Protocol - Dealing with Powerboat Jerks

This topic has no doubt been raised here many times. But I’m new and so would be grateful for some helpful advice.

I paddle on a narrow (one-third mile wide) coastal estuary that’s called a “river” but isn’t really, since it doesn’t actually flow much. My problem is with (oh no, not again!) powerboats. It’s quite annoying and sometimes frightening when 30-foot boats moving at 20 knots or more pass close by me without even a good-faith effort at cutting their speed.

I’ve checked my “Chapman’s” but, of course, it offers no help for small shrimp such as canoeists in 15-ft solos. I have a good whistle, but doubt if it would even be heard above the three-decibel roar of 400 horses.

Is there a way I can visually display my disapproval of this sort of “seamanship”

without provoking a homicidal reaction?

safe or satisfied?
If you want to be safe, put a flag up on a tall rod and attach it to a thwart. If you want to express your disapproval, try shooting a flare gun over their bow. If it’s a no-wake zone you could ask your local authorities to do some patrolling.

Boats on plane vs boats on plow
As a long time sailor, it used to irk me when a larger craft would barrel past without regard for wake and R.O.W. (right of way).

Without getting into the particulars of R.O.W., I learned a valuable lesson once while sailing my 20’ with a salty ol’ friend. He said “do you want that 10 ton vessel on plane as it passes you, displacing a mere fraction of its actual weight or do you want that same vessel to slow down, settle deeper into the water and create much deeper, more upsetting wake for you to have to navigate?”

When stated like that, I sorta (and notice I only said “sorta”) began to appreciate his point and recognized that when the weight disparity is large, a boat being operated at a safe speed not necessarily on plane (because that can be fast in some instances!) but up higher than a slow “10 ton plow” upsets my boat less so long as he is abiding by posted wake regulations and rules of the road.

I still don’t like to be blown past with a blast and a zoom but if you’re gonna send wake my way, better to have it small(er) than large(er).

Depends on boat size

– Last Updated: Aug-25-07 5:06 PM EST –

Your point is a good one. Sometimes I encounter large yachts -- 55 to 80 ft. No matter how slow their movement, the wake can be fearsome.

But this is not (in my experience) the case with smaller boats. At 10 knots or so, they're not much of a problem. My complaint is with boats this size that don't slow at all.

I AM one of those powerboat jerks…
well, maybe not a jerk, but I do own a twin engine boat, and 3 kayaks. I’m afraid your concerns spread over to powerboats too. I make a big deal out of common courtesies, proper boat handling, the law, etc., and I get close calls almost weekly. Here in Texas, there is no mandatory training or licensure required to operate boats, big or small, on our lakes and streams. I get morons on PWC’s buzzing me within mere feet like they were on the street, people driving cabin cruisers oblivious to the physics involved, amazing acts of stupidity or rudeness. PWC’s and wakeboarders are by far the worst. They have no clue that they have no clue, until there’s an accident. My attitude is “defensive boating”. It’s my responsibility to steer clear and pilot my craft safely, whether powered or not. You eyes and ears are your best friends.

I’ve called the cops on stupidity many times and have watched arrests take place. Cell phones and radios have a place on all my boats.

New can of worms…normally I’m not in favor of govt. intervention, but I would be in favor of a “boater safety/courtesy” certification before a person is allowed to launch.

Also have a powerboat
although its small fry at 18.5’ (Scout 185 center console) with a 115 Yamaha 4-stroke. I’ve been a powerboater over 40 years although now I spend far more time in a kayak. Through all those years, I was always aware of my wake under different water/wind/tide conditions, rpms, prop pitch, and load. Common courtesy is to keep as much distance as possible and also - and this is where I differ from the usual - to slow way down upon passing the paddlecraft to observe that he is ok with whatever small wake I have created. There is no way that I can know how experienced the paddler is - just as there is no way he can assess the level of competence of a powerboater. Only upon observing that he is fine do I go back up on plane and on to, hopefully, that next school of fish…Many powerboaters are dangerous fools and I also avoid weekends.

It’s your choice
Do you want to battle the big boys?

It’s really an on going never ending battle that no matter what, will always exist and their numbers are constantly growing.

Maybe you should be the one to change? Right or wrong this act is obviously ruining your day on the water.

Why not just say, fu_ _ it and roll with the punches. Takes their waves as a challenge to you paddling skills. Embrace them and enjoy the ride. You’ll feel much better and you’re precious time on the water will be happier with, Let me tell you about the wave I battled and beat today.

This is my age old wisdom speaking cause in my younger years if they pissed me off I’d have shot a flare into the boat,not over it and I’d probably be typing this on a prison computer.


Wakes are…fun!
Sometimes a big wake can be a welcome thrill.

I once talked a big boat boater to run some circles around me to see how my boat handled it.

They had fun, I had fun, they thought I was nuts…but I asked first. Wakes aren’t the problem really. It’s high speed, heavy fiberglass heading straight at me, to which my mass would slow it down exactly 1% if it hit me.

Look and listen, enjoy a wave or two.

I ride it out

– Last Updated: Aug-25-07 11:34 PM EST –

I never say a word or raise a paddle because I don't want to become known on my lake. Most are considerate and the others just give me an opportunity to steer into it and do my best.

I agree with the other responses. Unless the powerboater is actually being a jerk and trying to see how close he can come to us, what’s the problem? I actually enjoy playing with boat wakes!

What’s up with all the paddlers that think they own the waterways and that every other vessel out there shouldn’t have a right to use it? I’ve been out with other paddlers that curse every powerboat they see. It’s actually a bit embarrassing! I don’t mind powerboats at all. In fact when they slow down upon approaching us, it just makes a larger wake. In order to reduce or eliminate their wake, they’d have to slow down way before reaching us and speed up again after passing us a bit. What if there are a bunch of paddlers out that day? Does it mean that the powerboat has to slow down - speed up - slow down - speed up - slow down - speed up? Is that fair to them?

Here’s another thought: if a paddler can’t handle a boat wake, they should either learn how to handle their own craft or they should only paddle in calm, protected waters that aren’t accessible by powerboats.

Pedro Almeida

Bingo! NM

To answer your question - No
No matter what you do, the jerks are going to continue to be jerks and don’t give a hoot about you, and the others, (the majority) will keep a good distance from you.

Several thoughts:

  1. Stay in close to the marshes where they can’t get close to, but be aware that a boats wake will build up to breakers as they roll into real shallow water
  2. Outfit your canoe with a front splash guard.

    They can be home made easily.(many of the canoe racers have them for rough lake water or down river racing)

    I paddle both canoes and kayaks, and very seldom take the canoe into the inland water way where it is next to impossible to avoid wakes. It is much more fun in a kayak where you can enjoy them.



Does anybody know the signal?
Does anybody know the signal to tell the power boaters to give you the biggest wake they can?

I find most power boaters slow way down as soon as they see me. Then they creep by only slightly faster than I’m paddling.

Can’t surf on that!


from what I have seen

– Last Updated: Aug-26-07 8:54 AM EST –

all a kayaker has to do is wave their fist and frown at each passing boat. Thats a surefire way to get bigger wakes. :0 At least that is how it works on Winnipesaukee.

I too love the wakes!
Wish there was some signal to tell them to kick it up. Tried to convey that the other day. They got confused and I had to paddle close enough for them to hear me clearly. Even then, they were still confused.

For the real jerks, I thought that was what those 12ga flare guns were made for! (For all the lawyers out there, this was said in jest, and not meant, in any way, shape or form, to condone dangerous or malicious behavior). Actually, I seem to remember that, at one time, Mossberg made a stainless steel, 12ga, PUMP, flare gun. Interesting “emergency” device.

When I’m solo paddling in my canoe…

– Last Updated: Aug-26-07 4:00 PM EST –

I enjoy a big wake. When paddling out in Tampa Bay I'll catch a ship's wake and by adjusting my weight I can surf from the Alafia almost to Cockroach Bay!
I gotta say most of the PWC riders I've encountered do seem to have an acute case of cranium/rectum inversion. About eight years ago I had an encounter with one suffering such an affliction out by Seven-Cabbage-Cutoff on the Chassahowitzka. I headed into SCC in hopes of losing him. Yet, he insisted on zippin' by me at full throttle less than six feet away. So I headed into the group of islands west of SSC. He followed, zipping back every few minutes, I can only guess to keep his bearings while harassing me. Well, about a half-mile west of SSC my prayer was answered. I heard his motor sputter and then die...and the tide was going out. I could hear him calling out as I paddled by, keeping at least two islands between us to keep my canoe in a deep enough channel to keep floating. Since I noticed earlier he was wearing flip-flops I knew he wasn't walking out onto all those oyster bars and even if he had a small paddle with him I knew he was stranded until the tide returned... and the sun was about to set as I had made my way onto SCC. I hope he was having fun with the swamp angels and no-see-ums.
It took me about two hours to make it back to the boatramp. Then I saw his significant other; she had to be...she had a black eye. She walked up to me and ask if I had seen a someone on a yellow jet-ski. That confirmed it for me. I told her, "not for some time." It was the truth and I left it at that. I didn't give a damn what happened to him. I was hoping that the huge bull gator that rules that area took care of the sick individual. You know, sometimes you just have to let nature cull the herd. And last I heard they still can't extract DNA from gator poop.

Bingo II!

– Last Updated: Aug-26-07 4:37 PM EST –

It's all part of simplistic thinking and judgement. Some need to feel superior by putting others, who enjoy different activities, down. It's very predictable actually, as it's prejudice that is subtly taught in various forms. Different groups learn to dislike others simply because they are different. It's pretty boring. I believe the guy who posted this is just a mis-informed user who's quick to judge what he yet does not understand. Gettin to be too many of us on the mud ball.

I think you should have swept the
girl with the black eye off her feet and paddled her back to where she would never get a black eye again, and you both could live happily ever after.



Wow, a flare across their bow?!
That’s a pretty risky move. Aim a little low or even a good wind gust and you just lit up a boat you’re probably not prepared to pay for, either financially or in the loss of your freedom (think, drunk party goers in burning/sinking 30’ yacht, burned or drowned).

I’d get a paintball gun and plaster 'em. There’s no way they should be going full speed close enough for you to hit them, and if you do, it’s proof they were out of line . . . .

…I hear ya’…
What’s more enjoyable is taking these opportunities to raise your paddling skill. Oh, my default move is to give a friendly wave if anyone gazes your way next time…why let the bozos spoil your day. Learn to relax more, especially in the waist, hips, & shoulders and keep your center of mass over the boat.

Practice getting perpendicular to, quartered to, and parallel to the wave and learn to feel what the hull wants to do…those are the days where you’ll improve your balance by the minute…and in a little while you’ll begin to appreciate the waves for what challenges they bring. My bad to get on the pulpit…but waves never fail to educate one about their hull & the human inside it.