Jun. 11—It's that time of year again to enjoy boating, and being out on the lake. It's a Minnesota tradition for sure, but that tradition comes with certain responsibilities regarding safety and basic boat operations.
Deputy Paul Peterson with the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Water Patrol says there are no new laws specifically for this year, but one requirement that they want to highlight is that if you have a tether system equipped on your boat, you must use it. These tether systems physically connect you to a boat to prevent wearers from falling overboard and clip to a fixed location. Peterson emphasizes that it is a law now to have these engaged.
Peterson also says approved personal flotation devices, known as PFDs are now stylish, comfortable and practical. Peterson says models are available for all ages and for various boating activities.
Remember to also check onboard fire extinguishers, which every boat should have. These can be checked at the start of every season, and periodically throughout. An extinguisher that is not fully charged is useless if there is a fire onboard.
One of the other challenges Peterson is seeing this year are loud music complaints.
"We have gotten a few complaints this year of numerous boats congregating and playing loud music, this is a big issue, because not only does it disturb the peace onshore as the soundwaves ripple across the lake, but it makes fishing tough", said Peterson.
Another big problem that continues to be pervasive despite many years of public education is boating while intoxicated (BWI). According to Otter Tail County's BWI website, the BWI law does not prohibit drinking alcoholic beverages aboard boats nor having an open bottle. The law applies to operators of motorboats that are not anchored, beached, moored, docked or being rowed or propelled by non-mechanical means at the time of the offense.
The alcohol concentration for impaired operation is .08. Operating a motorboat while under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or other illegal chemicals is unlawful.
BWI convictions and refusals are recorded on the violator's driver's license record. Most of the BWI law is now found in the motor vehicle statutes, and first time violators face severe penalties, just as they would if they were driving a vehicle on a roadway.
Lastly, if someone in a boat or nearby is struggling in the water and needs help, the best suggestion is throw something that floats to the victim. If there's no other choice but to enter the water to save someone, experts recommend taking a buoyant object like a PFD with you.