Watching the Waterways
Washington PA Observer Reporter
22 June 2012
Larry Furlong stepped into his career in marine law enforcement a
decade ago, earning an immediate reputation for being tough on
In 2004, not long after becoming full time at the state Fish &
Boat Commission’s Southwest region based in Somerset, he arrested
14 people for boating under the influence of alcohol and made
eight other arrests within two months.
“It kind of made my career,” Furlong said Thursday, one day before
the U.S. Coast Guard launches a three-day nationwide crackdown on
“I grew up in Pittsburgh and know what drunk people look like,”
said Furlong, who now coordinates the state’s efforts to teach
commission officers how to spot drunken boaters. He also last year
was named Pennsylvania’s Boating Officer of the Year by the
National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. “I can
tell by the way they handle their life jackets, their registration
papers, whether or not they are drunk,” he said.
The national BUI effort named “Operation Dry Water” takes place a
year after boating fatalities reached an all-time high in the
United States, with BUI playing a lead role in their cause. There
were 758 deaths from recreational boating accidents, and 149 of
them involved alcohol, according to the Coast Guard. Four people
died in Pennsylvania last year from BUI-related accidents.
Locally, Furlong said, commission officers will be conducting
routine patrols as part of the effort. The Coast Guard in this
region will focus its attention in Pittsburgh, said Lt. Alanna
McGovern, the guard’s public affairs officer.
“We’re out there to educate,” McGovern said Thursday. “There
really should be a separation between boating and alcohol.”
However, a Monongahela River marina owner who declined to be
identified said nearly “everybody out there is drunk,” when told
of the crackdown. “I’m going to tell everyone,” he said.
And, those types warnings always follow an advance notice about
these BUI checks, Furlong said.
“If everybody knows about this, then they don’t leave the docks,”
Last year, the effort resulted in more than 43,000 boaters across
the nation being checked for BUI and 325 arrests, McGovern said.
Federal law does not require marine police have a reason to stop a
boater for a BUI check, Furlong said.
A person is considered under the influence with a blood alcohol
content of 0.08 percent or higher. Those caught operating a vessel
under the influence will find their voyage terminated and their
boat impounded, the Coast Guard indicated in a news release.
Penalties may include arrests, fines and loss of boating
privileges, and even the suspension of driver’s licenses in some