Drunk boating crackdown

The Coast Guard continues its efforts to enforce boating-under-the-influence laws: More than 50 BUI citations issued so far in this year.
Tribune Staff
Jul 5, 2013


Alcohol continues to be a leading contributing factor in recreational boating accidents, injuries and deaths. According to the Coast Guard's Recreational Boating Statistics 2012 report, the most current validated statistics available, alcohol use was determined to be the leading factor in nearly 17 percent of the recreational boating deaths in 2012.

"Keeping the waterways safe for everyone is a top Coast Guard priority, which is why we enforce boating under the influence laws so rigorously," said Rear. Adm. Fred Midgette, commander of the Coast Guard 9th District. "BUI puts everyone on the water in danger, not just the person who is irresponsibly drinking."

"Not only is boating under the influence just as illegal as driving under the influence, it's just as dangerous," said Cmdr. David Beck, chief of the Coast Guard 9th District Enforcement Branch. "The environmental influences of the sun, vibration, waves and dehydration can magnify the effects of consuming alcohol on the water. If you plan to consume alcohol, plan ahead and have a sober operator return you home safely."

Through July 4th      BUI citations
2012   44
2011   32
2010   34

BUI laws are enforced at the state and federal level. Penalties for BUI conviction by the state are governed by the applicable state BUI laws.

Federal law 46 USC 2302(c)  states that an individual who operates a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is in violation of the law. A class A misdemeanor subjects a violator to confinement of less than one year and no less than six months.

The Coast Guard on the Great Lakes typically enforces 46 USC 2302(c) through a civil penalty and criminal misdemeanor ticket program. The civil penalty program is an administrative enforcement option, whereas the criminal misdemeanor ticket program involves appearing and answering in federal district court.

Consequences of BUI conviction vary based on the enforcing jurisdiction, enforcement option exercised, and specific facts of each case. Civil penalties can be as high as $5,000, and a federal ticket may result in a Class A misdemeaner. Collateral consequences of BUI conviction could include increased insurance premiums, and for licensed mariners, revocation and/or suspension of merchant mariner credentials.

A boat operator with a blood-alcohol content above the legal limit (0.1 percent in Michigan waters) runs a significantly increased risk of being involved in a boating accident. Boaters operating under the influence are not the only ones at grave risk they also endanger all waterway users — passengers who are under the influence can drown while swimming from anchored or adrift vessels.



No one wants drunk boaters but the Coast Guard in Grand Haven has an over zealous approach that is driving away boaters. The joke among the boating community is "don't smile when you drive through the channel or you'll be pulled over." Hey Coasties, put the focus on safety; go after obvious offenders but lay off families who don't deserve to be pulled over for no reason. Our community is in danger of becoming a place to avoid for boaters.


Already is. No reasonable suspicion is needed..they just stop you and interupt a pleasant day on the water.


They have a right to check you PFD to passenger ratio. If you have open containers, that isn't the Coast Guard's or Sheriff's fault.


Even after slip issued that boat is compliant...this starts turning into harrassment. Never have once been sighted but have to put up with this.


Hmmm... Smile and even wave to them when I see them.... Have never once had a problem!


I'm not waving anymore...I think they think I'm waving them over!!!


Maybe you think your wave looks like;
"Hey. How are you? Thanks for helping protect our waters!"
When it actually looks like;
"Heeeey, Heeey, Heeey!!! HoW ArE YoU!?!?! Think one of you could help protect my waters?!?! OH I'm Nasty!!!!"

They might just be trying to get your digits.
Just saying. :)


Hey Highlander,

You're right, they have a right to pull us over. It's perfectly legal. But legal doesn't mean it's the correct thing to do. And an adult enjoying a beer should not be a reason to pull over a boat.

Again, they should focus on the obvious offenders. In particular, they should look for the Coast Guard inspection stickers. A couple weeks ago my friend was pulled over and he had a sticker - meaning he passed an inspection. When he asked why he was being pulled over and reminded the officers that he had a sticker, the reply was, "We can pull you over anytime we want to."


"We can pull you over anytime we want to."

Any officer at any level stating that is just drunk on power and is only proving why they need to stand down just a touch.

That being said, I have never had a problem with the Coasties. Now, the Ottawa County Sheriff is another subject. Besides the old guy (with all due respect) they are poorly trained and not very knowledgeable on the laws on the water.


Wow, There certainly is a lot of police haters on here isn't there? Both the Coast Guard and OCS deputies to a great job keeping our waters safe. If they did not enforce the laws on water we would have more boating accidents with more injuries and deaths which is not good either. As far as the training the deputies receive they are for the most part reserve officers, however I know for a fact they have to go through courses on boating laws before they patrol each year.


I agree waterfan. Anyone out there to enforce the laws needs to remember they are out there to do a job, not go around flexing to make themselves feel superior. That's an unacceptable response when asked a reasonable question.


this sounds like profiling to me. Illegal on land, but legal on water? oinkers need a reason to pull you over on land. Laws are different on water?


Actually the laws are different on the water. As dumb as that may be.

I still find it amazing to think that a branch of the armed forces spends as much energy as they do harassing recreational boaters. Next time budget cuts arise, they should start with the Coast Guard.


Oinkers? Really? That one part of your comment takes away from what is otherwise a very good point.


I don't have a problem with the crackdown on the drunk boaters - but, it does serve the general opinion that the city of Grand Haven HATES boaters. It doesn't matter that it is the CG or the OC sheriff or the GH police - boater harassment in one way or another is what seems to be the norm. Ask ANYONE who stopped boating in GH why they did so.


Bingo Waterfan! That's exactly what many feel about boating in our grand waters. I believe they (law enforcement)don't care either as its a way to thin the herd down!

I have watched as they target certain type of watercraft not because of behavior but because of type of boat. If profiling is done like that on the street people would be in an uproar. I put up with it but doesn't mean it is right.


Good comment Waterfan.

I have many boater friends who will not come to Grand Haven anymore. Is that really what the city wants?

Imagine if the Army or the Marines patrolled the streets and started pulling people over randomly for 'safety' checks? I think we'd see a revolution. Yet it's deemed perfectly acceptable on the water.

Again, I'm not endorsing drunk boating - it's dumb, it's wrong, and it's illegal. But let's not punish everyone for the foolish acts of a few.

Grand Haven is developing a bad reputation as an anti-boating community and I don't think that's what our city leaders want. I encourage all concerned citizens to let your government leaders know about this issue.


Soupy, Your comment on the army or marines patrolling the streets is ridiculous. They cannot do that due to the posse comitatus act. The U.S. Coast Guard actually is part of Department of Homeland Security not DOD which is why they are allowed to enforce maritime laws.


Point taken twpresident. I admittedly have never heard of the posse comitatus act.

I think most readers on this string understand what I was trying to say and I think you understand it too. My point is that, despite the differences between the DOD and Dept of Homeland Security (which you've so kindly pointed out) the Coast Guard is overzealous in their approach. Just because the CAN do it, doesn't mean they should.

Think of my army/marines comment more metaphorically - I didn't mean it to be literal.

$100 says you're not a boater.


The point being made by all of the "Police Hater", as you put it, is that no American want the heavy hand of the federal gov't messing around in their daily lives. The fact that the Posse Comitatus Act even exists is reflective of that. The federal gov't should be restricted to only enforcing laws where the state or local govts are unable. In the case of the CG, I appreciate what they do and feel safer with them around from a rescue and security stand point. Enforcing DWI laws seems outside of the Homeland Security Mission.
With regard to other agencies, it does seem like we have way too many police without enough to do. (this goes for the roads as well). If looking for PFD's was the main objective, they could do 75% of that from the boat launch and cover more boats before they even hit the water. Stopping boaters on the water is just a justification for them being on the water.




The only time I have ever been pulled over was by the Sheriff for a malfunctioning rear white light. Tapped it with my finger and it came on, they left. To top that off the boat is a documented "race" sailboat that shows no MI registration numbers. So you would think it would be a target. Never been touched other than that time.
From what I see on the water, a nice example was last summer as I was biking from Ferrysburg to GH, under the US-31 drawbridge. A ski boat with at least ten people in it, going at maximum wake speed from Spring Lake around and under the drawbridge, then cut over and tried to go under the side span of the RR Swing Bridge! Well, they lost their nice overhead rack with the nifty speakers! Almost pushed the back end of the boat under water when it hit.
As far as "boaters" not coming to Grand Haven any more? Doesn't seem to be an issue when you read the comments in the article about the PWC that rammed the back of another power boat and sank it. It would seem the impression is that there are way too many boats and those sailboats think they own the whole lake!
This really is a matter of the Coast Guard and other law enforcement folks trying to save people from themselves.
With the lack of skill, knowledge, & common sense, combined with the show off factor on the water, where there are no lines to tell you where to go, it is surprising that it is not mass carnage out there. The comments mentioned above would reinforce this issue as he thought the sailboats think they own the lake, well, they do have the right of way when running under sail. But, maybe he didn't know that!
I guess I would rather put up with a bit of "harrasment" then have to be informed my loved ones will not be coming home and they are dragging the lake looking for them.
Who do you call when you get in trouble? Oh, gee, I ran out of gas! Will you come get me?
Who comes out to get you regardless of the conditions?
You should be thanking them for their service and aid not calling them "oinkers"!


I agree taht the "Oinkers" comment was stupid. But I think you are providing additional evidence that people will always do stupid stuff on the water. Whether it's those SeaDoo kids hitting a boat or that idiot who lost his son trying to canoe to North Manitou island last week. Many people don't get it that they are not in a parking lot. The beef that many of us have is with the random stops. "Go chase the overloaded boats and speeder, but leave the folks who are posing no apparent danger to anyone alone."
...And BTW; THe Sailors do own the lake, the rest of you are just borrowing it until the fossil fuels run out.


Agree the Oinkers comment was innapropriate and I don't condone that kind of name calling.

Thanking the CG for their service and accepting unncessary harrassment are really two different things. I absolutely do appreciate what they do to protect our waterways and save lives. My point is that what they do in Grand Haven goes far beyond that.

I also agree with you about the boating idiots. THOSE are the people who should be stopped - not law abiding boaters who are showing absolutely no signs of misbehavior.

And for the record, the CG won't come get you if you run out of gas. Nope. They'll refer you to TowBoat US.


Yes, I do agree, why are the search laws different on water than on land.
Does anyone know the legal reference that establishes this?
Ah yes, I fogot about the TowBoat US thing, if its not an emergency, call the tow truck!


I cannot believe you drunk boaters cannot find one friend that does not have to drink to have fun. Let them drive.


I'm not sure who the drunk boaters are that you refer to but I agree completely with you that if the boat's driver becomes intoxicated, he or she absolutely needs to find a designated driver. Or leave the boat where it is.


The point we are trying to make is not about drunken boating, which I agree should not be tolerated. It is about the over zealous approach that is harrassing sometimes when you are out for a fun day in the sun doing nothing wrong but idling along.

Put it this way, should all bicycle riders be stopped to insure they are following safe riding technique or procedure? Should people that walk their dogs be stopped and checked for licenses, vaccines. ..

We are just looking for some common sense to their approach. I'm glad they are out there doing their job but a balance is needed.


Very well said Wingmaster.


The interesting part that I notice is that the "safety checks" are limited to boats under 25 feet. When is the last time you've seen a larger boat pulled over?



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