Nearly every leisure activity means a job or a duty for someone, and playing on the Columbia River is no exception.

River Patrol duty has its fringe benefits - fresh air, high performance watercraft, to name a couple - but folks on vacation shouldn't confuse the sheriff's deputies for boaters out for a good time.

River duty is dangerous and, for the most part, boring routine of looking out for trouble and stepping in to help.

Recreational boat traffic on the Mid Columbia is far from the crowds that you find on a weekend in the Tri-Cities, and that is a far cry from what passes for "normal" traffic in other areas.

In those places traffic control takes a bigger role for officers than here. Our officers spend the bulk of their time rescuing boaters with equipment problems.

Boating - for fishing, skiing, or just cruising - requires a focus on safety to be enjoyable. Responsible recreational use of the water is as essential, just as responsible use of forests or the highway.

The rivers and lakes support a wide variety of interests. For all of the users to get what they need, all the users have to be respectful of others and the law.

Responsible boating requires the same attention and care as responsible driving.

Giving up the right of way, knowing and obeying the "rules of the road" and not driving while impaired are as necessary on the water as they are on the highway.

Our marine patrols are on the water to protect and serve just as our land-based police. Ask a boater whose engine has failed how secure he felt when he saw the sheriff's boat on the horizon.

We need to support these waterborne officers by making sure our craft are sound and our behavior appropriate.

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