Jackson County Sheriff's marine deputies over two upcoming weekends will give boaters the chance to have their powerboats and driftboats checked for the requisite safety gear.
The annual dry-dock inspections will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday March 2-3 and March 9-10 at the Jackson County Marine headquarters, 620 Antelope Road, White City.
For details about exactly what safety equipment is needed for your boat, see www.oregon.gov/osmb/boatlaws/pages/requirements.aspx
The inspections give fishing guides and other boaters a chance to get their crafts' safety features verified with the boat on the trailer instead of during an inspection by police on a river or lake this summer.
The dry-dock days typically draw anywhere from 300 to 500 boats for inspections, says marine Deputy Jason Denton.
"We see a lot of the same guys every year, so it's kind of fun," Denton says. Probably 90 percent of our business is repeat, local customers. Most people know what they need and bring it with them. But every year we also see a lot of first-timers with new boats, and they ask a lot of questions."
Sheriff's deputies generally conduct more than 4,000 boat inspections annually. Those who pass this weekend will get a blue sticker that signifies the boat's already been checked this year. Boats with the stickers generally are not stopped for inspections while on area rivers and lakes, but it does not render them immune to future inspections.
Boaters whose crafts fail the dry-dock inspections are simply told what items they need — such as better life jackets or a new state registration. An encounter on the Rogue River or a local lake without the requisite gear could lead to a citation.
Different safety requirements are in place for different-sized boats and motors. The requirements are printed in Oregon State Marine Board pamphlets and listed on the Marine Board's website at www.boatoregon.com.
Representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will be present to conduct inspections on boats used in coastal waters. Boats will be checked also for invasive species, such as grasses, mosses and zebra mussels.
It is illegal in Oregon to launch a boat with any aquatic species on it. At the inspections, marine deputies will not only look for these problems, they will pass out literature about the inspection program and the dangers of invasives, Denton says.
County marine deputies have yet to discover a boat carrying invasive snails, but leftover aquatic vegetation clinging to hulls and motors are common, Denton says.
While the dry-dock inspections target motorized boats, Denton notes that about two-thirds of the emergency encounters marine deputies have on rivers and lakes here involve non-motorized boats.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.