From the Boathouse: Using muscle to fight invasive mussels

Ahoy, and do not give invasive mussels a free ride!

I have received several emails inquiring about the new mussel fee and decal included with the state's vessel registration. Boat registration is required for most undocumented vessels that operate on waterways within California. I say "most" and not "all" because there are exceptions to the rules about which vessels need to be registered through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Whether it's called a boat, ship, raft, dinghy or watercraft, most vessels are required to be documented with the U.S. Coast Guard or registered with the DMV. The exceptions that do not require any registration include sailboats that are no more than 8 feet long and don't have an engine attached, canoe-type vessels powered only by oars, and tenders (not dinghies) for larger documented commercial vessels.

Typically, boats under 40 feet that are used solely for recreational cruising will be what we call CF'd. We label a vessel CF'd when it has been issued a vessel registration number. Each state will issue a registration that begins with two letters to identify the state. For example, California issues a registration starting with CF that refers to California, and Arizona's numbers start with AZ.

However, vessels that are commercial, travel internationally or weigh more than 5 gross tons are required to be documented with the Coast Guard and, as such, do not display any state's registration numbers. These boats have a U.S. documentation number affixed to their internal structure and use the vessel's name and hailing port for identification.

However, I digress.

California requires an $8 Quagga and Zebra Mussel Infestation Prevention Fee and accompanying decal for your boat. This fee, which started Dec. 31, 2013, is to help stop the spread of the invasive mussels to fresh bodies of water. The decal must be attached next to the registration decal on vessels that are CF'd and issued for those boats operating in fresh-water lakes, rivers and streams.

However, owners of CF'd vessels used solely in marine waters (salt water) are not required to pay this fee or display the decal. The marine waters' definition includes the harbors along our coast.

The invasive mussels were first discovered in the 1980s in the Great Lakes, and scientists determined that the critters hitched a ride in the ballast waters discharged from ships. The mussels pose an economic and environmental threat. They are severely detrimental to the aquatic ecosystem.

All boaters who trailer their boats to and from any fresh bodies of water need to recognize that these very tiny mussels are looking to hitch a ride. Most states have border inspection sites for boats being towed, and most if not all lakes require boat inspection before launching.

The mussels can survive for a time out of water by clinging to a boat. They can reside inside outboard motors, sit in your water intakes or exhaust systems and hide on recreational toys that were used in the fresh water.

I recommend that you download the guidebook at Know before you trailer your boat about the very invasive mussels.

Tip of the week: We do not give our fuel dock attendants enough credit for the excellent service they provide and the very little if any fuel spilled into the water when filling our boats. You have to consider the thousands of gallons pumped daily, and I actually witness more fuel spilled on the ground at a gas station.

I have used many self-service fuel docks when traveling up and down the Pacific Coast. However, I am spoiled by the excellent service at the full-service fuel docks. Additionally, the fuel dock attendants are usually your first point of contact when visiting a distant harbor. If the staff is friendly and fuels your boat without spilling a drop, a cash tip will be appreciated.

Lastly, weekend boating weather will include daytime air temperatures along the coast in the high-70s possibly creeping into the 80s. Nighttime temperatures will be comfortable in the mid-60s.

We will have mixed swells with 2 feet from the west and a 2-foot from the south. The afternoon winds will be 5 to 10 knots with up to 2-foot wind waves.

The weather window for rounding Point Conception is open with winds blowing only 10 to 15 knots, creating 2- to 3-foot wind waves. The mixed seas will be 3 to 4 feet from the west-northwest and a 2-foot south.

As always, just keep an eye to the weather for any changes. Please be boat smart and boat safe. Lastly, please boat responsibly and look behind you before you turn the wheel at the helm.

Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting live coast-to-coast on a syndicated network. See times at, and

Safe voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to

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