U.S. Coast Guard
Coast Guard jumping boaters
Jul 7, 2014 at 9:33 PM
Take a boat out into Lake Erie and you may just bump into U.S. Coast Guard officers.
The Fourth of July weekend was one of the busiest of the year for the Coast Guard that said it saved 10 lives throughout the Great Lakes during this past weekend, all while assisting about 130 different boaters during Friday and Saturday alone.
Despite the seemingly heroic acts, certain Erie and Ottawa County residents are concerned with the Coast Guard's boarding procedures.
Sandusky resident and avid boater Matt Ehrhardt says petty officers jumped aboard his docked boat a couple weeks ago for no reason.
"(The lake) has become a military checkpoint," Ehrhardt said.
He pulled his boat into Dockside Cafe where officers promptly boarded his boat in search of alcohol.
"I was a sober skipper," Ehrhardt said. "I have nothing to hide."
He eventually proved his innocence by registering all zeroes in a sobriety test.
Earhardt was free to go, he said, but only after about an hour of officers going through their procedures.
It was a hassle and a bit embarrassing. So Ehrhardt said he won't stop boating, but he might try to avoid Coast Guard officers at all costs.
"I'll never pull into a dock if (the Coast Guard) is there," he said.
And other boaters are deciding not to take their boats out because of these strict boarding policies, Ehrhardt said.
A U.S. Coast Guard petty officer stationed at Marblehead said seven citations and 11 arrests were made throughout the Great Lakes on Friday and Saturday combined, less than 15 percent of the Coast Guard's number of rescues it made during that time.
But Ehrhardt does not think people drinking and boating do not deserve to be cited or arrested. It is the Coast Guard's treatment of innocent mariners that is disconcerting to him.
"I was a suspect to them," he said.
In 2013, the U.S. Coast Guard Station Marblehead administered nearly 70 citations or arrests, the highest number of any station in the country.
The Marblehead coastguardsman said the Coast Guard has policies in place to protect against dangerous practices, not to invade boaters' privacy.
"If we see signs of intoxication, we're going to check that out," the coastguardsman said. "It's a big safety thing. We're looking out for the safety of others."
He said boaters are permitted to drink on the lake, just not the operators of the watercrafts.
Among the infinite calls the Coast Guard was apart of over the weekend was an arrest in the water off the Marblehead coast.
The Marblehead coastguardsman said a man, whose name was unavailable, was cited for boating under the influence. The man became combative with officers, he said.
DRINKING FACTS FROM THE COAST GUARD
-Myth: No one ever dies on the water from drinking alcohol
-Fact: Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents
-Myth: Getting drunk on the water takes longer than on land
-Fact: A boat operator is likely to become impaired more quickly than an automobile driver, drink-for-drink
-Myth: Fatal boating accidents only happen at night
-Fact: Most fatal boating accidents occur between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m.
* Note: This post has been modified to remove the name of the coastguardsman. Information was obtained from the Marblehead Coast Guard Station but the name for the source previously provided was not accurate.