It’s no surprise the Coast Guard is tightening their grip when it comes to illegal charter operations. With a lack of licensing and safety equipment, they’re only putting themselves and others at risk, especially considering there’s been a recent surge in boats weighing less than 100 tons operating in this manner.
The law requires captains who have passengers on board their boat to have a merchant mariner’s license.
“It’s similar to a guy buying a bus and saying, ‘Hey, I’m a bus driver today,’ when he really doesn’t have any of the safety equipment (or) proper licensing,” Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Michael Cortese said. “We are trying to get the message out to the people who charter a vessel that it is perfectly acceptable to ask the captain to see his license.”
The problem with illegal charters is that boats are often overloaded. Overloaded boats tend to capsize, putting everyone’s lives on board and the responding Coast Guard member’s lives at risk.
One particular boat discovered in this Coast Guard operation was discovered to have no type of charter agreement. Passengers admitted to paying to charter the boat for the day.
“These boaters wanted to come out and enjoy their day on the water. They decided to pay to do it, and they decided to pay somebody who wasn’t licensed to do so,” Cortese said. “That, unfortunately, would cost everybody their boating day, but at least it was just their boating day and not their lives.”
Being out on the water is fun and all, and we’d love to be on the water every day for the rest of our lives (although we’d prefer a rod in one hand and a massive fish in the other over falling off boats while listening to dubstep) here at Outdoors 360; but the most important thing is coming back safe, regardless of anything else. Safety trumps everything else. In that regard, these illegal charters are breaking the most important rule of being out on the open water – always make it home.