Manitowish Waters Boat Patrol Fall 2023 Report

by Dan Perry, Water Safety Officer

As Fall is upon us, the Manitowish Waters Boat Patrol Team is looking back on the summer and evaluating how the season went. Throughout the summer the Boat Patrol put in over 800 patrol hours during which they made over 6800 contacts, gave 595 verbal warnings, wrote 177 written warnings, and issued 18 citations. These numbers have increased significantly from the past few seasons due to a planned effort to provide an increase in law enforcement presence on the Manitowish Chain. During this past off-season, the decision was made to increase the patrol efforts of our Boat Patrol team. This decision was based in no small part to the results of the water safety survey that is sent out every year by the Water Safety Committee. This committee made the recommendation to increase both our patrol vessels and our personnel. With the addition this past spring of a second patrol boat and an additional patrol officer, we were able to meet our patrol goals for this season.

Throughout the season, some of the most common violations observed by our team included slow-no-wake violations, distance violations and/or dangerous operation by PWC operators, allowing passengers to ride on front decks or gunwales while under power, boats creating a hazardous wake, and operators of both PWC’s and boats operating without a valid safety certification.

These violations are similar to the kind of violations we have observed over the last few seasons, with an increase in the number of towing/skiing and PWC hours of operation violations. The town of Manitowish Waters established town ordinances restricting the operation of PWC’s as well as towing/water skiing hours. These activities are permitted from 9 am to 7 pm, which is slightly more restrictive than the State of Wisconsin regulations. Several individuals were contacted regarding these ordinances this season.

But watching for navigational violations is not our only responsibility. During the season, we provided aid to several vessels in need of assistance. This ranged from towing disabled vessels to a safe location, to helping canoeing campers get to a safe location under severe wind and storm conditions, to assisting vessels who lost their required navigational lights and needed to get home safely. And although we did not respond to any boat accidents this season, we did have an aircraft crash land on Island lake. Patrol Officer Tony Justice responded to the crash site and assisted with crowd control, coordinating with the NTSB and the FAA, as well as assist with photo documentation of the accident scene.

Once again this season, Boat Patrol Officers provided safety overwatch duties for the Water Ski shows held on Rest Lake near the boat landing. Our primary focus was to provide a safe environment for both the Water Ski performers as well as the boaters observing. We monitor the boat landing access as much as possible during the Ski shows to prevent vessels from inadvertently getting in the path of the ski boats. It was often necessary to stop vessels headed to the boat landing and have them wait for a safe opportunity to access the boat landing. We greatly appreciated everyone’s patience during the shows, as it creates a much safer environment for everybody.

As always, the Boat Patrol Teams primary goal is to keep everyone who uses our beautiful chain of lakes as safe as possible. We do not intend to inhibit or prevent anyone’s enjoyment of the water, but we do ask that everyone show respect and maturity toward all the user groups that utilize our waters. Everyone, resident or visitor, has an equal right to enjoy the water. The more respect, maturity, and patience we exhibit, the better everyone’s time on the water will be, and as importantly, the better role models we will be for our families and community.