Your Boats Wake

March 1, 2022
The science of your boats wake

Watch Your Boats Wake

The following are excerpts from an excellent article by Randy Troutman on October 15, 2014 (link below).  There are also some various comments from readers which help us to understand why there is such a battle with this topic.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

No matter how large or small your boat, you are responsible for your boats 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.  The driver who causes damaging wakes may find one day that he is on the receiving end.  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.

Why worry about your boats wake?

Uncontrolled wakes can create damage to property, docks, boathouses or lawns. They can also pose danger to boats at anchor or on the shoreline. 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.

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 boats 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 your boats wake and any damage to other boats, passengers and personal property.

Is there a law?

In case doubt still remains about the seriousness of wake violations.  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.

Here are some responses:

Kevin says:
When you get boating education, you learn that you are responsible for any resulting injuries or damages caused by your boat’s wake. To me, that’s something that many boaters aren’t aware of. In my experience, there are plenty of boaters who don’t care or give no thought to how their wake impacts others.  All boaters should know they are legally responsible…

James says:
I don’t know if new yacht owners are aware of this information.  This same information should be posted at marina’s where these monsters sit.  My wife and I were cruising down the Tennessee river and neither myself or my wife truly realized how big of a wake this yacht was creating until it was too late.  I situated the boat to cross the wake at about a 45-degree angle and reduced the speed to almost nothing.  When the wake and my boat met, I saw my wife tossed like a sack of potatoes about 3-4 ft up in the air. When she landed she said that she felt like her back was broken. She was in excruciating pain…

Payback…don’t be silly!

BC says:
One time my son and I were eating lunch on our 12 ft Boston Whaler not near the channel and a 28-30 ft Cruiser came by us at full speed and swamped our boat, nearly capsizing us. My son was only 9 years old, and he was freaked out. Now I have a larger boat and laugh about it, but when I go by a no wake zone where big cabin cruisers are docked, I do not slow down, paybacks a bitch. I hate big cruisers, they are the SUV of the boating world, rich creeps…

Frank responds to BC’s comment:
So you’re worse than the guy who swamped you. That captain was probably guilty of cluelessness. You know better and do it on purpose. That’s really irresponsible.

What about Sailboats?

Don says:
Also be careful and mindful around sailboats. Moving at slower speeds and with a pendulum 30 feet above the point of rotation can cause a lot of mayhem in a sailboat cockpit. Like going over bumps fast in a car, a powerboat will be jolted more than tossed about by another’s wake. A sailboat, however, will swing wildly back and forth. Not only is this dangerous for the occupants, but it stalls the engine (the sail collapses) and control is lost.



The full article is worth your time to read.  Find it at:  Watch Your Boat’s Wake | United Marine – Boat Insurance


Connecticut Boating Certificates is proud to say that this topic is among our course criteria.  Please visit our Public Course Page to sign up for a class with us.