Boat police aim to keep waters safe

Published online: Jun 30, 2010 News LISA BEISEL -
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During the hot and humid evening Saturday, Cpl. Aaron Parker and Sgt. Randy Charron of the Maryland Natural Resources Police had one simple goal: keep the waters of the Magothy River and its creeks safe.

Along with other Natural Resources Police and the Coast Guard, they were on the lookout for boaters who'd been drinking - as part of Operation Dry Water, a nationally coordinated program.

Drinking and boating is a big problem. In eight out of the 16 boating fatalities in Maryland last year, alcohol was a contributing factor, said Sgt. Art Windemuth, a Natural Resources Police spokesman.

The body is more sensitive to alcohol while on the water because it's dealing with other factors, like wind, motion and sun exposure.

"These are all stressing your body, and they're causing fatigue over time," Windemuth said.

Prior to the Fourth of July holiday, Natural Resources Police wanted to put boaters on notice that drinking is something they take very seriously.

"Our aim is to prevent accidents before they happen," he said.

Patrols contacted 2,507 boaters across the bay between Friday and Sunday, making eight drunken boating arrests and issuing 134 citations.

It's possible the word was already out before the weekend. During a two-hour ride with Charron and Parker Saturday aboard their Boston Whaler, they found no one they suspected to be under the influence.

Checking in with boaters on routine stops is a good way to make sure they're being safe, the officers said. On a busy weekend, they might make contact with 50 boaters in a single shift. On a calm one, they may stop none.

In one stop, Parker and Charron spotted a pontoon boat with two teenagers sitting on the front with their feet dangling.

"If they fall, they're going right over the top," he said.

As soon as the stop was made, the skipper made a confession - he was one life jacket short, a violation of the law requiring one personal flotation device per person.

Parker gave him a citation and warned the group for allowing the kids to dangle their feet.

Natural Resources Police will be out in full force this weekend, a popular one for recreational boating and taking in fireworks from the boats. Everyone works on the Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends because of the high boat traffic, Parker explained, an effort "just to try to keep it safe for the weekend."


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