By ESTEVAN MEDRANO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
February 19, 2015
It isn’t just on land where law enforcement will be needed next month on South Padre Island. The curling, foaming surf can catch inexperienced vacationers off guard with its unfamiliarity and unpredictability. Rip tides, shallow areas, silting, rocks and thick vegetation all pose a danger to swimmers, surfers and boaters cruising the Gulf of Mexico. Few are more aware of these risks than the people who work at the local U.S. Coast Guard installation. As Spring Break approaches, they, too, are making preparations to be sure that the laws of the land carry over beyond the shoreline.
The following segment is the third of a weekly series leading up to Spring Break informing the Laguna Madre community of the preparations local entities are making as they gear up to host Spring Break SPI 2015.
U.S. Coast Guard
Just as unpredictable as the sea itself is the behavior of those found cruising the waters. A search and rescue can quickly turn into an arrest due to boaters not following boating laws or driving a boat under the influence. The reverse situation can occur as well, for example, just earlier this month four Mexican nationals who were being pursued for fishing illegally in the Gulf of Mexico had to be rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard after their boat began sinking.
Much of these rescues and arrests are the result of ignorance of not only the laws, but of the environment itself. A sudden shift in the current can mean the difference between a midnight swim and a drowning. Mistakes such as not having enough fuel, improperly inspected equipment, or forgetting to check boat plugs before heading out are some of the most common reasons people are left stranded. Lt. Michael Bell, recently named as the new station commander for Station South Padre Island, is confident that the agency will be prepared for both the rescue and patrolling challenges the upcoming influx of Spring Break tourists will bring with them.
“We’re reaching out to other agencies to help us during this time,” Bell said. “Patrolling the waters is different in a lot of ways because there aren’t those hotspots that law enforcement are ready for like Clayton’s or other places people go to. But we know this comes every year and we’re prepared for what’s going to come, he said.
Bell also emphasized that similar laws apply to boating as apply to driving a vehicle on the road. “We’ll be looking for those in distress and those not following the law, because there are many that go out to sea that for some reason think there aren’t many of the same laws that apply as they do to driving a vehicle as driving a boat,” he said.
Finally, Bell reminded boaters they should tell someone of their boating plans before heading out on the water, and should have a life jacket available for all passengers.
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