Alabama Marine Police set for holiday weekend

Published 9:29 pm Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Memorial Day holiday marks the unofficial start to summer. Schools and businesses close, and the date usually marks the beginning of the annual family vacation.

But for law enforcement officials—both those on the highway and the water—the Memorial Day holiday marks a very busy weekend on the job.

“We’re gearing up for the weekend in all areas,” Alabama Marine Police spokesperson Lt. Erica Shipman said. “We are expecting for boaters to be out on the lakes and rivers in full force.”

Though a rainy forecast may keep a few boaters away from the water, Shipman said the department is putting extra patrols on the state’s lakes, calling in supervisors for additional support.

But the patrols early in the season may not be looking for those breaking laws, such as boating under the influence or excessive speed, but lending aid to boaters who may not have prepared their boats fully for the boating season.

“We will see a lot of boats this weekend being towed in or towing boats in ourselves,” Shipman said. “There are a number of boaters who have put their boats up for the winter and don’t make sure their boats are ready before they put in this weekend.”

Shipman urged boaters heading to the water this weekend to ensure proper maintenance has been performed on the boats and also ensure all safety components have been checked out.

“Boaters really need to double check their lights and make sure they have spares on board,” Shipman said. “It is also necessary to check to make sure all the life vests are in good condition and are replaced if necessary.”

Shipman added the No. 1 violation found early in the season is expired boating registration.

“With the boats up for the winter, many owners forget to get that little sticker renewed,” Shipman said.

Lake Mitchell and its 5,850 acres of water is considered by the marine police as a “one-man lake,” meaning the department primarily has only one officer on patrol on the lake. Shipman also added the Memorial Day weekend, while a busy weekend, is not the department’s busiest weekend.

“We really gear up for the Fourth of July weekend,” Shipman said. “That is the weekend that is our biggest of the year.”