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China boats return to disputed area: claim



CHINESE fishing boats have returned to a lagoon in a disputed South China Sea shoal despite an agreement to clear the area of all vessels, Philippines officials say.


Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said the government would ask China why six Chinese fishing boats and 17 smaller dinghies returned to the lagoon this week after both countries withdrew their vessels from the area as part of a recent agreement.

The accord concerning the sprawling lagoon, which is at the heart of Scarborough Shoal off the northwestern Philippines, is part of efforts by China and the Philippines to negotiate an end to a territorial dispute that erupted on April 10.

A Philippine plane spotted the Chinese vessels inside the lagoon on Monday afternoon, Hernandez said. He said five Chinese government ships were sighted outside the lagoon in the vicinity of Scarborough.

Hernandez on Wednesday urged China to abide by its commitment in talks aimed at diffusing the rift.

“It is important for parties in negotiations and discussion on any issue to always act in good faith,” he told reporters.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The territory is claimed by both countries. Tensions flared in April when the Philippines accused Chinese fishermen of poaching in its exclusive economic zone, including the shoal. China responded by sending paramilitary vessels to protect the fishermen.

Two Philippine government vessels faced off with the Chinese vessels at the shoal starting in April. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III later withdrew the two vessels, citing stormy weather, temporarily ending the tense standoff. But he threatened to send the vessels back if the Chinese ships and boats did not leave the shoal.

The shoal is one of several areas contested by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei in the South China Sea which straddle busy sea lanes and are believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits. Many fear the disputes could spark a violent conflict.

Vietnam has protested a Chinese state oil company’s invitation for bids for energy development in disputed areas of the South China Sea. The China National Offshore Oil Corp opened nine oil and gas lots for international bidders over the weekend.

Vietnam Foreign Ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said the lots lie entirely within Vietnam’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. He said in a statement posted Tuesday on the ministry’s website that China’s move was illegal and the bidding should cease immediately.

He urged foreign companies to ignore the Chinese offer.


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Man dies after falling from boat on Iowa lake

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Authorities say a man died but two children were rescued after they apparently fell out of a fishing boat at Saylorville Lake near Des Moines.

The Polk County sheriff’s office says the man and the children, ages 6 and 10, were found in the water on Monday afternoon by a person on a sailboat. The person tied off the fishing boat and got the children, but not the man, out of the water.

Officials say the children were wearing life jackets and weren’t injured. The man, who was not wearing a life jacket, was in the water for at least 20 minutes. His name hasn’t been released.

Deputies say there was no damage to the boat and the lake wasn’t choppy. Investigators are trying to determine what happened.


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Man found dead on fishing boat south of Santa Cruz

SANTA CRUZ – A 70-year-old man was found dead on a fishing boat about 20 miles southwest of Santa Cruz Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.

The man departed aboard a 40-foot fishing vessel named Sunrise from Half Moon Bay on July 25.

The Coast Guard’s San Francisco command center received a call around 1 p.m. Tuesday reporting him missing. A helicopter crew from San Francisco and a life boat crew from the Coast Guard’s Monterey station responded.

A rescue swimmer was lowered from the helicopter to the fishing boat once it was located and the man was found dead inside the cabin.

Crews will return the boat to Santa Cruz along with the man’s body, both of which will be turned over to local authorities for investigation.

A spokesperson from the Coast Guard’s San Francisco office could not be reached Tuesday and it was not immediately known where the man was from or whether he was the boat’s sole occupant. The man’s name and the cause of death have not yet been released.


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Chinese fishing boats leave Pagasa Island

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The last of the Chinese flotilla of some 20 fishing boats have left the disputed waters off Pagasa Island in the West Philippine Sea, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Monday.

Lieutenant Colonel Neil Estrella, spokesperson of the AFP Western Command, said all the Chinese vessels which had anchored some five nautical miles off Pagasa last week sailed away Monday.

“That’s the latest report we got. Those (Chinese boats) which were sighted there have already moved out,” Estrella said in a phone interview with reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

“As of now, we do not see any foreign vessels in the vicinity of Pagasa Island,” he said.

The Chinese boats “voluntarily” left the area even before the Philippine Navy could send its vessels because of the rough seas.

“That’s normal. They arrived there and just left,” he said.

Estrella said they could not confirm reports that the Chinese fishermen had gathered corals and different species of fish from the waters where they anchored for several days.

A Philippine Daily Inquirer source said a fleet of some 20 Chinese fishing vessels purportedly escorted by at least two naval frigates of the People’s Liberation Army were seen a few kilometers from Pagasa on July 24.

The Chinese boats were reportedly seen fishing and collecting corals from the area, which the military said was known for its coral reef formations.

The Western Command confirmed the Inquirer report, but said the Chinese fishermen were merely taking shelter from the huge waves stirred by a weather disturbance.

Commodore Rustom Peña, commander of Naval Forces West, said at least 20 fishing vessels were anchored nine kilometers off Pagasa Island, the seat of government of the Kalayaan municipality in Palawan province.

But he said there were no sightings of the reported military escort of the fishing fleet. “There are no other vessels there,” he said.

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Following safety rules helped fishermen survive night in Lake Huron after boat capsizes

It was supposed to be a few fun hours of fishing in Saginaw Bay, a trip they’d done many times before.

Instead, the small boat capsized and an afternoon pleasure trip became a horrifying night for two Macomb County men and two boys — three of them clinging to the slippery, overturned hull in the choppy waves of Lake Huron; the fourth adrift in the water with only his life jacket to keep him afloat for 14 hours.

Their situation was so desperate that it could easily have turned to tragedy, but for the fact that the four boaters knew the safety rules and made most of the right moves to ensure their survival.

It’s a lesson that’s particularly important as boaters head into the second half of summer, lulled by an uneventful season and maybe getting a little lax about practicing safety drills.

The Coast Guard, which rescued all four from the water, later honored them as “shipmates of the week” for following good boating safety procedures.

“These boaters followed several of the important safety precautions/preparations … they filed a float plan, wore life jackets, and stayed with the boat,” Lt. Davey Connor, a Coast Guard spokesman, wrote in an e-mail. “If they hadn’t, they likely would not be alive today.”

A day for fishing

Brian Nelson and Ryan Miller, both of Macomb Township; Nelson’s 12-year-old son Cody, and family friend Jack Fischer, 10, set out about 11 a.m. July 9 in Jack’s grandfather’s 18-foot Crestliner, an open cockpit fishing boat with a 155-horsepower outboard motor.

The boat was rigged for walleye and the fishermen had high hopes.

Jack’s grandfather — also named Jack Fischer — was supposed to go with them, but missed the trip because of a doctor’s appointment. Nelson and Miller had borrowed his boat before and the elder Fischer had every confidence in their boat-handling skills, as the fishermen told him where they were headed that day.

“I told the guys to go ahead and go fishing,” Fischer said. “I had no problem with them taking my boat out.”

Throughout the day, as was their custom, the four fishermen and the senior Fischer talked back and forth via cell phone or marine radio. It was a gorgeous day with no wind, and the water so calm it was like glass. About 1:30 p.m., they told Fischer they were moving to another fishing area, and told him where they were going.

Trouble strikes

Then there was one of those sudden changes in the weather that the Great Lakes are known for.

About 3:30, the two adults called Fischer and told him that Saginaw Bay was getting windy, and they were going to head for home. They were about 12 miles away and told Fischer they’d be back about 5 p.m.

A short time later, the unthinkable happened.

“They got the nose in the wind, but a wave, possibly 6 feet (high), lifted up the front end. And as the boat came down, two quick waves came over the bow,” Fischer said.

The subsequent waves were about 5 feet high. And with water coming in, the boat started to go down. Nelson and Miller had just enough time to toss the two life-jacketed kids away from the boat as it started to roll, so they wouldn’t be struck and injured when it capsized.

The men got the boys on top of the overturned hull. It was slippery with the waves, and the only thing they had to cling to was the small ridge down the center seam of the boat.

“It was scary,” young Jack said. “I was trying not to think about it.”

Back on shore, it was nearing time for the fishermen to return, and Fischer tried to call them. But for the first time that day, they didn’t answer the marine radio, and their cell phones went immediately to voice mail.

“My gut feeling was there was something wrong,” Fischer said. Even though the boat wasn’t overdue, he called the Coast Guard.

Petty Officer Nicole Metzke of Coast Guard Station Detroit sent out search and rescue boats from the Saginaw and Tawas stations and a helicopter from Detroit at 6:40 p.m.

Metzke sent a boat to the likeliest area, about 8 miles southeast of Point Au Gres, but there was no sign of them.

And the rescuers were losing daylight.

Fighting the battle

“Nighttime searches are always difficult,” Metzke said. The searchers had spotlights and night vision goggles, but they knew that chances of spotting one small, overturned boat in the vast reaches of the bay became severely diminished after dark.

Meanwhile, the four were clinging to the overturned boat.

Before nightfall, they made their one serious mistake. They spotted a fishing boat nearby and Miller tried to swim to that boat for help, while the other three waved their arms and tried to get the boat’s attention.

But the other boat didn’t see them.

And when Miller turned around to go back to the overturned boat, he couldn’t find it in the waves, Fischer said.

Miller would spend a long, lonely night floating in the water.

At the Fischer home in Au Gres, relatives began to arrive to wait out the search, hanging on every Coast Guard report. Young Jack’s mother, Heather Secco, was at home in Linden when she got word her son and the others were missing.

“All I could think of was, I can’t go through this again, we already lost his father,” Secco said. “When Jack was 13 months old, his dad passed away unexpectedly of an aneurysm.”

With those memories haunting her thoughts, Secco said, she cried the entire way to Au Gres.

Was he prepared?

“All you can think of is: It’s dark. How cold is the water? How cold is the air temperature? Can he live overnight?” Secco said.

She said she thought about the times she’d told her son to wear his life jacket, and wondered what clothes he was wearing, and if he was hungry.

In the water, Nelson stood on the boat’s motor, guarding the boys all night long. At one point, young Jack slid into the water. Nelson grabbed him and pushed him back onto the boat.

The air was so cold, the water was actually warmer, Fischer said.

They saw the helicopter searching and it gave them hope because they knew someone was looking for them. But the searchlight never came close enough to shine on them.

“We just prayed, ‘God, please help us get out of this mess,’ ” young Jack said.

After the sun came up, the Coast Guard found Nelson and the two boys.

Miller was found a short while later, a few miles from the boat, Metzke said, and drifting away from the shore.

It was a happy ending, largely thanks to the information the fishermen left behind.

“A search of that magnitude is kind of rare,” Metzke said.

The typical search and rescue operation involves disabled boats or engine trouble, or a person who went in the water and needs help, Metzke said, estimating Station Detroit responded to about 1,700 search and rescue operations last year between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

In the aftermath, the boat was towed to a marine company where the insurance company declared it a total loss.

And young Jack worried about his fish — a 10-pound walleye — the biggest fish he’d ever caught.

“He said, ‘Grandpa, is my fish still on the boat? If it is, take a picture of it and then let it go.’ ” Fischer said.

Contact Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki: 586-826-7278 or mmwalsh@freepress.com

More Details: Staying safe in boating incidents

• Wear life jackets, especially in rough weather. Know where the life jackets and other safety equipment are stowed.

• Tell someone on shore where you are going and when you plan to be home.

• Monitor the marine radio and stay in contact with shore. Notify those on shore if your plans change.

• In an emergency, always stay with the boat, which is much easier to spot than a person.


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Boat Capsizes In Nueces River

CORPUS CHRISTI — What was supposed to be an evening out fishing
on a boat turned into a watery mess!

Three guys from the Christian musical group — FourTwelve — went
for a fishing trip in the Nueces River near the Joe Fulton
Corridor.

They’re visiting Corpus Christi to perform at a couple churches
tomorrow and a friend took them out on his airboat.

When the boat backed away from the shoreline and turned, it
completely capsized and the four guys fell into the water.

Everyone swam to shore and no one was hurt.

Brian White said, “Immediately and swimming for everything trying
to get out from underneath it (the boat) and get all the stuff we
could grab before losing everything and now the boat is pretty
much underwater.”

If you would like to follow Melissa Schroeder on Facebook,
“friend” her here.

 

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NJ party boat captains find new uses for boats

CAPE MAY, N.J. (AP) — George Hogrefe, of Lanoka Harbor, was out fishing one day 12 years ago when he observed people fishing off one side of a party boat and a group throwing ashes off the other side.

“I thought: ‘Nah, that’s not the way,'” Hogrefe said.

So Hogrefe started Sea Burial, a business that links families that want an at-sea burial with boat captains in Cape May, Barnegat Light and Point Pleasant. Hogrefe gets the federal permits that are required; they are allowed only in federal waters more than three miles offshore.

With fewer people interested in fishing, South Jersey’s charter boat captains are reinventing their industry: Some offer sunset and party cruises, others have turned their boats into water taxis, while others cater to pet lovers and even the grieving.

“When I bought my first boat in 1987, there were 26 party boats in Cape May County. Now there are 12 or 13,” said Bob Rush, who takes people out on party cruises (he has a liquor license), dolphin watching and for burials at sea to supplement fishing trips on the 70-foot Sea Isle City-based Starfish.

Other captains are taking people out on their anniversaries, bar-hopping at waterfront restaurants and escorting bachelor parties. They are giving ghost tours, helping couples make an entrance at their weddings and taking dogs out on the ocean.

“There are plenty of people who come to Cape May who may not have an interest in fishing but love the water. A charter boat runs on your schedule and does what you want to do,” South Jersey Marina owner Rick Weber said.

South Jersey Marina helps match boats with visitors’ requests.

The Lower Township marina hosted a pre-Memorial Day “charter fleet reception,” and concierges from Cape May hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts and other businesses in the tourism industry attended.

If a guest wants a boat, concierges call the marina’s charter agent, Charlie Langan, and he will find the right boat for the request. All the boats at the marina are independently owned and operated, ranging from a Cape May Harbor water taxi with a 9.9-horsepower engine to several 70-foot party boats.

“I call Charlie, and he tells me what’s available. He tells me what’s the best boat for a sunset cruise or a family looking for dolphins,” said Amanda Romolini, concierge at the Congress Hall hotel in Cape May.

Guests of Linda and Robert Steenrod, who own the pet-friendly bed-and-breakfast Bill Mae Cottage on Washington Street in Cape May, have particular requests.

“They just want to take their dog for a boat ride. They don’t even want to fish. The captains love it. No bait and very little fuel consumption,” said South Jersey Marina’s Mark Allen.

Capt. Clint Clement has had some strange charters on his 36-foot boat Common Sense. He took one group to Ocean City, Md., for lunch.

“The oddest was taking some newlyweds from the dock half a mile away to the Corinthian Yacht Club,” Clement said.

Weber, the marina owner, said some newlyweds want to arrive at their wedding reception by boat, a photogenic entrance. Boats have also been hired for rehearsal dinners and engagement parties, he said.

A growing part of Captain Mike Brocco’s charter boat business is memorial services at sea in which the cremated remains are thrown overboard.

“In the last three years, it’s been picking up more and more. Two years ago I did four, and last year I had 11. With the economy, people are not buying plots at the cemetery. We take them to places where they vacationed and had fun memories with their family,” Brocco said.

A funeral on land with a burial plot can cost thousands. For $450 for a party of eight, and $20 for each additional person, they can charter the Cape Queen at South Jersey Marina for a two-hour service at sea.

“The captains just have to drive the boat. I do everything else. I had one three weeks ago with 80 people on the Spirit of Cape May that included dinner, a bagpiper and a World War II plane that flew over and did a victory roll. I’ll do anything as long as it’s legal,” Hogrefe said.

If the family wants somebody playing taps, or the ashes set adrift in a three-foot replica of a Viking boat and then lit on fire, Hogrefe will supply it.

Captain Ed Yates, who runs his boat Hunter out of Barnegat Light, has received business from Hogrefe and said it’s a great supplement to a business that relies these days on Amish, Mennonite and Quaker anglers who still fish for food.

He said 25 percent to 28 percent of his business is from these groups and said one Barnegat Light boat gets 85 percent of its fares from them. They target bluefish since the regulations are more liberal. They mostly smoke the fish for later use.

“I think the economy has finally caught up with the fishing community. I don’t see a lot of boats out there,” Yates said. “This is my 30th year taking the Amish out. They’re keeping a couple of us going in June with bluefishing. They’re the last of the meat hires, as we call them,” Yates said.

Rush said the regulations have just about ended a key fishing clientele that used to use party boats not just for fun but to feed their families.

“They’re dying off. They can’t come down and fill their coolers and put fish in the freezer anymore. If you don’t split off and do other things, you’re not going to survive,” Rush said.

The family’s second boat, Lonestar, has been converted to an electronic advertising billboard that sails daily between Atlantic City and Cape May Point. The 55-foot boat carries a 200-square-foot electronic sign.

Doug Ortlip and Dan O’Neil both run charter boats, but this year they are also running a 25-foot water taxi named Fancy around Cape May Harbor. They envision expanding The Tiny Cruise Line to at least six taxis.

“Hurry up. They’re passing us,” Ortlip shouted to O’Neil as a mother duck and her ducklings started to pass the boat during a trip Tuesday morning.

Fancy isn’t fast, with its 9.9-horsepower engine that burns only a couple gallons of gas a day, but some tourists want a slow boat ride in a calm harbor.

“They have kids, and they don’t want to get seasick,” Ortlip said.

Some adult customers want to drink and eat dinner at waterfront places such as the Lobster House and the Harborview without worrying about driving home. A bachelorette party recently went to every bar on the harbor. They also drove a wedding party all the way up to Urie’s in Wildwood.

Ortlip and O’Neil aren’t ready to give up their charter boat jobs just yet, but are excited about taking a chance with something different. Ortlip’s girlfriend, Lexi Quinn, and O’Neil’s girlfriend, Holly Cappelli, are both involved in the business.

“The charter business is down. It’s bad. And this is a lot more fun than fishing,” Ortlip said.

___

Information from: The Press of Atlantic City, http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com


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Edmonds-based fishing boat sinks off Alaska

JUNEAU, Alaska – An Edmonds-based fishing boat sank Thursday night off the coast of southeastern Alaska, and all four crew members were rescued, the U.S. Coast Guard reported.

Officials said the 84-foot Mary Kay sank in about 600 feet of water, with a potential fuel load of 2,500 gallons of diesel aboard. It is not reported to be a hazard to navigation.

The sinking happened near Dixon Entrance, a waterway separating the north coast of Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlottes) from the southern Alaskan panhandle.

The Coast Guard has launched an investigation into the cause of the sinking.

Lt. Ryan Erickson, a search and rescue controller at Coast Guard Sector Juneau, said it is unlikely the fishing vessel will be recovered due to the depth of the water where it sank.

Erickson praised the quick efforts of mariners who responded to the sinking and prevented any loss of life.

“We were very fortunate to have so many good Samaritans respond to this sinking, which limited the amount of time the crew was exposed to the elements,” he said.

The Coast Guard was notified at about 10:46 p.m. Thursday that the vessel was taking on water off Cape Chacon near South Prince of Wales Island. Coast Guard Sector Juneau issued an urgent marine information broadcast, and several vessels and aircraft responded.

An 18-foot Alaska wildlife trooper skiff and a tender from the fishing vessel Irish Rose were first to arrive on scene and located the four crewmen of the Mary Kay in immersion suits and a liferaft.

The crew of the skiff took the four survivors aboard from the liferaft and transferred them to another fishing vessel, the North Wind.

The survivors reported no injuries and were taken to Ketchikan, Alaska, aboard the North Wind. They arrived there early Friday morning.

At least one of the crew members is from the Puget Sound area, KOMO News sources said.


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