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Sheriff's Water Patrol and Boating Safety

Posted: 05/14/2019

Author: Sheriff Troy Wolbersen

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Every spring, my water patrol deputies start the safe boating process by loading up the buoys and heading out to area lakes. Buoys are markers that help boaters navigate the waters. The white and orange ones let you know if there is a shallow area, a rock or some other hazard to be aware of. The red and green markers indicate a channel. The red buoy is on the right when you’re going upstream. If you choose to pass through outside the markers you may find yourself in a shallow or rocky area.

Douglas County has three deputies that patrol the lakes. The boats they use are well labeled so if you need assistance wave them over. They may also approach your boat to check to see you have the correct number of life jackets. One Type IV throwable is required on boats 16 feet or longer. A readily accessible and wearable life jacket is also required for every person on board. Children younger than 10 years old must have the life jacket on.

If you’re on a personal watercraft you must also actually wear the life jacket and yes, that means the passengers as well as the driver.

If you’re in a canoe, kayak, or paddleboat or on a stand-up paddleboard you must have a life jacket on board. A throwable is not required.  

When you’ve finished checking to see you have the proper number of life jackets for the upcoming season, you’re going to also want to make sure you have a working fire extinguisher and a horn. Also, make sure your lights work. Those navigation lights must be on from sunset to sunrise.

There is no law that says you can’t enjoy an adult beverage on your boat but — and this is very important — the person driving the boat can’t be legally drunk. In Minnesota that means your blood alcohol must be less than .08. My advice as sheriff is simple. If you’re going to be at the controls don’t drink at all. It’s just not worth it. Your kids, other boaters, people on shore, feel much more relaxed when they don’t see the person driving the boat with a beer or drink in their hand.

Safe boating is a team effort. Let’s make it a great season!



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