inland lake boating

In light of the thread about the poor kid who was run down by a power boat - my own personal experience is that inland lakes are a different animal. Any of you find the same to be true on your case?

I think many of the people on inland lakes in powerboats (or any watercraft, for that matter) are more ignorant of nautical rules, regs and conventions. The first year I kayaked on the lake on which I live, I was almost run over by a guy towing a skier solo, and looking at the skier instead of where he was going.

My only words of advice would be to make yourselves visible and try to notice what powerboaters are on the lake, and how they are using it.

Another sweeping generalization
that might be true, though, there are many at the coast willing to push it to prove something.

not at all

– Last Updated: Mar-03-09 2:39 PM EST –

I stated it as my own personal experience. Of course, you're already aware that there are "two sides". Sometimes even more!

Take Your Pick…

– Last Updated: Mar-03-09 3:08 PM EST –

run over by a surfer, jetskier, or a powerboat... LOL!

In previous years paddling Boston Harbor and large lakes, I had never felt any power boater or jet skier really coming close to endangering me. Although a few with me thought so and began making a huge public (hissy fit) fuss about it. I never went out on a paddle with these folks again.

Not saying it doesn't happen. But I know some of the "threat" is subjective and from the paddler's perspective. Me, on a lake, I've been known to ask powerboaters to go by fast to give me a good surfing wake. ;)


bah, look at all that space!

– Last Updated: Mar-03-09 3:17 PM EST –

A bit more space than you'll find here:

I agree about "threat"...and there's no use fussing. Better to stay out of the way.

few problems
I guess in DE it is a double edged sword. Most of the lakes are under 100 acres and are relativly shallow. We don’t have many problems as the state “owns” most of them and has a no wake rule in all of them. There is only one lake that even allows water sking- and it is rarely used. jet skis are not allowed in any lake. For the most part it is only yakers and fishermen on the water, and since the lakes are small you rarely see an out board with more than 50 horsepower. Most of them are the ten foot john boats using an electric trolling motor. The big bass master type boats usually are found in small inland bays and tidal rivers.

It squares with what I have seen.
But obviously many on inland lakes do know the rules. It seems that some locals and some-time powerboaters are the ones who know the least.

Some lakes seem more of a …
… free for all environment with everyone going all over the place vs actually going someplace. I do have some sympathy for those who paddle such places (if they have no other options, and understand they have no special rights).

That said, I think most with issues in those places would also have issues where I paddle, even the slow/no wake areas and where traffic largely stays to marked channels. Certainly in the jet ski/wakeboard/water ski areas. Pretty much guaranteed they’d have issues in the port and just offshore when cigarette boats are buzzing the beach markers. Avoiding these areas is possible - but severely limits where you can go - and fun you can have! In all these areas relatively close proximity to all size/types of craft is common (not close to me - but guarantee some would not be at ease), and weird wakes/reflections are a given.

I’d take stuff this over bass boat/bubba/PWC central any day, and glad I don’t have to deal with that sort of chaos (but would not hesitate if that was my local venue). Besides, fresh water hurts the sinuses and has more stuff in it to infect you… Yuck!

generally feel safer
with boat traffic on Moosehead Lake than on the coast–but never really had any close calls either place unless you consider being hassled by a guy in a lobster boat(happened only once in all the years I’ve paddled in Maine waters)

Towing skiers
seems to be the real dangerous boater where I kayak. I have had a couple of “close encounters” with boats and jet skis towing skiers. One boat with five people in it (all looking back at the skier) came within 6 ft of me and my wife even though we were blowing our whistles and waving our paddles. At the last moment a woman sitting ahead of the helmsman turned a saw us and screamed (probably saved us) and the boat swerved and missed us. (then here came the skier)

Inland lake skills
I frequently paddle a reservoir in Virginia that has the highest rate of boating accidents in the state. That is because it has the largest shoreline development of any lake in the state. My tricks are this- stay out of the main channel except when doing a quick crossing from one side of the lake to the other- if you can get into a sailboat race while doing this move, so much the better. Otherwise, pay attention and do your crossing at an appropriate lull in power boat traffic. Enjoy paddling the shoreline and playing in the reflective waves off the seawalls and the shore. I actually make a point of going onto the lake during Memorial Day, July Fourth, and Labor Day, because those are the days with the biggest boat traffic and, consequently, the most wave action- (I’m an inland sea kayaker and sometimes the need for waves is just overwhelming). On those holidays the lake can look like a washing machine. I have found a number of shoals in the lake that create the coolest waves and I just hang out there and wait for a series of big power boats to cruise by so I can surf their wakes as they build through the shoals. I actually hope they are cruising off plane, because they then create the biggest swell- on plane they create dinky waves. If the powerboats were to enter the shoals they would tear their lower units off, so, as a kayaker, I have no worries. If I ever feel nervous when some powerboater is coming too close usually because he/she is not paying attention, I begin waving my paddle in a huge arc, frantically. Never had a remotely close call yet. Powerboaters will nearly always be in the channel, so don’t go there- it’s not that fun of a place to be anyway. Cheers--------------

Not so sure …

– Last Updated: Mar-04-09 12:58 AM EST –

When I started paddling on San Diego bay, the person who was the self appointed leader of the SOT kayak club warned that the most dangerous boats to be around were big sailboats with know nothing CEOs sailing them on Sunday afternoons.... she seemed to have a point, they don't seem to have a good sense of what is around them or how to sail their huge boats in crowded waters.

Closest calls I have had are in big swells coming into the Channel at mission bay, when large powerboat fisherman are coming in off of the open ocean. These guys usually have a lot more money and horsepower than seamanship. When it's big swells they like to come in much faster than they should, it's very hard for them to see a kayaker 2' tall in the swells and very hard to predict where they are going to come from when you are riding the haystacks at the channel mouth. The recent accident in Florida reminds me of these types, their big engines let them get out to where they have no business being with the amount of experience they have.

Absolute closest call was an enormous cruise ship off the coast of Baja in the fog. After that a strafing pass by a little 25ft boat does not even phase you.

Folks who paddle the lower Colorado say the boaters there are absolutely stupid. They drive very fast up and down the narrow channel with no concern for non motorized craft at all. Most of them are drunk, and worse most of them are from Arizona, where there are no rules for boats because there is no water.

aren’t all lakes "inland"
I’ve seen the term “inland lake” occasionally, but I’ve always been confused - I mean, technically, aren’t all lakes inland, i.e., not part of an ocean? I guess there’s some kind of usuage convention. If so, what is included and what excluded? Are the Great Lakes inland? Is a little 5-acre pond an inland lake?

As to the question at hand, I have little experience on salt water but I have been on a wide variety of freshwater lakes and streams in the US. In my experience, the most dangerous locales for paddle craft are a handful of medium-to-large size lakes that have a reputation as power-boat lakes. This seems to hold true not only near my home base in the south but also in places I’ve visited in the Northeast and out West. Generally, a fair amount of shoreline is developed and there are numerous marinas on the lake, and at the close of a nice summer day it might take 2 hours to work through the line-up at one of the boat ramps. Perhaps these people spot people driving up and launching paddlecraft from the shore while they wait in line. Or maybe they’re just so glad to be done waiting they want to go everywhere fast. Whatever the reason, once on the water they seem determined to make smaller boats pay for their agility by buzzing them and cutting them off and throwing wakes at them.

By far the best place for courtesy in my experience is the Mississippi River near my home.

To generalize in another way, and possibly more accurately, I think it’s true that the more experienced a boater is, the more courteous he/she is to smaller craft. That would fit my above observations, because the well-known power boat resort lakes tend to draw the first-timers, while the lower (un-dammed) Mississippi River tends to have a scary reputation for novice power-boaters and thus only the more experienced go there.

Dumb power boaters are like sheep, and all seem to congregate on the same congested lakes, which are about as pleasant for a paddler as a walk along the interstate. 15 miles away, there may be another lake, wide and deep enough for powerboats, but for some reason unpopular. There, a handful of powerboaters are sharing the waters with paddlers with perfect respect.

I guess I’m glad the idiots do have a sheep-like tendency, and assume wherever the crowd is is where the fun is. It leaves the really nice places to the rest of us.

Varies with the lake
On one lake we used to paddle, the jet skiers were deliberately nasty with everyone. On a small no motor lake the some of the sail boaters used to deliberately charge kayakers.

At Havasu, the jet skiers are the nicest boaters out there except for a few of the rentals. The water skiers are the most dangerous here and again not just for kayakers. The big go fasts watch pretty closely. At 100 mph a collision with anything will be severe but it is still a good idea to stay out of their way. My biggest problem here is when I am fishing from my kayak. People just want to see what I am doing so they come about 30’ away and I get hit with the wakes. They are not nasty, just curious.

I have had some very dangerous encounters at different lakes. The worst was when I had a small fishing boat and it was deliberate.

If that’s your most convenient
paddling opportunity, I feel for you. Mine is a well-used 330-acre lake restricted to town residential use (pop. 5700). I had my closest encounter there one evening when a pair of middle-aged couples in a 17-19’ bow rider decided to suddenly goose it without looking out, and without warning, after putting around for more than an hour. I was sure I could safely cross their bow based on their seemingly constant 2mph speed but, if they had changed course while changing speed, I might have been in trouble. By the time they saw me, I knew I was okay, but the look on that guy’s face when he did finally see me was priceless. He came about to apologize and one of the ladies sitting up front looked like she needed another glass of wine.

You’re right, a big factor is the paddler. I hate paddling lakes like these, but I live on one. For me it’s more of an inconvenience than a danger.

OTOH - I paddle a metropark with a marina outlet to Lake St. Clair - sort of a mini “great lake” - and my favorite place to play is where the larger motorboats come in and out of the marina. Some great larger chop to be had without getting into the channel.

I just have this notion that more boaters on the great lakes and oceans are kowledgeable about nautical conventions than the guy pulling a tube on a 300 acre “sports” lake…but that could be my stereotype.

my poor choice of words
I should say “smaller inland lakes”.

Nerve wracking paddling
I have family that lives on a decent sized lake in southern WI that gets a lot of summer home boat traffic on the weekends. We have paddled it without issue many times. However, our last paddle was on Labor Day weekend and it was a free for all on the water. It reminded me of driving in downtown Chicago during rush hour. Very little common courtesy was shown. We even tried hugging the shoreline along the docks but the powerboat chop was like riding a horse at full gallop. After a close call with a powerboat/waterskier we made a mad dash to the shallows. Haven’t paddled there since.


There’s alway a bad apple