Members of the Wawasee Lake Patrol dedicate their volunteer time to take care of educating all who boat on the state’s largest natural lake.
Jim Tranter, who oversees the local patrol, presented information about that patrol at the Wawasee Property Owners Association’s annual public board meeting Saturday at Oakwood Hotel, Syracuse.
Tranter stated there has been discussion “who we report to. We basically report to the (Kosciusko County) sheriff’s department. The sheriff’s department is our liaison. They do our training which is extensive training and can run 40 hours per season. The volunteer deputies are out there to patrol. We make stops … and issue tickets. But that is a last resort. We’ve been trained in that area, but that is not our goal. Our goal is education.”
This year the lake patrol, along with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Toledo branch, will be doing boat inspections at the two ramps: one at Ward Park, Syracuse, the other at Wawasee Family Fishing Area, on the southeast side of Lake Wawasee. “We’ll be there part of the time. (Coast Guard Auxiliary the other times). Our feeling on the education part of it is if we can stop the problem before it ever gets on the lake, we’re way ahead of the situation.”The inspections will focus on various areas: personal flotation devices, operational lights just to name a few, but the main focus will be proper boat registration. Tranter explained they will be looking at what the registration looks like on the boat, is it displayed where required on the bow? And does it measure properly so you can see it from a distance? “There is a purpose for all those rules.”
He said the block lettering is required by law. “We’re sitting out there one-half mile away. We need to see something that looks logical. Bold letters can be seen from that distance,” said Tranter. “We don’t want to drive within 10 feet of a boat to be able to see if it’s got letters and numbers.”
He stressed, during the question and answer time, the lake patrol is not under the DNR but they assist the DNR if requested. “We don’t answer to them in the sense of direction, our patrol all comes from the sheriff’s department. We don’t know when they’re (DNR) patrolling. We’re not intertwined.”
He noted once inspection is completed, each boater will be given a decal to post on the windshield or other prominent location. He added individuals who want their boat inspected, the lake patrol will make arrangements to come to the individual homes or neighborhoods. This should be arranged by contacting Janet Hartley, WPOA secretary, to in turn contact Tranter.
The inspections take approximately 10 minutes.
The group was informed the patrol has a fleet of five boats, four always on Wawasee and one always on Syracuse. The two groups trade back and forth in patrolling. “We can patrol back and forth,” he noted, adding the group also does a lot of patrols for marine events: fireworks, wooden boat parade and flotilla.
The lake patrol provides a training program one day a week during July for the junior sailing program at Wawasee Yacht Club. “If you start when they’re young, you get a lot done.”
Tranter stressed in a boat, situations happen in a matter of seconds, encouraging all boaters to have life jackets available, not under the deck in the plastic bag it was purchased in. “I’ve stopped boats out there where everybody’s proud of their life jackets, still in the wrappers, up under the front deck. That’s wonderful folks, great. But your boat can turn over in matter of seconds. Trying to find that life jacket just won’t happen.” Tranter noted a law being worked on in the state is life jackets must be visually available when boating. “Some states have already gone to it … it’s a good law. We don’t have it in Indiana. You have a lot of guests on your boat, they have no idea where that life jacket might be.”He commented officers cannot stop anyone without probable cause. That probable cause is normally boat registration, however, it’s occasionally someone riding on the sides of the boat. He likened the boat to operating a motor vehicle. “The laws of the state of Indiana about a boat are the same as a car. Whatever you’re doing in a car, the same thing happens in a boat.” Many times, he stated, a boater will be stopped for registration matters and officers told the boat is registered, but the paperwork was left on the dining room table. “We’re not going to go look on the dining room table.” He added “I don’t think most people would do it with their car, leave all your registration and paperwork on the dining room table. The same is true of the boat. Thank of your boat as your car.”
Questioned directed to Tranter included wearing life jackets, if the patrol is on the lake daily, and guidelines regarding traffic flow and anchoring of boats.
Tranter clarified the wearing of life jackets by those 13 years old and under as questioned. He noted that is for boating on waters touching the state such as Lake Michigan, Ohio River, etc., and are on deck. This is not the case for inland waters, such as Wawasee.
Lake patrol officers are on the lake almost daily, primarily focusing on the weekends. When officers are on the lake, the county’s communication center is notified so if any calls regarding problems on the lake are received, the officers can be notified.
Tranter stated there is no law regarding anchored boats hindering traffic flow. “It is about being sensible and part of our job is to ask them to move as they are blocking the flow of traffic.”
It was noted the new WPOA Neighbor’s book has a page which can be removed regarding boating laws and a checklist to use before heading out.
Questioned who to call if something is seen on the lake, an individual does not like, it was noted to contact the sheriff’s department. A local number, (574) 457-5757 was provided. “Tell the dispatchers the situation and they will contact us via radio.”
“There’s no question about it. We want you to have fun. That’s why we’re out there. But we have to be sensible about that.