THE GREAT BOATING UNKNOWN
Lake Geneva is big on boating. There is no question about that. The questions begin to arise when it comes to discussing the nature of that boating, and the amount. During the summer months, in good weather during weekend days, the number of boats on the lake at any one time can swell to over a thousand. Half, or more, of those boats belong to visitors, and are lowered into the lake at the three boat pier entry points located in different communities surrounding the water.
Most of the visitors know nothing of the rules. For example, if you were born after 1989 and are older than sixteen you must have a boat operator’s card. If you are older than that you don’t need anything. Boater’s renting boats in Wisconsin must acquire a Wisconsin Boat Renter’s License. They teach things in these courses about how to always carry enough life preservers, what to do if your boat is going down, how to launch and recover the boat, etc. They teach nothing about boating and drinking, which is about the most common recreational part of summer boating witnessed if you go down to the water and watch the boats for awhile. Unlike what is found in all automobiles, it is not illegal to drink alcohol in a boat while on Wisconsin waters. It is illegal to operate the boat while drinking or drunk. The law says nothing about passengers, however. And that is the biggest problem with respect to boating.
Once the boat hits the water there’s no real enforcement of anything. There are boating patrol agencies out on Geneva Lake, but they do not cite for failure to possess the proper boating card. In fact, the attendants at the piers assisting boaters in getting their boats in and out of the water have no authority to ask for such identification or certification. The rental concerns do not check for rental licenses either. Once afloat, boat operators can be, and have been, cited for boating operation while intoxicated, but the citation is extremely rare and is usually only given following some sort of accident. There are no rules about how to get trailered boats into the water. There are posted recommendations in Town of Linn stating not to drive boats up onto trailers to get them out of the water, but again there is no enforcement. The ultimate authority over boaters, once they are launched, is the Wisconsin Department of Resources (the DNR), but very few agents of that agency exist, and none have been seen on or around Geneva Lake in a long time.
Considering that the current governmental authorities in power appear determined to rid the state of the DNR, it seems unlikely that enforcement of any rules will gain strength any time soon. It can be very entertaining to go down to any of the public boat launching piers and watch boaters trying to get their boats into the water early in the day, and then get them out later on. The later on part is better than the morning launches, because of alcohol ingestion. It is also wise, if you do go down to the launch sites for this purpose that you be very careful in offering assistance. No matter how impaired the returning boaters may be, or how inept their efforts at the seemingly simple task of getting a boat back onto a trailer and out of the water, exercise great trepidation and care in offering assistance. Most boaters think they know what they are doing. From the weekend evidence of observations around Geneva Lake, Geneva Shore Report Investigative Reporters will be open to discuss with you how there’s every chance, on any given boat launch or recovery occasion, that most boaters know very little about boating at all (fishermen and water ski boaters are the exception).
The weekend hours of Geneva Lake boating are filled with a high density of fast moving boats…their engines driven by gasoline and their pilots sometimes powered by alcohol.