“We don’t want to dampen anyone’s weekend,” said trooper spokeswoman Beth Ipsen. “We just want to make sure people are out and stay safe.”
Operation Dry Water is an initiative to help raise awareness about boating safety and reduce alcohol and drug use while boating. It takes place the weekend before Fourth of July.
Between June 27 and June 30, troopers issued 33 citations and 106 warnings for boating offenses across the state. They contacted 686 vessels and over 2,000 operators. No one was arrested or charged for boating under the influence, but troopers did find three instances of minors consuming alcohol.
Kodiak troopers contacted sport, subsistence and commercial fishermen during the weekend and did not find any intoxicated boaters, according to Sgt. Shane Nicholson of the Kodiak detachment, although that doesn’t mean there were none.
Intoxicated boaters are a big safety issue, according to both Ipsen and Nicholson.
“There’s a saying, alcohol and water don’t mix,” Ipsen said. She added that there were nine boating deaths in Alaska last year. Alcohol was a factor in four of them, causes for one were unknown, and five were not wearing life jackets.
Ipsen said she was recently watching a video on boating safety that said people frequently drown before they would die of hypothermia, even in Alaska’s cold waters.
“The longer you can stay afloat, the better chance you have of surviving,” Ipsen said.
Nicholson added that when the wildlife troopers were patrolling Kodiak last weekend, a common problem was not having a Type IV flotation device, one made for throwing.
To stay safe, Nicholson said boaters should ensure their safety equipment is up to date as well as make sure they have someone driving who is not drinking.
“The last thing that folks need to do is ruin their weekend by getting arrested for being under the influence,” Nicholson said.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary will be putting in an effort for safety as well. Members will be offering free paddle craft checks at the ramps in St. Herman Harbor on the Fourth of July to encourage safety for kayak and canoe owners.
Contact Julie Herrmann at firstname.lastname@example.org.