“When you are towing on a personal watercraft, you have to have a watercraft that is designed for three people,” said Deputy Seth McLaughlin of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol.
The Marine Patrol had stopped to chat with boaters on Cultus Lake, because it wasn’t clear their personal watercraft was designed to tow a tube.
Upon closer inspection, deputies realized the craft was the correct size.
With a friendly reminder to display an orange “skier in the water” flag, they sent the boaters on their way.
“A lot of people just don’t know what safety items they are supposed to have on board,” McLaughlin said.
Cultus Lake is busier than usual this year because water levels at nearby Wickiup Reservoir are too low to launch large boats.
“Now all boaters who want to do towed activities have to come to Cultus, which is great,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a beautiful body of water but definitely more busy than it used to be.”
He said there are daily backups on the launch ramp, especially in the afternoons when people are coming in after work or putting in on Friday for the weekend.
With the crowding, marine deputies are paying special attention to distances between boats.
Powerboats must stay 200 feet away from paddle craft and 100 feet away from other powerboats.
“We are watching out especially for personal watercraft, people that like to take advantage of wakes that other boats make,” McLaughlin said. “We are making sure that they are not cutting too close behind other moving vessels.”
Marine patrol also checks on paddlers to make sure they have properly fitting life jackets, sound producing items such as a whistle and waterway access permits which are now required on all paddle craft 10 feet and longer.
These paddle boarders had none of the required equipment.
Deputies advised them to stay in shallow water close to shore.
Even with the crowds, Deputy McLaughlin says there haven’t been any boating accidents in Deschutes County thus far this year.
That could be due to the boating public understanding equipment and operating requirements.
It might also have something to do with continuous marine patrol presence on the water.