Watch Your Boat’s Wake

“Do unto others as you would have them do….” Well, we’re sure you know the rest.

No matter how large or small your boat, you are responsible for your wake and any damage or injury it may cause. If the threat of legal action isn’t reason enough to get you to throttle back, the “Golden Rule” should be — because the driver who causes damaging wakes may find one day that he is on the receiving end.

Uncontrolled wakes can create damage to property, docks, boathouses or lawns. They can also bother other boaters and fishermen who are anchored or on the shore. It’s not uncommon for someone trying to enjoy a fun day on the water to find themselves muttering unprintable words as they watch a careless boater disappear in the distance, while the wake he left behind wreaks havoc.

In order to respect the rights and safety of others when boating nearby, be sure to periodically look behind your vessel and check your wake. If it is causing other boats to rock back and forth, or is crashing against the shoreline, then limit your wake by slowing down.

You should also slow down before meeting or overtaking other boats, or entering narrow channels or confined spaces. It goes without saying that you should always follow posted speed and no-wake zone signs; they’re there for a reason. Traveling at no-wake speed means moving forward at the slowest speed you can while still maintaining steering.

Be extra cautious around smaller vessels such as canoes, kayaks or paddleboards, which may be less stable and prone to capsizing. Also be especially mindful of your wake when in the vicinity of marinas and launch ramps. Boats may be entering or exiting the waterway at very slow speeds with limited control. As always, you are responsible for any damage to other boats, passengers and personal property.

In case doubt still remains about the seriousness of wake violations, let us cite 46 USC 2302(a), which states that “[a] person operating a vessel in a negligent manner or interfering with the safe operation of a vessel, so as to endanger life, limb, or a property of a person, is liable for a civil penalty.” As used in 46 USC 2302(a), negligence is a failure to use that care which a reasonable person would exercise under similar circumstances.

So, be sure to watch your boat’s wake.


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