Authors Posts by Stephanie McMillan

Stephanie McMillan


Fall fishing in the Atlantic

Fall Fishing

Fall fishing in Hatteras

The folks in Hatteras on North Carolina’s Outer Banks fish year-round. They keep an eye on the weather and take advantage of the good days to motor out to the warm Gulf Stream waters to see what’s biting. If you’re looking for some late-season fall fishing action and fine fall weather is in the forecast, the charter captains can put you on some fish, and you’ll learn how to catch them yourself if you don’t already know how. Anglers heading out from the Hatteras Harbor Marina this past November reeled in blackfin tuna, bluefish, mahi-mahi, wahoo, sea trout, red drum, triggerfish, sharks, blue marlin, amberjack, and king mackerel, including a 50-pounder.

The well-protected, full-service marina has a 20-boat charter fleet as well as deepwater transient slips to accommodate boats up to 60 feet. Slips offer 30-, 50- and 100-amp electrical service and water. Shower facilities, diesel fuel, oil disposal, fish cleaning service, and a laundromat are located on the premises, which also has a marina store and deli. It’s within walking distance of restaurants, shopping and grocery supplies.

25 years of the Fall Fishing Classic

The 25th Annual Chesapeake Bay Fall Classic fishing tournament, hosted by the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association, is scheduled for November 17-19. The tournament coincides with the southerly migration of large striped bass from the Northeast. The winning striper last year was a whopping 52.5 inches—caught by John Weber—and checked in at the Calvert Marina. Captain’s meetings are scheduled from 6PM to 8PM weekdays leading up to the tournament at four locations in Kent Island, Essex, Solomons Island, and Annapolis. Anglers can register and pick up a tournament packet, enjoy some food and refreshments, and share game plans for catching the big one. Weigh stations
are located at Sandy Point State Park, Rod ‘N Reel, Breezy Point Marina, Calvert Marina, Point Lookout State Park, Kentmorr Marina, Knapps Narrows Marina, and Taylor’s Island Campground.


Reedville is very much in the news these days as the Virginia coastal town is home to the only industrial menhaden reduction fishing operation on the Atlantic Coast, with half its quota taken inside the Chesapeake Bay. Unlike menacing Asian carp in the Mississippi, menhaden are a native fish that play animportant role in coastal ecology, providing nutrition for fish and birds and serving as filter feeders of pollutants in the water. Recreational anglers and conservationists have long lobbied for menhaden management based on ecological reference points (ERP). ERPs consider the multiple roles that species play, both in supporting fisheries for human use and the marine ecosystem. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Atlantic Menhaden Management Board will meet November 13-14 to consider approval of Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden and to set specifications for the 2018 fishing season. The meeting will take place at the BWI Marriott in Linthicum, Maryland, with an anticipated large crowd representing commercial, recreational and environmental stakeholders. It will be live-streamed via webinar.

Story and Photos by Chris Knauss, Southern Boating November 2017

Long Island, The Bahamas

Long Island, Bahamas
Thompson Bay Anchorage in Long Island

Just look at the Chart and you will know where the name came from. It may not be very imaginative, but Long Island is certainly descriptive for this, one of the most easily accessible of the Out Islands.

Nearly 80 miles long from northwest to southeast and only a few miles wide, Long Island seems to stretch on forever. The banks on the west side make up an attractive and varied cruising ground for moderate draft vessels. They can be reached from Exuma Sound to the north or across the bank from the George Town area.

Our Resources for Long Island, The Bahamas:
Where to Cruise in Long Island
Long Island’s Northern Shores
About Long Island, The Bahamas:

The island is about  80 miles long and 4 miles wide at its widest point. The Tropic of Cancer runs through the northern quarter of the island. 

The northeast side of is noted for its steep rocky headlands, while the southwest coast is noted for its broad white beaches with soft sand. The terrain ranges widely throughout the island, including white flat expanses from which salt is extracted, swamplands, beaches, and sloping (in the north) and low (in the south) hills.

It is particularly noted for its caves, which have played a major role in the island’s history. Dean’s Blue Hole, located west of Clarence Town, is the world’s second deepest underwater sinkhole, dropping to a depth of about 200 meters, making it more than double the depth of most other large holes.

Calling all Salty Dawgs!

Salty Dawg

Are you a salty dawg?

Experienced Bluewater cruisers and their four-footed friends are slated to depart November 2nd from Hampton, Virginia, en route to English Harbour, Antigua, in the 7th annual Fall Rally to the Caribbean, hosted by the Salty Dawg Sailing Association (SDSA).

A record 90-plus boats, ranging from 34- to 70 feet, are expected. Crews can look forward to a wide range of pre-departure social, technical and educational events at the rally host site, the Bluewater Yachting Center, including the annual Salty Dawg Halloween Party. And the fun doesn’t stop there.

“This year’s Fall Rally excitement continues after arrival with a fabulous Arrival Dinner in English Harbour, Antigua, numerous happy hour gatherings, informal socials, an annual dinghy drift, a Salty Dawg rock concert, organized hikes, daily yoga, lunch excursions, organized snorkels, and culminating with the annual huge Thanksgiving on the Beach in North Sound,” says Rick Palm, the SDSA’s director of rally management. “Friendships are cemented and lasting memories are made. You have to be there to believe the fun and excitement.”

The Fall Rally was started in 2011 by Linda and Hank Knowles of Bristol, Rhode Island, who cruised frequently aboard their Jeanneau 54, Sapphire, with their Jack Russell pup, Brie. The rally led to the development of the nonprofit SDSA, whose educational goal is to help fellow sailors achieve their lifelong dreams of long-distance cruising.

Today, the SDSA has grown to host several other rallies and rendezvous in the U.S. and Caribbean, including its Spring Rally, a return trip from the B.V.I. in May to Bermuda and ports along the East Coast.

Carol Bareuther, Southern Boating November 2017

Artificial Reef: Nature’s Best Friend?

Artificial Reef

Time will tell whether artificial reefs can replace some of the millions of acres of reefs that have already been lost.

Reefs, especially coral reefs, are an integral part of the undersea world. They are the most biodiverse regions of the ocean. Many species of fish utilize reefs for food, protection and even breeding sites, so they are crucial to the fishing industry. Today, unfortunately, they are facing a challenging environment. Overfishing and destructive fishing procedures have depleted fish populations in many locations and in others, pollution has destroyed the reefs that serve as their habitat. Climate change has also played a part in damaging our planet’s reefs. All told, millions of acres of natural reefs have been lost.

Yet man has been inadvertently establishing reefs for as long as he has traversed the oceans. Over a period of time, shipwrecks—the remains of sunken ships—attract marine
life and become their own form of reefs. It was just a matter of time before the thought of doing this deliberately came about. The idea was simple enough. Where the ocean floor was featureless, just put something down there with surfaces that algae, barnacles and, especially, coral polyps can attach to. In time, an artificial reef forms.

The first “official” artificial reef (AR) was established in the U.S. off the coast of South Carolina in the 1830s, when log huts were sunk to the ocean floor in order to attract marine life. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the idea of making ARs took off. Initially, there was no science involved. People just started dumping things into the ocean: old ships, railroad cars, rocks, cinder blocks, old tires, and various debris. They believed they were achieving two goals: forming new reefs and also getting rid of things that had outlived their usefulness. But without scientific observations, the success of such endeavors was questionable. In fact, damage to the undersea environment was sometimes the result.

One of the worst cases occurred with the Osborne Reef, an artificial reef made up of 700,000 old tires off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Initially tied together, the tires soon broke loose due to the shifting tides. As a result, they proceeded to destroy the marine habitat, including the natural reefs they were trying to protect and enhance. The project to retrieve these tires has cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

In 1984, the National Fishing Enhancement Act brought science into the artificial reef business by way of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A year later, the National Artificial Reef Plan was developed. The goal was to enhance fishery resources but minimize environmental risks. State and local program managers were provided guidelines on siting, construction, development, and assessment of ARs. Officially, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) must issue a permit for an AR to be established on their grounds. States have similar procedures for offshore areas they control.

In fact, every state from North Carolina through Florida and around the Gulf Coast to Texas has an AR program. With more than a thousand miles of coastline, Florida leads the way in AR establishment with over 3,000 manmade reefs. In the Gulf of Mexico, hundreds of oil and gas platforms have been converted into ARs. Apparently, the bases of marine wind turbines will also suffice. Probably the best-known ARs have been made from sinking now-obsolete ships. The largest of these was the U.S.S. Oriskany, a 44,000-ton aircraft carrier sunk in 200 feet of water some 24 miles off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, in 2006.

In addition to “pre-existing objects,” ARs can now be made of materials specifically designed for that purpose. One of the most successful material categories has been “reef balls.” Made from concrete specially formulated to resist disintegration for many years but still be ecologically safe, the “balls” are the most effective way to create a sustainable reef habitat. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes; many look like igloos and can range in size from 1½ feet and 30 pounds to 6 feet and 6,000 pounds. The Reef Ball Foundation has deployed more than half a million balls in 60-plus countries around the world making them the most widely used AR component. There are also economic benefits to ARs since successful ones are prime fishing grounds and attract fishermen both amateur and professional. Snorkelers and divers will come to view the reef and its marine life. Tourism will increase, and overall, ARs can have a positive effect on local economies.

On the downside, there are risks associated with ARs. Since fish are attracted to ARs, illegal dumping to produce fishing “hot spots” has become a problem. According to Kathy Broughton, marine ecologist with the ONMS, there is also potential contamination of the underwater environment by toxic chemicals. This means any pre-existing object to be used must be carefully inspected with any potential contaminants removed.

For the U.S.S. Oriskany, $20 million was spent to make the ship environmentally safe before sinking. For new materials such as reef balls, their initial composition must be carefully selected. Broughton also says, “They (ARs) may facilitate invasive species introductions and increase disease frequency in fish and invertebrates. ”Noting these concerns, the ONMS emphasizes protecting and, where appropriate, restoring and enhancing natural habitats, populations, and ecological process as opposed to constructing human-made habitats.

National Ocean Service Artificial Reef:
Scientific Review of Artificial
Reef Ball Foundation:

By Ed Brotak, Southern Boating December 2017

Photos:  Courtesy of NOAA and

The Cajun Navy

cajun navy

The Cajun Navy has entered popular vernacular, but what do we know about the group?

The famed Cajun Navy came to be when a Former Louisiana state senator Nick Gautreaux pleaded for someone, anyone to assist after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Between 350 and 400 people and their boats answered the call. The makeshift flotilla rescued more than 10,000 people from flooded homes and rooftops.

The group quietly returned to back bayou watering holes knowing the next big one is just a reality of Gulf Coast living. In August 2016, Louisiana was hammered again by a no-name storm and historic flooding. The Cajun Navy fired up airboats, Jon boats, and rafts, re-emerging to save neighbors.

Hurricane Harvey

A year later, they mobilized again for the citizens of Houston, Texas.

The difference this time was social media and smartphone apps that mobilized this unofficial group. With countless cars flooded, these sportsmen took direction from first responders and helped gather donated food, water, and supplies, delivering to remote, hard-to-reach areas.

Social media—in particular, the Zello app—brought them together 24 hours after Hurricane Harvey came ashore. Mobilizing in a Costco parking lot in Baton Rouge, they employed another app, Glympse, to track the hundreds of boats, RVs and big trucks that took donated supplies into Texas and various staging sites.

Jon Bridgers Sr. is the founder of the modern-day Cajun Navy. “Everyone trained in the year since our big flood; this year, we were tested,” he said. No one is paid; they are all volunteers, using their own money, their own gas, and their own food to help first responders who were quite simply unable to be everywhere in a disaster of this magnitude.

Hurricane Florence

An image of the Cajun NavyAnd as Hurricane Florence trudged her way through the Carolina’s, dumping unprecedented amounts of rain, the Cajun Navy sprang into action again. The group says they helped rescue more than 150 people. Terrified parents, sleepy toddlers, and scores of elderly were trapped in attics as the water moved higher.

“It’s not that local firefighters and police can’t get it done. But the extra help means a lot,” said Blair Burgess, a South Carolina resident told the Washington Post. “You can never have too many hands. You never want to be wishing you had 15 more boats to save 15 more lives.”

As the folks at FEMA are fond of saying, it’s not a question of if Florida and surrounding states being hit by a Category 5 storm. It’s a question of when. Hurricane Irma was the wake-up call, Florence was yet another reminder We like the notion of helping neighbors, whether they are a block away, a city away or as the Louisiana Cajun Navy demonstrated, a state away.

Social media and mass communication applications are changing emergency responses. Learn more about Zello and how it connects users.

Story by Alan Wendt, Southern Boating, November 2017
Note: Updated in the wake of Hurricane Florence (October 2018)


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