Avoid a fine, get your boat inspected

BENTON COUNTY, Wash. -- Those warmer temperatures mean more boats on the river. But how can you make sure you're not going to get pulled over on the water? Deputies want to encourage everyone to get their boat inspected - or pay the price. KEPR found out exactly what you need to know at Sunday's free inspection.

Lonnie Langston has been a boat owner for 25 years. He takes advantage of free boat inspections each spring.

"We have to go through a checklist we have; we have to have the basic fire extinguishers and life jackets and all the requirements to be on the water," said Lonnie.

He's sure to get a new inspection sticker each year.

So, how can you make sure you don't get pulled over while on the water? Deputy Tom Morton says life jackets are one of the biggest issues. You must have one for each person on the boat - the appropriate size and Coast Guard approved.

But that's not the only common issue.

"A lot of people don't know that Benton County requires flares to be on board their boat," said Morton.

Just like Ray Goehring. He has been a boat owner for four years, but this was his first inspection.

"It went fine, except I don't have any nighttime flares," said Goehring.

Deputy Morton says these are crucial in an emergency.

"If I search around for them for three hours and they're having an emergency, not a good thing. But if I can find them within minutes because they light off a flare, it's much better for them," he said.

But in order to pass an inspection, they cannot be expired and you must have a minimum of 3.

"We want people to have a safe and fun summer. We want them to come out here and have a great time, but we want them to have it with the least amount of risk to themselves and others as possible," said Deputy Morton.

Ray can attest to that.

"Everybody's out there on the river together; they need to be able to help each other," he said.

About 75 percent of the boats that came to get inspected today did not pass.

The Benton County Sheriff's Office will be holding one more free inspection next Saturday, May 3. They will be at Columbia Point Marina from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you need some incentive to go, most equipment violations are $87. Registration violations are almost $300.

BCSO is also holding a boater education class on June 14 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Richland Yacht Club. The class is free, and food and drinks will be served. If you want a spot in the class, call (509) 735-6555 to sign up.

Failure to have a boater education card is $87.