Operation Dry Water: State to step up boating patrols this weekend

DOVER — The coming weekend will see increased patrols of Delaware’s waterways as DNREC’S Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police participates in Operation Dry Water.

Operation Dry Water is an annual nationwide enforcement and education campaign aimed at preventing alcohol and drug-related boating accidents and fatalities. The weekend’s patrols’ aims are to educate boaters and crack down on operators whose blood alcohol level exceeds the state and federal limit of 0.08 percent.

“Delaware consistently has one of the lowest boating accident rates in the country, and we want to keep it that way,” said Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police Chief Robert Legates. “Drinking and boating don’t mix, and can lead to accidents that put operators, their passengers and other boaters at risk.

“During Operation Dry Water, our officers will be increasing patrols, checking boaters for intoxication and providing information on the dangers of operating under the influence.”

According to national statistics released by the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol use is a leading contributing factor to fatal boating accidents. Of the 4,158 boating accidents on the nation’s waterways in 2015, alcohol was found to be the contributing factor in 17 percent of fatalities. Nationally in 2015, 306 accidents involved alcohol use and resulted in 122 deaths and 258 injuries, a decrease from 2014 with 345 accidents, 137 deaths and 302 injuries.

With 25 boating-related accidents and one fatality in 2015, Delaware’s accident rate remains below the national average, based on Coast Guard data. Recreational boating contributes more than $300 million a year to Delaware’s economy, according to DNREC. More than 59,000 boats and watercraft are registered in Delaware.

Operation Dry Water is coordinated nationwide by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, in partnership with state marine enforcement agencies and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Delaware law requires all people born on or after Jan. 1, 1978, to successfully complete a boating safety course in order to operate a boat on Delaware waters.

Boating courses

Delaware’s Office of Boating Safety and Education provides outreach to private and non-profit organizations, schools, clubs and the public to educate boaters on skills and seamanship, and to encourage them to be safe, knowledgeable and responsible boaters. For more information, please visit the Delaware_Boating Safety web page at www.dnrec.delaware.gov.

Another option is the the Coast Guard Auxiliary which offers a special boating skills and seamanship course this summer on seven consecutive Wednesday evenings from July 13 to Aug. 24.

Most recreational boaters in Delaware are familiar with the more basic boating safety course jointly presented by the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife. That course provides basic information about safe boating,  but many have asked for more advanced training on a broad range of subjects.

The boating skills and seamanship course was developed by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary to meet the needs of novice and experienced boaters looking for more comprehensive training on topics such as:

• boat selection;

• safety and navigation equipment;

• selecting trailers and vehicles to safely pull a boat;

• boat launching and handling;

• use of navigation equipment, charts, and common navigational aids to plot a course and determine position

• basic seamanship on inland waters;

• marlinspike seamanship (ropes and knots);

• and safe operations.

Seven sessions will be presented on successive Wednesday evenings in the Delaware Coastal Programs training facility located at 818 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover.

The first session will start at 5:30 p.m. July 13 for registration and will continue with class from 6 to 8 p.m. Subsequent sessions will start at 6 p.m. and run for two hours each Wednesday through Aug. 24.

Course fee is $35 and seating is limited. The course is expected to fill rapidly. Registration must be on a first-come basis.

For more information, contact Warren at (302) 422-7724 or by email at whuff@snip.net.

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