Great Lakes Coast Guard has busy weekend of boating under the influence enforcement

CLEVELAND — Coast Guard boarding teams throughout the Great Lakes region found several recreational boaters to be operating their vessels under the influence of alcohol this weekend, prompting the Coast Guard to remind boaters that drinking and boating don’t mix.

Of the eight boaters Friday through Sunday who failed field sobriety tests or had a blood alcohol content above the legal limit, many were issued citations or taken into custody by local law enforcement authorities.

A boat operator with a blood alcohol content above the legal limit, .08 percent (0.1 percent in Michigan waters), runs a significantly increased risk of being involved in a boating accident.  Boat operators are not the only ones at grave risk — passengers who are under the influence can drown while swimming from anchored or adrift vessels.

Alcohol continues to be a leading contributing factor in recreational boating accidents, injuries and deaths.  According to the Coast Guard’s Recreational Boating Statistics 2011 report, the most current verified statistics available, alcohol use was determined to be the leading factor in 16% of the deaths in 2011.

Marine environment stressors — motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray — can accelerate a drinker’s impairment.  These stressors greatly affect a boat operator’s judgment, vision, balance and coordination.

The consequences of BUI may include voyage termination, arrest, civil penalties and jail time.  In some local jurisdictions, boating privileges may be revoked.

“Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs threatens the safe and enjoyable use of our waterway,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew White, assistant chief of enforcement for the 9th Coast Guard District.

“As in a driving under the influence case, a BUI conviction can result in serious consequences,” White said.

  • A Coast Guard Station Toledo, Ohio, rescue boatcrew was on patrol in the Ottawa River Friday at 10:56 p.m. EDT, when it observed a 32-foot cabin cruiser with four people aboard operating with no navigation lights.  After they escorted the vessel to Lost Peninsula Marina, the crew conducted a safety boarding and found the vessel was lacking several pieces of mandatory safety equipment.

    After the boarding officer noted that the owner/operator appeared intoxicated, he was put through a field sobriety text and failed.  He had a recorded BAC of .187.  He was issued a Coast Guard boarding report.

    After a case has been processed, the operator is sent any appropriate fines.  He may pay the fines or request to speak with a Coast Guard hearing officer to contest the case.

  • Saturday, at 12:22 a.m. EDT, a boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Saginaw River, Essexville, Mich., was conducting a safety boarding on a 21-foot pontoon boat with seven people aboard after it was observed with improper navigation lights.  The operator failed all field sobriety tests, and recorded a BAC of .175.

    The boatcrew escorted the vessel to Wenonah Park in Bay City, Mich.  The operator was issued a Coast Guard boarding report regarding the BUI and improper navigation lights.

  • At 12:52 a.m. EDT Saturday, a Coast Guard Station Toledo boatcrew terminated the voyage of a 28-foot pleasure craft with eight people aboard for operating without navigation lights.  During a safety boarding, the owner/operator appeared intoxicated.  After being escorted to Toledo Yacht Club, he failed field sobriety tests conducted both on the boat and on shore.

    He refused to take a breathalyzer test and was issued a boarding report for BUI, no navigation lights and negligent operations.

  • Saturday evening, a Coast Guard Station Saginaw River boatcrew witnessed a 26-foot pleasure craft with five people aboard nearly hit a buoy in the vicinity of Saginaw River.  Upon conducting a boarding of the vessel, the boarding officer smelled alcohol on the breath of the operator.

    The boarding officer conducted field sobriety tests six times, with the operator of the pleasure craft failing it four times.  The operator had a BAC of .177.

    The boatcrew escorted the vessel to the Independence Boat Ramp, where a sober family member took custody of the vessel and the others aboard.  The operator was issued a boarding report for BUI and negligent operations.

  • Personnel from Station Saginaw River also conducted a boarding of an 18-foot pleasure craft with four people aboard near the Consumer’s Energy Power Plant by Bay City, Mich., Saturday evening.  After smelling alcohol on the operator’s breath, the boarding officer conducted field sobriety tests six times, all of which the operator failed.  He refused a breathalyzer.

    The boatcrew escorted the boat back to Bay Harbor Marina, and Michigan State Police took the operator into custody.  The boarding officer also issued a boarding report for a lack of registration numbers on the side of the vessel.

  • A Coast Guard Station Green Bay, Wis., boatcrew conducted a boarding on a 17-foot pleasure craft with two people aboard, near the mouth of the Fox River Saturday evening.  After smelling alcohol on the breath of the operator, the boarding officer ran the operator through field sobriety tests five times, all of which he failed.

    The operator had a BAC of .12.  The passenger took control of the vessel, and the boatcrew escorted the vessel to Fox Point Boat Ramp in Depere, Wis.  Local authorities took the operator into custody.

  • Sunday evening, a boatcrew from Station Saginaw River conducted a boarding of a 17-foot pleasure craft with four people aboard near the South Bay Harbor.  After the boarding officer noted several empty beer cans and smelled alcohol on the breath of the operator, he was run through field sobriety tests five times, failing four times.

    The operator’s BAC was .118.  The boatcrew terminated the voyage and escorted the vessel to South Bay Harbor Marina.  The boarding officer issued a boarding report for BUI.

  • Also on Sunday evening, a boatcrew from Coast Guard  Station Marblehead, Ohio, on a routine patrol found a disable pleasure craft with six people aboard by the Cedar Point Breakwall.  There was 5-6 inches of water in the engine compartment.

    The boatcrew took the vessel in tow and, once moored safely, conducted a boarding.  After the boarding officer detected the smell of marijuana in the cabin and on the operator’s breath, the operator consented to a search of the vessel.  Several small bags of marijuana and some drug-use paraphernalia were found in the vessel and on the passengers, some of which were minors.

    The operator failed field sobriety tests and recorded a BAC of .201.  He was cited on a boarding report for BUI and the lack of a pollution placard on his vessel.  The operator was arrested by the officers with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The Coast Guard is not releasing the names of any of those arrested or cited for boating under the influence.

For more information, visit the website for Operation Dry Water, an annual nationwide surge operation during the last weekend of June during which law enforcement agencies step up enforcement to combat boating under the influence: http://www.operationdrywater.org/.

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