28-29 May 2009, Clear Lake, TX

A workshop for recreational boaters in the western Gulf of Mexico was held at the Hilton NASA Clear Lake Hotel in Clear Lake, TX, on May 28-29, 2009. This workshop, sponsored by the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System Regional Association (GCOOS-RA), was attended by a variety of boaters whose names and affiliations are given in Appendix 1. The tentative agenda is given in Appendix 2.

Executive Summary and Results

This was the second of two planned workshops designed to engage with the recreational boating community as the GCOOS-RA strives to provide an integrated, regional observing system that addresses the needs of the Gulf’s many user groups. The first was held in St Petersburg, FL, on February 4-5, 2009. Both workshops shared the same main objective, "To identify and prioritize to the extent possible the ocean observations and derived products needed by the recreational boating community so that they may be appropriately addressed as the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System is developed."

This was a well-advertised workshop. The organizing committee contacted various boating organizations, such as the U.S. Power Squadrons in Texas and Louisiana and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, provided announcements in newspapers, the Southwinds sailing magazine, boating internet sites and the Texas Clean Marina Program network, and made direct mailings to all registered Yacht Clubs. Attendance was approximately half of the desired audience (see Appendix 1). However, attendees were very engaged and discussions were lively with excellent results. On day two, workshop discussions produced an integrated listing of priority needs. Table 1 shows the 5 needs that received votes. Three needs received no votes; they are included in Table 2 below.

It is interesting to note that this workshop’s discussions had a great deal of emphasis on serving the immediate data needs of the "low tech" boating community, such as the weekend boater using a trailered boat that may launch with little advanced study of boating and water conditions.

Excellent presentations were provided by three guest speakers: Mr. Jeff Hoedt, Chief, Boating Safety Division; Ms. Meridith Byrd, HAB Response Coordinator, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; and Captain Bob Webbon, Houston Pilots Association.

Table 1
Five Highest Priority Needs
(Additional priorities are given in Table 2)

Priority Need
1 Improve the VHF weather forecasts and content available via NOAA All-Hazards weather radio to include additional data, such as HABS, current information, and to include real-time, high-resolution, localized weather warnings about what’s here now and what’s coming.
2 Post current weather conditions, waves, and hazards at boat ramps – including colored flags, lights, and other, in addition to notices and charts.
3 More PORTS-like sensors on the east side of Galveston Bay, along the Intracoastal Waterway, and at other bays such as in the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.
4 Provide surface current information along the coast with enhanced resolution near passes and harbor entrances.
5 Create a web-based clearing house for information needed by recreational boaters (a jump site) aligned with NWS Regional forecast centers.

GCOOS-RA Recreational Boaters Workshop Results

Background: As an effort to address the widest number of user groups within the Gulf of Mexico, GCOOS-RA has held a series of workshops. Recreational boaters comprise an extremely large and important user group within the Gulf of Mexico. Two workshops were organized in order to provide this user community information on the national Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) in general and on the GCOOS-RA program component in particular. Additionally, the workshops were focused on trying to identify the prioritized needs of the recreational boating community for ocean observations and derivative products. The first workshop was held in St. Petersburg, FL, on February 3-4, 2009 and the second workshop was held in Clear Lake, TX, on May 28-29, 2009. The results of these workshops can be found in the reports section on the GCOOS-RA website.

Workshop results: The workshop was called to order on May 28, 2009, at 0830, by Captain Don Roman, US Navy-retired, Chair of the organizing committee of the Recreational Boaters Workshop. The tentative agenda is provided as Appendix 2. Dr. Worth Nowlin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Texas A&M University, provided an introduction to the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS). Roman then presented an overview of the workshop objectives and deliverables. The objectives and deliverables were defined as:

WORKSHOP OBJECTIVES

Main Objective:
To identify and prioritize to the extent possible the ocean observations and derived products needed by the recreational boating community so that they may be appropriately addressed as the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System is developed.

Enabling Objectives of the Workshop: (enabled by info packet, talks, & work sessions)

  • Provide background information on the U.S. IOOS program and specifically on the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System and its Regional Association.
  • Provide an overview of what observational data and derivative products and services are available to the boating community in the Gulf of Mexico and Texas coast and how they can be presently accessed.
  • Provide understanding of how ocean observations and their derivative products can enhance their boating safety and pleasure.
  • Identify the existing ocean observations and products now being used and of greatest value and priority to the recreational boating community and their current activities.
  • Explore ideas for ocean observations and derivative products that are not presently available, but that would provide substantial improvements in either safety or pursuit of recreational boating activities.
  • Articulate the means, periodicity (interval), latency, and communication paths by which the recreational boater presently obtains the data and products of importance to them.

WORKSHOP DELIVERABLES

  • A description of existing ocean observations and derived products considered to be required by the various areas of the recreational boating community and the means of communication of those observations and products.
  • A prioritized list of ocean observations and derived products that are not presently available but that are considered to be future requirements that have the greatest potential benefit to enhance the activity of the particular sectors of the recreational boating community and recommended primary and secondary methods of their delivery.
  • A complete report of the workshop.

Due to the modest number of attendees the decision was made to forego the smaller breakout sessions planned in the tentative agenda and keep the entire group together for discussions. Our keynote speaker, Mr. Jeff Hoedt, Chief, Boating Safety Division, USCG Headquarters, provided an excellent presentation on the benefits and challenges of the large number and types of boating opportunities in the U.S. His talk was very well received and stimulated a lively beginning in the group’s discussion. During the afternoon, Ms. Meridith Byrd, HAB Response Coordinator, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, also gave an excellent presentation. She talked about harmful algal blooms (HABs) of the Texas coastal environment, including the types of algae and their toxins and their health effects on people (including boaters), plants, and animals. By the end of the brainstorming group discussions (Appendix 3) in the afternoon, the following consolidated listing of ideas for needs had been developed:

Discussion Results for Day One, 28 May 2009

  • Develop applications and content (data and products) for modern communications technology, i.e., blackberry, iPhone, etc.
  • Provide surface current information along the coast with enhanced resolution near passes and harbor entrances.
  • Provide additional TABs-type buoys with downward looking ADCPs at additional dive locations, and banks, e.g., Sonnier.
  • Post current weather conditions and hazards at boat ramps that display attention getting visual signals, such as, stop lights or flags.
  • Improve the VHF weather forecasts and content that’s available via NOAA weather radio, i.e., HABs, currents, rip current locations, etc.
  • Create web based clearing house for information needed by recreational boaters (jump site) organized along the regional NWS forecast center areas of responsibility.
  • More PORTS-like sensors on the eastern side of Galveston Bay to include wind direction, wind speed, and water levels, especially in locations such as Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Real-time, high-resolution, localized weather warnings via radio (what’s now and what’s coming).
  • Radar and satellite radio data overlain on electronic nautical charts with both real-time and predictive data.

Observation needs included wind speed and direction, current speed and direction, wave height and direction, water level, sea states, tides, storms. Forecasts also are needed. Methods of obtaining information included TV, weather radio, internet, and cell phone, among others.

On day two, 29 May 2009, follow-on discussions produced an integrated and prioritized listing of eight needs (Table 2). Three of the items were considered as possibilities for pilot projects as indicated in Table 2.

Priority Need Possible Pilot Project?
1 Improve the VHF weather forecasts and content available via NOAA All-Hazards weather radio to include additional data, such as HABS, current information, etc., and to include real time high resolution localized weather warnings about what’s here now and what’s coming. (6 votes) Yes
2 Post current weather conditions, waves, and hazards at boat ramps – colored flags, lights, etc. (6 votes) Yes
3 More PORTS-like sensors on the east side of Galveston Bay, along the Intracoastal Waterway, at other bays (Corpus Christi) and other locations such as Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. (4 votes)  
4 Provide surface current information along the coast with enhanced resolution near passes and harbor entrances. (3 votes)  
5 Create a web-based clearing house for information needed by recreational boaters (a jump site) aligned with NWS Regional forecast centers (3 votes) Yes
6 Other needs identified, but which received no votes were:
a. Develop applications and content for modern technology widgets (i.e., iPhone, Blackberry)
b. Provide additional TABS buoys with downward looking ADCPs at additional bank locations for divers (e.g., Sonnier)
c. Radar and satellite radio data overlain on electronic navigation charts in real time & predictive if possible.
 

The workshop concluded with an extremely interesting talk by Captain Bob Webbon of the Houston Pilots Association on Galveston/Houston Shipping. He discussed of the interaction of the Houston Pilots with the recreational boating community. Following his presentation the workshop was adjourned.

 


 

Appendix 1: Attendees

Attendee Affiliation
Craig Bateman Fugro GEOS, Inc.
Meridith Byrd Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
Shelley DuPuy NOAA Flower Garden Banks NMS
Jeff Hoedt U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, Chief, Boating Safety Division
Dewayne Hollin Texas Sea Grant
Philip Kropf Texas Mariners Cruising Association (TMCA)
Jerry W. Madden Shreveport Sail and Power Squadron
Rex Maugans Private Boater
Susan Martin GCOOS – Texas A&M University
Worth Nowlin GCOOS – Texas A&M University
John O’Connell Texas Sea Grant
Logan Respess Texas Sea Grant
Don Roman GCOOS Board of Directors, Lake Pontchartrain Sail & Power Squadron
Tina Sanchez NOAA Gulf Coastal Services Center
Charles Scott Galveston Bay Sail and Power Squadron
Robert Stickney Texas Sea Grant
Ann Weaver NOAA Gulf Coastal Services Center
Capt. Bob Webbon Houston Pilots Association

 


 

Appendix 2: Tentative Agenda

Day 1: 28 May 2009

8:00 Participant Check-in, Coffee and Light Continental Breakfast Susan Martin
8:00 Pre-workshop facilitator and focus chair briefing Ann Weaver
8:30 Call to Order
Welcome, Purpose of Workshop, Review of Agenda
Don Roman
 9:00 Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System – Context
Contextual information to provide an understanding GCOOS, what it is and the possibilities for its use and how it fits into the National IOOS
Worth Nowlin
9:45 Overview of Recreational Workshop Objectives and Deliverables
What we want to accomplish and how it will be used
Don Roman
10:00 BREAK  
10:15 Keynote Speaker: Mr. Jeff Hoedt
Chief, Boating Safety Divison, U.S. Coast Guard
 
11:15 Workshop Structure and Breakout Group Discussion
Explain the breakout group process and desired outcomes
Ann Weaver
11:45 Breakout Groups: Introductions
Breakout session attendee introductions
Ann Weaver
12:00 LUNCH (provided)  
1:00 Breakout Groups: Preliminary Discussions of data and tools needed
Attendees begin the process of identifying data and tools they can use to enjoy a better experience when participating in their recreational topic area
Chairs and Facilitators
2:15 BREAK  
2:30 Guest Speaker: Meridith Byrd
Texas Parks and Wildlife
 
3:15 Reconvene Breakout Sessions Chairs and Facilitators
4:30 ADJOURN FOR DAY  
6:00 – 8:00 Reception  

Day 2: 29 May 2009

7:30 Check in, light continental breakfast and coffee Susan Martin
8:00 Call to Order
Review Day 1 activities and discuss the activities for the remainder of the workshop
Don Roman
8:20 Presentation of Breakout Session Results
Prioritize breakout sessions information
Ann Weaver
10:00 BREAK  
10:20 Integrating Breakout Group Recommendations
Obtain a single prioritized list of needed observations and products
Ann Weaver
11:45 Guest Speaker: Captain Bob Webbon, Houston Pilots Association  
1:00 ADJOURN WORKSHOP  

 


 

Appendix 3: Results of Brainstorming Discussions

Day 1: Brainstorming

Topic 1: What information do you use now?

  • Weather (NWS)
  • One to two days before trip
    • tide forecast
    • TV
    • Coastal Waters Forecast
      • high seas
      • general weather
      • PORTS – from cell phone
      • wind
      • water levels
      • NDBC
  • Intellicast – winds out 2 days
  • Weather radio – NOAA (inland & local; by county – how do you know counties)
  • Call ahead
  • Local channel 2 (website) – wind & radar accurate for that day
  • Weather Channel & Weather Underground
    • thunderstorms
  • Navy Research Lab for currents

Topic 2: What information would help you plan and stay safe in your vessel?

  • Before we go
    • NOAA 5-day forecast
    • wind & wave hourly
    • weather buoys
    • weather channel
    • tide tables
    • tidal currents
  • While we are on board
    • 4 KW Radar – storm detection
    • NOAA VHF
    • single side band – too complicated
    • REEDS
  • XM System (don’t know range?) (What is accuracy of forecasts?)
    • overlays on chart plotter (now & later)
    • wind direction
    • wind speed
    • projection
    • waves height
    • wave direction
    • buoy data
  • ECMWF
    • Higher resolution forecasts locally
  • Point forecast capability
    • Water height/depth

Topic 3: How do you want to access the information?

  • Localized research
  • www.saltwatertides.com
  • wind (speed and direction) on internet, NWS & weather channel
  • wave height, current speed & direction; TABS, NDBC, NWS
  • NWS – a few days out
    • wind speed & direction
    • satellite imagery – storms
    • VHF marine weather forecast
    • USGS
  • Lake finder – later water release for downriver conditions
  • Flags
  • Seatow.com, TowUS.com, Call merchant ship in area
  • NWS website or USGS or ACOE
  • Current & tides – the Cap’n
  • VHF
  • NOAA
  • FAX daily
  • Herb Hillenburger personalized daily forecast, very accurate
  • Weather Research Center – Houston
  • Garmin
  • Vessel Travel Service (VTS)
  • Watching
  • Atomic clock w/ weather station (pressure, humidity, rain)

Day 2:  Votes on Integrated Priority Needs

Develop applications and content for modern technology widgets (i.e., iPhone, Blackberry) (no dots)

Provide surface current information along the coast with enhanced resolution near passes and harbor entrances (3 dots)

Provide additional TABS buoys (with downward looking ADCPs) at additional bank locations for divers (e.g., Sonnier) (no dots)

Post current weather conditions & hazards at boat ramps (colored flags or lights) (6 dots) * Pilot project possibility *

Improve the VHF weather forecasts & content available via NOAA weather radio (re: HABs, currents, etc.); e.g., real-time, high-resolution localized weather warnings via radio (what the weather is now and what is coming) (6 dots) * Pilot project possibility *

Create a web based clearing house for information needed by recreational boaters (jump site) NWS Regional forecast centers aligned (3 dots) * Pilot project possibility *

More PORTS-like sensors, etc., on east side of Galveston Bay and at Intracoastal Waterway at Corpus Christi, include wind & water level at places like Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge (4 dots)

Radar & Satellite radio data overlayed on electronic navigation charts in real time & predictive if possible. (no dots)