On the water with the Linn County Marine Patrol

Linn County SO, marine patrol, marine board, OSMB, boating safety, Foster Reservoir, buii, life jackets, logs, obstructions, boater education card

Deputy Matt Wilcox of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol talks about boating safety on Foster Reservoir on Friday, April 29, 2016.

Albany Democrat-Herald (On the water with the Marine Patrol), Neil Zawicki.  See original article for video.

There were more floating logs than boaters on Foster Reservoir Friday afternoon. In fact, the log-to-boater ratio was around 30 to one; the result of the recent filling of the reservoir, which caused all the debris brought in during the low winter levels to float.

The logs lurk in every direction, creating submerged hazards for boaters, and adding to the early season mission of the Linn County Sheriff Marine Patrol. The low boat traffic is only because the season is not yet in full swing. When it is, there will be upwards of 300 boats out here.

Deputy Matt Wilcox patrols this liquid beat in a 19-foot jet boat, one of two vessels the Marine Patrol operates to patrol Foster and 14 other lakes and reservoirs and three rivers countywide. The patrol also runs a drift boat and a bad cat pontoon boat. Along with the enforcement, the patrol also assists in search and rescue missions and victim transport.

The aluminum North River boat runs a Chevrolet 350, which powers the impeller for the jet drive. At $43,000, it was paid for in partnership with the Oregon State Marine Board.

The state marine board contracts the patrol for 800 hours of patrol time each year. Where they patrol, however, is up to them.

“I have to decide where I’m going to do the best good,” said Wilcox, piloting his boat slowly through a quiet cove near Sunnyside boat ramp. Once he clears the channel at makes in to the main body of the lake, he opens it up, and the boat lifts out of the water, nearly flying at almost 50 MPH.

Wilcox said his main mission is to educate boaters on safety and correct operation of their watercraft; anyone with a boat powered above 10 HP needs a Boater’s Education card, and carry life vests and fire extinguishers on board. To promote boater safety, and as a public service, the Marine patrol has teamed up with the Bi-Mart stores in Lebanon, Albany and Sweet Home, to offer watercraft inspections in late May.

But Wilcox also remains on the lookout for any less-than-responsible behavior. There is no open container law for boaters, and so Wilcox encounters a fair amount of people boating under the influence. He averages six arrests for the misdemeanor offense each season, and while a cooler full of beer is a time-honored companion for fishermen as well as wake boarders, the combination of water, booze, and lack of compliance with safety rules, can add to his work day.

He told the story of one intoxicated boater who had run his boat onto a rock, swamping and sinking it, while not wearing his required life preserver. Luckily, he didn’t drown, but the story is a cautionary one for boaters who otherwise have a sense of security on such a placid lake.

“I had another guy who jumped off the dam when I approached him, just because he didn’t want to talk to me,” said Wilcox. “He was playing air guitar on the hood of his car, and he was on the dam, which he’s not supposed to do, and when I called out to him, he just stepped off the edge.”

Wilcox said he used a laser range finder to determine the guy had fallen more than 60 feet, landing flat on his back in the water.

“I was more shocked than anything else,” he said.

Wilcox also takes the quiet, un-crowded patrol hours to set buoys to mark under water hazards, such as the concrete structure that rests just 3 feet below the surface near a swimming beach. Cleary anyone with an exposed propeller drafting more than 3 feet would have an expensive and dangerous day on the lake without the warning buoys.

When it comes to patrolling for boaters, Wilcox takes a casual approach, and it’s clear a boater would have to do a lot to get his attention. Still, he says, some boaters will pull up anchor and speed off upon sighting him, which he says is amusing because, where are they going to go? And also, if they don’t want to talk to him, there’s probably a reason he should talk to them.

If they’re open and friendly, he tends to treat them the same way. Approaching a boat at anchor, with fishing lines in the water, Wilcox rolls his bow across their beam and hails them. A young man stands up and says hello. Wilcox talks to him like a fellow fisherman, and the two have a friendly conversation. Noticing the boat has no registration, Wilcox asks if the boat is new.

“Yep, first time out today,” says the young man. “Just bought it last weekend at the boat show in Portland!”

Wilcox wishes the fishermen a good afternoon and moves on. He didn’t bother with the registration because the men were open to talking and also because it was obvious the boat was new. And it really did have that “off the showroom floor” shine.

“That’s an instance where I’ll let them be,” he said. “Because it’s the beginning of the season, the boat’s new and there’s no reason the cite them.”

For his part, Wilcox had never driven a jet boat before his marine patrol assignment. After a 12-week course, he’s a qualified pilot, and he shows us how to execute an emergency turn, which is a high-speed maneuver design to stop the boat in very close quarters. He guns it to nearly 40 MPH and then wrenches the wheel, sending the boat in a 360-degree spin, creating a surge of wake that, to the uninitiated, threatens to swamp the craft. But it doesn’t.

Wilcox knows how far he can push his boat. He also executed an emergency stop, which is equally alarming, and describes how the boat is built below the waterline to essentially grab the water, making it more stable than most.

Motoring back to the ramp, we notice a gigantic Golden Eagle gliding to a perch in a large tree. Wilcox said wildlife viewing is a major part of the experience, and it reminds him of another regulation, which he finds amusing.

“It’s actually illegal to chase wildlife on a jet ski,” he said. “But only on a jet ski.”

5 Quick Boating Safety Tips to Kick Start Your Season

PWC Rescue Training, July 22, 2015, on the Willamette River. Training hosted by the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, in partnership with OSMB.

1.  Make sure you have a properly fitting, US Coast Guard -approved life jacket for everyone on board.  All children 12 and younger must wear a life jacket with the boat is in motion.

2.  Start out slow and scout the area from the water and from land.  This time spent will pay dividends in fun!

3.  Reduce speed when approaching and moving away from docks or other floating structures.  Remember, Oregon’s “proximity rules” state: “Operators of boats must observe slow -no wake within 200′ of a boat ramp, marina or moorage, a floating home moorage or structures, or people working at water level. The operator may be liable for damage caused by wake.”  Slow -No Wake is defined as “operating a boat at the slowest speed necessary to maintain steerage and that reduces or eliminates waves that appear as white water behind the boat.”

4.  When purchasing a new or used boat, ask if it comes with an ignition cut-off switch and lanyard.  This device will kill the engine if the operator is thrown from the seat.

5.  Make sure you have a marine B-1 fire extinguisher, a sound producing device, and your lighting works.  All boats are required to carry specific equipment based on the boat size.

For more information on rules, regulations and required equipment, visit www.boatoregon.com.


Spring Aboard! Take a Boating Education Course

Spring aboard campaign encouraging boaters to take a boating safety course.The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) encourages boaters to Spring Aboard by enrolling in a boating education course during the week of April 17-23, 2016.  Working in partnership with the states, many course providers will offer incentives or course discounts for students who enroll in or complete a course during the Spring Aboard campaign.

If you’re a boater and want to take a class, the Marine Board has three, approved Internet course providers and a long list of partners who offer classroom courses around the state.

Peruse the classroom, or our online course options.

Be ready for the boating season and consider refreshing your skills!  Education is the first step in accident prevention.

City of Jefferson Seeking Comments on Boat Ramp Use

City of Jefferson's boat ramp on the North Santiam River.

City of Jefferson’s boat ramp on the North Santiam River.

The City of Jefferson is holding a public meeting on April 14, to gather information from boat ramp users.  The City is trying to determine the volume of boat use and will use this information to help  decide how to better manage the facility or  whether the boat ramp should be closed.

See the detailed flyer for more information:

Announcement about the upcoming public meeting.


McKenzie River Obstruction Near MP 45 -Complete Blockage

Large fir tree obstructing the McKenzie River near MP 45.

Large fir tree obstructing the McKenzie River near MP 45. Photo courtesy of Eric Messner.

The Marine Board was alerted about a dangerous obstruction near MP 45 on the McKenzie River, on the Rainbow to Blue River run, on March 22.   An old fir tree blocks the river from bank-to-bank, with branches in tact.  Boaters will need to paddle/power strong to the left where there is a small eddy and portage, but it is not advised for inexperienced boaters.  Currents will easily pull boaters directly into the tree.

Signs have been posted upstream and downstream.  Boaters are encouraged to avoid this stretch.  A contractor has been contacted to mitigate the obstruction immediately.

Looking downstream, the view as boaters approach the fallen fir tree.

Looking downstream, the view as boaters approach the fallen fir tree. Photo courtesy of Eric Messner.


Heavy Rains, High Water = Debris

Debris accumulation on Lost Creek Reservoir in 2015.

Debris accumulation on Lost Creek Reservoir in 2015.

It’s that time of year again, when heavy rains produce land slides and much of that debris finds its way to the water.

The Marine Board wants to remind boaters to go especially slow.  As tree limbs and other woody debris get water-logged, they will submerge just below the surface but can cause some serious prop or hull damage.

Keep a sharp lookout and be aware of your surroundings.  Conditions are changing at lightning speed, so be vigilant!  It’s also a good idea to hook on the engine cut off lanyard in case you happen to collide with debris or a fixed object that’s hard to see with fast moving, high water.

And of course, wear your float coat or life jacket.  The water is VERY chilly.

Fire Facts: Claims Show Six Ways Boat Fires Happen

From BoatUS

•Check all fluid levels including engine oil, power steering, power trim reservoirs and coolant.

•Check all fluid levels including engine oil, power steering, power trim reservoirs and coolant.  Also check the integrity of fuel lines, and electrical wires to prevent boat fires.

ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 10, 2016 — Fire ranks number five among all boat losses according to the BoatUS Marine Insurance Program claims files. Dig a little a deeper, and those claims files also tell you the six specific areas that lead to most reported boat fires. If every boater paid attention to these six things, over a third of all fires aboard boats would be prevented. So what are the top six ways boat fires happen, and some lessons to take home?

26% of fires are due to “Off-the-boat” sources: Over a quarter of the time, a BoatUS member’s boat burns when something else goes up in flames – the boat next to theirs, the marina, their garage, or even a neighbor’s house. It’s every boater’s responsibility to prevent fires, but when all else fails, having a good boat insurance policy is the last backstop.

20% of fires are due to “Engine Electrical”: For boats older than 25 years, old wiring harnesses take a disproportionate chunk of the blame here. A good electrical technician can put one together for you as most boats of this age had relatively simple electrical systems.

15% of fires are due to “Other DC Electrical”: The most common cause of battery-related fires is faulty installation of batteries – reversing the positive and negative cables or misconnecting them in series (when they should be in parallel). So take a picture. Label the cables. Use red fingernail polish to mark the positive lug. By gosh do everything to hook it up right the first time.

12% of fires are due to “AC Electrical”: Most AC electrical fires start between the shore power pedestal and the boat’s shorepower inlet. Inspecting the shore power cord routinely (connector ends especially) and for boats older than 10 years, inspecting or replacing the boat’s shorepower inlet, could prove wise.

9% of fires are due to “Other Engine”: This one is all about when an engine overheats due to blocked raw water intake or mangled impeller, the latter of which can also happen after experiencing a grounding or running in mucky waters. Be sure to check the engine compartment after getting underway and replace impeller every other year.

8% of fires are due to “Batteries”: This fire fact is for the outboard folks to pay attention to. On older outboards, by far the most common cause of fires is the voltage regulator. At 10 years of age, failure rates on these important electrical components begin to climb. Once it hits 15 years old, it’s time to replace.

This is where having boat insurance can provide peace of mind, but don’t discount the importance of routine maintenance and frequent “check-ups” to make sure all of the potential sources of fire are stomped out.



Anchoring Safely in the Columbia River

Graphic from the US Army Corps of Engineers on how to anchor properly and know exactly how much chain and line are required.

The Columbia River can be one of the most thrilling and inspiring places to boat and fish, but it also has a reputation of being one of the deadliest.  Here are some tips to stay safe when boating on the Columbia River:

Choose an anchor that fits your boat and the boating conditions:

  • The plow-style anchor is good for most boats and gets its holding power by plowing into bottom sediments.
  • The fluke-style anchor (referred to as a Danforth) is similar to the plow style but is more lightweight.  It is also good for most boats and gets its holding power from its pointed flukes digging into the bottom sediments.
  • The mushroom anchor gets its holding power by sinking into the bottom sediments.  It should not be used to anchor boats larger than a small canoe, rowboat, small sailboat, or inflatable boat since the holding power is weak.  You should never depend on a mushroom anchor to hold your boat in rough water or weather.

Prepare your anchor before setting out:

  • Attach 7-8 feet of galvanized chain to the anchor. The chain aids in setting the anchor by lowering the angle of the pull as the chain sinks and lies on the bottom.  It will also help prevent abrasion of the anchor line from sand or rock on the bottom.  Most anchors grip by digging into the bottom when the line is pulled horizontally.  Any upward pull may break the anchor loose.
  • Be sure the anchor line is strong and long enough to anchor your boat.  A good rule of thumb is that the length of the line should be at least 7-10 times the depth of the water where you’re setting anchor.
  • Since an anchor can be a safety device in an emergency situation, store the anchor and its lines in an accessible area.  If the engine breaks down, you may need to anchor quickly to avoid drifting aground.

Follow these steps to anchor your boat:

  1. Select an area to anchor with plenty of room.  Ideally, it should be a well-protected area with adequate water depth and a sandy or muddy bottom.
  2. Head slowly into the wind or current into a position upwind or up-current of where you actually want to end up.
  3. When you are at that position, stop the boat and slowly lower the anchor from the bow -to the bottom.  NEVER ANCHOR FROM THE STERN because this can cause the boat to swamp (flood with water).  The square stern may be hit by waves, and water will splash into the boat.   The motor’s weight will add to this problem.
  4. Slowly back the boat away downwind or down-current.  Let out about 7-10 times as much anchor line as the depth of the water, depending on the wind strength and wave size.  Tie off the line around a bow cleat, and pull on the anchor line to make sure the anchor is set.
  5. After anchoring, take visual sightings of onshore objects or buoys in the water to help you know where your boat is positioned.  While at anchor, re-check these sightings frequently to make sure the anchor is not dragging.
  6. Periodically check connecting knots on your anchor line.  When possible, use splices instead of knots.  Knots weaken a line more than splices.

Follow these steps to retrieve your anchor:

  1. Move the boat directly over the anchor while pulling in the line.  Pulling the anchor straight up should break it free from the bottom.
  2. If the anchor is stuck, turn your boat in a large circle while keeping the anchor line pulled tight.
  3. When the anchor breaks loose, stop the boat and retrieve the anchor.  Never drag the anchor behind the boat.

It’s shaping up to be another fantastic year to go fishing for steelhead, salmon and sturgeon.  Be sure to know the fishing regulations and have all of the proper equipment on your boat to stay safe…especially a properly fitting life jacket.

*Graphic property of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District.

Duckworth Dock May Move

City wants out of dock upkeep -By Michael Leighton, Portland Observer, 2/16/16

Photo courtesy of the Portland Observer

Photo courtesy of the Portland Observer

The downtown core may be losing its public dock on the Willamette River with a proposal to move it to Swan Island.

The Oregon State Marine Board is soliciting public comment on the proposed relocation of the Kevin J. Duckworth Memorial Dock from its current location on the Eastbank Esplanade, upstream of the Steel Bridge.

The dock was dedicated as a memorial for Kevin Duckworth after his death from heart failure in 2008. The beloved former Portland Trail Blazer was fan favorite who loved to boat and fish for salmon in the downtown core. It was constructed a few years earlier as part of the Oregon Convention Center as a short term and day-use facility for recreational boaters. Management of the dock was by Portland’s Department of Transportation.

Now PDOT is facilitating a request by Daimler Corporation to move the dock to a greenway along the Willamette River near where the company plans to build a new headquarters on Swan Island, according to John Brady, PBOT communications director.

Brandy says the city’s transportation department doesn’t want to be in the dock business, and under the proposal, maintenance and security would be transferred to Portland Parks and Recreation at the new site. Upkeep could eventually be assumed by Daimler, the Swan Island truck maker, depending on future negotiations, but the dock would still be maintained for public use, Brady said.

The proposed new location would connect to the North Portland Willamette Greenway trail about 2.75 miles downstream from its current location. The site would include a 200 foot slow-no wake zone and allow short-term overnight and day use tie-up for recreational boaters, official said.

Daimler is building its waterfront headquarters on Swan Island, a $150 million project that the German-owned company says will result in 400 new, high-wage, white-collar jobs. It will receive $20 million in public support for the project.

The Marine Board will host a public meeting on the dock moving proposal on Tuesday, Feb. 23 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Portland Building, Room C, 1120 S.W. Fifth Ave. to receive oral and written comments from interested parties.

A submission deadline for written comment is also on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 8 p.m. You can email Janine.belleque@state.or.us or mail your correspondence to Janine Belleque, Boating Facilities Manager, 435 Commercial Street NE, Suite 400, P.O. Box 14145, Salem, OR 97309-5056.


*Recreational boater dollars paid for this dock.  The Marine Board would like to hear from motor boaters who frequent this area for their ideas and strongly encourage boaters to attend the public meeting.

Marine Board Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Relocation of the Duckworth Dock to Swan Island

2016DuckworthAerialPhotosoverviewThe Oregon State Marine Board is soliciting public comment on the proposed relocation of the Kevin J. Duckworth Memorial Dock located on the Eastbank Esplanade, upstream of the Steel Bridge to Swan Island.   The City of Portland is requesting the Board’s approval to relocate the dock approximately 2.75 river miles downstream to Swan Island and transfer its operation and maintenance to Portland Parks and Recreation. The proposed dock location is on the Willamette River with the upland connection merging into the North Portland Willamette Greenway trail. The dock would include a 200 foot slow-no wake zone. The intention of the dock is to allow short-term overnight and day use tie-up for recreational boaters.

The Marine Board will host a public meeting on February 23, 2016, from 6:00-8:00 pm at the Portland Building, Room C, 1120 SW Fifth Ave. in Portland to present the proposal and accept oral and written comments from interested parties. The Portland Building is located on the Transit Mall and participants are encouraged to use either the bus or MAX to attend.

The submission deadline for written comment is 8:00 pm, February 23, 2016. Please submit your comments on the proposed dock relocation by email, or US mail, to: Janine.belleque@state.or.us (email); : or Janine Belleque, Boating Facilities Manager, 435 Commercial Street NE, Suite 400, P.O. Box 14145, Salem, OR 97309-5056. Comments will not be accepted by telephone.


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