|Police boats come in many different shapes and sizes these days. Here are some tips for making a stop quick and painless.|
You’re driving along on the highway and you see those familiar flashing lights in your rear view mirror. Your heart sinks as you realize the sheriff is right on your tail. Next thing you know the officer is shouting over his PA speaker instructing you to pull over. Yup, you were snagged - for speeding.
Remember what the person who originally taught you how to drive told you about getting pulled over? Keep your hands on the wheel, have the other occupants sit with their hands in plain view and whatever you do, don’t be a wise guy. Be pleasant to the officer, give him or her the documentation they request and if you’re lucky, because you’re being so cooperative, they will be nice to you.
Heave to Means Stop!
Well, we’re now on the water, zipping along jumping wakes or going way too fast in a no-wake zone. All of a sudden…you hear a siren, only to look over your shoulder and see those familiar flashing lights (blue is the only color that signifies an emergency vessel on the water). What do you do?
Well the officers, regardless if they’re local marine patrol, state police or Coast Guard will ask you to heave to. This means: Stop your vessel! Politely ask if they would prefer you to cut your engine(s) and/or drop anchor. Pull out some fenders (even though most law enforcement vessels will have their own handy) so they can safely tie-up alongside.
Now what? Well, if you took a safe boating course anytime in the last several years, some of the information you learned about being stopped and boarded has completely changed. In years gone by, the only agency that could stop your vessel and physically board it without an actual written search warrant was the United States Coast Guard. That has changed.
Several states have signed compacts with the Coast Guard in this post 9/11 environment, whereas the Coast Guard has delegated some of their Federal powers to the state. Specifically, they now allow state law enforcement (and those state powers flow down to the local law enforcement officers) to board vessels without having written warrants.
So, what can you do to avoid getting boarded or receiving a ticket? Obey local laws, follow the Rules of the Road, and get a Vessel Safety Check by the Coast Guard Auxiliary (see http://www.safetyseal.net) or one of our partners in the VSC program. Be forewarned, the Coast Guard and other law enforcement agencies do randomly hold safety check stops. But, should Coast Guard or law enforcement visibly see your VSC (Vessel Safety Check) sticker on your port side window, more than likely they will either do a perfunctory check or simply let you continue on your voyage with nothing more than a warning. Why? Because you have put in the effort and taken the time to pass the VSC and more than likely have all of the required safety equipment onboard and in working order. In addition to the obvious safety benefits, this is another great reason to have a VSC completed this season!
So, let’s run through the rules if you get pulled over on the water once again:
1. Heave to (stop the vessel)
2. Have all passengers and crew topside
3. Be quiet, courteous, and cooperative
4. Provide all necessary documentation
5. Politely point out your VSC sticker Be safe on the water and wear your personal flotation device (PFD).
For more information on boating safety, Vessel Safety Checks, or the Coast Guard Auxiliary, visit www.cgaux.org or call 1-877-875-6296.
Reprinted from Florida Sport Fishing Magazine.