August 28, 2015 - 4:30 PM
OKANAGAN - With just one boat covering lakes throughout the southern Interior, there’s plenty of times when the long arm of the law simply ends at the lakeshore.
But if you do run into the RCMP marine enforcement unit and you’re boat’s not up to snuff, they’ll be on your case, either writing you a ticket or giving you lecture about boat safety.
“We will check over 1,200 boats in a season and we will issue less than 100 tickets,” reserve Const. Phil Boissonault says.
Boissonault says he and his partner reserve Const. Randy Ferris could easily write more but would rather educate the boaters they pull over for inspection.
“Of those 1,200 boats, only one in 10 would pass inspection. Our role is not revenue generation, our role is water safety.”
Canadians 16-years-old and up require a pleasure craft operators card to drive a boat. Those under 16 cannot operate a personal watercraft or drive a boat with an engine of more than 40 horse power.
Boaters are expected to carry their operator’s card and present it for inspection just like it was a driver’s license for car, although Boissonault says a lot of people can’t seem to find it when asked.
“They forgot it on shore or in my wallet or they forgot it in the cabin. It’s just like on land.”
RCMP reserve constables Randy Ferris and Phil Boissonault of the marine enforcement unit give out a warning to a boater.
(JOHN MCDONALD /InfoTel Multimedia)
Still, he says they are more concered about there being the proper number of life jackets on board than whether or not they can pull out their card.
“We’re more focused on the safety equipment than we are with the documentation. You won’t drown because you don’t have the documentation but you could drown because you don’t have a lifejacket that fits.”
Boissonault says boat traffic seems to be down on all the lakes he and Ferris patrol, the victim he believes of low oil prices and the soft economy in Alberta.
“Traffic in general is increasing on all the lakes but it’s subject to the fluctuations of the economy. I don’t have a way of measuring it but it just seems like there’s not as many boats out there this year.”
If tourism is down this year, so to are tragedies on the water. Boissonault says he can only think a handful of drownings this year including two on Kalamalka Lake and two in Osoyooos Lake as well as a free-diving accident on Okanagan Lake and a drowning in the Shuswap.
The RCMP marine enforcement unit covers lakes from the Shushwap to Osoyoos and into the Columbia and Kootenay Region, which means they are spread pretty thin.
“I believe you could easily justify full time marine enforcement on both Okanagan Lake and Shushwap Lake but it’s a matter of resources and priorities.”
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015