Sailing News & Views

Minnesota DNR teams with the Dairy queen to reward safe young boaters

Kids in Minnesota who wear their life vests are rewarded with being more safe while boating, but they also might just get a refreshing Dairy Queen treat. When DNR conservation officers spot a child in a boat wearing a life jacket, they present the youngster with a PDF Panda Award certificate. Attached to the PFD Panda Award is a tear-off coupon that entitles the child to a free Dairy Queen cone or cheeseburger from participating Dairy Queen restaurants. PFD Panda is the DNR’s mascot that encourages kids to boat safely. 

“We at International Dairy Queen were excited with the idea and offered to partner with the Minnesota DNR on the program,” said Eric Peterson, marketing manager for the Minnesota-based company. “We thought this was a great way to encourage children to wear their life jackets. We hope that safe boating behavior continues right through adulthood.”

PFD Panda was born when a DNR conservation officer, who has since retired, telephoned Tim Smalley, a DNR boating safety specialist and co-creator of the award. The conservation officer suggested a reward to give children whom he found wearing their life vests. The pair came up with the PFD Panda Award certificate.

“We’ve had the PFD Panda Award for at least 15 years,” Smalley said, “but this year we thought it would be a nice addition to give safe boating kids a cool treat to go along with the cool award for wearing their life jackets.”

While PFD Panda only exists on the certificate in Minnesota, several other government agencies, including the State of Maryland and U.S. Coast Guard, have borrowed the character and made PFD Panda costumes for trips to schools and events to discuss boating safety with kids.

County sheriffs’ water patrol deputies also distribute the DNR’s PFD Panda Certificates.

Peace on Earth: Good Will Toward Manatees

This holiday season, give a 10-foot long, 1000-pound gift to someone you love. Adopt one of the manatees in Save the Manatee Club’s Adopt-A-Manatee program and help ensure the survival of an endangered species. Proceeds go toward conservation programs to protect manatees and their habitat. For a $20 annual membership fee, each “parent” receives an adoption certificate for an endangered manatee, the manatee’s photo and biography, and a membership handbook with educational information about manatees. In addition, adoptive parents receive a newsletter subscription featuring updates on their manatee.
SMC has three manatee adoption programs. One program is located at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, FL. Twenty-two manatees who live in the wild and have a good history of returning to Blue Spring, year after year have been chosen for the adoption program. These manatees migrate to Blue Spring, located on the St. Johns River, from November through March. Manatees are warm water animals and cannot tolerate water temperatures below 68 degrees. Each winter, the manatees find their way back to Blue Spring to bask in the park’s natural spring, which maintains a constant 72-degree temperature.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park also serves as a rehabilitation center and refuge for manatees who have been orphaned or injured. Five manatees in SMC’s Adopt-A-Manatee program who cannot be released in the wild call the park their home.

In addition, five manatees frequently seen in the Tampa Bay area and along the west coast of Florida are up for adoption. These manatees have been followed for years by researchers from the Florida Marine Reserach Institute, and several of them winter at the warm water discharge area of Tampa Electric Company’s power plant.

Reserachers can tell manatees apart by their scar patterns. Unfortunately, many adult manatees bear scars from watercraft collisions. In addition, many other manatee mortalities are human-related. Discarded fish hooks, monofilament line and other litter get mixed in with the plants manatees eat and can cause internal damage or death. Entanglement in fishing or crab trap line can also cause manatee deaths. Harassment can also be a problem for manatees, and loss of habitat is the overall threat facing manatees today. Currently manatees are listed as endangered and about 3,000 remain in the U.S. today.

The Adopt-A-Manatee program is the primary source of funding for Save the Manatee Club. Funds from the Adopt-A-Manatee program go toward education and public awareness programs, manatee reserach, rescue and rehabilitation efforts, and advocacy and legal action to help protect manatees and their habitat.

For more informaition write Save the Manatee Club at: 500 N. Maitland Ave., Maitland, FL 32751 or visit

Zebra mussels cleaned before boat reaches Brainerd waters

A boat carrying zebra mussels discovered in Northern Minnesota was cleaned before it reached inland waters, thanks to the cooperation of a Brainerd area boat repair shop owner.

Biologists with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed the presence of zebra mussels on the boat, which had been moored in the Mississippi River near Wabasha last summer. Fortunately, the boat was stored on land through the winter, which killed the mussels, according to Gary Montz, the DNR Zebra Mussel Program coordinator.

“The concern over exotic species and attention to the zebra mussels prevented what could have been a very serious situation,” Montz said. “It’s very encouraging to hear from cooperative, informed people who care about Minnesota lakes and rivers.”

Mike Hall, owner of Bob’s Welding and Precision Propeller Works, said he was very concerned about the discovery.

“The DNR visits our shop pretty regularly and I realized we had a very serious situation on our hands when they confirmed these were zebra mussels,” Hall said. “It’s important to get these boats cleaned to avoid situations like this.”

State laws prohibit any boat from being transported on Minnesota roads if zebra mussels are attached. Even if zebra mussels are dead, they still must be removed before the boat can be transported. It is also illegal to launch a boat with zebra mussels attached.

Boat owners are required to remove all aquatic vegetation and any aquatic animals when leaving the water. Water should be drained from boats when leaving waters infested with zebra mussels, including water in live wells, bilges and bait buckets.

So far, Lake Superior, the Mississippi River from the Twin Cities south, and a portion of the St. Croix River have been infested with zebra mussels. Lake Sumbro, located just north of Rochester, is the only inland lake in Minnesota where zebra mussels have been found.

For more zebra mussel information, call Gary Montz, Zebra Mussel Program coordinator 651-297-4888.