Coast Guard bias?

Steve of Spring Lake asked, "While sitting along the channel over the Labor Day weekend, I noticed the small Coast Guard boat pulling over boat after boat. In the few hours I sat there, dozens of boats were being stopped, but never once was a large boat stopped, only small ones. Why does the Coast Guard stop only small boaters?"
Mark Brooky
Sep 9, 2013


Cmdr. Sean Brady, commander officer of Coast Guard Sector Field Office Grand Haven, said that's a typical question. And while it may look like what Steve observed, the Coast Guard takes measures to ensure that doesn't happen in the long run.

"The bottom line is that we board a representative number of all size vessels over the course of the year," Brady said. "Any vessel of any size is subject to be boarded. Normally, smaller vessels (under 26 feet) will account for a greater number of boardings in any one day simply because they represent 95 percent of the (boating) population (according to the 2012 Recreational Boating Statistics)."

Brady said the Coast Guard tracks statistics very closely to so that they reach a representative population of boaters and ensure that there is no bias over the long term. 

"The boardings that Steve notes in his letter are random recreational boating safety boardings — or 'preventative search and rescue,' as we call it," Brady explained. "Unless there is a visible violation, the boat crews are not targeting anyone. Often times, the percentage of larger boats being boarded is deceiving because our boat crews will not tie off and ride alongside a larger boat as we do with smaller vessels."

When the Coast Guard is conducting safety boardings on larger recreational vessels, the coxswain will follow the boat being inspected until the exam is complete. Brady said they even have special booties to wear over their boots when going aboard larger vessels.

If you have reason to believe that a boat is being operated unsafely, Brady said you should notify the Coast Guard immediately. Coast Guard Station Grand Haven can be reached on Marine Band VHF channel 16, or by phone at 616-850-2552.

Do you have a question for the Tribune? E-mail it to, and type MAILBAG in the subject line. Or mail it the old-fashioned way to: Grand Haven Tribune, MAILBAG, 101 N. Third St., Grand Haven, MI 49417. We'll do our best to get you an answer! A new Mailbag appears on three times a week: at 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.



The Coast Guard claims that it is a "safety search" however they are randomly pulling over anyone they can weekend after weekend, we have been watching this happen for the last three years and it is driving ALOT of boaters out of Grand Haven because neither Muskegon or Holland takes this approach at keeping people safe on the water. The GH Coast Guard is nothing but a floating tax collector. Why are the charter boats not targeted at 5am every single weekend when they are unsafely doing 15-20mph down the channel in a no-wake zone destroying our boats that are tied to the seawall for the night? Simple because they bring income into the City. Why should these charter boats be above the law????


I agree.

Tri-cities realist

Charter boats doing 15-20 mph down the channel... A bit of an exaggeration?


Hey justme maybe you should go and pay to dock your boat every weekend like the 95% of the other boaters in the area .If you are too cheap to do so then stay "tied to the wall" and stop complaining


A lot of the larger vessels above 26' are moored at various marinas. The USCG Auxiliary regularly conducts Vessel Safety Checks, expecially in the first half of the summer. If you look, you'll see a triangular shaped decal affixed to the port side window on these vessels indicating they had a VSC. Many of the smaller vessels are stored out of the water and use boat ramps or in/out service. These boats usually don't get safety checks unless they're underway as they're not accessable like the many larger vessels moored in marinas. I've had my 16' boat stopped twice in the past two years by the Coast Guard and checked out. It's nice knowing someone's looking out for me.


We have a large boat and we've been boarded by the USCG many times. This year as a matter of fact, when we took her out in April before we received our Safety Sticker, we were on Lake Michigan at the time. We've been boarded as we enter the channel in Sturgeon Bay after crossing the lake as well.

We laugh each time we get pulled over. The guys are so nice and we like it when they look in the engine compartment, they are impressed! Spotless!
We also have a small center console, that's boarded each year for a safety check. I'm good with that. Since we are boater's and travel extensively on the Great Lakes, I want to make sure our family is safe.

Water Ways

I'd like to see the Coast Guard do some stops somewhere other than right in front of the base, on the same people they inspect every weekend. I don't know if anyone ever gets a speeding ticket around here, and I don't know where the money goes after that, but I do know that the sheriff is the only one I've ever seen doing anything outside of down town. How about the Coast Guard gets off thier butt, and check out some boats that don't pass directly under thier nose, every weekend, all summer long... like down in Pigeon Lake wher that accident just happenned. Stop picking on the same people every weekend, and go explore the space. If Grand Haven wanted to harass locals, they would get their own police boat.


These stops are an issue with every boater I talk to. It is a reason they chose to avoid Grand Haven and go elsewhere this summer!


THe marine sheriff patrol is the same way. I think they are scared of the big boats. I don't if its because they're rich or what, but they pretty much get a free pass.

Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on Create a new account today to get started.