"Operation Dry Water" targets drunk boaters

By Matt Butner - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you have plans to spend time out on the water this weekend, don't be surprised if you hit a DUI checkpoint. "Operation Dry Water" runs Friday through Sunday.

John Garland is no ordinary boater- he's a bona-fide skipper, with a captain's license from the Coast Guard. He shakes his head when he sees the rules being broken.

"I see some nudity, I see some drunkenness, I see people in the water recreation-wise, I see people dealing with illicit substances," said Garland as he readied his boat at Osborne Landing for a trip on the James.

This weekend, conservation police officers like Thomas Mecadon will be scouring the waters for that type of behavior, handing out citations, and making arrests. The rules on the water aren't much different than the rules on the road.

"For the most part they are very similar," said Mecadon. ".08 is the legal limit on the road, it's also the legal limit out here on the waterway."

The main focus of the Operation Dry Water checkpoints will be alcohol violations. Officers will also be checking to make sure boaters are following safety regulations, like having enough life vests.

"You need one of those for every individual on board," said Mecadon.

Each craft also has to have one tossable flotation device, like a seat-cushion type. Officer Mecadon says boat traffic can be more dangerous than traffic on the roads.

"You've got wakes out here, you've got all different sizes of vehicles out here, you've got PWC's moving real fast- plus, there's no speed limit out here too," said Mecadon.

That's why it's important to remember there are other boats in the water- along with other hidden dangers.

"You see things on the surface of the water, but the things you don't see on the surface- those things can bite you," said Garland. "You need all your faculties."

If you're caught drunk boating, you could face a $2,500 fine, a year in jail, and you could lose the privilege of piloting a boat down the James.

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