Water Safety Patrol: Unique Fleet Keeps Safety Top Of Mind On Lake Geneva

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“We’re not out here just getting sun tans. We’re making a difference.”

Lake safety is important for anyone who spends time on or visits Lake Geneva, whether it be on your new boat from Gage Marine, on a kayak, in a canoe or walking the Lake Shore Path.

A very unique six-boat fleet is part of Lake Geneva’s history and spends 12 hours a day during the summer patrolling Lake Geneva to keep boaters and everyone enjoying the water safe.

Water Safety Patrol is a private nonprofit organization founded in 1920 focused on keeping Lake Geneva safe and enjoyable for everyone. More than 80 people man the six boats, lifeguard stations and other educational programs each summer.

The most visible and unique part of Water Safety Patrol is the six boats that are part of Boat Patrol. There are usually two boats out on Lake Geneva during week days and three during the weekend, with up to four or five on busy weekends and holidays.

Safety On Lake GenevaSafety on Lake Geneva

Every day our goal is that “everyone who uses this lake goes home at the end of the day,” Assistant Director Sean Slattery said.

The Boat Patrol crews monitor for safety on the lake, watching for slow/no wake violations, tubing safety, personal flotation devices and people sitting in boats properly.

“The number one reason for drownings is people falling over from improper sitting on boats,” Slattery said of people sitting on the edges of boats.

Boat safety for new boat owners

Whether this is your first summer on the lake or your 50th summer, when you buy a new boat from Gage Marine our experienced team will walk you through what you need to know to be safe on the lake. We’ll not only show you how to safely use your boat and its features, but we’ll also talk you through general boating safety.

Gage Marine’s water sport safety tips:

  • Familiarize yourself with the laws and the body of water you’re on
  • Have an observer (in addition to the driver) on board
  • Wear a PFD when in the water
  • Inspect equipment before use
  • Ski or ride under control, at proper speeds
  • Turn ignition off when anyone is near watercraft power drive unit
  • Don’t ski or ride near swimmers, shallow water or other boats

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Water Safety Patrol is one-of-a-kind

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Water Safety Patrol is that they are completely funded by private donations are not affiliated with any municipality, law enforcement or state agency.

Slattery said Water Safety Patrol is one of the only organizations of its kind in the country.

They work closely with police boats on the water and municipalities to monitor the lake and lake shore path, and make sure everyone is safe and all of the rules are followed.

“This is one of the busiest lakes in the state, but it’s also one of the safest,” Slattery said.

Rules of Lake Geneva

  • Speed Limit
    • Week days: 45 mph
    • Weekends: 35 mph
    • Night: 15 mph
    • Weekend speed limit starts at noon on Fridays
    • Weekend speed limits enforced on all major summer holidays
  • Boaters must follow slow, no wake regulations
  • Water sport safety
    • All boats with someone in water must have spotter
    • Person in water must be wearing personal flotation device

July 4 Reminders

  • Don’t overload your boat when heading out of fireworks. Follow your boat’s capacity.
  • Make sure navigation lights are working before heading out of the night.

Boat Patrol’s primary goals every summer are education, rescue and assistance. They will tow a boat, help jump a boat’s battery, and they have a gas can if necessary.

Running the Reds

Water Safety Patrol is out on the lake seven days a week, but when inclement weather hits, they aren’t the first ones to head home. When they learn bad weather is expected, they run the reds – which are very well-known red flags that they fly as they make their rounds on the lake warning boaters of the bad weather so they can safely get off the lake in time.

“We’re not out here just getting sun tans. We’re making a difference,” Slattery said.

Slattery said he’s seen a lot of stuff pulled out of Lake Geneva while working Boat Patrol over his more than 20 years on the lake, including flyaway beach balls, chunks of wood and chairs. He’s even seen a dog rescued from Geneva Bay that had been missing 2.5 years.

Gage Marine is a proud supporter of the Water Safety Patrol and hopes everyone on the lake has a fun and safe summer!

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