GARDINER, Maine — The Maine Marine Patrol, the Maine Warden Service, and the U.S. Coast Guard are joining forces this weekend to raise awareness on a national campaign called, “Operation Dry Water.”
The focus of the campaign is to get boaters who are operating while under the influence off Maine’s rivers, lakes, streams and coastal waters.
According to the Maine Department of Marine Resources, alcohol is the number one factor in recreational boating fatalities. Last year, “Operation Dry Water” resulted in 4,519 citations and 337 arrests nationwide. In Maine, there was one fatality blamed on boating under the influence last year.
“As we head into boating season, we have to remind people of the many dangers of boating under the influence,” Jeff Nichols, director of communications for the Department of Marine Resources, said Wednesday.
Nichols advises all boaters to have life jackets, navigation lights, distress signals, and a VHF radio on board.
Nichols additionally advises boaters to carry a cell phone and to inform friends of your whereabouts as communication is critically important when out on the water.
Checking the marine forecast is also a factor of safe boating, according to Nichols.
“The weather can be unpredictable. You don’t want to be caught unprepared,” Nichols said. “And most importantly — leave the alcohol at home.”
Boaters can expect waters to be heavily patrolled with safety checks this weekend.
According to the Coast Guard they have the authority under Title 14 USC 89 to make inquiries, examinations, inspections, searches, seizures, and arrests upon the high seas and waters in order to enforce federal laws.
“All three agencies have a zero-tolerance policy for boating under the influence,” said Marine Patrol Col. Joseph Fessenden in a public statement.”Impaired boaters can expect penalties and consequences to be severe, including fines and jail time.”
The weekend’s campaign will additionally focus on educating boaters and informing them of the many risks they take if operating a boat or other watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
According to the American Boating Association, boater education prevents accidents and saves lives. Additionally the association states those without boater education put themselves at risk and boaters have a responsibility to learn about boat operation, communications, navigation, and life-saving techniques before taking to the water.
“Our goal is for all boaters to return home safe after every fun day on the water,” said Capt. Brian Gilda of the Coast Guard’s Northern New England region. “Staying sober and alert while operating a vessel is critical in order to preserve the safety and well-being of everyone on board.”