SOMERS POINT - For even the most experienced boaters, going out on the water is always a challenge because of constantly changing conditions under the water.
And especially this season, due to shifting sand and other materials from Hurricane Sandy, boaters have had to be cautious about the conditions, since they can and often will change. A route that has been used for years could become treacherous or even impassable due to a sand bank buildup or other issues.
But a company is asking boaters to spread the word about current conditions through new technology that it hopes will make for safer travels for everybody.
Mike and Denise Sammartino are veteran boaters in Ocean City but before they go out on their speedboat, Denise said she often checks social media to find information about current conditions.
"I usually ask somebody (at a boating store) or at the dock," Mike Sammartino said.
The couple said when they're on their speedboat they will often wave to other boaters to slow down or warn about an upcoming sand bank.
But even with the warnings, Mike Sammartino said, he got stuck three times in one day shortly after Memorial Day. Issues with conditions have caused the family to purchase new parts for their vessel after it was damaged from these incidents.
Some areas have changed so much recently they are barely passable.
Don Stein, of the Fortescue Captains and Boat Owners Association, said the sand at Fortescue Creek at the Delaware Bay in Cumberland County has had two to three additional feet of sand after Hurricane Sandy. The conditions have caused many of the oyster and charter boats to leave the area and go to different marinas, he said.
Jon Noel, a sales manager for Navionics, was at the West Marine store on New Road on Friday to spread the word to boaters about a new system that helps them be up-to-date on the conditions. The company has updated maps that show the depth of the water, based on pictures from boaters who recently traveled the water.
The boaters use chart plotters on their boats that take underwater pictures. They can then go onto the company's website, Navionics.com, upload their pictures and download updated maps. Boaters can download the maps onto their chart plotter or smart phone to take with them while on the water.
"It's all about safety," Noel said, since the boaters will have a good idea of where they should avoid.
The company will donate $1 to the New Jersey Marine Track Association for every person that uses the system this weekend, he said.
"The more people who do it the better our data is," he said.
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