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'Guns & Governments' Just Got Better For TrawlerFest


“Safety on the water is easy with the right tools and education. Open water can be the best place to be with a small amount of preparation,” says Lt. Col. Tony Sparks (retired), the latest addition to TrawlerFest’s unique “Guns & Governments” seminar. The former special operator and security expert will address the pros and cons of lethal and non-lethal weaponry.


This seminar, one of 26 at our Stuart, Florida, location, does not try to be controversial. It doesn’t advocate for or against carrying guns aboard cruising boats. This seminar is for the coastal cruiser who has already decided to go armed or is leaning toward that decision. The fact is anyone who cruises the East Coast between Canada and the Caribbean will pass through multiple jurisdictions whose gun laws vary wildly. What is legal in Georgia might very well result in serious legal consequences in Massachusetts or Puerto Rico.

“Guns & Governments” identifies the places that can cause problems for even the most conscientious armed cruiser. Presenters Todd Lochner and Greg Singer, who practice law in Annapolis, specialize in maritime law. Attendees will receive a bridge card-style hand-out, which breaks down the differences in laws in an easy-to-understand format.

Sparks spent most of his 25 year career in special operations units, including a stint as a helicopter pilot in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, made famous in the movie “Black Hawk Down.” His career continued as a government security advisor for embassies, merchant ships and ports and later as a civilian advisor for a host of customers, including the NFL for three Superbowls. Sparks has conducted security surveys of over 600 oceangoing vessels and 50 major international ports and harbors.

Sparks is founder of Phantom Services, a security consultant to the maritime, and other industries. Phantom Services is affiliated with GOST, a company that specials in special security systems for yachts. "Guns & Governments" is 2-4:30 p.m. Thursday, March 2, at the Marriott Hutchinson Island Resort and Marina.

All but one of the 26 seminars will be held Feb. 28-March 4 at the Marriott. The lone exception is the Diesel seminar, which is presented at Whiticar Boat Works’s Shearwater Marine facility a few miles away.

The most cost effective way to attend the largest number of certificate courses is to purchase our five-day VIP Page, which costs $499 but can amount to a value of more than $1,100. Here’s what it includes:

  • General Admission to all threedays of TrawlerFest’s In-Water Boat Show
  • Unlimited access to seminars (Tuesday-Saturday) (Diesel Engine course and Boat Handling Hands On is NOT available as part of the VIP package)
  • Entry for one to Thursday’s Dinner and entertainment.
  • Entry for one to Friday’s Docktail Party

There is also a three-day VIP package for $399, which provides similar value for Thursday through Saturday seminars.

Most PassageMaker fans know that TrawlerFest is more than a seminar series. The event’s in-water boat show, runs Thursday, March 2-4. Dozens of power cruisers will be open for inspection on the docks and vendors will be on hand to demonstrate products and services.

For more information, visit and navigate to TrawlerFest>Bay Bridge, or call 443-745-7785.