Save the date! The 21st annual International Coastal Cleanup will be held on Saturday, September 16th.
Boaters will not want to miss this opportunity to play an active role in keeping our shorelines and waterways safe and clean for people and marine life. In 2005, volunteers worldwide picked up over 8 million pounds of trash! As a leader of the boating community, you already know the value of clean and healthy waterways and this event is a great opportunity for your club or marina to involve other boaters in this effort.
For more information on how to get involved, please go to: www.oceanconservancy.org/boaters
The Ocean Conservancy is partnering with the California Coastal Commission to coordinate this event in your region.
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by Mary Kuhn, President
It is hard to believe summer 2006 is half over!
If you are like me, you spent your Spring preparing your facilities, your staff and yourself for summer season 2006. (I feel like Tatu on the 80's television show, Fantasy Island ... "The Plane! The Plane!")
Let's face it, we work in the toy department…We get paid to take care of our customers' very expensive toys. So summer is here and it's show time again folks! Put all those paperwork projects down for a moment and get out there and take a look at your facilities through the eyes of your customers. Do you have some sprucing up to do? I know I do. Some new landscaping perhaps, maybe a few more dock carts, some fresh signage, new clocks in the restrooms, new attire for your staff.
Little things go along way with your customers especially when they are looking at what the price of fuel for their toys will be this summer!
Speaking of fuel, anyone else wondering what the summer volume of visitors to your facilities will be due to the fuel price? I had some concerns prior to May 1st (which is the day my marina starts taking summer reservations for our temporary guest slips). I am happy to report that the booking pace did not miss a beat as compared to past years!
As for what those temporary guests do when they get here from up the coast, time will tell. They may not leave the slip much once they get here. However, I see that as an opportunity for ancillary revenue!
My mantra for this summer for myself and my staff is ... "Summer 2006 is what we make it."
On Another Note ...
I just want all of our current members, potential members, and those past members who happen to receive this newsletter to know that your Marina Recreation Association Board Of Directors is doing a terrific job on your behalf.
The Board shares a real passion for this industry and the MRA. The Board's goal is to provide you the best product possible. We have spent some long hours in meetings and phone conferences already in 2006 to ensure an excellent Educational Conference and Trade Show in Monterey November 7-9 at the Hyatt Regency Monterey.
I invite all of you to attend the conference and trade show in Monterey. It should not be missed!
I also invite all of you who are receiving this newsletter for the first time and who are not members, please learn more about the Marina Recreation Association at marina.org. We would welcome you as a new member!
My wish for you is a safe, prosperous and happy 2006 summer season. And remember
Summer 2006 is what you make it.
HAPPY CUSTOMERS, HAPPY COMPANY
by Bill Yeargin, Executive Vice President, Rybovich Spencer
Would your company's profits improve if its customer service improved? If your company is like most others, even small improvements in customer service can result in big increases in profits.
No matter how well you understand the importance of customer service, it will not be part of your company's culture until your employees understand its importance. Even if your employees do understand how crucial customer service is, it is still your job to show them the steps they need to take to keep your customers happy.
Keep customers happy by exceeding their expectations. The movies I enjoy the most are the ones for which I have no expectations before I go to see them. However, I am frequently disappointed by movies that my friends have raved about. My expectations cause my disappointment.
If you can exceed your customers' expectations, you will always provide good service. This can be tough for those of us who work for companies with great reputations. Customers come to us with high expectations, so we must work hard to exceed them.
You may have heard the phrase, "The customer's perception is reality." To deliver good customer service, you must control the customer's perception.
First impressions stick, or as the saying goes, "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression." Your company's and employee's appearances are always important. You should be clean, neat and smiling. Don't forget that you can say more with nonverbal communication than with words.
You must also properly train your employees in good customer service. Instruct your supervisors to train employees as follows:
Have a good attitude. No matter what else is happening, employees must always present an upbeat attitude to customers.
Make the customers feel important. Compliment customers and use their first names frequently. Everyone loves to hear their name used. This will help employees establish rapport with customers. Many customers will return to certain companies because they like the employees there and because the employees make them feel important.
Listen carefully. You can easily learn your customers' expectations if you listen carefully. Everyone likes to be listened to, especially someone who is paying you to work for them.
Imagine that you're the customer. If you would be satisfied with the service your company offers, most likely your customers will also be satisfied. However, you have to be careful. You must honestly put yourself in their situation and not approach it from your point-of-view as a business owner or manager.
Take personal responsibility. Every employee in your company must take responsibility to exceed your customers' expectations. This is why some companies deliberately don't have a quality control inspector - because they want all employees to be responsible for ensuring customer satisfaction.
Recover "fumbles." During a football game, what happens when there is a fumble? Everyone dives for it! The same thing should happen in your company if there is a customer problem. Every employee from the top down should dive in until the customer is happy. It's better to have too many people working on the problem than not enough.
Don't leave customers hanging. Never leave them waiting for something either. Always be sure that every customer encounter has closure.
If you follow these steps, your customers will leave feeling good about your organization and its employees. You may also want to monitor customer satisfaction. The best way I know is to mail surveys to all customers after you have served them.
The survey should be sent with a cover letter thanking them for their business and explaining the purpose of the survey. It also should include a self-addressed, stamped envelope to make it easy for customers to respond. You can easily develop this survey by simply asking customers what is important to them and whether they would rate your company as successful in the area of customer service.
Finally never forget that the customer, not us, is the judge of good customer service. No matter how hard we try, if the customer isn't happy, we have failed. However, if you take the time to follow the above steps, you ma find that your customers are happy and your profits will improve.
Bill Yeargin, Executive Vice President of Rybovich Spencer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LEGISLATIVE SESSION IS HALF OVER, BUT THE STATE BUDGET IS OUR FOCUS
by Bill Krauss, The Apex Group
With the Legislative Session reaching the half-way mark, we continue to focus our efforts on the state budget, where we are attempting to get money taken from the boaters returned to the boaters. Later in this article we will outline the issue in more detail and explain how you can help protect our money.
Each year the Legislature begins its business in January, followed by a series of successive deadlines to ensure that legislation continues to move through the process. As noted, we are now mid-way through the session with most bills being considered at their second stop, the fiscal committees. These committees have the responsibility of looking at the cost impacts of a given piece of legislation. Once a bill passes this point it is considered by the entire body, with the process repeated in the second house. The lucky ones will get to the Governor's desk for his possible signature. Overlaid on this process in consideration of the state budget and any number of regulatory proceeding that can have activity at anytime of the year.
This year we are supporting a few bills, are watching nearly a hundred bills, and are not opposed to any…so far. We watch a large number of bills because it is possible and commonplace for bills to be amended late in the process, and in some cases in a manner that we find objectionable. For that reason, we read the thousands of bills that are moving through the process every time they are amended to ensure that we catch any changes of interest. A few also get a higher status so they will be read twice as a safeguard, and some get an even higher status that prompts us to attend some or all of the hearings on the bill. And this is only bills we are "watching." Bills that we support or oppose prompt the drafting of a letter stating our position and can include an active lobbying effort.
Although the legislative program is not currently causing us too many difficulties so far this year, the budget is another story. The budget battle begins in March and finishes when the budget is signed, usually in July. I say "usually" because the constitutional deadline for a budget is June 30, but that deadline is almost always missed due to partisan wrangling.
The budget has become our focus because there is a chance we can get back $15 million of the $27 million that has been "redirected" from the boater fund over the last several years. For many years the Governor has chosen to take nearly $27 million from the Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund (HWRF) and has given it to the Department of Parks and Recreation. The HWRF is the special fund that is supported by the gas tax paid by boaters and specifically earmarked to be spent on boating projects through the Department of Boating and Waterways. This fund is the source for the boating launch ramps built throughout the state, loans to build marinas, along with the source of revenue to implement the boating safety programs conducted throughout the State.
When money is taken from this fund, it is taken directly from boaters. Without this money, there is no other source to build such facilities, and with tight budgets a new source would likely never be created.
Because the Governor has proposed it and the Legislature has agreed to in the past, it has been an ongoing problem. This year the good news is that the Governor has requested that $15 million of this transfer be return to the HWRF.
Although the Governor would like to see this money returned, the Legislature is more disposed toward continued support of the state parks, and it is they who must approve the change. For this reason, we are asking everyone in the boating community to send a letter to their legislator asking them return this money to the boaters. What is important is that a letter is sent, not what it says. Such letters are rarely read in-depth and what concerns legislators much more is the volume of letters. A simple letter that states your opposition to boating dollars going to state parks would suffice.
You can find out who your Senator and Assembly Member is by going to their respective website. The following are the appropriate links. The sooner they receive a letter, the better off we will be.
California State Senate: http://www.senate.ca.gov
(Click on the "Senators' link on the left, then on the "Your Senator" link for a window to type in your address to determine your representative)
California State Assembly: http://www.assembly.ca.gov
(Click on the "Find My District" link to bring up the box to type in your address)
Although you may think your one letter might not make a difference, your letter, combined with thousands of others, could apply the needed pressure to return this money to its rightful place.
by Larry Levy, Employee Relations Management Consultant
Do I have to guarantee an employee's job following non-work related injury?
The most frequently asked question I receive is does an employer have to reinstate an employee who has returned following a disability? The answer depends upon the nature of the injury.
When one of your employees is injured while working, she/he is entitled to file for Workers' Compensation Insurance. This is termed an "occupational injury" and your obligations as an employer are very straight forward and rigorous. Generally, your obligations include ensuring that the employee seek immediate medical attention and provide him/her with one of your Workers' Compensation forms. Any attempt upon your part to inhibit or forestall your employee from filing a legitimate claim will almost certainly get you into trouble.
When an employee is released from Workers' Comp. and wants to return to work do you have to re-employ him or her? The short answer is yes. The primary reason is that the employee was working for you when she/he became injured. Or had they not been working for you they would not have become injured. Yes, there are mitigating circumstances where you may lay off an employee on Comp. but this is an exception and not the rule.
What should you do?
Generally, all your employees who are on Workers' Comp. have a safe harbor for about a year and you are required to reinstate them should they return within that year. Please before you do anything to an employee on Workers' Compensation please call me. Otherwise, you risk a "132a Claim" which is a lawsuit filed by your employee alleging that you "retaliated" against him or her for filing a Comp. claim.
What about the employee who is injured (non-occupational) and cannot work as a result of a skiing accident? Well, unless you are running a ski resort and the employee was skiing in the course of work your obligations for reinstatement are minimal. Why? Because the injury was not related to their employment.
Employers become confused about the difference between non-work-related injuries (such as a weekend skiing accident) and a Workers' Compensation injury. Most employers believe that if an employee suffers a non-work related injury and brings a note from the doctor they must hold open the employee's position until she or he returns to work. Generally speaking when an employee suffers a non-work related injury she/he is not guaranteed a return to their position unless they are covered by one of several legally mandated leaves of absence such as the federal Family Medical Leave Act, California's Family Rights Act, pregnancy disability leave, Workers' Compensation or an accommodation for the Americans' Disability Act.
Let us suppose that you own and manage a small mortgage company and your sales person decides to play Joe Montana at his high school reunion and breaks one of his legs. Anticipating your displeasure he has his wife bring you a note from his osteopathic surgeon verifying that he will be disabled for the next two months. Do you have to keep the job open until his return? Not necessarily.
What should you do?
As always, when in doubt, please call me.
- Before terminating Joe Montana's protégé who is on an extended leave of absence following a non-job related injury, determine whether any leave laws might protect the employee's leave of absence.
- Develop a policy that addresses non-occupational injuries and insist that employees use all their accrued and unused paid vacation and sick leave during the course of the leave of absence. We can incorporate this policy the next time we update your employee handbook but for the present you may wish to issue the policy in the form of a memorandum.
- Set a fixed amount of time (perhaps thirty days) in which you will guarantee reinstatement.
- In your policy address the impact that a leave of absence will have on employee benefits, e.g., will paid vacation and paid sick leave continue to accrue during the leave?
MRA LEGAL CORNER
by Mark Holmes, McKasson , Klein & Holmes LLP
In Funtime v, Gonzales, Case No. CV-04-2139-PCT-PGR, the Federal District Court for the District of Arizona ruled in favor of Funtime Boat Rental and Storage Company, LLC ("Funtime") in a limitation of liability action brought under 46 U.S.C. Section 183, et eq. ("LOLA"). I have special insight into this case because my firm had the privilege of representing Funtime in the matter.
The case arose from an accident that occurred during Spring Break of 2004 that resulted in severe injuries to a young lady who fell over the front of a vessel that Funtime had rented to one of its customers. The young lady suffered severe injuries when she came in contact with the vessel's propeller. A short summary of the relevant facts follows:
The First Day That Funtime Rented The Vessel
In late March of 2004, Spring Break was taking place in Lake Havasu, Arizona. As a result, thousands of college and other students were vacationing at the Lake, and some were renting vessels so that they and their friends could enjoy themselves out on the water.
On March 23, 2004, Corrin Osborne ("Osborne") rented a vessel, a 26-foot pontoon boat ("Vessel") from Funtime. When Osborne and her party of other female friends appeared at Funtime, they were sober and well behaved.
Before Funtime would allow Osborne to rent the Vessel, however, Funtime required that Osborne execute a boat rental agreement (the "Rental Agreement). Nowhere in the Rental Agreement was there any requirement that the person renting a vessel provide insurance.
Osborne signed the checklist and Funtime personnel brought the Vessel on a trailer to a nearby launch, where Osborne and several of her friends boarded the Vessel and went out for a day on Lake Havasu. Later that day, at approximately 5:00 p.m. Osborne returned to the launch area with the Vessel, Funtime personnel hauled the Vessel out of the water, loaded it on a Funtime trailer and returned the Vessel to Funtime's business location.. When Osborne returned the Vessel to Funtime, neither Osborne nor any of her companions made any complaint about the Vessel or how it operated during the day. So far, so good.
The Second Day The Vessel Was Rented
On the next day, March 24, 2004, Osborne again appeared early in the day to take the Vessel out with her friends again. When Osborne and her party appeared on the second day of renting the Vessel, neither she nor any of her party appeared or acted any differently than they did on the first day.
However, on the evening of March 24,2004, the Mohave County Sheriff's Department ("Sheriff") informed Robert Ballard, the CEO of Funtime, learned that an accident had occurred on the Vessel. The Sheriff's Deputies on scene advised that one of the passengers on the Vessel, Kimberly Gonzales, had been seriously hurt - she had fallen overboard and then run over by the Vessel, with part of her head coming in contact with the Vessel's propeller. This was clearly a tragic accident.
The Accident Site Investigation
Upon arriving at the accident site, Bob Ballard of Funtime learned that Osborne, the person to whom Funtime had rented the Vessel. Osborne admitted to Mr. Ballard that she had allowed Crystal Vanillo to operate the Vessel; and the Sheriff 's officers informed Mr. Ballard that Crystal Vanillo was being arrested for operating the Vessel under the influence of alcohol.
The Sheriff's Deputies and the Arizona State Parks Department took numerous witness statements. From these statements, they learned that Osborne had rented the Vessel on the date of the Incident and had taken it to Copper Canyon with several friends, some distance from the London Bridge. On the way back to the London Bridge area, Osborne offered a group of people a ride back from the Copper Canyon. Most were intoxicated but Osborne nevertheless offered them a safe ride back to the Bridge area.
Osborne drove the Vessel back toward the London Bridge area for a few minutes, and then allowed her friend, Crystal Vanillo to drive. While Vanillo drove the Vessel, two the persons Osborne picked up, Kimberly Gonzalez and Tanner Wakefield, began dancing on the front bow of the Vessel, outside of the gate that surrounded the entire Vessel. Corrin Osborne sat outside the gated area of the Vessel and watched Gonzales and Wakefield.
As the Vessel approached the Thompson Bay "no wake" buoy line (before reaching the "London Bridge" area), Vanillo eased up on or reversed the throttle, and Gonzalez and Wakefield, who were dancing on the forward bow area of the Vessel, fell forward of the Vessel and into the water. Wakefield fell into the water at the side of the Vessel, while Gonzalez fell in from the Vessel, directly in front of the propeller and was seriously injured.
At the scene, the Sheriff's Department performed field sobriety tests that showed Vanillo had impairment. The Sheriff arrested Vanillo, had her cited for felony endangerment and other misdemeanor counts and then released on bail from custody.
The Vessel And Its Appurtenances
All four gate doors on the Vessel had decals installed by the manufacturer warning passengers to remain inside the rails and gates while the Vessel is underway ("Warning"). Each Warning was bright yellow in color, with black print. The Warning is placed on the uppermost surface of each gate. The Warning has a black triangle with an exclamation mark on the left side. To the right of the black triangle is the following language:
AVOID PERSONAL INJURY
STAY INSIDE DECK RAILS (GATES) WHILE BOAT IS
The Vessel was in proper working order; and had all of the required equipment.
The Exoneration/Limitation Action
As a result of a rather detailed investigation into the accident, Funtime, through its attorneys, filed an action in federal court in Arizona requesting exoneration or limitation under the Limitation of Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. Section 181 et seq. ("LOLA").
A LOLA action is a uniquely maritime action that a ship owner can file in federal court to request that the Court declare the ship owner innocent of any wrongdoing in connection with a marine casualty, or that the ship owner is entitled to limit his liability to the value of the vessel involved in the casualty.
The District Court's Ruling
After numerous pleadings had been filed with the Court, the United States District Court exonerated Funtime of any fault in connection with the Accident. Some of the important points of the Court's ruling are discussed below.
The District Court found it significant that Funtime had a contract that allowed only the renter, Osborne, to operate the Vessel; and specifically prohibited anyone else from operating it. The contract also required Osborne to operate the Vessel in a careful and prudent manner, in compliance with all applicable laws, and to assume responsibility for the negligence of her passengers. Osborne acknowledged in the contract that she knew how to safely operate the boat and knew the rules for safe operation of a watercraft. The contract specified that no intoxication aboard the Vessel was allowed; and boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs would result in the forfeit of Osborne's deposit, forfeiture of the rental of the boat, and cancellation of the rental agreement.
The District Court found it significant therefore that Funtime had attempted to address a great many of the issues that arose in the case by means of its rental contract.
Funtime's Pre-Rental Checklist
The District Court also noted that Funtime had a pre-rental checklist that it went through with Corrin Osborne, showing Osborne how the Vessel ran and worked, and checking off that the required safety equipment was aboard.
Having The Boating Guide Available Was Helpful
The District Court found it significant that Funtime had the Arizona Boating Guide available on the counter where Corrine Osborne the Vessel. The Boating Guide specifically detailed that: (1) intoxicated operation of a vessel and (2) riding outside a protected area of a vessel, were both specifically prohibited under Arizona law.
The Court Found Admiralty Jurisdiction Existed
The District Court found that the accident involving the Vessel occurred on Lake Havasu, a "navigable waterway of the United States." The Court also found that the accident occurred while the Vessel was underway, a traditional maritime activity. Finally, the Court found that the two people falling overboard, and the rescue that ensued, posed a potential for disruption of maritime commerce. As a result, admiralty jurisdiction existed and federal maritime law applied to the case.
The Court Rejects The Claimants Assertions That Funtime Was Negligent
The District Court noted that the claimants in the action, the young lady who was injured as a result of the accident and her parents ("Claimants") alleged that Funtime was negligent because it failed to: (1) train Osborne and the others on the Vessel as to the proper operation of the Vessel (a negligent entrustment claim); (2) ensure that Osborne had insurance for the accident (3) failed to warn Osborne and the others aboard the Boat of the dangers of riding on the bow of the Vessel, outside the Vessel's front gate.
The District Court stated there was no evidence that Osborne, the person Funtime rented the Vessel to, was incompetent in any way - to the contrary, she represented in the contract she was competent. The Court also pointed out that a rental boat operation does not have a duty to inquire about the training, knowledge and capabilities of the person renting a boat.
The District Court noted Funtime's authorities holding that Funtime did not have a duty under either federal maritime or Arizona state law to ensure that Osborne, the renter of the Vessel, had insurance.
The District Court also found there was no evidence that Funtime had a duty to warn about activities prohibited by Arizona state law - intoxication and riding outside the gunwales - and pointed out that the gate on the Vessel specifically warned not to ride outside the gate while the Vessel was underway.
As many boat rental operators know, one of the most anxiety-ridden parts of this business is thinking about what could happen once the renter of the boat takes the boat out of sight. Once the renter is out of sight, the boat rental operator has no control whatsoever with respect to what occurs, or does not occur, on the boat. All the boat rental operator can reasonably do is make sure the boat is working properly, is properly equipped, and that the person renting and operating the boat is not intoxicated and has some basic competency as the boat is maneuvered and driver away from the dock. After that, the boat is completely in the hands of the renter.
The District Court's order exonerating Funtime of any liability is the first such favorable decision in the recreational context in more than twenty years. The decision is also important, however, in that the District Court outlined conduct by Funtime that it found helpful - the contract; the pre-rental checklist; the warning on the Vessel; and the availability of a boating guide.
Finally, however, the District Court had some important things to say about what a boat rental operator's duties and responsibilities are; and what they are not. Hopefully, as other cases come to the fore - and they inevitably will - the Funtime decision will provide helpful guidance to other courts who seek to clarify the duties and responsibilities of boat rental operators and their customers in the recreational context.
Should you have any questions about the investigation; the facts of the case; or any of the legal issues raised in the case, please feel free to contact Mark D. Holmes.
INSURANCE & INVESTMENTS
by Gary Duquette, CLU, Employer Benefits
What the heck is happening in the health insurance world?
Sadly, we are not seeing any rate relief. Renewal increases continue to be in the double digits, some exceeding 20%. The carriers are including notes stating the reasons for these increases.
Let me share just a few of the causes of these increases.
All of the above factors and many more are reflected in these ever increasing costs of health care.
- Technology: We in the United States are the world leader in expensive medical treatments and diagnostics, such as transplants, bypasses and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Would you believe there a more MRI machines in Orange County than all of Canada, according to "Scientific America" magazine.
- Legislation: Legislators are constantly mandating insurance companies pay for ever-increasing procedures. Some of these are experimental. They have also legislated a maximum number of patients, for whom nurses may be responsible in certain circumstances, increasing the man-hours needed for hospitals.
- Consumer demands: Many Americans feel entitled to unlimited, unrestricted access to any doctor, treatment or technology available. They also expect their health insurance to cover these expensive procedures.
- Expensive medical conditions: Treatment for many deceases for which there where no treatments previously. Many folks are living longer and requiring costly medical treatment to do so for illnesses such as heart decease, Cancer, and Aids to name a few.
- Various other reasons: Increased utilization, lawsuits and our aging population.
We have succeeded in saving our clients literally thousands of dollars by using high deductible plans with our employer clients self insuring the deductible. Many carriers won't allow this, since your savings goes directly against their bottom line. The carriers that do allow their plans to be used in this manner have raised their premiums reducing the potential savings in many cases.
Surprisingly, Kaiser is just now entering the partial self-funding arena. We are very excited for our clients and prospective clients who have Kaiser available. We feel this is going to be a very attractive alternative.
We would love the opportunity to illustrate possible savings we can provide you and your employees.
How about those 49ers. No I don't mean the football team in San Francisco; I was referring to those hardy prospectors of the 1800's. Can you imagine their reaction to gold at over $600 per ounce? What would they think of gold over $1,000 or even $2,000 per ounce? Well Larry Edelsen of the Weiss reports thinks it entirely possible. Since it was Mr. Edelsen that I first heard suggest gold to break through several barriers, I don't take the thought lightly. In our 9/05 update, I referred to Mr. Edelsens specific barriers of $450 and $540. Well gold blew through those, since 9/29/05!! There are too many factors that make $2,000(per ounce) gold not as outrageous as it may sound to you.
Unbelievable! Since I started this update, gold has shattered the $700 barrier! Larry's next near-term target is $825, and he ultimately expects it to reach $2,200 per ounce. According to him the same forces that propelled gold from $225 an ounce to $700 are still alive and kicking. If you would like a copy of Larry's 5/11/2006 Money and Market report, with specifics as to why he feels gold has room to grow, let me know and I will email it to you.
As Larry points out, Wall Street still views gold as the "Anti-investment" for gloom and doom sooth sayers. So, many Mutual Fund families do not have gold oriented funds. Two that do are AIM's Gold and Precious Metal fund, and First Eagle's Gold Fund. If we can assist you in finding out more about these funds, please let us know.
The housing reversal we eluded in this same September update seems to be in full swing. Does this mean more affordable housing is in our future?
Lest we forget other High octane commodities are oil and the rest of the energy sector. With oil at over $70.00 a barrel and gas exceeding $3 per gallon, its hard to understand how anyone can say inflation is low. If you doubt oil can go much higher, just consider the threat to the stability of oil. The Persian Gulf is responsible for 32% of the world's oil production capacity, 45% of the world's natural gas and 57 % of the world's oil reserves, very interesting huh? The scary part…about 90% of this oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz. So what you ask? Go to Google, type Strait of Hormuz and you will see that this is a four mile corridor between Iran and Oman. Every single tanker leaving the Persian Gulf must pass through this potentially dangerous bottleneck. We all know who runs Iran, that lovable wacky president, Ahmadinejad, the same old fun lover who calls for the complete annihilation of the Jewish people. Just imagine his finger on the trigger of nuclear weapons, those fast attack swarm boats they recently demonstrated, helicopters, mine layers, and Russian built Kilo class submarines. I don't know about you, but this makes me nervous.
According to Sean Brodrick of "Money and Markets", over the last 4 years, the world has consumed 6 barrels of oil for every new barrel found. Could the oil reserves have peaked? You can't use more that you can produce or find forever.
As I try to finish up this newsletter, financial news is coming so fast I just keep feeling I have to add the latest information. For example, the dollar declining against many currencies, especially important the Euro. In just a few weeks the dollar has gone from needing $1.20 to buy a Euro to now needing $1.28. This impacts so many things such as gold, oil and foreign investment. Our trade deficit exceeds 6% of GDP. This exceeds those of 20th century Brazil or Asian countries a decade ago, which actually plunged those countries into a currency crisis. Cause for concern?
Unfortunately we have no control over the outside influences controlling these increases, but fortunately we can offset the pain by profiting from investments that are doing well in this environment. So if you haven't looked at some of the Funds we have suggested you consider last September, you may wish to take a look now.
GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR WEBSITE - RANK HIGH IN A SEARCH ENGINE
by Rick Markley, Markleymedia Web Services
You have a nice website now, and you want to make it more interesting, but perhaps not put a lot of money into it, nor fill it with information that must be reviewed constantly to make sure that it is not getting stale. Specific content that may make it more interesting to your readers would be the current weather, directions to the marina, information regarding local tourist sites, hotels, and restaurants. The key is to find service providers who make it their business to maintain up-to-date websites with specific information, such as the weather, that is useful to your marina users, and somehow link to them.
There are a couple of ways to link the information. Your webmaster can recommend the way that will be best for your situation. First, the simplest, and cheapest, is to add a hyperlink from your site to the site, or sites, that have the specific information. An example would be a list of recommended restaurants in the area, with a list of links. A drawback is that once they click the link, they are gone from your site (which isn't always a bad thing). A second way is to construct your site using "frames" and reserve one frame for the web site of the service you need to add. This way, when they click the link, they are still on your site.
Here are some examples of specific information services, and ways to add the information.
1. Add the weather.
You can add weather information through a free graphic icon and link provided by Weather Underground (http://www.wunderground.com). Instructions for adding the icon can be found at http://www.wunderground.com/about/faq/weathersticker.asp. One of the more interesting icons - from a marine point of view - is the rather large graphic that delivers weather condition, temperature, pressure, and wind information. It tells the time, changes colors depending on weather severity (the blue bar turns red to indicate importance), and allows users to instantly click over to detailed forecast information, radar images, and travel information. Should the weather conditions being reported in this sticker indicate severe weather or weather warnings, the blue bar the top becomes red to draw attention. There are other simpler, smaller icons available at Weather Underground that provide a subset of the weather parameters, such as the time and temperature. Another sticker has the times for sunrise and sunset, and moon rise and moon set.
Another approach to weather is to add a frame within your web page that includes the weather for your area from a provider such as Weather Underground, the National Weather Service, or similar organization. In this case, your webmaster will figure out how to both add the website, and simultaneously tell the weather website what your ZIP code is. When someone comes to your website, the current weather will automatically be loaded with your page.
2. Add directions.
The simplest approach is for you, yourself, to provide complete directions from the nearest main highway intersection to your marina. However, if you are in a metropolitan area with many approaches to your marina, you can add a frame for Mapquest (http://maps.yahoo.com/) and have your webmaster configure the hot link to send your address to the map website and then download the map.
A program language approach (which requires a web designer) is to have a simple form on your site in which the reader will enter his or her ZIP code. The program will automatically send the reader's ZIP code to a site such as Mapquest, and the Mapquest page will come up with complete directions from the reader's location to your marina.
3. Add activities in your area.
This is one area that gets stale very quickly. If you are in a major metropolitan area, your local chamber of commerce or convention and visitors bureau (e.g., http://www.sandiego.org/, http://onlysf.sfvisitor.org/), or perhaps even a local newspaper, may have a list of local activities that are planned in the near future. This makes a very interesting path for your readers, by simply adding a link from your website to theirs.
4. Add links to nearby tourist sites.
Boaters obviously like to travel, and a list of tourist attractions (with links) will be an interesting list.
5. Add links to nearby hotels and restaurants.
If you have a restaurant on your premises, some words on your site about its hours of operation and how to contact it is helpful. If not, a list of recommended restaurants and the fare is helpful. A list of recommended hotels and contact information is also helpful.
There are no restrictions to what or how many links you provide on your website. However, as I've mentioned before, if you can get your chamber of commerce or other organization to add your web address to their page, your site will rank higher with web search engines.
Rick Markley may be contacted at email@example.com
UNITED STATES COAST GUARD NATIONAL BOATING SAFETY ADVISORY COUNCIL
by Jim Manues, Councilmember
The National Recreational Boating Safety Program's mission is to minimize the loss of life, personal injury, property damage, and environmental impact associated with the use of recreational boats, through preventive means, in order to maximize the safe use and enjoyment of U.S. waterways by the public.
The National Boating Safety Advisory Council (NBSAC) is in the process of updating the "Strategic Plan for Recreational Boating." Strategic planning is required by the Government Performance and Results Act and is paramount to OMB's Program Assessment Rating Tool evaluation of a program.
Strategic Plans must provide:
The NBSAC continued work on the objectives and began developing strategies at its meetings held in Las Vegas the first week of April 2006. The Council adopted the Objectives Section of the strategic plan at this meeting.
- Performance Goals - Final measurable outcomes desired (i.e.: reduced number of injuries/fatalities).
- Objectives - interim outcomes desired to accomplish performance goals (i.e.: PFD wear rates = behavior change).
- Strategies - programs implemented to accomplish objectives (i.e.: education courses, media campaigns, enforcement, regulation, SAR, etc.).
This Council welcomes input from any and all sources in its effort to maximize the safe use and enjoyment of U.S. waterways. The next NBSAC Strategic Planning meeting will be held in Northern Virginia within a few weeks.
SAFEGUARD TEEN WORKERS
This time of year, many teens will enter California's workforce. Not only will their jobs provide teens with valuable ,real world experience and income, there's also a chance for teens to develop safe work habits. As an employer, you play a key role in assuring that your teen workers have a positive, productive, safe, and healthy work experience that will influence all future employment.
Know the Law
Protect teen workers by knowing and complying with California child labor laws and occupational safety and health regulations. Review the legal restrictions for the type of work a teen can and cannot do to protect their health and safety. Some restrictions prohibit teens from working late and/or long hours and from doing especially dangerous work.
Make sure teens are not assigned work schedules that violate the law nor given high hazard jobs such as working in or around motor vehicles, operating tractors or heavy equipment, working in retail and service businesses with a risk of robbery-related homicide, working around cooking appliances or requiring continuous manual lifting and lifting of heavy objects.
Check Work Permits
Verify that teen workers under 18 have a required work permit issued by their school or school district before beginning a new job. Work permits are not required for teens who have proof of graduation or of a high school equivalency exam.
Identify and eliminate hazardous work conditions. Provide appropriate protective clothing and equipment to safeguard teens against harmful exposures. Evaluate the safety and legality of work equipment that teens may use then put warning signs on equipment not authorized for their use. Ensure that teens are adequately supervised, that they're following recommended safety practices and procedures, and that they're aware of their physical limitations.
Provide and Enforce Safety Training
Educate teens in how to do their jobs safely and how to recognize safety or health hazards. Train them in when and how to use protective equipment. Encourage teens to ask questions, to let their supervisor know when they're doing a task for the first time, and to report hazards. Make sure you instruct them in what to do and whom to call in an emergency.
A good resource for employers of teen workers is the website of the California Resource Network for Young Worker Health and Safety at www.youngworkers.org.
Reprinted with permission from the State Compensation Insurance Fund Safety and Health Services Department.