Monday, November 20, 2017

Attention Documented Vessel Owners

If you have a documented vessel (that is, one whose title is issued by the US government instead of a state government), you are familiar with the springtime drill of refolding and sending the notice (with a check, of course) to Falling Waters, West Virginia (incidentally, this is where Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Falling Waters house is).

Well, I quite recently received an official-looking notice that looked kind of like an updated version of that Falling Waters one:

Is it real?

Well, it turns out this is a not-quite scam.  Despite the official appearance (even watermarked!) and a website with a .us domain, this is NOT from the Coast Guard.  Instead, it is from a company that will helpfully handle your registration re-up for a slight fee - three times what the Coast Guard charges.

Given that for most of us, signing the form and checking the box that confirms that nothing has changed is not a Herculean task.  It seems silly to involve a third party to do that for you.

How do you know that this is not the real deal:  Look carefully at that logo.  See where it says "U.S. Vessel Documentation Inc?"  The Coast Guard is not a corporation.


In their defense, it does not appear that this a full-on scam.  Rather, it is apparently it is a legitimate service, meant to catch the distracted unawares.  If you read the letter carefully, it does indeed disclose the service they are providing.

BoatUS provided a warning about this not-quite-scam in one of their recent magazine issues; I read it and thought I had filed it away for future reference.  But when this letter arrived, I put it in the bills-to-pay inbox.  It was only later, when I realized that the timing was off (it's not spring...) that I read it more closely.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Kidde Fire Extinguisher Recall

If you are compliant with US Coast Guard regulations, you have a fire extinguisher aboard.  In fact, you probably have more than one...  And in your house there is probably one under the kitchen sink, in the garage, etc.  There is an excellent chance that all of these were manufactured by Kidde.

Not these...
Well, get ready for this:  Kidde has recalled more than 40,000,000 of its previously sold (since 1973) fire extinguishers.  It seems that some of the units had plastic handles or nozzles which were prone to fail at just the wrong time, meaning that depending on one of these units was worse than having none at all.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), “The fire extinguishers can become clogged or require excessive force to discharge and can fail to activate during a fire emergency. In addition, the nozzle can detach with enough force to pose an impact hazard.”

The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean water is urging recreational boat owners to check their boats for the recalled extinguishers and get a free metal-handled replacement by going to the CPSC recall website.

The recall affects both plastic-handle and push-button Pindicator Kidde fire extinguishers, including 134, ABC- or BC-rated models manufactured between January 1, 1973, and August 15, 2017.

The extinguishers are red, white or silver and were sold in the US and Canada through a wide range of retailers from Montgomery Ward to Amazon. The CPSC recall website shows how to easily identify the affected extinguishers.

In the recall, Kidde also acknowledged the free replacement push-button extinguisher being sent to personal watercraft owners is similar in size to the recalled model but may not fit in the same location as the old fire extinguisher.

“This may require a slightly different mounting orientation or location,” said BoatUS Foundation Assistant Director of Boating Safety Ted Sensenbrenner.”

CPSC says there have been approximately 391 reports of failed or limited activation or nozzle detachment, including one fatality; approximately 16 injuries, including smoke inhalation and minor burns; and approximately 91 reports of property damage.

Kidde may also be contacted toll-free at 855-271-0773 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday.

The company offers additional recall information online at by selecting “Product Safety Recall.”
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