1/ We have a great program in Canada, which I think exists in many places in
the U.S. too, of "courtesy" inspections. However, I don't know if the police
offers them - I get mine from the CGAux. (In fact, I think the police have a
formal "zero tolerance" policy.) There are no penalties - it's just
advisory. The "advice," if you found to be in violation, is that if a police
officer ever stops you, you will be fined.
So, responsible boaters who have done their best and think their boat is
adequately equipped can have it checked by an authoritative source without
fear of recrimination, and without occupying police resources which perhaps
could be better utilized elsewhere.
The check on my boat takes a good twenty minutes, so I'm not sure how you
could do that in a boat-ramp line-up. (Are they that slow?)
2/ In our society, we all (almost) know how to drive a car, so a police
officer can take special training in highway enforcement, and even advanced
driving techniques, and be a good highway patrolman. But we don't all have
much experience operating boats, and a course or two is very good but
nowhere near the experience and expertise that some recreational boaters
have, so that's a problem I've heard about at times: boaters being ordered
to hold station in a cross-wind with an opposing current in a narrow
shipping channel, for example, which just can't work. A Rule of the Sea is
that the captain (even the owner or operator of a small recreational boat)
is responsible for the safe operation of that vessel, and can refuse orders
from other authorities if he/she believes it necessary. I don't know if
that's written or traditional. And I suspect that you would want to be able
to convince a judge, later, that you weren't just trying to evade the
officer, but really could not in all conscience behave as demanded. That can
often be resolved by a patient police officer asking for clarification -
firmly but politely - or asking in what manner could the boater maneuver
his/her boat in order for the further inspection to proceed, etc.
This should start along the lines of, "I'm sorry officer, but am unable to
comply due to the narrow channel with a cross-wind and current. Could you
suggest an alternate course of action?" Or, "May I suggest an alternate
course of action?" But people are often very threatened and angry when
approached, so handling it professionally I think sometimes requires every
ounce of self-control the officer can muster.
I, for example, have had good, long looks through the Nav Rules on many
occasions, and still learn something new each time I inspect them, and I
sincerely doubt that most weekend marine policemen understand them as well
as I do. That need not be a problem if I remain respectful, and if the
policemen doesn't have the insecurity that some exhibit about having about
limitations of their knowledge, as long as both parties are simply willing
to have a conversation and then to gauge what they think about the accuracy
of the new information and reformulate their plans based on that. I am also
very familiar with my boat, and understand its capabilities and limitation,
and don't expect every police officer to know all about the different
handling characteristics of small planing sailboats, large keel boats,
planing power boats with single or double I/O's or IB's, displacement and
semi-displacement trawlers... there's a lot to know, and it takes years of
boat operation to come to grips with some of it.
Some law enforcers go into bureaucratic mode, and I've heard of, "You're
trying my patience, plead guilty or spend the night in jail," over very
minor stuff that just required a few minutes of calm explanation. From what
I've seen so far, you're not one of those (and I hope they're the minority).
Which is good!
Charles T. Low
ctlow5.RemoveThis@boatUNdocking.com - remove "UN"
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"swatcop" wrote in message
> ... And as a question on the safety checks, other than the marinas in my
> town, most people use a public boat ramp area. Would you be offended if
> cops did a safety inspection on your vessel while you were waiting in line
> to launch at a boat ramp? It seems to me like it would save time that way.
> Thank you for your input.
> <-= swatcop =-> >> Stay informed about: Police Marine Units