Coast Guard jumping boaters

Boardings in search of impaired operators have private owners seeing red
Alex Green
Jul 7, 2014

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.


-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.



Well this ought to generate some commentary.....


I do not think that the person that proof-read this was sober.


I agree. WOW.

Licorice Schtick

Little evidence of editing or proof-reading this stuff, but it's OK; given the choice of having the story perfect or sooner, the latter is probably better.

Now, back on topic... On one hand, random searches seem unconstitutional. On the other hand, some of the loudest complainers are drunks who operate their boats (and cars) impaired. So, are the boardings really random, or are they looking for signs of illicit activity such as smuggling, illegal entry, human trafficking, or impaired operation?

From the Grave

00 Proof(read)

From the Grave

I'm sure nearly ALL of us agree that heroin is a serious and growing problem in this country. How would you feel if the the DEA was allowed to RANDOMLY stop you and go through your car, or come into your home and go through EVERYTHING, looking for heroin? Better safe than sorry? I'm sure they would make a lot arrests that way.


Myth: The government is there to help you.
Fact: The government has police forces to generate revenue to line their own pockets with.

yea right

fact: illeagel search ..


On a given day; one can observe:

A) Municipality "Harbor Patrol" vessels
B) County Sheriff Rescue Vessels (These do serve useful functions)
C) State ODNR Watercraft
D) US Coast Guard (Also serving useful functions)
E) Border Patrol craft (Debatable functions)

That's 5, count 'em; five layers of Law Enforcement policing a diminishing number of recreational vessels on Lake Erie

Whiskey Tango F...

Every time a tax levy appears these are the people crying the hardest for money. SPD and the SFD are closing stations and running in the red, but the boats are still there. Btw these boats only write tickets, boat US actually assists the vessel and owner in an emergency.


Homeland Security has their own high dollar boats too.


pigs on the water..

Whiskey Tango F...

Fact: not everyone is out binge drinking tying to kill others
Fact: you are treated guilty until proven innocent
Fact: smart phones have a voice recorder and if you inform all parties of its presence it is legal and admissible in a court of law.

getit right be4...

In Ohio only one person in a conversation needs to know the conversation is being recorded. That one person can be the one recording.

You do not have to tell the officer you are recording them.



-Fact: A boat operator is likely to become impaired more quickly than an automobile driver, drink-for-drink

Ok, now how is this possible? Is it because the waves shake you like a martini?


Because you are drinking in/on the vehicle?

It is a weird statement.


The Coast Guard is sworn to uphold the US Constitution. They must not have read the 4th Amendment and thus are violating civil rights without reguard to their oath. Boarding becuase you are on a boat is not probable cause.
4th Amendment- The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause


Very true, most people don't know what the Constitution says and what our rights actually are...therefore, they don't know when their rights are being violated.


What is this "Constitution" that you speak of?


it's that piece of paper that obama keeps wiping his obamahole with..

swiss cheese kat

Good one.


The Coast Guard can do ANYTHING they want because they are under Homeland Security and not the military as once before. You fearful and scared little people sold your rights away for a false security. "Those who would give up Essential Liberty
to purchase a little Temporary Safety,
deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Ben Franklin

In the movie Eagle Eye Billy Bob Thornton said it best: “Who do you think's winning? Your Miranda rights or my right to keep you in this room as long as I want to... ."

From the Grave

I am against the latitude that Homeland Security has been given since 9/11, but that hasn't stopped them. So what should I do about it, Ben Franklin?

AJ Oliver

Welcome to the national security state. BTW, state agencies are no longer allowed to stop a boat without probable cause - not so for the feds, yet. I'm gonna call Marcie Kaptur to complain, and urge you to do the same.


I witnessed a ODNR boat in East Sandusky Bay on Saturday PM giving a jet ski operator a sobriety test on the ODNR boat. Of course, just about every jet ski operator could be identified as transmitting probable cause do to the twists and turns they make. Thus giving ODNR great leeway in stopping just about every jet ski operator. I don't know how they justified stopping this operator.


How can boaters be treated any different than a person driving a car? The police set up check points for drivers to check various condition of the driver and car and the boaters shouldn't be treated any differently because they drive a boat instead of a car. Why can't the coast guard have check points also? If you are not doing anyting wrong, you shouldn't have a problem.


Of course, what you fail to understand is the relative percentages involved in getting "checked" by a cop in a car vs. in a boat on the bay/lake. It's probably 150x as likely you'll be pulled over in a boat.

I'd say that is "different", and obnoxious.


Customs & Border Patrol is also doing this to small aircraft owners. If you fly a certain flight path without talking to air traffic control, and filing a flight plan (which is perfectly legal), you may be met by a swat team when you land. Your plane may get searched, and if not handled correctly, rendered unairworthy by over zealous law enforcement officials whom are looking for the next Osama Bin Laden bust. What does Customs and the Coast Guard have in common? Department of Homeland Security.

yea right

check points are illeagle also


If you are going to keep using the word illegal please learn how to spell it. Illeagle is a sick bird.