Coast Guard operation stops 4 illegal voyages at Lake Tahoe

Chief Warrant Officer Franklin Spedoke, a U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Francisco marine inspector, engage with a vessel in Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, Aug. 5.
Provided/Coast Guard

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The Coast Guard stopped four illegal voyages this month at Lake Tahoe during a multi-day operation where investigators boarded more than 60 boats.

The operation ran from Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 4-7. 

The Coast Guard in a news release said investigators boarded boats to verify passenger safety, captain’s licenses, bareboat charter agreements, and drug-and-alcohol testing programs.

The Coast Guard also provided training on legal commercial and recreational passenger vessel operations to more than 20 law enforcement officers and 40 local vessel operators.

“Unlicensed mariners or those who operate outside the limits of their license are putting the lives of their passengers at risk,” said Capt. Taylor Lam, commander, Coast Guard Sector San Francisco. “We have seen a sharp increase in the number of illegal passenger operations, and we strongly urge anyone looking to charter a boat to verify the captain’s license and the safety of the vessel.”

Chief Warrant Officer Franklin Spedoke, a U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Francisco marine inspector, and Steve Warfield, a Douglas County Sheriff’s deputy engage with a vessel on Friday, Aug. 5, at Lake Tahoe.
Provided/Coast Guard

The Coast Guard urges anyone paying for a trip on a passenger vessel to verify that their captain has a safety plan and a Merchant Mariner Credential. For larger charter boats or those with more than six passengers, ask to see a Coast Guard issued Certificate of Inspection. If the operator cannot produce appropriate credentials, passengers should not get on the boat.

Any boat carrying passengers for hire are required to hold a Coast Guard license and meet minimum safety standards. Proper emergency safety gear, navigational systems and communication equipment are required for safe operations. Uninspected passenger vessels are only permitted to carry up to six passengers for hire under Coast Guard regulations.

Chief Warrant Officer Franklin Spedoke, a U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Francisco marine inspector, engage with a vessel on Lake Tahoe, Aug. 5.
Provided/Coast Guard

Owners and operators of illegal charter boats can face civil penalties over $75,000 for illegal passenger for hire operations. Potential fines include:

— Up to $43,678 for failure to operate a passenger vessel with a Coast Guard license.

— Up to $17,935 for failure to produce a valid Certificate of Documentation for vessels over five net tons.

— Up to $8,433 for failure to have a bona fide drug and alcohol testing program.

— Up to $5,254 for failure to provide a Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection for vessels carrying more than six passengers.

Fore more information, contact Sector San Francisco Investigations Division at 510-813-9636 or email at To report an alleged illegal charter operation, contact the Coast Guard Sector San Francisco Command Center at 415-399-7300 or

For additional boating safety information, visit

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