Deputies to step up marine patrols

Out on the waters off Venice, Sarasota County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Watson keeps an eye out for boaters that may have a little too much to drink.

"The sun, the wind, you don't realize the boat is constantly moving," he said.

While open containers are not allowed in your car, boaters are allowed to drink while behind the wheel -- as long as they are not getting drunk.

Driving a boat drunk is against the law.

"There is a lot of different things that can heighten your intoxication level faster than sitting at your house having a drink," said Deputy Watson.

Much like drunk driving, boaters that blow a 0.08 will face the consequences.

"You will be taken to jail. There is the possibility of your boat being impounded," said Deputy Watson.

Since 2012, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office Marine Unit has made seven boating under the influence arrests. That number is low and they hope to keep it that way with education and patrolling.

That includes participating in Operation Dry Water. It's a national campaign that starts this weekend and focuses on reducing the number of alcohol- and drug-related accidents and fatalities on the water.

"We are going to specifically be looking for those people who didn't know where to draw the line and go from having a good time to being unsafe," said Deputy Watson.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission reports Sarasota County had 15 boating accidents last year.

Thirteen people were injured and one killed.

"A lot of people come out and they're not paying attention to what they are doing. That can cause some problems and that causes me problems," said Shawn Macguire.

As a boater, Macguire likes having extra eyes on the water.

"I appreciate it because, being retired, I don't want to have to tell people what they should and shouldn't be doing," he continued.

For boaters who wind up drunk, Deputy Watson said smart decisions will help keep everyone safe and out of trouble.

"They can stop and sit where they are, they contact a friend, let someone who is on the boat with them that hasn't been drinking drive the vessel home," he added.