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Log Entry

"Move Over Swanson"

Not to be a curmudgeon, but does anyone else out there feel that yachting is not as courteous as it once was? Boaters still wave at each other while passing by. But it's an insult to injury when we get happy hand waves from a bigger boat as they blow by, forcing us to quickly maneuver to take their large wake bow on. Many times I want to wave back with the Digitus Impudicus, but I don't. I hold on, shake my head, and say to Holly, I love yachting!

While preparing to address my irritation over massive boat wakes, the hilarious scene from the movie Caddyshack popped to mind. Also spurred on by seeing SEAFOOD in the Annapolis Harbor over Labor Day weekend!

The boating mayhem is funny when watching a comedy movie. However, on summer weekends, the scene can plays out for real in the mouth of the Severn River. And it is not so funny.

Now back to the topic at hand, the root of my angst, and what I think may be the possible cause. Anyone can go out and buy a big, powerful powerboat without knowledge of piloting, the fundamental right-of-way rules, and basic boating etiquette before leaving the dock. And, most captains (I use the term loosely) would get lost if their chart plotter crapped out. But that is for another post – this is about being

aware of and responsible for wakes.

The boating boom has brought with it the need for new boaters to learn the Rules of the Road (*applicable rules at the bottom) and yachting etiquette (picture from my 1964 Ed. of Piloting Seamanship and Small Boat Handling by Charles F. Chapman). Not only are there now more boats on the water, but many first-time buyers' "starter boats" are large with a lot of muscle. They skipped over starting with a Whaler as a kid, and now it's not uncommon for first-time boat buyers to begin with a 40-plus foot center console with three or four 350 HP outboards strapped to the stern. Then there are the ubiquitous cruisers – the ultramodern compilations of fiberglass, odd-shaped windows, and big engines. I am not picking on any specific brand, but there are many shapes and sizes that money can buy in today's boat market.

Let me step back from my biased analysis and offer thanks and appreciation to new boaters who wisely avail themselves of training resources. Onboard training, such as that provided by the Annapolis School of Seamanship is excellent. Another exceptional resource is America's Boating Club (formerly known as the US Power Squadrons). But clearly, many beginner boat buyers hit the water with little to no prior instruction or training.

The I love yachting point is that wakes can and do cause damage, and big powerful boats leave large wakes behind that can swamp smaller vessels. Some captains seem utterly oblivious to the mountainous waves they create. I want to attribute their disregard for smaller vessels they encounter to being new to boating and simply unaware (which ultimately is no excuse).

I get frustrated because while our older boat can handle most waves, we prefer to treat her more gently in hopes of avoiding harm to her systems. The Ray Hunt Design deep V hull is built for taking on rough seas, but when slamming into or off of waves, things can get loosened up or break at inopportune times. There is no need to exacerbate yet discovered faulty parts by beating the boat into a heavy chop. Sometimes that is hard to avoid, such as when we take CAYUGA into Annapolis to get to our club or creek cruise.

Getting into the Annapolis Harbor (Spa Creek) requires running the mouth of the Severn River and on the weekends, the boat traffic is akin to rush hour on the Beltway – but without lane lines or speed limits. So, we maintain a keen lookout for large, fast-moving, big wake-producing, oblivious power-driven vessels. It's not uncommon for 50-foot boats to run at tsunami wake-producing speeds with reckless abandon as opposed to smaller powerboats like ours and sailboats. After all, they are in a hurry to relax.

In case you are thinking I'm just nuts or rude, I offer the story of a powerboat owner being held legally responsible for their wake. This event occurred on the Chester River in 2015 when an oblivious boater capsized two log canoes. The 58-foot cabin cruiser's wake not only swamped the log canoes but also inflicted damage. The owner was found guilty of negligent operation of a vessel and hit with a small fine and court costs.

In closing, this website is intended to be interactive. So if anyone has had similar experiences to share, please either leave a comment or submit a short story.

I'm not here to just tell this story, I also want to provide you with the knowledge to not be the Rodney and end up making someone's day an "I love yachting" misadventure. Below are the regulations from the US Coast Guard concerning wake effects, wake damage, and boater responsibility.

Regarding one's wake, vessels over 1600 Gross Tons (GT) are specifically required by Title 33 CFR 164.11 to set the vessel's speed with consideration for...the damage that might be caused by the vessel's wake. Further, there may be State or local laws which specifically address "wake" for the waters in question.

While vessels under 1600 GT are not specifically required to manage their speed in regards to wake, they are still required to operate in a prudent matter which does not endanger life, limb, or property (46 USC 2302). Nor do the Navigation Rules exonerate any vessel from the consequences of neglect (Rule 2), which, among other things, could be unsafe speeds (Rule 6), improper lookout (Rule 5), or completely ignoring your responsibilities as prescribed by the Navigation Rules.

As to whether or not a particular vessel is responsible for the damage it creates is a question of law and fact that is best left to the Courts. For more information, contact your local Marine Patrol or State Boating Law Administrator.

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Powerboats suddenly dropping off plane, thinking they are being nice by slowing immediately around a sailboat, often cause me to just spill more drinks, as they don't understand how their old wake continues to propagate, and their landing in that "not quite planing" speed regime adds to it even more- just get by me quickly, please.



As a great American once said, "can't we all just get along?" R. King

In 1998 My Dad and I chartered a Beneteau 41 in Annapolis for his annual cruise with his grandchildren (my kids, and my nieces and nephews). We gunkholed for the night in the Rhode River and the next day we enjoyed a blue sky, light wind day for the sail back. About midway between Thos. Pt and Kentmor marina I heard a fast motor coming up behind me. I looked back and a 40' go-fast motor cruiser was passing us to port about 50 yards away. Pretty typical overtaking and I watched casually as it moved ahead of us toward a Colgate 25 sailing a starboar…

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