Monday, March 30, 2009

Safety on The Water: Always a No. 1 Priority

Maybe you just bought a new boat...or a late-model performance boat that's just "new to you." You take a few minutes to check things out...count the life vests, check for a fire extinguisher, test your VHF radio...but are you really prepared for the worst, if it should happen? The fact is, there are a lot of items in a performance boat that need to be checked out--even things like anti syphon valves, Coast Guard approved fuel pumps, tanks and even electrical wire can sometimes make the difference between life and death. In many cases, these are not luxury items or safety bonuses. Having them is the law.

In addition. many or most insurance policies specify that your vessel meet all USCG specifications. Properly reviewing your boat's rigging could save your life or prevent an insurance claim from being declined. And don't assume that because a boat is "as shipped" automatically means that it is in full compliance. There have been boats which have won a lot of praise from magazines over the years, that if fully inspected, would not have met USCG specifications. Areas like bilge blower hose routing, operational lights being out, not having 100% ignition-protected components--these are often overlooked. And that doesn't even include common mistakes, like the failure to have required safety items like flares, flags, personal flotation devices (PFD's), throw lines and other equipment.

PHOTO CREDIT: United States Coast Guard

The good news is, there's plenty of help available that will help ensure your boat is ship-shape when it comes to safety. In many areas, local organizations like the local Marine Power Squadron or USCG Auxiliary will provide free boat inspections at the beginning of every boating season. Also, you can access the USCG boating safety regulations online HERE. Most of the information can be downloaded in PDF format, from vessel requirements and safety rules to navigation rules and state/federal boating laws. In fact, just about everything you need to know about safe boating can be found on the USCG boating safety site. Other great sites for safety information can be found at places like the Atlantic Maritime Academy website, which features a number of helpful and informative articles on seamanship.

And while you're at it, if your new to boating, be sure to take an approved boating course before you leave the dock; for younger boaters, it's a requirement but even older folks who are new to the sport, or who have not operated a boat for some time should take the time to learn or re-learn the basics. You--and your fellow boaters--will be glad you did.

Big Bad Boat Makes Alltop!

Wow. Getting this site going has taken some vision and some hard work...along with some help from our friends on the Internet. Over the weekend, that work was rewarded when we were notified that BigBadBoat was going to be added to the Boating section on Alltop.com. For those of you who might not be familiar, Alltop is one of the fastest growing phenomenons on the Internet, led by former Apple employee and Fellow Guy Kawasaki. Characterizing itself as offering the "Best of The Web," Alltop is a simple-to-use RSS feed aggregator that makes it easy for people to find the top stories and information on their favorite subject areas.

Only a few sites that apply for inclusion on Alltop are accepted; that's why we're so happy to be able to make this announcement, as it's a very significant "stamp of approval" for us. It's also great because Alltop get lots of traffic, and that should generate a lot more visitors to our site...not to mention the additional promotion Alltop gets through Guy's ubiquitous presence on Twitter (the dude has over 96,000 followers.) So, while this particular post doesn't have a lot to do with offshore performance boating, it's important just the same, since it enhances the viability and visibility of the site and points the way toward some other things we are planning to do.

Among those other things we plan to do are to get our online store open, to offer you some interesting B3 goodies, and also add an in-depth features section, where we will be providing some longer-format stories--covering broader issues like racing, poker runs, offshore history, etc. Another fun project we've started, and hope to bring online very soon, is more entertainment-oriented...an exciting, online serialized novel called The Midnighters, which we hope you all will enjoy. Like always, be sure to send us your thoughts and ideas, so we can make this place a great resources for online performance boating, and a complementary addition to the other great sites that are out there.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Black Beauty from the Palm Beach Boat Show

Thanks to our Twitter pal Rich Lazzara at Lazzara Yachts, we can bring you some awesome images from the 23rd Annual Palm Beach Boat Show, which runs March 27-30. Featuring more than $350 million worth of boats, superyachts and accessories from every major marine manufacturer, the event includes more than 1,000 boats, covering everything from inflatables to superyachts.

PHOTO CREDIT: www.richlazzara.com

Rich was kind enough to post some photos [above] of this striking black Midnight Express Open 37. Dubbed Midnight Madness, it's well named, since it boasts FIVE (yes 5) 350hp Mercury Verado outboards on the transom, for a total of 1750hp! Top speed from the advanced, stepped hull is said to be about 95mph, but that's pretty fast for a big 37' boat with a full 11' beam.


PHOTO CREDIT: www.richlazzara.com

The show encompasses more than 1 million sq. ft. of exhibit space on land and in water throughout three distinct venues. Two of the venues, the Palm Beach County Convention Center and the Intracoastal Waterway are connected by a convenient transportation network. The third, Rybovich Marina, is an exclusive showing of superyachts with access by the water taxi, which is docked next to the Yachts International Pavilion.

As an aside, in the coming weeks I'll have to show you an incredible project I came across on Rich Lazzara's blog - it's their ultra-modern floating showroom, built on a 40' x 90' barge. You'll have to see it to believe it...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Round Britain Powerboat Race Set for 2012

Often said to be to be "the toughest endurance powerboat race in the world," the next incarnation of the famous Round Britain Powerboat Race is set to run in conjunction with the London Olympic Games in 2012. Unlike previous events, which were run in 1969, 1984 and last year, in which competitors navigated through the Caledonian Canal, the 2012 race will involve a complete, bone-crunching circumnavigation of Britain.

The race is not JUST about speed, it's about courage...and the endurance of man amnd machine. The course is a grueling and at times dangerous 1,600 miles around some of the most treacherous waters of the UK. The 2012 race, which is organized by the British Powerboat Racing Club and which has the support of the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), will probably be limited to about 50 boats. The final route, number of classes and various race categories will be finalized as race time draws closer.

PHOTO CREDIT: www.round-britain2008.co.uk

One definite change for 2012 is that the race will start and finish in London, to enable it to interact with the London Summer Olympics of 2012. The last race, staged last June, attracted a "new generation of competitors," according to race organiser Neil McGrigor, who said "were keen to revive genuine offshore powerboat racing in open waters." His hopes for 2012 go even further:
"My intention is to make the 2012 Round Britain the most memorable powerboat race ever staged," McGrigor declared. "With the world’s spotlight on London for the Olympic Games we have the opportunity to make the race a showpiece event on and off the water for the entire UK boating community."
The 2008 race was also marked by numerous DNFs and one actual sinking. Forty-five boats completed, with a Greek team aboard a Fabio Buzzi-designed hull, powered by a triple rig of 440hp FPT Iveco engines claiming a hard-won victory in 20 hours, 36 minutes, 47 seconds.


Livorsi Gives New Look to Billet Controls

The folks at Livorsi are never ones to stand still. Even though their high-quality billet controls are known throughout the industry for their bulletproof construction and good looks, they're always looking at ways to improve them. To that end, they just updated the design, powder-coating the knobs for a more ergonomic shape that will rest comfortably in the operator's hand. The chrome handles were given a gently-curved shape, too--and together with the knobs, offer a striking new look.

You get Livorsi's typical robust construction, featuring heavy duty aluminum, bronze & stainless steel. They include friction and detent that can be adjusted while installed on your helm. You can choose from water resistant Otto® switches, or smaller conventional rocker switches; a neutral safety switch is included at no charge.

In addition, Livorsi offers an optional powdercoated plate base for more eye-catching color. and adapter plates are available to install controls in a wide variety of applications and helm set-ups. Check them out here! And while you're there, be sure to try out Livorsi's new Dash Designer, which allows you to try out different gauge and color combination before you order. Very cool.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

If Your SERIOUS About Offshore...

Performance boating is one of those things that most people enjoy as a group activity, whether it's a race, a poker run, or just a fun run to the closest watering hole. Joining a few of your friends with their boats almost always guarantees a memorable time.

But what if you're new to the offshore scene? How do you find other boaters, get good advice, and find out where all the action is? Well, one of the best places you can start is the boating forum at Serious Offshore. The place is packed with awesome photography of the hottest boats around, lots of good "how-to" threads, cool pics and memories from some of offshore racing's "old pros"--and a whole lot more.

PHOTO CREDIT: Pete B. - SeriousOffshore.com

While the site is just several months old, it benefits from having thousands of experienced and enthusiastic members who are more than willing to offer you the latest technical information, lots of great advice, and more than a few laughs. You'll get some strong opinions, too...on topics both on and off the water. The guys (and gals) on Serious Offshore don't hold back--but that's exactly what makes the place so fun and entertaining. One glance at that Cigarette Gladiator above, and it's plain that this bunch doesn't mind keeping a high profile, either.

So whether you're an experienced offshore enthusiast or a newbie, be sure to make this place one of your very first stops on the web. Now that boating season is getting closer, the site is continuing to grow every day, so be sure and register so you don't miss anything.

If you're thirsty for fun, then this is definitely THE place to be. Oh yeah--don't forget to ask for a big glass of Kool Aid when you get there...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tales of The Tiki Bar

Tiki Bars and Boating are such a great combination. Let's face it, Captains aren't allowed to drink while operating, and in many bodies of water, there are other restrictions. That's why there's often nothing better at the end of a nice day of boating fun than a nice seat at a waterside tiki bar, with an ice-cold Corona, a Captain-and-Coke, or some umbrella-drink sitting there in front of you. Add some great music, a fun crowd [cue the eye candy] a nice view of the water and some fast boats, and it doesn't get much better. They don't always have to be decked out in bamboo and rattan, either -- because a good tiki bar is as much about attitude as it is about the design details.

We all have our favorite spots. The closest body of water near me is the chain of Portage Lakes, and there are several great places--though my personal hometown favorite remains The Olde Harbor Inn [below] on West Reservoir. They have a huge tiki bar that offers a great view of their deck and boat docks, and on a nice afternoon dozens of nice boats will cruise by to check the place out. Next door is another great spot -- Hook, Line and Drinkers -- which has a great vibe of its own.

PHOTO CREDIT:The Olde Harbor Inn

PHOTO CREDIT: www.kellysislandcasino.com

I can think of other wonderful places, like The Casino on Kellys Island [above] ...but I'd like to know about some of your favorites, either on or off the water. Send us a picture of you, your pals and your boat cooling off at a tiki bar you enjoy. If you have an extra Corona, send that too.

Sign of The Times: Formula Idles 225 Workers

If one of the oldest and most stable companies in the performance boating industry is going through tough times like this, it makes you wonder how the rest are doing. Citing poor sales, Decatur, IL powerboat maker Porter, Inc. -- the parent company of Formula and Thunderbird boats -- has laid off 225 employees, 62 of them last week. The company says they’re expected to be out of work at least six months. Decatur Mayor John Schultz said the company had several layoffs over the past six months.

PHOTO CREDIT: Formula Boats

As recently as 2005, the company employed more than 600 in a manufacturing plant that comprised more than 400,000 square feet. As of Monday, it was unclear exactly how many workers remained on the job at the plant. In it's notice to the State, Porter said:

"...the unprecedented freezing up of credit on both the retail and wholesale sides of the boat industry has drastically affected boat sales and shipments now and in the months ahead." Porter also told state officials it wasn't exactly sure when it would call the workers back, but “it is anticipated that sales of boats may return to normal levels starting in 2010.”
Eventually, things will turn around. But as we're out on our boats this summer, try not to forget about some of the hard-working people who aren't in a position to enjoy warm weather fun on the water. Here's hoping their time-off will be short.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Boyne Thunder Site Up, Running and Ready for 2009

I am not afraid to admit to being totally biased, but I am also totally stoked. It seems the updated Boyne Thunder web site for 2009 is now up and running, with all the details posted for this year's Poker Run. Scheduled for July 10 and 11, this event offers all the excitement, quality and beautiful scenery that you could hope for. This is Hemingway Country, people - and it truly is one of the most beautiful areas of the country. The boating season up here is short...so the people up here do their best to make the most of it. And boy do they ever.

PHOTO CREDIT: BoyneThunder.com

The poker run kicks off at Boyne City, Michigan, located at the eastern end of Lake Charlevoix. It's a quaint little town by day and (at least during Boyne Thunder weekend) a cold-beer and loud music extravaganza by night. It's probably their biggest event of the year, and the town turns out big time to welcome visitors and make them feel at home. This will be their 6th year, and they are getting very good at it.

The run leaves Boyne City, heads out across Lake Charlevoix, through Round Lake and Charlevoix and then out to Lake Michigan. From there, it's on to Beaver Island, Harbor Springs, Petoskey and then a lunch stop at Bay Harbor. The run completes with a stop at Sommerset Point on Lake Charlevoix, then the final card stop, back in Boyne City. It all ends with a big post-run feast right on the lakeshore. The party is open to participants and anyone else who wants to buy a ticket in support of the children of Camp Quality-- a summer camp and year long support program for children with cancer.

PHOTO CREDIT: The Dude took this one

While I vacationed in this general area almost every year as a child, last year was my first trip to Boyne Thunder. The wife and I headed up without our boat--mainly because I didn't have a chance to have maintenance perfomed on my trailer, which it definitely would have needed before a 900 mile round trip. My wife was glad I didn't...especially when she saw the white caps on Lake Charlevoix and heard a Coast Guard officer talking on his radio about 8-foot rollers out on Lake Michigan. "You were thinking of taking me out in this?" she said. "You're nuts."

We watched the boats head down the lake towards Charlevoix, then headed there ourselves to sightsee in Charlevoix and enjoy some cold beers. The incredible homes and boathouses on Round Lake are a sight to behold, and we even had time to take a quick trip up tp Petoskey. Then it was back to Boyne City, to watch the fast boats return and enjoy the post-run feast. I highly recommend the cherry cobbler--there's none better. And it's hard to imagine a better way to spend a weekend. Be sure to check it out; you won't ever forget it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Race Profile: 2008 Key West World Championship

If you have never been to a real offshore boat race, then I highly recommend this New York Times Article from last November, profiling last year's Super Boat International Key West World Championship. It's not perfect, but it does provide just a little idea of the color, excitement and danger that attracts both racers and spectators to offshore racing:
"Their sport, once dominated by tycoons who raced far out to sea beyond view, was refashioned in the 1990s to draw spectators and advertisers. Courses were designed to run laps passing 100 feet from the shore."
PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Perry/The New York Times

The article makes it plain: At this level, the sport takes a big heart, big bucks and maybe most of all--big balls. But I have to say that this type of coverage by a major media source like the Times is a good thing for offshore racing. The photographs accompanying the article are particularly fine, as evidenced by the examples included here.

PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Perry/The New York Times

Certainly Key West provides a perfect backdrop for all of this action. The 29th Annual Key West World Championships are scheduled for November 8th through the 15th, 2009.

No Speedo? Use Your iPhone...

It's a situation that's probably happened hundreds of times. I was on the lake, gradually applying more throttle as I moved out of the no-wake zone. I was getting up to speed, and just got the trim tabs adjusted to bring the bow down nice and level...and then I started applying more throttle. Soon, the Formula was moving along nicely, it's hull slicing right through the light chop, and I watched the houses on the shore start passing by faster and faster. Wow! It sure FELT fast. Then I glanced down at the instrument panel: the speedometer said ZERO. "Awwww, crap..." I thought to myself.

The speedometer had been working before. But somewhere along the line, I must have got something in the pitot tube back on the transom, and it was no longer working. No flow, no water pressure, and nothing for the speedometer to measure. An attempt at cleaning it out the following week had no effect, and I resigned myself to the fact that I'd have to replace the pitot..eventually. An easy job, to be sure, but an annoyance, just the same. Of course if I had an instrument panel like the one pictured on the rig below, I wouldn't have to bother with this stuff; I'd have a fancy GPS speedometer that would be far less likely to go bad and a lot more accurate.

PHOTO CREDIT: Cigarette Racing Team

Which brings me to the inexpensive, handy-dandy iPhone app I found a few months ago (not in time for boating season, though) called simply SPEED. Sadly, this GPS-based speedometer was free when I grabbed it, but is just 99 cents now, so it's well worth the price. The display is clear and legible, and it reads in both kilometers and miles per hour. Plus, if you swipe the dial vertically, it will invert the colors, which makes it nice if reflection is a problem. You'll probably have to be moving at least 5mph to get a reading, but you can rest assured that the GPS speed reading it gives you is definitely more accurate than the old-fashioned analog speedo you might have been using. There is supposedly a new, improved $1.99 version coming out soon, but if you buy now, they'll upgrade you for free.

The nice iPhone bonus is that you don't need a separate camera to "shoot" your speed reading; just hit the "menu button" and the "on/off" button on the top at the same time, and the iPhone's camera takes a screenshot. Couldn't be simpler...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

West Coast Go-Fast Crowd Ready for Desert Storm

I've only been out to Lake Havasu once, in July of 2007. I had never been anywhere so hot - I can still remember how gassed and lethargic I felt after walking just a couple of blocks in the 115-degree heat. I spent most of the next couple of days either in the pool, fortified with cold Coronas, or swimming in the lake, which was the temperature of lukewarm bathwater. Nevertheless, even though my wife and I were there during the middle of the week, I could tell this was one incredible spot...and a super-fun place to be for poker runs and offshore racing. Well, all the excitement is about to bust loose again from April 23-26 in Lake Havasu Arizona, as Desert Storm 2009 gets underway.


PHOTO CREDIT: Desert Storm - Lakeracer, LLC

Here's a brief run-down on what's happening in Havasu that week:

April 23, 2009 Thursday – The Outrageous DESERT STORM STREET PARTY
5:00 PM - 9:30 PM Main Street Boat Show and Street Party. Open to everyone.

April 24, 2009 Friday – The DESERT STORM POKER RUN
10:30 AM - Boats line up for the parade through the London Bridge Channel; followed by the run and from 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM - the Poker Run Outdoor Party for participants.

April 25, 2009 Saturday – The DESERT STORM SHOOTOUT!
Run the two mile course from Thompson Bay to Copper Canyon along the Arizona shoreline. With over 30 different classes available, you’ll compete against boats like yours!

April 26th 2009 Sunday - POPRA Offshore Races.
[Exact Schedule to be announced.]


PHOTO CREDIT: Desert Storm - Lakeracer, LLC

Desert Storm has really become one of the nation's best runs; last year was their best year ever, with over 215 boats registered, including some of the wildest rides around. The event just reinforces the fact that Lake Havasu is clearly one of the premier powerboat destinations for the western U.S.. It's also the famous home to the original London Bridge and several west coast custom boat builders. If you can make it out there, it's a trip you're sure to remember.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Now - Big Bad Boat on Your Mobile Phone!

There are a lot of boating web sites out there--manufacturer's sites, club and organization sites, as well as all kinds of interesting performance boating forums. When we developed Big Bad Boat, the goal was not to compete with these sites, but to complement them, and frankly, highlight and promote them to others.

While we deal with a highly specialized segment of the marine world, part of our site's mission is to promote the fun aspects of performance boating, including the attitude and the lifestyle, to as many people as possible. In that way, we might be able to bring more people into the sport/hobby and shape performance boaters image as it is seen by the general public. To do that, we'll be providing a lot of "basic" info that newbies might appreciate, as well as some entertaining images and info.

But we also want to be relevant to the offshore community. To that end, we've created a mobile phone version of our site that not only includes our regular articles and posts, but some useful links to popular websites and useful mobile sites that might come in handy. Our group is pretty much always on-the-go, both on and off the water, so quick links to weather information, restaurants and taverns, ATMs and taxis--as well as your favorite drink recipes :-) could be very useful. We've also thrown in links to most of the popular offshore forums as well as related offshore organizations & poker run clubs. So, if you're on the water, you can find a watering hole, schedule your next poker run and read what people are saying about you and your friends on places like Serious Offshore...all from your iPhone.

We'd also like to point out that on the iPhone, once you go to our mobile page at bigbadboat.mofuse.mobi, you can tap the little "+" at the bottom menu and add us to your iPhone homepage. That will add our little "button" to your iPhone...and we think it looks pretty cool. Come check us out, and let us know what you think!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Biloxi Opens Offshore Super Series for 2009

The 2009 OSS season kicks off when teams return to Biloxi MS to Smoke the Sound on March 26 – 29. Biloxi is known for warm weather, long, fast straight-aways, lots of screaming fans and the excitement of the of the season's first race. OSS reports several new teams that have joined for the 2009 season, with a few more coming. The Biloxi race will offer OSS practice, Pro/Am Racing and Unlimited Offshore Qualifying on Saturday, then racing for all Classes on Sunday.

PHOTO CREDIT: OSS Super Series

OSS is also getting a big boost from Mercury Racing, who will once again this season provide support with a $150,000 contingency prize purse for 2009. The purse is to reward racers who use Mercury Racing-approved outboards and sterndrives in OSS National Series events in OSS Cat Lite, OSS Vee, OSS Vee Lite and OSS Cat Outboard class competitions. For more info, check out the OSS website, as well as the Biloxi race site, at www.smokingthesound.com.

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