Coast Guard to step up patrols to ensure safety on the water

With summer almost here and University of Hawaii students on spring break, the U.S. Coast Guard is increasing its patrols to make sure everyone stays safe in the water.

The Coast Guard will have five separate units plus lots of boats and officers in the water this weekend and into next week, looking for everything from too many people on a boat to people boating while intoxicated.

One of the big reasons for the heightened patrols, officials say, is spring break.

“There will be a lot more tourists therefore encouraging us to have increased presence to ensure the safety of life at sea, and sort of try to prevent the search-and-rescue cases before they happen,” said Holly Heddinger with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Waikiki will be one of the areas the patrols will focus on. With more boats on the water and some boats grouping together, the Coast Guard says it will be looking for boats overcrowded with passengers.

“It’s typical for these boats to take on more than they’re supposed to, just to help people get to shore, to join their friends, so we’re looking to ensure everyone is operating as safely as possible,” Heddinger said.

Just like driving while intoxicated, boating while intoxicated can land you in jail. For a first offense, the operator could be looking at a fine of up to $1,000, a prison term of up to 30 days, or both.

Another thing the Coast Guard will be keeping an eye out for is floatillas, the gathering of sometimes dozens of floaties with alcohol consumption usually involved. These present an especially tough challenge for the Coast Guard.

“Sometimes these floats actually end up offshore without the people that were on them, which creates search-and-rescue cases because we are concerned with the float — where is the person that was on it? Are they safe? Are they onshore? Did they just let it slide off, or were they with it and are they lost?”

The Coast Guard says if you are going out on a float, make sure you tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

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