Marine Patrol ready for new boating season, regulations

By: Sherri Kolade | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published May 30, 2013

 Keego Harbor Marine Patrol Officer Jim Cote drives the police boat on Cass Lake in 2011. Keego Harbor police have started patrolling the waters this summer for illegal activity.

Keego Harbor Marine Patrol Officer Jim Cote drives the police boat on Cass Lake in 2011. Keego Harbor police have started patrolling the waters this summer for illegal activity.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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KEEGO HARBOR — Boating season is in full swing, and those who enjoy lake-based activities should be mindful of new and proposed regulations in place, and the watchful eyes of the law.

“We are out there every weekend,” Keego Harbor Marine Patrol Officer Jim Cote told C & G. “We are the only guys on the lake. This year, we are just preparing for a normal boating season.”

From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, the Marine Patrol primarily surveys Cass Lake and Sylvan Lake — including three canals on Sylvan Lake and lakefront homes — several times a week.

Cote, a 10-year marine officer, said marine enforcement is mainly about one thing: the safe operation of a watercraft.

“People need to be aware of their surroundings,” Cote said, “how to properly anchor their boats if they are going to go swimming. … Everyone on board should be familiar with the operation of the boat, where the safety equipment is located.”

Cote said he suggests that boaters throw an anchor out while swimming to prevent potential drowning incidents.

“In a 15-mph wind on a pontoon boat, if you jump off, the wind can literally blow that boat away faster than you can swim, and that creates a drowning situation,” he said.

Police Chief Kenneth Hurst told C & G that their sandbar is like a “Jobbie Nooner” every weekend — and this year may prove to be no different.

“I’m just hoping it is a nice, peaceful season,” Hurst said, “but we are preparing for the worst.

“Warm weather brings out the best and worst in people.”

Cote said last year’s boating season was relatively quiet.

“We didn’t have any incidents,” he said. “We had a couple minor medical issues out there.”

Because the boating season just began, Cote cites the water level as a primary issue for the lakes.

“It is high now, but we are still below average for normal water levels, and that always complicates as far as maneuverability for the patrol boats, and creates problems for all the boaters.”

Cote said that for this season, new rules may soon be in place for boaters.

He said new boating regulations in effect focus on boaters born on or after July 1, 1996, who are required to have a boater’s safety certificate, regardless of the watercraft.

“Powerboats, ski boats, any type of watercraft,” Cote said.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Division 18 teaches the Michigan Department of Natural Resources-approved basic boating safety course. Individuals at least 14 years old may operate a personal watercraft legally if they have obtained a boating safety certificate, but must be accompanied by someone at least 21 years old.

The Michigan Boating Safety Certificate, also known as the Michigan Boating License, is a one-time mandatory, online boat safety education course.

“If you fail to obtain a certificate, you could potentially face 93 days in jail or a $500 fine,” Cote said.

Boaters could also see tighter restrictions when it comes to how many drinks they are allowed, according to pending legislation that may drop the 0.10 blood-alcohol content level to 0.08 — a law already in effect on the roads.

Cote said the proposed legal blood-alcohol content level change is the difference of a “drink or two.”

“A boat is not like a car,” he said. “If you are injured in a boat and you fall in the water, you drown. So there is very little room for error when it comes to the water. You have to respect the water. You have to fear it to stay alive on it.”

For more information, go to www.boaterexam.com.

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