BOATING UNDER THE INFLUENCE…
Helpful Insights from a Florida
Fish & Wildlife Lieutenant By Bob Lee
“It was the BUI from hell,” says Lieutenant George Pottorf of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), recalling an arrest he made for boating under the influence (BUI). It’s a case that Pottorf likes to tell his new officers about because it illustrates many variables of BUI enforcement and demonstrates how a seemingly innocent boating stop can quickly turn into a nightmare.
Caloosahatchee River, 1993″I was patrolling a desolate area of theCaloosahatchee River in southwestFlorida one afternoon,” says Pottorf,”when I stopped a small motor boat forno registration numbers. The vessel wasoccupied by two adult males and thedeck was littered with beer cans. Theoperator, who was a construction workerin his early 30s, started shouting in aslurred voice, ‘Is this how you treat Vietnamvets?’ I did the math real quick,and it didn’t add up. He would havebeen too young for Vietnam.”
Pottorf had the operator get in hisboat, where he started to administer aseries of afloat field sobriety tasks. Afew minutes later the operator said, “I’vehad enough of this,” and jumped overboard,swimming back toward his ownvessel, which had drifted away. “I drovemy boat around and cut him off by placingmy boat between him and his boat,”says Pottorf. “I talked him into gettingback in my boat and then placed him underarrest for BUI. “I got one cuff on himbefore he broke bad on me. We wrestledfor a couple of minutes, as I tried to gethis arm around behind him. Then hepushed away from me and picked up mypaddle, holding it like a hatchet. Ilunged at him, snatching the paddleaway and throwing it overboard. Wewrestled again, and he was still trying toget back in the water. I was holding ontothe cuffs when he yanked me off of theupper deck, causing me to do a somersaultover the top of him; then he rolledover on top of me. I knew then I wouldhave to hurt him to gain control,” saysPottorf.
Unexpectedly, Pottorf heard a voice,”Officer, do you need a hand?” A musclebound 16-year-old boy had seen theruckus and pulled alongside in his ownboat to offer help. Pottorf yelled, “I needhelp right now!” The teenager jumped inthe boat, yanked the operator’s head upby the hair and swung his fist, connectingwith a vicious right cross. “When Ifelt him go limp, I pulled his other armbehind his back and finally got himcuffed,” says Pottorf. Pottorf called dispatchand requested backup to be waitingat a boat ramp two miles away.