Marine patrol a part of summer lake boating |

Marine patrol a part of summer lake boating

Alana Lungren

TAHOE CITY – With lights flashing and sirens wailing, Deputy Robert Griggs brought his 28-foot Placer County Marine Patrol vessel up to a speed that matched a brightly painted cigarette boat.

The “Ronnie Traub” memorial craft’s two V-8 engines cut confidently through Lake Tahoe’s waves in the code three situation, a slight change from the Marine Patrol’s frequent safety checks of private boaters.

The Placer County Sheriff’s Marine Patrol operate up and down the west and north shores of Tahoe to the state line, the largest jurisdiction of all agencies patrolling the lake.

From search and rescue missions to giving medical aid, towing in watercraft and citing boaters in violation of the law, the Marine Patrol is a group of certified sheriff’s deputies who ensure the safety of residents and visitors of the Tahoe Basin and its blue waters.

“Most people don’t understand how dangerous it is out there,” said Deputy John Riella.

Oftentimes, the Marine Patrol will stop a boat and check its registration and one of the deputies will ask the captain if they can come aboard to perform a safety inspection. By federal law, boats must have a type-four throwable flotation device on board, as well as one flotation device for each person on board and a U.S. Coast Guard approved fire extinguisher, all quickly accessible.

“Most of the time, if they accept what we tell them they need, we won’t cite them,” stated Griggs.

Other calls include searching for stolen watercraft and conducting sobriety tests on boat operators, giving chase to lawbreakers – which Riella said is more dangerous on the water than on land – and coordinating efforts with other agencies on the lake.

“We get called to assist them,” Deputy Josh Shelton said of the role Placer County plays with the 16 other patrols on the water.

The Marine Patrol has extended shift hours on Saturday and holiday nights, such as the Fourth of July, because of increased traffic in the evening.

“There are so many (inexperienced boaters) out there,” Griggs said. “It’s a different world at night – it is speed, five miles per hour is way too fast.”

And by law, operating a boat while under the influence – over the .08 legal limit – is illegal, however open containers are allowed on watercraft.

“Fortunately, we don’t have a lot of that up here,” Griggs said.

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