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Deputies will inspect dry-docked watercraft

Jackson County sheriff's marine deputies will hold their first of two weekend dry-dock inspections beginning Saturday in White City to check boaters for safety and registration equipment before it really matters.

The inspections will be done from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the next two Saturdays and Sunday at the Jackson County Marine and Search and Rescue Headquarters, 620 Antelope Road, White City.

The inspections are a chance for fishing guides and other boaters to get their crafts' safety features verified with the boat on the trailer instead of during an impromptu inspection by police on a river or lake this summer.

Boats should be taken to the inspections with all the required safety and registration materials as if they were about to be launched for a day on the water, deputies say.

"These inspections make you look at your safety gear at least once a year," says deputy Tom Turk. of the sheriff's marine patrol. "People come in and discover that their fire extinquisher that was fine last year all of a sudden doesn't have enough pressure in it. It's best to find that out now."

Boat owners can then get their needed inspection sticker without risking a citation for not having the necessary personal flotation devices, whistles or other requirements for being on the water.

Boats that pass will get a red inspection sticker, Turk says. That means marine deputies likely won't stop the boat on the water just for a safety inspection, but it doesn't exempt boaters from getting stopped for other possible violations, he says.

"We don't like pulling people over seven or eight times to check their safety gear," Turk says. "There's no reason for us to check all your stuff all the time. It's a bad business practice."

Boats that fail inspection at the patrol office are simply told what items they need — such as better life jackets or a new state registration — and sent home. Those failing the same inspection on the water face receiving a ticket on the spot.

Different safety requirements are necessary for different-sized boats, and motor sizes also require different equipment on board. The requirements are printed in Oregon State Marine Board pamphlets and also are listed on the Marine Board's Web site at www.boatoregon.com.

The dry-dock inspection sessions also will be staffed by members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary who can do the Coast Guard-required inspections for boats used in coastal waters.

Marine deputies also will be offering proctored tests for motor boaters to qualify for the one-time Boater Education Certificate. Beginning this year, anyone 70 years or younger will need a certificate to operate any boat with a motor of 10 horsepower or larger.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.