Skip to comments.Boat owners say they were fearful during Coast Guard search
Posted on 09/22/2005 2:42:37 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Two of the Moss Landing Harbor residents who were the subjects of random boat searches during Labor Day Weekend say their experiences were closer to armed invasions than the friendly "safety inspections" characterized by U.S. Coast Guard officials.
Both residents said search crews entered the harbor in inflatable boats with machine guns mounted on their bows. Then, carrying M-16 rifles, they approached residents and boarded and searched their boats in the name of safety and "homeland security."
One resident, who asked not to be identified for fear or retribution, said his experience was "very intimidating, very frightening."
"To me it reeks of Nazi Germany and the death squads in Argentina," he said. "I don't want my name on their list."
Scott Jones, a live-aboard resident who was searched, said there has been talk in the harbor about contacting the American Civil Liberties Union, but he first wants to hear further from the Coast Guard about its future intentions.
Lt. Mark Warren of the Monterey Coast Guard Station said he has heard mostly positive response to the operation, but may rethink future actions given current criticisms.
"We take lessons and learn from these types of operations. If the public is genuinely distasteful of it, we might not do it," he said. "I'm not saying we won't, but I'm not saying we will."
In addition to trying to ensure the safety of boats on the bay during the holiday weekend, Warren said, the operation was part of an effort to increase the public's awareness of the Coast Guard's role as a law enforcement agency under the Department of Homeland Security. He said the public might have been surprised to see weaponry that is now standard issue to all Homeland Security forces.
"I, as a U.S. citizen, am highly offended by that," said Jones, who is accustomed to Coast Guard boardings when he sails. "When a sheriff's deputy drives down the road or a CHP officer drives down the road and I see them, I'm aware of his job, and not because he's pulled me over and put a gun to my head.
"The Coast Guard's needs would be better served by an advertising campaign," he said, "rather than bullying people in their bedrooms at 10:30 at night."
Jones said he and his wife were sleeping when they were awakened by knocking on the side of the boat.
He went to the deck and was confronted by two armed officers asking if they could come aboard. Thinking something had happened in the harbor that the officers needed to talk to him about, Jones acquiesced.
"It seemed a little unreasonable at 10:30 at night," he said, "but it was the middle of the night and I was half asleep, so I said 'OK.' At this point, I looked out and saw six to eight officers (on the dock) and all appeared armed."
The officers boarded his boat and quickly spread out beyond the immediate deck without invitation, saying they were conducting a safety inspection.
"I can say with all certainly that what they did was not a safety inspection or in any way related to a safety inspection," he said. The officers demanded access to the bilge, saying they wanted to make sure the boat wasn't taking on water.
"This was highly suspect," Jones said. "If you're on board, you'd know if you were taking on water."
When Jones showed them the bilge, the officers repeatedly, and with increasing forcefulness, demanded to know if there were other accesses to the bilge. They also "demanded" the driver's licenses of everyone on board.
Increasingly upset by the nature of the search, Jones asked for the officers' authority and justification. One officer read to him from a federal code authorizing the search.
"It was either the Patriot Act or homeland security,"Jones said.
Warren said the officers would not have cited the Patriot Act because it affords the Coast Guard no additional authority.
Jones conceded he may have heard "homeland security" and registered "Patriot Act," but still feels the search was unwarranted and in a gray area of the law at best.
"I wouldn't question their professionalism, but I do question their motive and their authority," he said. "To me, it sounds like something that an ACLU lawyer would just tear apart."
Coast Guard officials say they are authorized by maritime law to board and search vessels on U.S. waters, including waters that lead to U.S. waters, to enforce federal laws.
Warren said the officers were attempting to ensure the safety and compliance of docked boats by checking for oily water in their bilges and that their sanitation devices were in locked position. Some searches were conducted at night in an effort to catch boats before they went onto the bay for the weekend.
The second boat owner who spoke to The Herald said his boat was searched after he challenged officers who were searching other boats, at 10:30 p.m. Sept. 2, and during the morning on following days. Told they were acting as Homeland Security officers, he asked what they were protecting the harbor from.
"Terrorists," he said he was told by the officers, who exhorted him to "remember the Cole," referring to the October 2000 attack by terrorists on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors.
"The only terrorists down here are you guys," he told them. "You're scaring the hell out of me with that machine gun."
While Warren was noncommittal about future searches, he said it is important for the public to know the Coast Guard's presence will be increased.
"The Coast Guard's focus on homeland security has increased our presence on the water and will continue to increase our presence simply because that's what Congress is wanting us to do right now," he said. "The concern at the congressional level about the security of ports is pretty high."
Exactly. Also that their problem people are no longer supervised.
Or they may have oily bilge buildup
Something else was going on. See No. 154.
What happened... a coastie run off with your girlfriend or something? :-)
Yes, she's a Formula Liberator (If you read Formula's history on it's web page they mention this boat). I completely gutted it and rebuilt it from scratch with my own two hands over 4 years. She's my pride and joy... The pic is old and needs updating.
He wouldn't question their professionalism. So it's apparent they were not rude nasty or the Nazis, not you, but some on this thread have suggested.
I knew one like that, but he was the only one. The rest I liked a lot.
154... I don't think so.
I think its just some dude that got busted some time back... and now he's got it in for the coasties.
Waking people up at 10:30 PM and coming armed on their boat for a "safety" search sure sounds jack-booted to me.
Tell that to all the fishermen saved by the USCG during the "Perfect Storm"
Gee, I wonder how they got all those videos?
You got that right!
The short answer is no. I'm on the water alot there and have yet to see a rifle or machine gun on any of the Menemsha Station guys. Sidearms yes.
I just got back from Seattle and I did see a hardbottom zodiac with a machine gun mounted on the bow in Everett harbor.....maybe it's a west coast thing.
Absolutely! Druggies need their beauty sleep! Enforcement of laws should simply shut down at night. Too dark and scary to be out at night.
Posted on Tue, Sep. 06, 2005
Coast Guard raids moored harbor vessels
By VIRGINIA HENNESSEY Herald Staff Writer
The Coast Guard boarded and inspected close to 30 vessels, many of them docked, in Monterey Bay over the Labor Day weekend in a operation that raised the eyebrows of some local boaters and the ire of one.
The operation -- conducted in conjunction with the Monterey County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -- netted one arrest in Moss Landing Harbor and terminated the voyages of five vessels that were deemed unsafe.
In all, 28 boats, many of them live-aboard vessels that were moored in the harbors, were boarded and 31 citations were issued. One angry boater said Coast Guard officers came aboard his boat in Moss Landing Harbor late Friday citing authority under the Patriot Act.
In an e-mail to The Herald, Lowell Jones of Moss Landing said the Coast Guard did a "blanket boarding" in the harbor, "searching boats, and invading people's privacy at 10:30 p.m. They justified this intrusion by citing the Patriot Act.
"The locals are not happy, and the boating community as a whole has expressed concerns over privacy relating to such dockside boardings of legal live-aboard residents," he wrote.
Coast Guard officials said the operation was not in response to any particular law enforcement report and that search warrants are not required for such inspections.
"It wasn't a drill. But it wasn't in response to any Homeland Security threat we received," said Gabriel Flesher, chief of the Coast Guard's San Francisco division, which oversees Homeland Security issues in the area. "The exercise was developed as a random operation with local law enforcement agencies (and) we have the authority to board dockside."
Lt. Todd Moe of the Coast Guard's Monterey division said the operation was directed at boating safety during the busiest boating weekend of the year and was authorized under maritime law dating to the 1700s, which gives the Coast Guard jurisdiction over federal waters, including waterways that lead to the open seas.
Jon Copley, chief of the Coast Guard's law enforcement division in San Francisco, said he would be "very surprised" if one of the agency's officers cited the Patriot Act.
The U.S. Code allows the Coast Guard to "make inquiries, examinations, inspections, searches, seizures, and arrests upon the high seas and waters over which the United States has jurisdiction, for the prevention, detection, and suppression of violations of laws of the United States. For such purposes, commissioned, warrant, and petty officers may at any time go on board of any vessel subject to the jurisdiction... of the United States, address inquiries to those on board, examine the ship's documents and papers, and examine, inspect, and search the vessel and use all necessary force to compel compliance."
Moe said "99 percent of the feedback" he'd received was positive and that the operation resulted in the safest Labor Day on record on the Monterey Bay. The Coast Guard was called out to only one incident.
Safety violations that were cited included boats lacking floatation and fire-extinguishing devices and proper documentation. Moe said he did not know the identity of the one man who was arrested by the Sheriff's Office possession of marijuana and an illegal weapon. The deputies involved in the arrest were not available on Tuesday.
Harbormasters in Monterey, Moss Landing and Santa Cruz said they were not notified in advance of the operation. Moss Landing Harbormaster Linda McIntyre said she supports the Coast Guard's efforts to improve safety on the bay, but added that she'd never known the agency to do "door-to-door" inspections of docked vessels.
She said she had received complaints by some residents, but heard others praise the guard.
Monterey Harbormaster Steve Scheiblauer said in his 30 years as a harbormaster in Monterey and Santa Cruz, he'd never heard of any law enforcement agency randomly searching vessels being used as homes. Like several other harbormasters, Scheiblauer was under the impression the Coast Guard's blanket boarding authorization applied only to vessels that were underway.
"That is, on the face of it, pretty preposterous. They can board boats when they're underway. But when a boat is tied up, particularly as a residence, I don't think there's any probable cause to go aboard and search. As a random search, that would be very controversial, I would think, among the public."
Kimbra Eldridge, operations manager of the Santa Cruz Harbor, said her agency does not board boats "unless we have a particular cause."
Reports of the Coast Guard's operation also came as a surprise to Eric Endersby, chief harbor patrol officer in Morro Bay Harbor.
"The Coast Guard has the authority to board any vessel that's underway," he said. "But boats in slips are not underway and my understanding was the Coast Guard didn't have authority to board a boat that's tied up in a slip."
"That's a little scary," he added.
Andy Turpin, senior editor at Latitude 38, a widely read sailing magazine in Marin County, said Coast Guard boardings in the San Francisco Bay Area were an "accepted annoyance."
"It's common to be boarded and it's something you have to put up with," he said.
The practice was even more common during the height of the "zero tolerance" drug wars, he said, but even then, the Coast Guard did not randomly board docked boats.
"I have never heard of that happening up here," he said. "Before 9/11, when they had a little more time on their hands, they would come to a marina and offer free safety inspections and give you a sticker to keep you from being boarded on your Sunday sail."
Virginia Hennessey can be reached at 646-4355 or email@example.com
Blue Water Golden Shellback Bump
Yeah and maybe they can quarter some troops at your house!
And where did you get the info that these people were druggies?
Should they search YOUR house at night while you are trying to sleep?
Probably not - but not to worry they're called federal waters too.
Those LE officers who do their job well earn my respect. I'll admit it.
Hey slick you evidently think this is doing their job well.
Pitiful plum piiiitiful.
If you were around in 1776 you would be for the British.
There are plenty of Coastie shellbacks, golden dragons, and golden shellbacks. Perhaps you're not familiar with where the larger cutters go. ...and unlike their Navy counterparts... they go alone. :-)