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Old 18-04-2009, 17:15   #1
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What the !#@% Boarded by Sheriff AND USCG

Today's sail left some to be desired.
We left the marina today at around 1030LST and immediately got boarded by the county Sheriff. They initially said the registration showed up as only current of 2004, i'm really not sure where that came from.They then proceeded to reprimand me for not having enough life jackets (only 4 for 5 people), understandable. Though they told me it was required to have a boat saftey license or something, even though my boat only has 7.5HP
We went back to the dock and borrowed a life jacket, then proceed to exit the marina and continue on our day when about 45 minutes later the Coast guard stopped us. This time they were not joking around, they inspected EVERYTHING, they found nothing except an expired flare gun, in which they fined me!!
It was my understanding that this equipment was not required when within 3 miles of the coast....
I think they were just upset because we are younger and my crew was slightly inebriated. It is just very upsetting to be pushed around and hasseled by two government agencies, within an hour.
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Old 18-04-2009, 17:30   #2
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The sheriff probably called the Coast Guard to harrass you.
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Old 18-04-2009, 17:42   #3
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We have had the authorities along side on 5 occasions in our 6 months here in Australia.....

It just makes me, just slightly, feel like a criminal.

For the first time in my life I am looking out as the Police etc in some sort of dread... a feeling I have only hoped crooks would have.

Its nice to see the USA and Aus are similar.....................


I even made my first smart ass response to a question the other day to a Fisherys inspector: "Do you have any fish products on board?" "Yes! Tuna! <pause> <pause> <pause> Canned"


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Old 18-04-2009, 18:04   #4
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So you've learned the rules of probably cause that apply to roadways do not apply to the water. It doesn't seem fair to me, but that's the way it is.

I believe you are wrong on the flare issue. I think it's if you are on a lake or bay of the ocean with a width of more than 2 miles. That's just my off hand recollection. Check the federal regulations. Better yet, just update your flares.

Inebriated people never helps when dealing with any law enforcement.

I understand your frustration, but consider it a lesson learned - Expect to be boarded anytime and make sure all your gear is up to regs. You might also consider a voluntary coast guard inspection and sticker.
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Old 18-04-2009, 18:46   #5
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I sometimes wonder how much tax money is being spent on a per boater basis. Is it $500 per person per year on the water? Is is more like $2000 or is it closer to say $5000 per person per year on the water?

Another question to ask is how many terrorists has that money stopped? How many honest people are there per terrorist out on the water? What are the true odds of catching a terrorist out of the thousands of honest boaters out there? Has a terrorist out on his yacht ever been captured?

I'm not trying to stir the pot, these are just some of the thoughts I have when I see people being boarded. I think its normal to question the cost effectiveness of it all especially in times when state and federal budgets are so tight.
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Old 18-04-2009, 19:34   #6
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Originally Posted by David M View Post
I sometimes wonder how much tax money is being spent on a per boater basis. Is it $500 per person per year on the water? Is is more like $2000 or is it closer to say $5000 per person per year on the water?

Another question to ask is how many terrorists has that money stopped? How many honest people are there per terrorist out on the water? What are the true odds of catching a terrorist out of the thousands of honest boaters out there? Has a terrorist out on his yacht ever been captured?

I'm not trying to stir the pot, these are just some of the thoughts I have when I see people being boarded. I think its normal to question the cost effectiveness of it all especially in times when state and federal budgets are so tight.

David, I think these are really good points. When I read of some of the really harrowing efforts the coast guard makes to rescue people in extreme conditions, I feel it's money well spent. However, this is only a small fraction of their time for the money we as taxpayers spend. I've seen may informed documentaries regarding the war on drugs and how all our money patrolling waters accomplishes is to push up drug costs and increase related crime. It appears to have done little to decrease illegal drug use.

Yachts and even containers regularly enter the country with no screening, not to mention the relatively open borders with Mexico and Canada. A few years ago, I listened intently to my VHF as a number of private boats circled a sinking yacht as it sank only a couple miles from a local coast guard station in Florida. The coast guard would not come out because there seemed to be no increased potential for loss of life if they did not. It seemed those who were not paid or trained to aid were able to deal with the situation so why apply the expertise of those paid by us act? Part of me understand this, but part of me has to ask: How can you not come to the aid of a sinking yacht only minutes away, yet still have the resources to randomly board vessels and site people for minor violations? A short time later, not far away the coast guard had the resources to escort me (and every other boat) for several miles down the ICW with a gun ship near Fort Lauderdale shouting at me the whole time to stay visible in the cockpit, keep my hands in plain sight, maintain maximum speed and not move out of the channel.

Many of the men and women who patrol our waters put up with a lot of crap and potential risk for not much pay. They do what they are hired to do. I respect they do their jobs, but I sometimes wonder if we as tax payers and their ultimate employers should rewrite their job descriptions.
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Old 18-04-2009, 19:39   #7
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I think David M has a good point. I am a totally honest guy, completely complaint with both sets of officials. Why spend all that time and money on me, for what? Obviously the Sheriff notified the Coast Guard, but WHY?? we were down a life jacket, and i realize thats a sufficient concern, which we quickly remedied. But why did the coast guard have to go through EVERYTHING (nav lights, head plumbing, throwable, if I had been drinking, noise device, all flares, some odd bidlge pump check, drugs, and temporarily took my sailing knives(weapon)...). All told there were 4 Sheriff's and Eight coast guards addivley spending ~1.75hrs with me... that must have cost the state a pretty penny.
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Old 18-04-2009, 20:28   #8
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In the harbors of Lake Michigan it is normal to have two sheriff boats doing "safety inspections" every weekend of the summer. What they are really doing is checking for drunk boaters. Like everyone of this forum, I don't condone drinking and boating, but if they sat across the road from a bar and did the same they would garner far greater results. I'm suprised there is funding for this type of patrol but their out every year.
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Old 18-04-2009, 20:39   #9
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I sailed all the way around the world without having anyone come on board for any type of safety inspection. We did just fine without anyone inspecting and telling us what we needed to be safe.

I think most safety inspections are in excuse to come on board to size you up. If they don't like your attitude, they will find an infraction that they can use to punish you. If you look like there possibly could be drugs onboard, they can start their search. They are doing profiling big time.

Being polite and cooperative goes a long way when they size you up.

The terrorists won. The drug dealers won. We are paying the price.
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Old 18-04-2009, 21:25   #10
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Salmon Hatchery
Not sure where you are at so state regs may vey. Are ou on a lake or the ocean? Is it a saia boat with 7.5 outboard? You should have enough life jakets for everyone aboard. Havng only four aboard seem a little under prepaired to me. Yhis is a no brainer. I have 13 plus life jackets onboard and we sail with on 6-8 people
After stae marine police left why didn't you ensure you met all applicable laws? No so sure state marine police called Cg maybe CG was listening to radio coms.
I think we need to meet the regs and ensure we are safe. Regs are min that you need once again I do not know where you are at but here is you are 2 miles offshore you are in the middle of the ocean and need to be self sufficient.
Drinking and boat do not mix well.
IF the CG boars they are going to go thru evething. Exipe flare never get a pass. REmember who is going to come save your rear wnd if you need help.
Having been boarded manu times find if I cooperate and have every thing reda an am polite an professional that they are also. I even offer then non alocholic everages.
Just my two cents.

MarkJ
If yuo know you are compliant with all laws and reg why do you fear the enforcers of the laws.
I spent a little extra time prior to my CG aux safety check setting up a locking system for my overboard vlves so I met the reg 100%. Are you US flagged in Aus and doews this make a difference?
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Old 18-04-2009, 21:35   #11
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I was in the San Juan's, Washington State. I also realize, and acknowledge that only 4 life jackets was not enough. But I was frustrated with the barggement and emasculation the officials put on me, it was overwhelming and uncalled for. I asked the boarding USCG if the Sheriff had notified them and they got very hostile, saying it is their duty to make sure I don't hurt my crew. Which is bull, b/c 15 min. after i left the marina I noticed the orange USGC boat about 5NM(estimated from charts) which then they made a b-line to my vessel, bypassing all other boats, then they claim randomness.
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Old 18-04-2009, 22:13   #12
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Hey Salmon,

I feel your frustration. Anyone who has boated regularly in the Strait of Juan De Fuca both prior to, and since, 9/11 knows for FACT that Law enforcement has gone WAY OVER the top in this area. From 1990 - 2001, 1 boarding total. From 2003 - 2007? Six boardings total (And that's with being only a part-time resident since 2003.) In 2007, I decided upon a tactic that's proven MOST effective. I've made myself abundantly known to the local CG station near Coleman docks, and to the Marine Police station at Gasworks. If it's convenient, I buy some doughnuts and bring with. I then proceed to tell the same repetitive story over and over and over again - about how I really wanted to join the CG, but was disqualified because of a bad back. The story is complete bullocks, but it serves a very express purpose. I volunteer that if they ever come upon me on the water, that they can feel free to instigate a boarding if "Training" purposes require - and I'll be MOST HELPFUL. I then proceed to talk their ear off as much as humanly possible - providing annoyance to no end. You know the type - that overly "Helpful" guy that just wishes he could be part of the team? Now they look out for me. If they spot me, or my car coming - blinds get drawn and everyone makes busy like. On the water, I've seen CG RIB's approach and then suddenly veer away. LOL... Since I've instigated my "Mr Friendly" policy - I've not been boarded since 2007. It's been a VERY effective strategy. LOL
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Old 19-04-2009, 05:28   #13
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Firstly I think Gudgeon you should look into a spell check, and as to where you are should make no difference, if after the police, saw that you went back to shore and got another life jacket, should have been sign enough that you were trying to do the right thing. Here in Canada when one is boarded they are very good about it and when done if things aren't quite right they hand out a list to you of what they were expecting to find on your boat. As well now in Canada as of this coming September everyone must have an operator's license, one more step to make everyone aware and safe.
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Old 19-04-2009, 06:28   #14
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I was approached by the Coast Guard for a safety check boarding while I was getting ready for a regatta. I was about 1/2 mile from the start, with the starting sequence about 30 minutes away. I begged the CG to give me a break, I'd be glad to have them board me after the race. They were nice about it, and let me race. Good thing they didn't come back to board us after the race, since some of me crew may have had an ienbriation issue at that point :-)
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Old 19-04-2009, 07:20   #15
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The cops were wrong about the license. It applies to boats with 15 HP or greater. On the other hand, the test is online, takes about 30 minutes to review and take, and costs $10.

Who is required to have a boating safety license:
RCW 79A.60.640: Requirements to operate motor driven boats/vessels — Exemptions — Penalty.


As far as visual distress signals, I don't believe that you can construe that the opening to Bellingham bay is less than 2 miles wide, and you were probably going to go out of the bay anyway, so you were required to have vds. While I believe that you should have flares and should keep them up to date, you could get the orange flag (meets day requirements only) to keep from getting fined when you forgot to do your seasonal boat safety check.

Visual Distress signal requirements:
Visual Distress Signals

While maybe not fair, are you honestly surprised that you got red flagged by the safety people to be hassled with a drunk crew and not even paying enough attention to make sure there were enough life jackets on board? A database or typing error got you the first visit, your own actions most likely provided the followup.

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