Fourth of July holiday brings safety concerns to Bay Area waterways

DISCOVERY BAY, Calif. (KTVU) -- The big July 4th holiday weekend is almost here, and that means Bay Area waterways will be packed with boaters and jet skiers. But as more people hit the water, the concerns about safety escalate.

This weekend in Discovery Bay will be about fun for thousands of people. But along with the big crowds comes what experienced boaters describe as amateur hour.

"The beads and flashing and diving off of boats. There are thousands, literally thousands of boats up there," said long-time Discovery Bay resident and boater Nancy Booth.

She gave KTVU a tour of the narrow waterways and described the problems that can happen there.

"Driving crazy. A lot of kids drinking and driving. And jet-skiers, they love to jump our wake. And what they do is they make a circle around our bow. And we can't stop. Big boats just can't stop."

Even with light pre-holiday traffic, there was still some bad boating protocol.

"They're crossing me in front. Look at that," shouted Booth about another boat that cut in front of hers.

Booth's concerns are echoed by Discovery Bay Harbormaster Dan Gay.

"What's happening is with the lakes being low, it's creating a lot more business on the Delta, which is a good thing for us," explained Gay.

Huge holiday crowds are only part of the problem. Many boaters there on big weekends are inexperienced and, oftentimes, drinking alcohol.

"You got a skier or a wakeboarder or kids on tubes, maybe they fell off, maybe they're behind the boat. Someone who's been drinking may see them, may not see them. And that's always a hazard of being out here," said Gay.

In fact, the concerns about safety are so great that Greg Janda of Rocklin brought his family to play on the water this week.

"I had six teenage girls on the boat earlier and then my sister," he said. But they were already heading home to avoid the holiday rush. "When you get too many boats going in different directions, and everyone's towing someone and you get skiers or wakeboarders that are left out in the middle and boats flying around, it's just more than I want to deal with."

When it comes to alcohol, boating while intoxicated is the same violation and just as dangerous as drunk driving. Sheriff's deputies and the Coast Guard will be out in force this weekend, trying to make sure everyone stays safe.