Boating, trouble down during festival

Cooler weather and water meant less boaters and less trouble for those patrolling the waterways and community during last week’s Coast Guard Festival.
Becky Vargo
Aug 5, 2014


“It was pretty uneventful,” Michigan Department of Natural Resources Officer Ivan Perez said after the finale weekend.

Perez said state conservation officers helped at Grand Haven State Park, and then jumped into boats to help patrol the fireworks crowd. He said the only thing that stood out was the arrest of an apparently intoxicated driver of a personal watercraft who kept going into the swimming area at the state park.

Between the Coast Guard, DNR and Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department Marine Patrol, Coast Guard Petty Officer Dustin McClelland
of Station Grand Haven said there were only three drunk boating arrests on Saturday.

“We conducted a lot of vessel safety boardings,” he said.

Officers boarded 40 boats over the weekend. McClelland said they see more and more boats showing vessel safety inspection stickers.

“We’ll just check life jackets and send them on their way,” he said.

McClelland said the number of boats on the water this past weekend was definitely lower than normal.

“The last two years I’ve done this, it was warmer and there were a lot more boats,” he noted.

The water temperature this past weekend sometimes dipped into the 40s. Air temperatures in the 60s gradually warmed to the mid and upper 70s as the week progressed. Rain stayed away, allowing every festival event to go on as scheduled.

“Overall, and considering the number of people, it was a very safe festival,” Grand Haven Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke said.

Incidents reported over the weekend in Grand Haven included:

Assault/fight – 11
Disturbance – 10
Alcohol-related/intoxicated/drunken driving – 12
Larceny – 7
Property damage – 2
Crashes – 3
Resist/obstruct a police officer – 1
Trespassing – 1
Miscellaneous arrest – 9
Medical emergency – 5
Lost/found children reunited with caregiver – 4
Lost/found property – 9
General assistance, including lockouts – 9
Parking complaints – 15



Yes the boat traffic was down this year. I have been to coast guard festival every year since I was a kid on my parents boat and for the past twenty plus years on my own boat.
The weather may have played a small role in less tourists on boats. The temp was still in the 70's. I've seen more boats out there when the temps where a lot lower & raining!!!
I travel around Lake Michigan stoping at different port's every year. Grand Haven is a well known port from Chicago to the U.P.
There are huge numbers of Boaters traveling up and down the lakeshore that will NOT stop in Grand Haven. We talk to other couples & families at other ports & the common complaint is the marine patrol in Grand Haven is ridiculous, they stop as many boats as possible. As soon as they pull into port off from the lake. It's called a "safety-check" ( it's bull ) not any other port do boaters see this type of harasment ...
Even in this Tribune story they are saying there are more boater than they have seen in the past with vessel safety inspection stickers. And they where still pulled over and checked. (Including me, but as my inspection
Sticker showed them before hand all of my
Gear was in order) it has gotten so bad that they don't even turn their flashing lights off when they are done with one boat, they just point at the next one coming toward them to stop.
They may have only boarded 40 boats, but they stopped hundreds probably thousands.
A vessel safety inspection is a very thorough
Inspection that has to be done every year for the correct yearly sticker. It is also the biggest sticker on the boat, so it isn't like they don't see them.
This should be a concern for the shops, restaurants & other businesses in downtown.
Summer is tourist time, for a town that wants tourism. Transit boater spend money. A lot of money.
The marine patrol in Grand Haven is very well known and talked about by many boaters all around Lake Michigan.


Well said W.MI.MAN. I couldn't agree with you more. I've boated in the area for the last 25 plus years and have never seen the harassment so bad as it is now. The last 2 years I've been stopped for a "safety check" while going through the channel with my family. I refused to take the boat down to the fireworks this year. Watched from land. Looked out into the channel and told the people I was with that I remember back in the 90's when the channel was packed with boats. This year it looked like only 25% full of what it used to be. And the weather was perfect!


My boat is on Spring Lake.

I travel out to lake Michigan at least 3 times a week.
That means I've spent about 3 hours week going up and down the channels where you will always find Ottawa County and Coast guard doing patrols.

I'd say roughly 40 hours so far this year on water where they patrol.

I have not once been boarded. I get a friendly wave every time.

I do see them pull boaters over all of the time.

Young children who are questionable for life jacket use? Oh they gonna pull you over.

To many people on your boat? Prepare to be boarded.

Operating your boat like a jack ass? That's a paddlin.

I've no problem with them pulling these people over.
I wish there were more of them to snag the jet skiers who fly up and down the channels at full speed.


Good for the Coast Guard! Thats why we have so little problems with the waterways because there are consequences for bad behavior.
If people arent breaking the law, there is no problem.
If I can wait for the sailboats to endlessly tie up the bridge, boaters can take a few minutes to assure the boats are being used correctly.


I have to say congratulations to Whatareyoutalki, to have logged that many hours in the "gauntlet" without being boarded.
I myself haven't been boarded either, but I have been stopped for a "safety check" 5 out of the 11 times I've went into Grand Haven. This year alone. Last year was even worse.
I don't know if your going out in the middle of the week when there is less police presence, or if you driving a charter or some other circumstance or even maybe just lucky.
I do see the marine patrol & coast guard stopping people that are overloaded, small children w/out life jackets & people not following the law.
The problem is they are only a small percentage of the people the "marine-patrol" are stopping.
My boat has had a vessel safety inspection six years in a row. It is not old nor does it stand out from the crowd to catch their attention. They just stop as many as they can when there is a large police presence on the weekends & evenings during the week.

I do believe the coast guard does a fantastic job. They usually pull boats over if they are breaking the law or doing something out of the ordinary. The coast guard is not driving tourism away (thecatsmom). The sheriff dept. marine patrol is the problem . They DO pull people over that are not breaking any laws Which was my point in my earlier comment.
The point the tribune was making was that there were so few problems with boaters this year. Which makes sense since there is only half of the boat traffic from just 15 years ago.... The marine patrol has driven them away.

To the non believers, get ahold of a ship to shore radio and listen to the transit boat chater on the radio in the evening. When they are looking for a place to put in to port for the night or next day.You will hear all of the "transit boaters" ( tourists spending money) the ones that have been around for a few years will make plans to stay in muskegon if they can't make it to saugatuck. Or make plans to stay in saugatuck if they can't make muskegon by nightfall. The ones that have been boating on the lake for years tell new boaters to stay away from Grand Haven. (& holland for that matter).
It is a little late in the year for long boat vacations, but you will still hear them occasionally until Labor Day weekend just before the kids go back to school.


Very true WmiMan, the sheriffs are untrained idiots with spring lake funded decibel meters. This town needs to take a look at South Haven and numerous other ports along the west michigan coast to learn how to treat this valuable resource.


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