Keeping an eye on the water

Placer marine unit says education key to preventing boat accidents
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Two recent fatalities on Placer County waters have raised concerns about boating safety. “It isn’t all fun and games out here,” said Josh Tindall, deputy with the Placer County Sheriff’s marine unit. Speed was the factor in the death of a 53-year-old Roseville man June 21. The man reportedly lost control of his boat at a high speed while on the Camp Far West Reservoir. The boat sank and the man’s body was recovered shortly after midnight the next day. Tindall said many boaters gun it out of dock areas well before they reach the 100-yard boundary that allows speeds over 5 mph. “They think they can leave the docks and they can hit it,” Tindall said. Tindall is one of about 12 deputies who work on the marine unit, which patrols area waterways including Folsom Lake, Rollins Lake, Lake Tahoe, Camp Far West Reservoir and more. The deputies are paid overtime to patrol the waters on their days off Friday through Monday during the summer. “Most of the time it’s about prevention and education,” said Josh Shelton, marine unit deputy. “A lot of people just aren’t aware of boating safety laws.” Shelton said often times when they pull a boat over, it’s to check that all necessary safety equipment is on board or to remind them of laws. Other times they do issue citations. The lack of education sometimes is a result of a lack of requirements for boaters. There is no course or test boaters have to pass, yet Shelton said he encounters many who are not aware of basic right-of-way rules. Those boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs are another problem, Shelton said. Boaters are allowed to drink and have alcohol on their boats, but Shelton cautions that it can cause problems fast on waterways where there are no clear guides on the water and no speed limit. “Boating is inherently dangerous,” Shelton said. “It’s pretty scary that a lot of people think it’s OK to come out and boat under the influence.” Tindall and Shelton have responded to their share of tragic accidents. Shelton remembers a nighttime accident in Lake Tahoe a few years ago. One boat essentially T-boned another boat at 35 mph, which sent both its occupants into the dark waters without life jackets on. Shelton said it was a “miracle” that those involved survived, albeit with major injuries. Tindall said four to five years ago a pair of brothers was at the Rattlesnake Bar entrance to Folsom Lake. One brother jumped on an idle jet ski. The force of his jump pushed the Jet Ski over his brother. The body was found a few yards away under an overhang. “A lot of times people think we’re jamming them up on little things,” Tindall said. “But (accidents) happen.” A Carmichael family enjoying Folsom Lake last week said they take safety seriously – especially when children are inside their family sport boat. “We always go over the rules before we go out,” Sina Rahe said. “We have a two-minute sit down.” Rahe said the family has taken a few safety courses ever since they bought a boat. “We think we’re pretty well-versed in boat safety,” Rahe said. “You have to be defensive as well as offensive when you’re out there.” The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at or post a comment. ---------- Quiz Think you know your boat safety? Take the following quiz to test just how seaworthy your knowledge is. 1. How old do you have to be operate a boat in California? a. 16 years old b. 18 years old c. 21 years old 2. How old to do you have to be to operate a jet ski? a. 12 years old as long as someone 18 and older is sitting behind and able to take control b. 15 years old as long as someone 18 and older is sitting behind and able to take control c. 16 years old as long as someone 18 and older is sitting behind and able to take control 3. How many life jackets need to be on board? a. two b. five c. One for every person on board 4. Do you need a license to operate a boat? a. No b. Yes 5. Which side do you yield to when on the water? a. Left b. Right 6. What speed should you travel when you’re 100 yards within any swimable shoreline? a. 5 mph b. 15 mph c. Doesn’t matter 7. What ages must always be wearing a life jacket while on a boat? a. 5 years old and under b. 12 years old and under c. 16 years old and under 8. When does a ski flag need to be raised? a. When someone is in the water and there is a towline connecting them to a boat b. When someone has fallen in the water and needs to be recovered c. Both a and b Want to learn more about boating rules and safety guidelines? The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons and certain chapters of the American Red Cross offers safety classes. Visit or call the coast guard at (800) 869-7245 for more information. Answers: 1. a 2. a. 3. c. 4. a 5. b 6. a 7. b 8. c ---------- Zero Tolerance on Truckee River Fourth of July There is an alcohol ban this July Fourth weekend on the Truckee River. No open or closed containers of alcoholic beverages are allowed on the stretch of river from Lake Tahoe to the Alpine Meadows Bridge. The ban includes islands and shore bank three feet up from the water’s highest edge. Placer County sought the ban last year due to repeated years of alcohol-related problems on the river during the popular holiday. Problems included driving under the influence, being drunk in public, indecent exposure, fighting, and minors in possession of alcohol. ---------- What’s on a patrol boat? Two deputies – one who has the sole responsibility of operating the boat the other is responsible for talking to people. Patrol items including handcuffs, firearms, breath tests, life support, first aid gear and more. Also, diving gear in case a rescue dive is necessary. ----------