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Old 08-07-2016, 06:48   #1
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To board or not to board, that is the question

Hey group,
I was moving my Hunter 26.5 from the Houston area to Port Aransas and because of the lack of wind in the Gulf, was motoring down the Inter Coastal Waterway (which is a story in itself)..

Just south of Port O'Connor I spotted a power boat with its flashing blue lights on, and worse yet, it was clearly heading toward me.. Yep, it was the U.S.C.G, and it sure seemed I was going to be boarded for a safety inspection..

I was wearing my C.G. Veterans cap (as I most often do).. When the bosun noticed it as they came along side, he asked if I had servered and what I did.. When I told him I was an Electronics Tech, he just seemed to look down his nose at me and said in a dismissing tone "oh, you were an engineer"..

Well I sure as hell wanted to tell him before I went to ET school, I did nearly a year out in California in the small boats and at the very least, my share of life saving.. And once I was just that "engineer", I was the guy who came down to the boats at 2am just to flip the breaker to the Radio when they couldn't figure out why it didn't work..

"Yes young lad", I felt telling him, "I did a lot more than just hand out tickets to boaters who don't have enough life vests".. But instead, I just bit my tongue and politely smiled..

But then he asked me if I would like to be boarded for an inspection.. This caught me totally off guard.. When I was in the CG some 35+ years ago, we never asked if the boater wanted to be boarded..

I told him I would be honored being it would have been my first, but I was short on time since we wanted to make it to Port Aransas. He then suggested I have a nice day and they left, continuing up the ICW..

My question for the group, is this common these days for the Coast Guard to ask if you want to be boarded, or was I just getting a little "professional courtsey"??

flk k
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Old 08-07-2016, 06:57   #2
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Re: To board or not to board, that is the question

I was boarded about two years ago. They requests politely and similarly
"Would you mind if we boarded your vessel?" I also welcomed them aboard and the inspection went fine. In fact they were surprised when my PFD's were out and accessible.

These were a good bunch of guys and the mood was light. Towards the end of the inspection I asked "So, what if I DID mind if you boarded". They all laughed and said "It doesn't matter, we were boarding anyway, we try to be polite and ask first. If you said no, it just wouldn't have been as friendly".
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Old 08-07-2016, 06:59   #3
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Re: To board or not to board, that is the question

It's courtesy that they ask. They have the right to board and search your vessel without your permission.

It's a right I personally disagree with. I feel that I should enjoy the same rights on my boat that I do as a home owner. If the authorities want to enter my boat and search it, they should need a search warrant.

The fact is however, they don't require a search warrant, which is something as boaters we need to understand and accept. It is what it is.
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Old 08-07-2016, 07:08   #4
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Re: To board or not to board, that is the question

Last time I was intercepted was the night before that Family lost their lives off of Sarasota.
Three or maybe four AM I get the I thought a blue light flash and hail on 16, I answered and we went to 22A. A few questions on where I had been I answered and said Key West ,they asked where before that and I said Dry Tortugas. I think they were thinking I had been to Cuba and were obviously fixing to board, I came back and corrected my last port and told them it was actually the Naval Airstation Boca Chica, not Key West, which meant of course I was either Military or Retired, he came back with who is onboard, I answered My Wife and Daughter. He came back with have a nice night and left.
I feel sure he was going to board until he figured out I was Retired Military and had only My Wife and Daughter onboard.

Course it was very sporty seas, four or five ft with 20 kt plus winds, I didn't think a boarding would be smart or safe and was thinking about how I could best make it safer for them, I figure furling the Genoa and turning almost directly into the winds and waves just making way enough for steerage and have them on the lee side would be safest?

Odd thing I noticed was I had my Radar zone alarm on and he didn't trip it, and as he left I did not pick up his Radar signature, I do not think they are Stealthy or anything, just maybe that 4G Radar isn't as good as I hoped? Sea state was high though, I'm sure that had a whole lot to do with it.


They were also pretty far out in what I thought pretty bad Wx to be in a small boat. I was surprised to see them
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Old 08-07-2016, 07:26   #5
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Re: To board or not to board, that is the question

USCG boarded my boat two years ago on Lake Michigan. I don't recall if they asked.

The did ask me if I had any firearms onboard, and I responded in the affirmative. Handgun in the back pocket of black satchel in the cabin. They removed the gun from the back pocket, and then searched the entire satchel (probably wanted to make sure I didn't have any unauthorized Kleenex in there).

When they left, I got underway, and then went below to check my gun. Not only had they removed the magazine from the gun, they hid the gun and the magazine in two different places. Took me twenty minutes to find them both. I guess they were concerned I was going to launch an attack on them when they departed.

I think it's BS that they can board and search my boat for no reason in Muskegon, Michigan. I doubt very much that sailboats are being used to import contraband into Muskegon.
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Old 08-07-2016, 07:38   #6
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Re: To board or not to board, that is the question

when i was boarded in san diego as a result of a false call to uscg made on everyone in the mooring field by another moooring tenant, they did no task permission. they did not by your leave.
they said we have a report that there is effluent and oil in the water and we were told to check out your boat.
ok so much for nice.
they brought a dog to scare my cat . they had me n cat and my worker who actually charged me for the time wasted by the crew stomping and messing up my boat sitting on my bows for 2 hours in sun with cat. no shade. ... it took em 2 hours for nothing. absolutely nothing.
yep.... not all boardings are pleasant and polite at their initiation. these were on a mission.
the water was crystal clear, yet they were sent for dirty water and... ok.....
funny but mine was prolly the only boat not contributing to the alleged mayhem.
my engine did not work at that time, and i called the pump out boat monthly.
i had the requisite sticker given by aux with inspections, which i had only had 2 weeks prior.
not all boardings are polite.
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Old 08-07-2016, 07:50   #7
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Re: To board or not to board, that is the question

Years ago my Brother was boarded in his 45' Sportfisher by I believe the DEA, I do not think CG, but I was not there.
According to him they would not let him below, were very nasty and completely tore the boat apart, taking every drawer out and dumping contents on floor,and throwing the drawers in the pile, ripping out the mattresses etc.
Then after finding nothing, left, no apology. This was in the 80's where I am sure there were many boats of his type full of drugs in S Fl.

I'm pretty sure they can seize your boat if they so choose, same for your house, your car etc. without evidence. The drug laws are pretty strong.
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Old 08-07-2016, 08:45   #8
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Re: To board or not to board, that is the question

Coast Guard has the legal right to board for any reason.
And if off Florida or SE it usually is looking for drugs.
As mentioned above, be polite. :-)
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Old 08-07-2016, 08:47   #9
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Re: To board or not to board, that is the question

It probably depends a lot on what they are doing and how you respond.


If they suspect something, it's little more than a courtesy. They will do what they want to do.


If they are just fishing, if your response is reasonable, they might take a cursory look but if you get paranoid or otherwise suspicious, expect a detailed search.


Assuming there is no indication or suspicion that you crossed the border, it's totally wrong and against the constitution for them to go fishing but that doesn't help when the courts let them get away with it. If a cop pulled over a car for no reason and asked to go thru the trunk, the courts would toss any evidence they found in a heartbeat but for no good reason the courts don't take the same approach with the CG.
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Old 08-07-2016, 08:57   #10
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Re: To board or not to board, that is the question

I have been boarded numerous times on many boat over the years and have almost always been asked for permission to board. It seems a courteously, and a show of respect for my person and property. One time, I had an obnoxious appearing oaf tell me he was coming aboard for inspection. I politely told him his party was welcome but he was not. He stood down. Knowing you have the right to be treated with courtesy and an expectation that you should returned in kind goes a long way in making a positive interaction. Also, understand that you can not deny them permission as a whole may be true but you may also limit the number or even individuals you deem offensive. You cannot denied the inspection or search but you may be able to refine the parameters. Of course, if you are hiding something or up to no good, all bets are of and I say you deserve what you get.
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Old 08-07-2016, 08:58   #11
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Re: To board or not to board, that is the question

Quote:
Originally Posted by siamese View Post
USCG boarded my boat two years ago on Lake Michigan. I don't recall if they asked.

The did ask me if I had any firearms onboard, and I responded in the affirmative. Handgun in the back pocket of black satchel in the cabin. They removed the gun from the back pocket, and then searched the entire satchel (probably wanted to make sure I didn't have any unauthorized Kleenex in there).

When they left, I got underway, and then went below to check my gun. Not only had they removed the magazine from the gun, they hid the gun and the magazine in two different places. Took me twenty minutes to find them both. I guess they were concerned I was going to launch an attack on them when they departed.

I think it's BS that they can board and search my boat for no reason in Muskegon, Michigan. I doubt very much that sailboats are being used to import contraband into Muskegon.
Its fairly common for law enforcement to drop the magazine and pull back the slide on semi-autos just as a safety precaution before going any further. Basic firearm safety practice even on ranges, in shops, etc. Never heard of them playing cat and mouse though.
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Old 08-07-2016, 09:04   #12
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Re: To board or not to board, that is the question

Quote:
Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
Years ago my Brother was boarded in his 45' Sportfisher by I believe the DEA, I do not think CG, but I was not there.
According to him they would not let him below, were very nasty and completely tore the boat apart, taking every drawer out and dumping contents on floor,and throwing the drawers in the pile, ripping out the mattresses etc.
Then after finding nothing, left, no apology. This was in the 80's where I am sure there were many boats of his type full of drugs in S Fl.

I'm pretty sure they can seize your boat if they so choose, same for your house, your car etc. without evidence. The drug laws are pretty strong.
Don't tug on Superman's cape
Yup, back in the 80s they did have the rap as a bunch of clueless goons except for the sars folks. Most had no previous seagoing experiences. High school buddy became a captain in the CG, was an academy grad. Complained about the quality of recruits and the never ending problems of flack catching for botched boardings, one of which resulted in a little girl loosing her eye sight due to cg personnel throwing things around the boat, one item of which hit her square in the face.
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Old 08-07-2016, 09:06   #13
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Re: To board or not to board, that is the question

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Originally Posted by bruce v View Post
I have been boarded numerous times on many boat over the years and have almost always been asked for permission to board. It seems a courteously, and a show of respect for my person and property. One time, I had an obnoxious appearing oaf tell me he was coming aboard for inspection. I politely told him his party was welcome but he was not. He stood down. Knowing you have the right to be treated with courtesy and an expectation that you should returned in kind goes a long way in making a positive interaction. Also, understand that you can not deny them permission as a whole may be true but you may also limit the number or even individuals you deem offensive. You cannot denied the inspection or search but you may be able to refine the parameters. Of course, if you are hiding something or up to no good, all bets are of and I say you deserve what you get.
This is exactly what the constitution prohibits - searches without cause. They aren't supposed to be able to search without reason until they find something. It's too easy to harass someone until they find something and I bet given enough time and enough searches, they could find something on your boat.

The founding fathers didn't want a police state where everyone is guilty until proven innocent.
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Old 08-07-2016, 09:06   #14
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Re: To board or not to board, that is the question

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Originally Posted by siamese View Post

When they left, I got underway, and then went below to check my gun. Not only had they removed the magazine from the gun, they hid the gun and the magazine in two different places. Took me twenty minutes to find them both. I guess they were concerned I was going to launch an attack on them when they departed.
If this is a surprise to you, then I suggest more gun safety courses. Yes, people carry loaded weapons all the time. However, the why of this action should not be a surprise to you.
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Old 08-07-2016, 09:18   #15
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Re: To board or not to board, that is the question

I was first mate for a year and a half aboard a 55-foot ketch on the east coast in the late 70s. Between Florida and Boston we were boarded by USCG four times. Never asked permission, always polite, no dumping out of drawers or the like. They were apparently looking for bales of weed, not small packages.
Re: justification for right to board, there are some big differences between a house and a boat. Your house is not moving around on the public waterways, potentially causing a hazard to navigation. It is not smuggling drugs, guns, or illegal human cargo, or spilling oil or sewage.
Also, if your house is suspected of involvement in criminal activity, it can be searched ( with a search warrant) any time. This is a common occurrence.
Edit: I just saw some recent posts. Basic firearms safety, indeed! If you pick up a gun you don't know, the FIRST THING YOU DO IS: CLEAR IT!! Then you know it's not loaded. Until you do, you don't know. "I didn't think it was loaded.". How many times has this been said after a fatal incident?
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