Tuesday, December 21, 2010, 10:04 PM
Posted by Administrator
Yesterday, my daughter Aryanna's Shetland Sheepdog, Sparky, ran away when I opened the gate to get my truck into the back yard. After I hitched up my boat trailer to the truck, I found Sparky on the next block and, figuring that he needed an activity, instead of dropping him off at the house, I took him with me on the boat.

Sparky and I passed by a mantee near the boat drop off then we motored over to the Palm Beach Inlet. Sparky was not so happy with the boat bouncing through the Inlet so we came back in and headed North. We were about 300 feet off of Peanut Island and directly across from the Riviera Beach Tiki Hut when a Southbound Coast Guard boat turned on its blue strobe lights. The Coast Guard boat was an orange rigid-hull-inflatable with an aluminum cabin large enough for six or eight Coast Guardspeople. It had three 300hp Suzuki outboards hanging off the transom and a .50 caliber machine gun a few feet aft of the bow.

I turned towards the Coast Guard boat and shut down my engine. I called out to a blue uniformed young man with a semi-automatic pistol strapped to his thigh "You're going to do all the work, right?" Because I figured that with their three engines it would be easier for them to manuever alongside me than it would be for me with my single engine to manuever alongside him. The man replied "No." But, my engine was off, so, the reality was it was going to be up to them.

I threw him my bow line and he tied me off to a cleat on the starboard side of his boat, near the bow. There was a very attractive blue uniformed blonde woman with a clipboard on her lap sitting behind the man. Behind them, on the port side of their boat, was a very attractive brunette who didn't say anything and, so, was either: a) being standoffish, or, b) guarding that side of their boat from possible attack from Peanut Island.

They asked me for my registration and ID. I was told that it wasn't a safety check but that we were stopped as part of their anti-terrorism patrol around the Port of Palm Beach. The man said that it was a random stop...by which he meant that he didn't want me to think that Sparky and I fit into some kind of boater-terrorist profile.

Now, I am not a great constitutional scholar but I sort of remember the reasons the cops are allowed to stop you (since there is that whole thing about our being "free from unreasonable seraches and seizures" in the Bill of Rights)....and, for purposes of this discussion, "cops" includes the Coast Guard.

1) If the cops have a reasonable suspicion that you are engaged in criminal activity...or that you have violated a staute or ordinance. An example of this would be allowing your boat to produce a wake in a no-wake zone. Sparky and I were wake-free.
2) In a border area for the purpose of policing the border and keeping out contraband and illegals. A border area stop doesn't require reasonable suspicion and we could have been stopped for no reason at all. And the Intracoastal Waterway connects with the ocean with connects with the rest of the word, so, we certainly were in a border area. But, I asked the Coast Guard man whether their stopping us was related to our being in a border area. He said "no".

I really don't think that the Coast Guard is allowed to stop boaters to make random checks having nothing to do with boating safety and nothing to do with policing the border. The Riviera Beach Police couldn't have made a legal RANDOM stop of my truck while I was driving on the flyover above the Port just because they thought that would be a good way to stop terrorism (though if my truck has a broken taillight lens...or if the cop stopping me says it is broken...then the stop is ok).

But, it doesn't matter if the stop is legal or not unless you get arrested as a result (and neither Sparky nor I was arrested) or unless you do something about it. So, I could call the American Civil Liberties Union and ask them to sue the Coast Guard and to get a Court order requiring that they stop their shennanigans. But, on the other hand, if my boat sinks I'm going to call the Coast Guard and Coast Guard boats are kind of cool looking. And they were nice to Sparky and me. Also, did I mention that the Coast Guard women were kinda hot?

The man handed my ID to the blonde woman and she wrote my information down on her clipboard. She asked me for my phone number and I thought "That's a violation of my privacy." Then, I thought, "My business number is on my website...I try to get people to take down the number." So, I gave her 624-6306.

At about the time I was giving the blonde my phone number, I heard a woman's voice come over a radio speaker in the cabin of their boat. "There are two boats in the inlet and they're about to get into a fight.", she said. Everyone waited for me to get my engine started before the Coast Guardsman at the helm turned on their siren and theytook off towards the Inlet.

I know I should be more upset about the illegal stop than I am and I apologize for my lack of upset-ness. After all, if we lawyers don't cause a ruckus when the government trample our rights, who is going to? But, to be honest, I like the Coast Guard. And if the brunette had been the one asking for my phone number, I would have give her my cell.

add comment ( 11 views )   |  0 trackbacks   |   ( 3.1 / 1488 )

<Back | 1 | Next> >>