On May 22, the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division congratulated local seventh graders who recently completed the Michigan boater safety course and received 100% on their boating safety exam. The students were given rides on patrol boats.

On May 22, the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division congratulated local seventh graders who recently completed the Michigan boater safety course and received 100% on their boating safety exam. The students were given rides on patrol boats.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Sheriff’s Office launches boating season with safety in mind

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published May 30, 2019

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HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Memorial Day weekend kicked off the unofficial start of summer in Michigan, which means it’s the start of the busy boating season on Lake St. Clair.

Coinciding with that was National Safe Boating Week, recognized May 19-25, which served as a reminder of how to stay safe on the water all summer long.

On May 22, at the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division on South River Road in Harrison Township, Sheriff Anthony Wickersham and his marine officers congratulated local seventh graders who recently completed the Michigan boater safety course and received 100% on their boating safety exam. The students, from various Macomb County schools, were also given tours of the Marine Division boathouse and rides on patrol boats.

“If we can educate our boaters, they’re more likely to be safe on the water,” Wickersham said. “We want educated boaters out there.”

Lake St. Clair is considered one of the busiest freshwater lakes in the country.

The Marine Division is staffed by four full-time personnel year-round, and four additional deputies during the summer. There are 74 reserve marine safety officers who volunteer their time year-round.

During the winter, when patrols are lessened, the Marine Division teaches boater safety curriculum in local school districts and parks and recreation programs across the county. During the 2018-19 school year, the Marine Division instructed approximately 5,500 students on boater safety.

Michigan law requires a boater safety certificate to operate a boat for anyone born on or after July 1, 1996, and for anyone born after Dec. 31, 1978, to operate a personal watercraft.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 76% of boating deaths in 2017 were due to drowning, 84.5% of these victims were not wearing a life jacket, and two-thirds of the victims were good swimmers.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Renee Yax said another safety aspect to keep in mind this summer has to do with the high lake levels.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ latest report released on May 24, Lake St. Clair is up 7 inches from the average level for the month, and up 2 inches from the highest level recorded for May, which was in 1986.

Those high lake levels pose new hazards for boaters, Yax said.

“We’re really pushing going slow in no wake zones,” she said. “Seawalls are submerged or damaged (resulting in a less visible shoreline) right now, and a lot of docks are submerged. These are hidden obstacles in the water that could easily cause a serious accident.”

Before venturing out onto the water, the Marine Patrol and Water Rescue Unit suggests running through a pre-launch safety checklist:

• Carry a personal flotation device for everyone on board and a throwable flotation device. Children ages 6 and younger must wear a Type I or Type II flotation device.
• Carry a sound-producing device — such as a horn, a bell or a whistle — a fire extinguisher and a certificate of registration.
• Check the capacity plate and the navigation and running lights.
• Check the engine compartment for fuel, oil or water leaks.
• Check the bilge pump, the steering system and the blower motor/ventilation.
• Review the float plan and have emergency equipment on hand.

For more information on life jackets or to complete an online boater safety course, visit boat-ed.com.

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