BoatUS Foundation


Annual Report


On behalf of the fabulous Foundation crew, I hope you enjoy reading about the accomplishments of 2015 found in this Annual Report. The boating community is ever evolving, and the Foundation has done quite a bit of evolving in 2015. From the launch of several new online courses, to testing the latest in Visual Distress Signaling (VDS) devices, to sponsoring a truly remarkable Life Jacket Design Competition, the Foundation continues to move forward to meet the ever changing needs of America’s boaters.

The Foundation touches hundreds of thousands of boaters every year with positive ways to keep our waters clean and to enjoy boating safely. Our programs are funded primarily through small donations from boaters like you. I hope that as you read this Annual Report, you can see the value in our programs and make the choice to help support our safe and clean boating mission.


Chirs Edmonston operating a boat

Chris Edmonston

BoatUS Foundation President


2015 At a Glance

Specialized Course Students

  • 2014 - 657 students enrolled
  • 2015 - 689 students enrolled

EPIRB Rentals

  • 35% of orders are PLBs
  • 65% of orders are EPIRBs
  • 1 Activation

New Courses Launched

  • Hurricane Preparation for Boaters
  • All About Marine Radio
  • Planning Your Cruise

Oil Spill Course

  • 220 students completed to date
  • 89% used what they learned at work

Grassroots Grants

  • 50 applications total
  • 70,000 votes tallied
  • 4 grants awarded
  • $35,000 in funding

Visual Distress Signals Findings

  • 12% of boats inspected have expired or insufficient flares
  • Disposal of expired flares is an ongoing problem

Boating Safety Course Students

  • 2014 - 109,664
  • 2015 - 124,158

Foundation Reach

  • 26 press releases
  • 203 million press impressions
  • 1.2 million Facebook impressions

Life Jacket Design Competition

  • Over 250 submissions
  • 40 countries, 28 states
  • $15,000 in prizes
  • In partnership with NMMA

Mission of the BoatUS Foundation

The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water is an innovative leader promoting safe, clean and responsible boating. The Foundation provides educational outreach directly to boaters and supports partner organizations nationwide.

With millions of boaters on the water, our aim is to reduce accidents and fatalities, increase stewardship of our waterways and keep boating a safe and enjoyable pastime. The BoatUS Foundation is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our work is primarily funded by grants and individual donations.

EPIRB and PLB Program


Orders shipped in 2015


Total activations since 1995


Lives saved since 1995

Oddest Rental

A kayaker participating in an 8-day endurance race called the Everglades Challenge.

Safest Crew

A sailboat returning from the British Virgin Islands grounded hard and sank only miles from home.

Did You Know

The average rental length is two weeks.

Life Jacket Loaner Program


New Life Jacket Loaner Sites Nationwide


Total Life Jacket Loaner Sites


Life Jackets Loaned Through The Program


In 2015, we rebranded our Life Jacket Loaner Program with red life jackets and new signage. Since demand for our program always exceeds supply, we created a step-by-step guide on how to set up a loaner site that includes promotional and educational materials and access to discounted life jackets through a new partnership with Stearns. We also added over 1,000 loaner sites managed by various organizations to our map. We are now the one-stop-shop for boaters looking to borrow life jackets and organizations looking to set up a loaner site!


Life Jacket Design Competition

The Foundation partnered with the Personal Flotation Manufacturers Association (PFDMA) and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) to bring you the Innovations in Life Jacket Design Competition, which sought alternatives to the traditional life jacket. We received over 250 submissions from around the world and the following designs were chosen as the winners.

Michael Garman

first place
Michael Garman's design video

Jimi Beach

second place
Jimi Beach's design video

Jessie Kate Brown

third place Jessie Kate Brown's Comfort Flex Life Vest
Jessie Kate Brown's Design

Online Learning


Students enrolled in our specialized courses, with Weather for Boaters being the most popular.


Brand new specialized courses were developed, partnering with the United States Power Squadron.


Students completed our improved free online boating safety course.


We continue to be a leader in the boating industry for online learning. Not only has our free online boating safety course continued to grow exponentially, we also launched three specialized courses in partnership with the United States Power Squadrons.


Free Boating Safety Course Improvements


Our free online course saw tremendous volume this year with nearly 125,000 people enrolling in a state course. This was nearly a 14% increase over the previous year. It also went through a rigorous and thorough upgrade, complete with a fresh look, more interactivity and new content. The look is cleaner, we’ve included new videos and printable worksheets, along with interactive elements to keep the students more engaged. With the new course in place we applied for our triennial NASBLA re-approval at the end of the year.


In late 2014, we formed a workgroup to review the content of the entire Online Boating Safety Course and make improvements. After months of meetings and revisions, we submitted a shiny new course to NASBLA for reapproval at the end of September. Every page in the course has been revised and reformatted. The look is cleaner, the content is more concise and we’ve also added new videos, printable worksheets and interactive elements to keep students engaged. The end result looks fantastic, and since we just received notice from NASBLA that we’ve been approved, we expect to launch the new content in January 2016. We also spent a great deal of time making our Free Online Boating Safety Course responsive and mobile friendly.


Marina Spill Prevention Training

Our second year of offering free spill prevention training for marinas continues to show demand for this program. This course designed for seasonal marina staff teaches the simple steps that can prevent spills at marinas, what staff should look for and what to do in case of a spill. In 2015, 289 marina staff received training on spill prevention techniques through our course. Our survey responses tell us that this training is making a difference preventing spills at marinas. 96% of respondents rated the course as “Excellent” or “Good” and 91% indicated that they have used the skills learned in the course of their job. A marina manager in Oregon told us, “We will be making this our new fuel dock employee mandatory training. It's excellent.” And another from Minnesota stated, “We have opened our eyes more to simply instructing our gas dock attendants/workers to pay more attention to spills and the importance to let management know if there is a spill even if it is small.”

Grassroots Grants


Total applications for Grassroots Grants


Votes from the public on our applications


Grants awarded after a competitive voting phase


In funding awarded to the grant winners


2015 was another banner year for the Grassroots Grants program. After an extremely competitive voting phase, four groups received funding. For 2016, we are excited to roll out some changes to refresh this legacy program. Starting in January, we will be accepting applications year round. This will give us an opportunity to cherry-pick the projects that will have the most impact on the boating community and help us better utilize program funding.


Invasive Species

In some parts of the country, aquatic invasive species are impacting boating access the boating experience dramatically. The presence of aquatic weeds can choke of launching facilities, large species such as carp can pose safety concerns, and most notably the threat of mussel infestations have the potential to restrict recreational boating access and have driven the creation of boat decontamination infrastructure.

In January of 2015, BoatUS Foundation staffed assisted with the facilitation of the Aquatic Invasive Species Summit hosted by the American Boat and Yacht Council and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to explore the challenges of boat design and boat inspections. This ground breaking effort brought together the boat manufacturing industry with the invasive species community so both groups could reach a better understanding of the impacts of decontamination in boats and the most challenging parts of boats to decontaminate.

This effort resulted in ABYC standing up a Product Technical Committee on Boat Design in Consideration of AIS. This group will produce a technical report to better inform boat manufacturers about the conditions their products may be exposed to in the course of the decontamination process. This committee is being chaired by Susan Shingledecker.

Marine Debris

2015 saw the expansion of our formal marine debris prevention efforts expand beyond our fishing line recycling program with the help of two grants.

Partnering with two TowBoatU.S. towers and with funding from the NOAA Marine Debris program, the Foundation will remove derelict commercial fishing nets that have become entangled on reef structure offshore from Ocean City, MD. This work will be done in partnership with TowBoatU.S. Ocean City. We will also work with TowBoatU.S. South Shore (Ohio) to remove a sunken commercial fishing vessel with attached net. Both project sites are sensitive habitat with the Lake Erie site located just outside two National Wildlife Refuges and a State Park. We are aiming to highlight how our partnerships with TowBoatU.S. salvage resources can be a very cost effective public/private/nonprofit partnership solution to the challenge of large debris removal. BoatUS Foundation staff will be onsite for both efforts filming and interviewing stakeholders. This footage will be used to produce educational outreach materials.

Additionally the BoatUS Foundation received a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Fishing for Energy Program, (add logos for NOAA, NFWF, Schnitzer Steel, Covanta Energy) to explore the relationship between recreational boater and the loss of commercial fixed fishing gear such as crab and lobster pots. At regional marine debris workshops around the country BoatUS Foundation staff heard that recreational boaters were often cited as one of the primary causes for commercial fishing gear becoming cut or lost. To further examine this problem we will be conducting focus groups around the country to look at this user conflict between recreational boaters and commercial fishing interests. Based on the results of the focus groups, BoatUS Foundation staff will develop educational messages to prevent the entanglement of fishing gear. These messages will be included in our free online course and provided to groups who teach in person boating safety courses.

Foundation Findings

a map showing how far different VDS project

In September 2015, the BoatUS Foundation set out to evaluate some new-to-the-market emergency visual distress signal devices. Eight devices, only four of which are Coast Guard compliant, were compared to each other and to a common Coast Guard-approved hand-held signal flare which we used as our control. The products were grouped into three categories; hand-held pyrotechnic flares, battery-operated LED lights, and laser signaling devices. What we found was that the new devices were easy to use, lasted far longer than traditional flares and were safer to store, use and dispose. However, only one of the new electronic devices is Coast Guard compliant.



At the BoatUS Foundation we are fortunate to have a loyal base of BoatUS members who support us when they renew their membership.

In recent years we have been looking into ways to better manage our donor communications which we hope to invest in soon. In May of 2015 we mailed out our first Boating Safety Week appeal requesting a small donation to help support our Free Online Boating Safety Course. Although our course is free, it isn’t free to operate. As a premium, a newly re-designed Rules of the Road Decal was included so they could keep for themselves or to give a friend new to boating. Giving Tuesday is also growing in popularity and the Foundation has had good success in asking boaters to support our charitable cause on this national day of giving.

Financials *2014 Numbers

Program Expenses
Brochures $56,065
Learn to Sail Course $9,670
Free Online Boating Safety Course $200,207
Conferences & Seminars $118,394
EPIRB Rental $41,212
Sportsman's Forum $85,606
Life Jacket Loaner $76,390
Foundation Findings $17,076
Marine Debris $18,419
Website $171,935
Grassroots Grants $48,602
General Education & Research $195,823
Online Course Development & Support $26,688
U.S. Power Squadron $109,120
Clean Boating Courses $24,716
Navigation Course $10,625
Clean Fueling Program $15,264
Other Programs $61,778
Total Expenses $1,287,590
Contributions $1,047,119
Grants (Federal) $77,532
Other Income (Royalties and Program Income) $224,038
Property Donations $938,516
Investment Income $54,210
Unrealized Gain on Investments $19,196
Total Revenue $2,360,611

Other Expenses
Program Services $1,287,590
Management & General $114,282
Boat Donation* $682,654
Fundraising $124,563
Total Expenses $2,209,089

Change in Net Assets $151,522
Net Assets at Beginning of Year $1,499,110
Net Assets at End of Year $1,650,632

*Expenses related to refurbishing donated vessels

income and revenue pie chart
expenses pie chart

Social Media

Board of Trustees

Kirk La, Chairman

COO of Boat America Corporation

Margaret Podlich, Trustee

President, BoatU.S.

Bob Adriance, Trustee

Past Technical Director, BoatU.S.

Bernadette Bernon, Trustee

Past Editor of Cruising World Magazine

Jim Ellis, Trustee

Past President of BoatU.S.

Richard Moreland, Trustee

Chair, Audit & Finance Commitee
VP, T. Rowe Price Associates Chair

Ronald Peterson, Trustee

Retired VP, RIS Paper Co.

Robert Putnam, Trustee

Vice Chair, Audit & Finance Commitee
CEO, Putnam-Ross Consulting

Ruth Wood, Trustee

Past President, BoatU.S. Foundation

Chris Edmonston, Officer

President, BoatU.S. Foundation

Susan Shingledecker, Officer

Vice President & Secretary, BoatU.S. Foundation

Ted Sensenbrenner, Officer

Treasurer, BoatU.S. Foundation

Our Locations:

880 South Picket Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22304

147 Old Solomon's Island Rd, Ste. 513
Annapolis, MD 21401

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