Staff Photo: John Bohn Jeff Perfater has started a new business called SAFENAV, located at Holiday Marina on Lake Lanier. Perfater, a US Coast Guard licensed Master Captain, is on call should a boater feel the need for a designated boat driver. Perfater uses his tender to travel to a boat in need and then will pilot the boas that has requested his services.
BUFORD -- Picture this: You're out on the boat, swimming, fishing, lounging in the sun. Maybe you recently had a beer or two. Maybe a cocktail. It's getting late in the day. It's time to head back to the marina.
That's when it's time to make a choice. You can get sober by waiting it out, choose a designated driver, or -- for a fee -- you can give Jeff Perfater a call.
Perfater is the owner of SAFENAV, a brand-new business that offers a "BUI Buster" service inspired by the tragedies that occurred last year on Lake Lanier.
"It's an opportunity for people who have had too much to drink to call us up," Perfater said. "We come out to wherever you are, anywhere on the lake, and we pilot your boat right back home."
Once called, Perfater will arrive in a dinghy, which he hitches to the back of one's boat, and drive the customer's boat to wherever they need to be.
Other services offered: Perfater or one of his drivers will take your boat from the start, piloting guests "for as many hours as you need." Then, they'll drive it back to the dock or the marina.
"If you get a BUI, you're going to spend a lot of money paying fines, have to go to DUI school and you'll take a big hit on your insurance. Even worse, someone could get hurt or killed," he said.
According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the state's boat safety act "prohibits anyone from boating under the influence -- that is, operating any boat, sailboat, personal watercraft, water skis, sailboard or similar device while intoxicated."
The agency's website states that it is illegal for those under the age of 21 to operate a boat or personal watercraft if their blood alcohol level is .02 or more. Those 21 and older are considered to be under the influence if their blood alcohol level is .08 or more or if drugs are detected.
Penalties can include the loss of one's privilege to operate a boat until they successfully complete a DUI Alcohol or drug use risk program approved by the Department of Driver Services. Offenders will also be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and/or jail time up to one year.
Last summer, the consequences of boating under the influence were seen at their most dire. Brothers Griffin and Jake Prince were killed in a boating accident on Lake Lanier in June 2012, when a pontoon boat piloted by their father was struck head-on by another vessel. The driver of the fishing boat that smashed into the Prince's pontoon was charged with boating under the influence and first-degree homicide by vessel.
The possibility of such consequences is why Perfater feels his fee of $125 to come pick up your boat and drive it back is a justified expense.
"All you have to do is give us a call in the first place, and you'll never put yourself in the predicament," he said. "Our service is based on the idea of stopping a problem before it happens."
For more information, visit www.safenav.org or call 678 677-5518.