Drunken boaters target of ‘Operation Dry Water’

Six people arrested in area this season for drunken boating
Drunken boaters target of ‘Operation Dry Water’

Boaters enjoying time out on Wisconsin’s lakes recently might have noticed extra patrols.

It’s all part of “Operation Dry Water,” as Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources attempts to crack down on drunken boating.

On the days where the skies are blue — as nearly all have been in the Madison area lately — Eric Grudzinski is patrolling the waters to see if any boaters are in the red. Grudzinski, a warden with the DNR, is helping to enforce “Operation Dry Water,” a program that seeks to target people who drive their boats while intoxicated.

“Any given weekend in the Madison chain that we have nice weather like this, wardens, the sheriff’s deputies, the boat patrol are out here enforcing OWI regulations,” said Grudzinski.

Ryan Ketter, an intern with the DNR, demonstrates what happens during a field — or, in this case, lake — sobriety test.

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“Keep your eyes still and follow the tip of my pen with your eyes and your eyes only,” recites Grudzinski as he tests Ketter. “You understand?”

Meanwhile, a PBT, or preliminary breath test might be used by a warden. He or she might ask a boater to blow into a straw. The other end of the instrument will indicate what someone’s blood alcohol content is.

Not surprisingly, Ketter passed his demonstration. But what happens to those that don’t?

“Then, we place him under arrest, we make sure he has a life jacket on if he didn’t already, then we place him in handcuffs,” said Grudzinksi.

Some boaters, like Joe Guimond, don’t seem to be too concerned about “Operation Dry Water.”

“It’s nice to kick back on the boat and have a couple of beers,” said Guimond, admitting that he’s operated his boat after a few adult beverages.

“I think I’ve been pulled over twice in 20 years,” said Guimond. “Just to check for fishing licenses and stuff.”

Just like an officer enforcing the rules of the road, Grudzinski said he can only stop boaters for violating the rules of the water.

Wardens said that so far this summer six people have been arrested for driving a boat while intoxicated.

Even though the Operation Dry Water campaign ended this weekend, the DNR said that they’ll still be out on the waters during the summer to ensure that everyone is boating safely.