The inspection method which will allow for social distancing. Submitted photo

WILTON — This Memorial Day weekend our Courtesy Boat Inspectors on Wilson Lake will start our 18th year of inspecting boats. This year due to COVID – 19 the program will have a new look. Our student monitors will be helping the boaters to inspect their own boats. The boater will be asked to select a brochure at our kiosk at the boat launch. The inspector will maintain a six-foot social distance as they walk the boater through this process. We sincerely thank the boaters for their cooperation in dealing with the pandemic that has certainly changed our behavior and thought patterns.

The Courtesy Boat Inspection (CBI) program of Friends of Wilson Lake has been inspecting boats entering and leaving Wilson Lake since 2003. The reason is to curtail the spread of invasive plants coming from other states and other lakes in Maine. Traces of these invasive plants “hitch-hike” on boats as the boats move about from lake to lake. To date we have inspected well over 11,000 boats and fortunately found no trace of invasive plants entering the lake, but we must remain vigilant.

This year we will be asking our wonderful boaters to help us by inspecting their own boats – but with the knowledgeable expertise of our monitors assisting them with the process. It should take a boater no more than 5 minutes. That has always been our goal – to make the inspection only a small and incidental process to launching one’s boat. Boaters are most excited to get their boats on the water. This year we have a new priority – that of keeping our monitors and the boaters safe from the coronavirus, but will not forget that other priority of getting the boat into the water safely and promptly.

We were told that our monitors MUST maintain a 6 foot “social distance” at all times and that they were never to touch a boat or a boater. This presented a serious problem to the inspector who would be attempting to inspect a boat while the boater was readying the boat for launch – a six-foot social distance was impractical. We came up with this approach. We have three quality monitors all back from last year and are familiar with most of the boaters. Also nearly 70% of all boaters launching at Wilson Lake list that same lake as the site of their last launch. Consequently, we are most confident that with the help of our paid monitors, the boaters will be able to do a superb job in checking their boats for invasive plants. Many do so already when our inspectors are not present.

The boaters will be asked to select a brochure (like the one displayed above) from our kiosk that explains the inspection process. There is also a display of this process in the kiosk panel nearest the lake. The monitor will then talk the boater through the process of inspecting his vessel from bow to stern (front to back) proceeding down the starboard (right) side of the boat and then back to the bow up the port or left side of the boat. Incidentally the term “Starboard” comes from the Old English words, steor , meaning steer and bord, meaning side of boat, or “steering side of the boat”. Since most boats at the time had rather complicated steering apparatus, the docking was generally done on the off side from the steering side. Hence, the term port – or dock.

We have three of our monitors back from last year – Olivia, Kahryn and Mick. We have had over 100 monitors inspecting over 11,000 boats over 5,000 paid hours since the inception of this program. We have also provided well over 2,000 volunteer hours from the Friends of Wilson Lake and spent nearly $65,000 in the process. About $30,000 of this came from State of Maine grants and another $13,000 from the sponsorship support of the local business community. This is a effort by a great many people. For more information on the Courtesy Boat Inspection program or on Friends of Wilson Lake, please contact Wynn Muller at: [email protected] or cell phone: 860-604-0424.

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