Now that this year's event is over we're already planning for the next one...there is however, one item I'd like to pass to all prospective Canal Days 2009 attendees in order to get out in front of any rumors that may start up relating to 09's event...
There were a lot of bad rumors flying in the local papers regarding the Coast Guard and our patrol intentions. .... For now, allow me to dispel them:
1. First off, there was never any "magic number" that the Coast Guard established for max capacity of the basin. It's a judgment call made by the Coast Guard personnel on-scene. In talking with many of the boaters, I kept hearing 150, etc...The reality is you cannot quantify basin capacity - when we decided to finally close the basin, we factored in the number and size of boats already rafted, swimmers, forecasted weather, medical response capability, search and rescue response capability, and the overall "behavior" of the crowd, and a couple other factors.
2. Unfortunately, the other half of this rumor I heard while chatting with some of the early arrivals was the claim that the "Coast Guard was going to stop and board every boat entering the basin to look for and confiscate alcohol and drugs." When I heard that, I nearly fell to the deck laughing...Here's the deal - drugs are a no-brainer - illegal - and there are the obvious repercussions for possession, distribution, etc. Alcohol...as long as you're not operating (driving, navigating or otherwise responsible for the vessel's operation) under the influence (.08 BAC - just like a vehicle), it's no problem for passengers to drink and it certainly isn't illegal to transport alcohol in a recreational vessel...the other funny twist to this rumor is the sheer amount of resources it would take to actually board every vessel coming into the basin...we'd have to bring in 300 additional Coasties, work around the clock, and we still might not get it done in time for Canal Days. Besides, having all those boats stacked up in the Canal is a disaster waiting to happen (think about it - a 700ft commercial vessel bearing down on a cluster of 200 boats...you get my point).
So...my advice for next year...unless the information is coming from someone wearing a blue Coast Guard uniform, I would consider the information suspect. Just like this year, I will make myself available to answer any question the boating public may have...Why? These rumors actually make my job and the job of my crew harder. The Coast Guard crews (Active Duty, Reserves AND Auxiliary), the Maryland National Guard 32nd CST, the various Fire Company boats, Cecil County Sheriffs, and Maryland Natural Resource Police worked around the clock to ensure the safety of all waterborne attendees - a daunting task without the "assistance" of bad information.
So again - Next year, if anyone has any questions regarding the basin Canal Days spin-off festivities, do not hesitate to contact Coast Guard Sector Baltimore and ask for me by name.
In the meantime, on behalf of the entire multi-agency Maritime Safety & Security Detachment - Chesapeake City, it was a privilege to once again serve during this year's event...and the crews already looking forward to next year!
LT Joshua Blocker, USCG
CG Sector Baltimore
Find out more about the USCG Sector Baltimore here.