WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — North Carolina Wildlife, along with Alcohol Law Enforcement and Highway Patrol combed New Hanover County’s waters and streets Saturday as part of the “On the Roads, On the Water” campaign.
“Oh, no, I hope we’re not in too big of trouble,” boater Steven Lienharte said.
That’s probably what most of us think when we hear a siren and see flashing blue lights, but Wildlife officers say their presence on the water is just as much about education as it is about reprimanding.
“If I could come to work every day and all the vessels I check had all their safety equipment and everyone had a sober operator, that would be fine with me. We are more here to educate people,” Ofc. Billy Cain said.
Officers stopped boats all day, performing routine safety inspections.
“We have seven life-jackets, a fire extinguisher. My six-year-old son had an age-appropriate life jacket for him,” Matthew Lester said as he pulled onto shore from a day of boating.
But not all the kids out for a day of cruising had a Coast Guard approved life jacket. If boaters do not have the correct type of life vest, or are missing safety equipment and are stopped by law enforcement, they could be fined.
“If we have to write a ticket or issue a citation, we will. We’d much rather everyone has their equipment and be doing everything safe,” Ofc. Cain said.
Wildlife officers say that most boaters do not realize that when their patrol boats have their blue lights on and are pulling another boat over, there is a 100-foot no-wake zone around their vessel.
“If somebody comes by and throws a wake, there could be injuries to officers, vessels or the people on the vessels,” Ofc. Cain said.
Safety is a concern for all, and boaters are thankful for the patrol.
“I know people are out there doing what they don’t need to be doing, and I am glad they’re out there,” Brandon Lollis said.
Wildlife had six boats out on the water with 14 officers on patrol. As a result of pulling boats over for routine safety checks, the agency arrested five people for boating while impaired. Officers patrolled the waters until about 9 p.m. Saturday.
This is the third year of “On the Roads, On the Water” campaign. It begins on Memorial Day and wraps up on Labor Day.