Uncle Sam Wants You!

UnclesamwebAmerica's recreational boaters are being touted to help fight the war on terror—and the effort will likely hit their pocketbook. The Bush adminstration wants the country's 80 million boaters to keep an eye out for suspicious behavior on our coastal and inland waterways, and to report anything usual to local authorities—much like a neighborhood watch program.

According to an intelligence report obtained by the Associated Press, "The use of a small boat as a weapon is likely to remain al Qaeda's weapon of choice in the maritime environment, given its ease in arming and deploying, low cost, and record of success."

While the government has intel and procedures to check up on big super tankers entering our waters and ports, they're virtually blind when it comes to small, personal, recreational craft. The government's first idea was to create a federal licensing program—which was immediately shot down by boating organizations. While the government has backed down from the licensing idea, a continuing strategy is to register and regulate recreational boats.

Now, I don't have a problem with keeping our country safe, and while this is a tentative first step by the administration at addressing a potential threat, one that could change by the time it's implemented, I fail to see how it's really going to do anything except cost recreational boaters money.

The AP story reports that John Fetterman, deputy chief of Maine's marine patrol, said that his officers regularly get intelligence reports about unknown or unrecognized boaters taking pictures of a bridge or measurements of a dam. But he says there just aren't enough officers on the water to address every report.

So my question is: what exactly are they going to do differently? If we're to act as a neighborhood watch and report suspicious incidents, what are local (or other) authorities going to do about the suspicious behavior in the small timeframe before said boater bolts? If they're already unable to respond to incoming calls, how are more eyes and more awareness going to help them? They'll actually have more reports coming in and the same number of officers to handle the reports...unless of course they're able to hire more officers.

And just where do you think the money to hire more officers will come from? The logical guess would be from your pocket ala federal regulation and registration (licensing) processes, as well as increased fines from new safety standards (safety certificate on board, ID matching owner with certificate, etc).

Get ready boaters and anglers, the cost of owning a boat could be going up in the very near future.

—Brian Lynn