examples directly predicated on showing up. If showing up is 90 percent of the job in sales (excuse me, government affairs advocacy), then it does not get any more important than the American Boating Congress in May and the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

Actually, time and time again, I’m struck at how critical it is to show up with a physical presence. As we get less connected to each other and more connected to our devices and social networks, I would encourage everyone to double down on real-life conversations with real people. Maybe it’s the upcoming holiday season that has me sappy about the days of yesterday, but nothing beats an old-fashioned, hand-written note.

As it relates to showing up and laws and regs, the Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force ended on November 5. Recreational boating showed up in force, thanks to task force member George Harris, Recreational Boating Association of Washington’s leadership team including Steve Finney, Wayne Gilham, and their lobbyist Doug Levy. At times during these six meetings, the future of boating and fishing in the San Juans hung in the balance.

Thankfully hard work, showing up, and telling our story put us in a spot where we could compete within the marketplace of ideas.

By the look of it, the approximately 240,000 registered boats can breathe a big sigh of relief that the changes in the final package are (what I would say) modest. Of all the myriad of concepts moving forward at various times (like a No Go Zone on the west coast of San Juan Island), the only item that boating leadership opposed—but ultimately made it through—was a $10 optional fee on boat registrations to save the whales. Whew!

The real fun on this whale-protection portfolio begins on January 14 when the 2019 legislative session commences. As Northwest Yachting goes to print here, the ballots are getting counted. By the early looks of it, the Washington House Democrats will solidify their existing majority by an additional eight seats and the Senate Democrats will pick up two or three seats.

Of the new faces, I’m most excited about Senator-elect Jesse Salomon and Representative-elect Amy Whalen. Salomon is an avid recreational angler. Plus, his win means that the state senate will lose one of the louder anti-boating voices in Olympia. I love those trades.

As for Whalen, she proactively texted me that she treasures the waterfront and marinas of Kirkland, where her and her husband own a car dealership. Believe it or not, that awareness is not common enough with the legislature.

As I wrap up here, I know we are in the throes of the holiday season. I appreciate that I can bring you the boating news and of the editors at Northwest Yachting who prioritize boating politics enough to have a spot
for me. Don’t be a stranger. You can always find me at peter@nmta.net.

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