SHERIFF'S CORNER: Out on the water

During the past holiday weekend, I decided it would be a good idea to be out on the lakes to provide Marine Patrol services.

Now, this can be difficult for me since I will get a sunburn when the sun reflects off the snow in the winter. I guess I would be the only person that would get stranded on a desert island and my cause of death would be sunburn. So, I always have a can or two of 100 proof sunblock to make it through the day.

One of the services that is provided by every County Sheriff is Marine Patrol. Depending where the county is located in the state, it could include the patrol of inland lakes, rivers or the great lakes.

Lake County is the host to 156 lakes and 47 designated trout streams and rivers within its borders. With that being said, it is essential that we provide a certain level of marine patrol services

In this edition of the "Sheriff's Corner," I discuss marine patrol and basic boating requirements.


Our funding for marine patrol is solely generated by DNR and Federal grants and private donors. This means there is no budget funding provided by county tax dollars for any of these services.

Funding comes annually to about roughly $7500 from the DNR, $500 from the Forestry Service and $3000 from private donors. It is not only used for salaries, but for any equipment or maintenance that needs to be done.

To add to that, due to the COVID-19 crisis, these grants have been on hold, meaning we have not received these funds as of yet.

After taking office, I realized that the boats currently in service were old and really outdated. So, we needed a new boat. I was able to purchase a new boat for approximately $33,000, which actually sells for $43,000. This was solely funded by private donations, and no new tax dollars. I would like to thank all of the private donors and businesses who donated to the new boat. If it wasn't for you, it wouldn't have been possible.


The Marine Division currently consists of 2-3 part-time marine deputies and one recreational sergeant. After attending training sponsored by the Michigan DNR Law Enforcement Division and the Michigan Sheriff's Association, marine deputies are certified to enforce the law under the Michigan Marine Safety Act.

Duties of marine deputies include:

• Boating Safety Education

• Enforcing the Michigan Safety Act through patrol operations

• Search and Rescue

• Vessel Safety Inspections

• Boat Livery Inspections

• Investigation of Boating Accidents

• Body Recovery

• Patrol and inspection of public access sites

• Support to the Dive Team


There are certain requirements in relation to operation and young riders.

• A Boater's Safety Certificate is required for anyone born on or after July 1, 1996. Boater's Safety Certificates are required for persons 12-15 years of age who wish to operate a motorboat in Michigan and they must be under the direct supervision of a person who is 16 years of age or older.

• A Boater's Safety Certificate is also required for persons between 14 & 15 years of age who wish to operate personal watercraft (PWC). He or she must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or designated person at least 21 years of age. Those at least 16 years of age and born after December 31, 1978 ,may operate a personal watercraft (PWC) only if they have obtained a valid Boater Safety Certificate.

• Anyone born on or before December 31, 1978, may operate a personal watercraft without restriction.

(A Boater's Safety Certificate is easily obtainable by taking an online course. It is really simple to do.)

For clarification, there is a difference between a boat and a personal watercraft (or PWC). A personal watercraft (PWC) is like a See-Doo or JetSki, which does have different requirements and restrictions.

• Children under the age of 7, shall not be towed or ride on a PWC without the parent, guardian, or designated adult being on board with the child.

• While riding the PWC, all operators must have a lanyard attached to their life jacket, their person, clothes and attached to the vessel's ignition switch.

• Riding a PWC is illegal during the hours from sunset and 8 a.m. with the determination of exactly what time "sunset" is by the National Weather Service.

• Personal watercrafts are to operate at a slow speed so as to not make wakes, when crossing within 150 feet behind another vessel with the exception of another PWC.


All watercraft, unless exempt, must be registered with SOS and display a registration decal. Once a registration number has been assigned, it cannot be transferred to another watercraft.

For most watercraft, the registration fee is based on length. All registrations expire March 31 in the third year of issuance.

Watercraft exempt from registration are:

• Those 16 feet or shorter, propelled by oars or paddles, and not used for rental or commercial purposes.

• Non-motorized canoes and kayaks not used for rental or commercial purposes, rafts, surfboards, sailboards, and swim floats, regardless of length.

• Watercraft registered in another state and used only temporarily in Michigan.


Reckless Operation of a vessel or reckless manipulation of water skis, a surfboard or similar device is defined as that which disregards the safety or rights of others or endangers the person or property of others.

Some examples are:

• Weaving your vessel through congested waterway traffic or swerving at the last possible moment in order to avoid collision.

• Jumping the wake of another vessel unnecessarily close to the other vessel or when visibility around the other vessel is restricted.

• Loading the vessel beyond the recommended capacity shown on the capacity plate installed by the manufacturer.

• Chasing, harassing or disturbing wildlife with your vessel.

• Causing damage from the wake of your vessel.

(Boating in Restricted Areas is defined as operating within a restricted area clearly marked by buoys, beacons, diver down flags, etc.)


• All vessels must be equipped with a PFD for each person on board or being towed.

• All children under 6 years of age to wear an approved PFD when riding on the open deck of any vessel while underway.

• All PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition and must be readily accessible.

There have been so many times I have made contact with a boater when checking for PFD's and they are buried down deep in a compartment somewhere. They do you no good ... if you cannot access them in an emergency.


I was honored to be recently appointed to the Michigan Sheriff's Association Recreational Committee that works hand in hand with the legislature on snowmobile, ORV and marine enforcement and legislation. Being appointed, I will now be directly involved in this process.

This information is provided to you for clarification of specific laws, and not legal advice. This is not to be construed as a personal opinion, agreement or disagreement of any specific law. If you have any questions on any specific topic, you can always email me your questions to