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Boat patrols watching water safety problems and registrations


STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAU) -- Some of the many boats on the water this holiday weekend have law enforcement officers fishing for unsafe boaters.

Along with Department of Natural Resources wardens, many county sheriff’s departments operate boat patrols. Portage County Sheriff’s Lieutenant James Pozniak says their boat patrol officers will observe the other watercraft looking for safety issues and registration.  “We’re looking for registrations, and make sure everyone’s registration is up-to-date. We’re looking for life preservers, and the proper amount of life preservers. We’re looking for not-too-many people in the boats and pontoons. Any type of a violation. People going too fast too close to each other. That’s another one, especially on jet skis.”

Pozniak says every boat is supposed to have a sticker or stamp on the stern or rear of the boat, usually near where the motor would mount. That will tell you how many people the boat can legally carry, and also what size motor you can use.  Pozniak says the most common overload situation is too many people on a pontoon boat.

Boat patrol officers are also keeping an eye out for people driving boats while intoxicated and possibly driving erratically while drunk.  “That’s the number one violation we’re looking for. If you’re going to be drinking and driving on a boat, get somebody else. Just like a car, get a sober driver to drive your boat.”

Pozniak says there are some minor differences between driving drunk in a boat versus driving your car. He says the fines are just as expensive, but an operating a boat while intoxicated conviction won’t affect your ability to drive a vehicle on the highways.  “We can use their driver’s license for identification purposes, but we cannot take their driver’s license for driving a boat while intoxicated.”

Pozniak says that first time back on the water in a boat is similar to driving your car in that first snowstorm. You need to slow down, get used to how it handles, and be aware of your surroundings.