Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Deputies aren’t just busy protecting you on land – they are also working hard to safeguard everyone on our waterways

The Sheriff ’s Office Marine Unit enforces marine
laws, investigates boating accidents and other
crimes, handles underwater search and rescues,
and offers boating education to the thousands of
watercraft drivers passing every year through Palm
Beach County’s extensive coastline, inland waterways,
canals and lakes.

With a staff of 14 deputies and commanders, our
unit is tasked with everything from keeping illegal
immigrants and drug runners from landing on our
shore, to preventing boating accidents and reducing
“boating under the influence” incidents in our
parks. They are also dive and rescue experts who
search underneath the water surface for people and
property in virtually any weather or water conditions.
In addition, we have four highly trained
volunteer civilians, who work just as hard in protecting
and saving lives on the water.

Patrolling miles and miles of these waterways
is not easy. Over the years, the number of boats
and personal watercrafts has skyrocketed, and
on certain busy weekends, many of these waterways
are congested, creating conditions for
accidents and reckless behavior. As a result, marine
deputies are constantly checking boaters for mandatory
safety equipment so they are aware of their

We’ve been spending a lot of time, as of late, reducing
rowdy behavior on Peanut Island, a popular hotspot for
boating off Riviera Beach. The county banned drinking
alcohol there in May, but deputies are still keeping the
peace in the waters off the island where hundreds of boaters
gather in the shallow waters on many weekends.
Since the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Marine
Unit has taken on a higher priority role. It’s on the frontlines,
as my deputies’ work with our partners, such as
the U.S. Coast Guard, in monitoring threats coming in
from the ocean. Using an advanced radar system, they
can track suspicious boats up and down our coastline. We
also patrol the Port of Palm Beach, escorting cruise and
container ships to ensure safe passage into the deeper waters
of the ocean.

A large part of what the unit does is educate.
Deputies often board boats to encourage passengers to
wear personal flotation devices at all times. They also urge
boat operators to perform routine safety checks before
heading out, making sure the watercraft has the proper
safety equipment on board, including a working fire extinguisher,
flares, and a horn or whistle.

Deputies also ask boaters to check weather reports before
leaving the dock since weather, especially in tropical
South Florida, can change rapidly on the water, turning a
pleasant day into a dangerous situation.
We hope you all find the time this summer to enjoy our
beautiful waterways. Be safe out there.