Encounter with fishing boat, kind of funny I guess

So today I’m cruising upstream on the St. Joseph river with the coonhound in my solo canoe and I hear a powerboat coming up behind us. We’re following the shoreline of the river trying to stay in the shade. As the powerboat gets close I hear them throttle way back, they are being considerate of the canoe with dog. I am approaching a fallen tree so have to head towards deeper water to go around just as they pass. They pass at very low speed with their bow high in the air and stern so low it looked like they might take on water and sink, throwing a huge wake. They wave. The river is 100 yards wide and they pass less than ten yards away. I stop and point my bow into their wake, and wave back.

While many or most powerboaters seem completely unaware of their wake and how to minimize their impact on other boats, almost every powerboat I’ve encountered lately is at least making some misguided attempt to be polite. :crazy_face:


Where I paddle, most power boaters have either learned that their wake doesn’t bother paddlers, or they just don’t care. That’s fine with me, because I don’t care. I will admit that it took quite awhile for me to realize that the boat (kayak) doesn’t care either as long as the paddler stays loose and doesn’t try to compensate for waves. I did have a canoe that would flip if a bird flew by, so maybe there is a longer learning curve with some canoes.

I often paddle on wide local rivers that have significant sandy shoals along the shoreline and deeper commercial barge traffic channels midstream. Also paddle large shallow dam empoundment lakes. Both types of waters create challenging powerboat wakes for those of us in small human powered craft. Powerboats that scream through on a plane generate far smaller wakes than those that slow down. The most impressive wakes are generated by the huge slow coal and ore barges. I actually look forward to those because if I catch one right I can surf some distance on the mini tsunami they create as they hit the shoals, though once the waves reflect off the shore it can create some pretty interesting chaos.

But a speeding power boat that slows to a crawl, though I am aware of the 100 foot “no wake” rule and appreciate that slowing usually indicates the pilot is aware of me in my kayak or canoe and is trying to be considerate, many times they are not slowed enough and end up doubling or tripling the height and range of their wake, especially in big. deep-hulled boats. I am not positive, but I think slower speed decreases the period between waves too, compared to higher speed.

My sea kayaks and folding kayaks are not bothered by wakes (and I am used to riding them out) but I have seen them flip sit on tops and rec boats paddled by others.

Wake under speed in a power boat depends on the hull shape of that power boat.
We have wake board boats deliberately ballasted to make huge wakes that the skilled can do tricks off of or kill themselves

The average ski boat has less wake and some on plane develop none. But if they slow down off plane the wake can be huge

So if you are in a power boat and I wave you by “go faster” its cause you make less wake at speed.

Like Kayakmedic says…the trend for wakeboarders is to make waves, the classic trend for skiers is to make NO waves (especially those trick skiers). But the worst bow wave from a smallish boat I ever experienced was from a short Jon boat loaded with three LARGE men. It is suprising the wake a little boat like that can make at slow speed.

Personally…In the kayak I welcome the surfing from boat stern waves and the bow bury on the third wave. Cleans the deck gives me something to do on a boring paddle. It also gives us training moments for the new boaters. Of course TomL you have to have room for a run before the tree.

HOWEVER, if you are in Florida on the Santa Fe river this weekend stay away from the river between hwy 47 and hwy 129 ( equals the Suwannee River). There is a “sand bar” party place at the intersection of the Ichnetuckey. Boats of all manner of description will be racing from the Suwannee up to the sand bar. Too many boats at too fast speed.

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@willowleaf - my solo canoes aren’t bothered much by powerboat wakes either. I haven’t heard of the 100 ft rule but I like the sound of it. I generally just ignore powerboats and then make a small course correction to deal with wakes if they are big but if they pass within 20-25 feet then I pay more attention…and when we’re the only two boats on a wide river I have to wonder why they’d pass so close to a canoe (and wave :face_with_raised_eyebrow:). I imagine that at least the barges you see don’t chase you around.

@overstreet - not long ago I passed a big Jon boat (18-20 ft) with a 200 hp Merc anchored in the shade with two young men lounging and fishing. The river was at flood level and they said “that looks like a lot of work”. I said “it would be a lot easier if I had a 200 hp Merc!” I imagine their boat could throw a pretty healthy wake. I was wondering about the cost of the boat vs the cost of the motor.

" 1. Slow – no wake speed within 100 feet of the shoreline, any watercraft, pier, person, raft, swimming area, and swimmers."

The most ignored rule by powerboaters.


Motor cost, the new 4 stroke, is about $18,000 US.

Not as much of a problem as they were 5 or 10 years ago but our main nuisance along the big Three Rivers around Pittsburgh used to be the jet skiers, particularly the young male hot-doggers who thought it was amusing to carve big wakes near kayakers, presumably to see if they could dump them. Never challenged me in my sea kayaks (the noise was more aggravating than the waves) but it pissed me off to see them harassing the nervous noobs and folks in the rental rec boats.

But I know those shorelines very well especially where the shallow sandy shoals are along the inside bends in the rivers. So one afternoon during a drought stretch of lower water I provoked one particularly obnoxious young a-hole who seemed to be trying to impress a bevy of bikinied babes on a nearby pontoon boat by bullying paddlers, circling and swooping towards the kayakers and generating a bunch of annoying clapotis that was panicking some of them. I challenged him to “come and get me” when I was gliding directly over a sand bar that I knew was about 4" under my keel. He took the bait and grounded out violently enough to throw him off the machine and bury it in the sticky silt and stall the engine. As he wallowed and pleaded for aid in righting his craft (and the audience of babes howled at his misfortune) I simply wished him a “nice day” and paddled off.



Paddling along the shore of the Schuylkill River I heard a motorboat coming from behind (with speakers blazing so loud it drowned out the engine’s noise, he passed 50 or so feet away, but the skier it was pulling zipped by me 10 feet away, scared the heck out of me. After the take out, I drove to the boat launch. I was ready to call the Pa. Fish and Boat but could not find the offending boat. I never go to that section of the river after that.

@Rookie - thank you for the education. A 100 foot buffer would be dreamy. When a powerboat violates my space does the Michigan “stand your ground” law apply? :innocent:

@Overstreet - $18k would buy six very nice canoes. I don’t know why but I have no desire for a powerboat. I do admire the seaworthiness of even the smallest Zodiacs on Lake Michigan.

@Willowleaf - I enjoyed your story. I would never do anything like that and I would never push a floating tree into the center of the river.

@cannonball - you are more tolerant than me. A couple of weeks ago a powerboat pulling a skier made a high power u-turn right alongside me to go back and get the skier (and definitely within 100 feet) and I made a comment that I’m pretty sure the driver heard (I repeated myself to ensure clarity)…something I wouldn’t say around my neighbor’s kids.

Why I carry an air horn. Powerboats can kill you. Never take them for granted.
A few years ago we were camped next to the Willamette River in OR on a quiet Sunday morning. I heard a loud roar coming fast up river. A small experimental looking airplane on floats came by at about 45 mph. It took awhile to get over that one. The sound let people know he was coming, but it was still very startling on a narrow stretch of river.

No wake zones are usually there for the sake of harbors where boats are moored to docks or private docks etc. Sometimes fishing areas.

Granted they don’t bother a sea kayak. But a barge came thru several years ago just after our group had gotten on the water on the Hudson, it did not slow down. Boaters were ok. But the wake did damage a to a recently upgraded town dock and some adjacent sea wall.

Not sure what authority mymlsa.org has (and I prefer their 100 foot rule to the real one) but the actual 100 foot rule from Michigan DNR is not as restrictive:
“Improper Distance is not maintaining a proper distance while operating a vessel or towing a person. To maintain a proper distance when you are operating at greater than “slow, no wake speed” (except in channels that are not posted), the vessel or persons being towed must not be within 100 feet of:
•A shoreline (if operating in water less than three feet deep)
•Any moored or anchored vessel
•A dock or raft
•Any marked swimming area or person(s) in the water”

See https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-350-79119_79144_79641—,00.html
Local authorities can and do implement further restrictions.

Thx for the clarification Kevburg.

I was thinking about the 100 foot rule this morning when a couple of jet skis came up on me at about 50 mph and passed about 30-40 feet away. No problem really, their wakes were small and they were pretty quiet. It was in a bend in the river so good that I like to hug the shoreline. The only other boat I saw was a small fishing boat that approached me on plane throwing only a very small wake and then he still slowed to a no wake speed as he passed a good 100 feet away. Nice. I waved.

times when it’s not just the boat wake that is a worry,

an oldie but a goldie:


Unfortunately the Michigan Lakes & Streams Association (MLSA) doesn’t provide statutory authority for its published rules. Browsing the statutes, I found this:

"324.80145 Operation of vessels; speed; interference with use of waters by others; violation; fine.

"Sec. 80145.

“A person operating or propelling a vessel upon the waters of this state shall operate it in a careful and prudent manner and at such a rate of speed so as not to endanger unreasonably the life or property of any person. A person shall not operate any vessel at a rate of speed greater than will permit him or her, in the exercise of reasonable care, to bring the vessel to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead. A person shall not operate a vessel in a manner so as to interfere unreasonably with the lawful use by others of any waters. A person who violates this section is responsible for a state civil infraction and may be ordered to pay a civil fine of not more than $500.00.”


"324.80149 Operation of vessels in counter-clockwise fashion; distance between persons being towed and other objects; exception; violation as misdemeanor; violation as civil infraction; fine.
Sec. 80149.

" (1) A person operating a vessel on the waters of this state in areas not marked by well defined channels, canals, rivers, or stream courses shall operate the vessels in a counter-clockwise fashion to the extent that it is reasonably possible. These persons and persons being towed on water skis or on a water sled, kite, surfboard, or similar contrivance shall maintain a distance of 100 feet from any dock, raft, buoyed or occupied bathing area, or vessel moored or at anchor, except when the vessel is proceeding at a slow—no wake speed or when water skiers are being picked up or dropped off, if that operation is otherwise conducted with due regard to the safety of persons and property and in accordance with the laws of this state. Except as otherwise provided in subsection (2), a person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.
“(2) A person who violates this section while on any of the following bodies of water in this state is responsible for a state civil infraction and may be ordered to pay a civil fine of not more than $500.00:
(a) The Great Lakes.
(b) Lake St. Clair.
© The St. Clair river.”

Probably safe to say that none of these rules are enforced unless there’s a serious accident.

Did they just freak out when they saw the kayaker…and fortunately decide not to run them over?

I never see any law enforcement authorities on the St Joseph river.