Boating police step up crack down on offenders


The young man cruising across Spa Creek in the 22-foot speed boat yesterday afternoon just didn't know about the 6-knot limit that takes effect on weekends and holidays.

"Where is it posted?" he asked Kelley J. Johnson, an officer with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police.

"Well, it's on a buoy over there about 6 feet wide," the officer told five Crownsville people in the boat.

The speeding stop was typical of many yesterday around Annapolis and the Severn River.

While most boaters know to slow around City Dock, they seem less aware of the expanded 6-knot limit that extends past the walls of the Naval Academy.

As the three-day holiday weekend kicked off yesterday, DNR police were out in force, putting desk-bound command officers on routine patrol. Col. Franklin I. Wood, the superintendent of the DNR police, even joined in, spending his day with Officer Johnson, who graduated from the police academy a few months ago.

Colonel Wood said July is traditionally the worst month for drunken boaters, and most are caught when they drive erratically or speed.

Last year, boating accidents killed 31 people and injured 222. In Anne Arundel, five people died, and 31 were injured. Police said about 50 percent of the deaths statewide involve drinking, and most of those killed were not wearing life preservers.

"We are real sticklers on life jackets," Colonel Wood said. "Ninety percent of all fatalities occur as a result of drowning. They have an accident and they fall overboard. If they had a life jacket, they wouldn't drown."

Later in the afternoon yesterday, the City Dock area became clogged with boaters. And today it will be even busier, especially with the fireworks display tonight.

"When the display ends, there are boats leaving in every direction," Colonel Wood said. "And a lot of the boaters have been drinking. It can be a real problem."

Most of the boaters stopped by DNR police got warnings yesterday, except for a man driving an 18-foot speed boat who got a $30 ticket because he didn't have his license or registration with him.

He also claimed not to know about the weekend speed zone. "He lives right here in Eastport," Colonel Wood said. "He knows the management plan. He knows the speed limit."

Officer Johnson made one drunken boating arrest yesterday -- a middle-aged crabber in Severn River, just past the Old Severn River Bridge, who was puttering around in a small boat with an outboard motor.

The officers approached the boat to check on the fishing line, which appeared to be longer than 500-feet, the maximum length allowed for recreational crabbers unless they have a special license.

The two men and one woman on board had a hard time locating their life jackets, which were stuffed under some seats and clearly not accessible in an emergency.

"How many beers have you had?" Officer Johnson asked the man.

"A couple," he answered before failing several hand-eye coordination tests. He couldn't recite the alphabet beyond the letter J.

"I am under the impression that you have had too much to drink today to drive a boat," Officer Johnson told the man.

She took him on board her Boston Whaler in handcuffs, headed back to City Dock, where she performed more tests on land then arrested him.

Police said he was a danger even though he was puttering along near shore, not driving a speed boat through a congested area.

"Most boating accidents happen in calm water on clear days," Colonel Wood said. "He could easily have fallen overboard."

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