Rude Power Boaters

We went paddling today in the Nassau Sound area off Amelia Island, Florida, our first time in that area. We put in from the boat launch, at full tide, at the boat launch on the north end of the island. We are in the transition phase from rec to sea kayaks and my wife, in particular, is quite inexperienced – though she took some beginner training and her skills have been progressing well. However, after our experiences today, I thought I would lose her as a kayaking partner!

As we were putting in, a group of motor-boaters recklessly backed their boat down the ramp and released it so quickly that it drifted sideways and almost hit one of our kayaks. I called out, “Hey, watch out for our boats!” and they apologized and offered what sounded like friendly small talk as they boarded their big boat beside us. I thanked them for their complementary comments about our wood kayaks. By then, my wife had boarded her boat, sealed her spray skirt, and was waiting for me to ready myself behind her. We were dealing already with significant current and wind that was pressing us up against the dock adjoining the ramp.

As the people in the motor boat got underway, they suddenly gunned the throttle – in the launch bay – and sped off; creating a wave that completely swamped over my wife . . . she literally disappeared under their wave/wake, which slammed her up against the dock. Fortunately, she braced herself against the dock, which held her upright, and the horizontal framing under the dock kept her from being driven under the dock. As they pulled away in the distance, the young man in the back of the boat (I swear sarcastically) called out, “Sorry!”

My wife, who has experienced other, lesser, incidents at the hands of motor boaters was almost too panicked to continue the paddle. However, I had reflexively paddled furiously after them before I realized there would be no catching up with them and I was already out in the current and wind, so she followed.

From that point, we had a good experience, paddling out into the sound, staying close-enough to the shore to avoid the speedboaters. She was getting her confidence back and holding her own quite well as we were paddling close to shore against both wind and current on the return trip. Then the second incident happened with a speed boat racing around the last point before the dock, suddenly appearing and racing past us – painted like some kind of marine sports car. If somebody had been fishing around that point, I don’t know how he would have avoided a collision.

As we were approaching the dock, he came swooping in, swerving around us and some jet-ski people putting in, showing off and creating clapotic wakes that added a greater challenge than the current and wind. I turned toward the marshy shore adjacent to the dock and called back to my wife to follow me in. However, the boater’s antics – especially after the initial incident – had panicked her into turning about, out into the current and wind. She was rapidly drifting out of sight, around the bend, as the bow on my Arctic Tern 14 slid up into the mucky bank.

I discovered the muck was almost like quicksand, as I attempted to get out and turn the boat to go after her. I was stuck in the mud, literally. She was now out of site, and I was hoping she would overcome her panic and beach her boat around the bend – but, having no way of knowing whether she was drifting further out on the retreating tide, I made the choice to grab my waterproof cell phone and call for help.

I got my boat turned around in the muck and launched after her, probably breaking the world time record for attaching spray skirts.

I was relieved to discover she had beached herself around the bend, and she was okay – save for one water shoe that the muck had sucked off her foot. The sheriff’s department water patrol picked us up and towed our kayaks back to the dock – then followed up with an earnest search for the speed boater who had succeeded in ruining our take out. She was horribly embarrassed by the incident until I reassured her that we were the victims, not the fools, in the mishap.

While I was impressed with my wife’s ability to handle herself and her boat under the circumstances of her limited experience, she was talking about giving up paddling. While I was trying to console and encourage her, I was wondering how much damage a lightweight Aquabound paddle could do if aimed squarely at the point where the head joins the neck of either one of the power boaters today who had brought my wife to this point.

Most of all, I was feeling really bad about how awful things had turned out, after making every effort to ensure we – she – would have a safe, enjoyable paddling experience. (We had even stayed overnight, waiting for the right tidal conditions the next day.) We are left with the quandary of how to deal with (adjective expletive deleted) power boaters who take delight in showing off and terrorizing paddlers – even to the extent of creating life-threatening situations.

So, I would like to offer this subject up to the rest of us, in hopes of getting some feedback about how to deal with rude power boaters – beyond our simply obeying maritime rules ourselves. My wife, at this point, has agreed to continue paddling only in waters not prowled by power boaters.

What are some things that you do to reduce the likelihood of mishaps brought on by rude power boaters?

your not alone

What happened to the boaters with the ranger?? Thats all I want to know.

Maybe you were taking too long
at the boat ramp and impeding others launching? I am serious. Was there an adjacent beach you could have launched from? My last close encounter with a power boat was over years ago. I towed a 21ft runabout a couple miles through the Golden Gate and drove its operator from Sausalito to Berkeley to get his truck and trailer.

go early
Try going early in the morning or late in the evening.

there is more to see, it is cooler, and the boneheads are usually not out then.

follow up
There was no adjacent beach to launch from - only mucky marsh bank. On the take out, I decided to go for the “beach” as the ramp-dock area was too hazardous. BTW, at close range, there were also clusters of oysters along the bank.

We did not take too long to put in; one minute we were alone, putting in, the next minute, these people came flying back at us with their swaying trailer - plopping the boat in without regard to our presence. The launch area was well widw-enough for everybody involved. We paid our launch fee, like everybody else, and had a right to be there.

To answer another question, the sheriff patrol never found the speedster; I think he pulled his boat out and left in a hurry!

“likelihood of mishaps”…

– Last Updated: Aug-03-08 5:40 AM EST –

... is directly proportional to your ability to handle the conditions - which includes other vessels.

The boaters have every right to be there and to operate normally (meaning they should display common courtesy and obey the rules, but should also need to take no special actions for paddlers).

You also have a right to be there, but not to expect the boaters to cater to you're comfort and skill issues.

If paddling in proximity to boats, and in their wakes, is something you have trouble with - or that you or others with you are uncomfortable with - It is you who are increasing the likelihood of mishaps by being there.

Find other places to launch than on the ramps whenever possible. Better for everyone. Find places to paddle where you can safely duck in and out of wakes/choppier areas until you both ENJOY them and can paddle through them at any angle as if they weren't there.

As for the boaters, if you ever do have a "mishap" - they're likely the ones who will be there to pull you out.

The ramp incident seems rude, but no harm done. Let it go. Marshy banks? Beats slippery concrete. Do avoid the oysters though.

PS - When you're out there you are a boater too. Do what you can to NOT be different in any other way than size and speed. Paddlers are generally not to popular among the powered boaters. Unfortunately, and this attitude has been earned (largely though the BS us vs. them mentality and paddlers who are not able to adequately control their craft in shared waters).

Good reply

– Last Updated: Aug-03-08 6:21 AM EST –

I mean I don't want to seem unsympathetic to the new kayakers but when a kayaker tells a powerboater to be careful of their wooden boat it is like an invitation to catch a giant wake.
I agree with Greyak. Thicker skin may be required.
PS never try to catch a motorboat with a paddlecraft. It's as useless as trying to keep scratches of a newly finished wooden kayak.

up here

– Last Updated: Aug-03-08 8:23 AM EST –

kayakers never leave thier boats on the ramp itself--the practice is to load the boats in the parking lot---tandem carry them to the ramp, then get in them and go---total ramp time 1 minute or so--there are novice kayakers who will carry their empty boats to the ramp and then take 10--20 minutes of time to load their equipment and get out---I'm not saying the OP did this but the way to avoid ramp problems is to load in the parking lot, then carry the boat to the ramp and go---that way you never run into the power boats.

Learning experiences…

– Last Updated: Aug-03-08 10:45 AM EST –

There are places that we won't put in during August around here, because the only thing that you can rely on is that there will be out of control power boaters and jet skiers. Some of it is intentional rudeness aka arrogant youth, some is people who truly have no idea what they are doing. It is only recently that NY started requiring adults to pass any requirements to operate a motor boat. In any case, I'd take a launch spot like you mention off the list for the summer.

There is also the question of exactly where to put in. Updated here - just reread and caught the reply about the mucky marshy bank. Personally, I'd take that, oysters and all, over the situation you described at the launch.

You may need to expand the ways that you can get in and out of the boats. One of the things that people learn when they are starting out is to get in and out of a kayak by using the paddle as a brace to the ground beside the boat. The problem with that approach is that people get dependent on having to use shallow water with reasonably solid surfaces around, which is quite limiting. If you can learn to drop your butt into the kayak from deeper water and pull your legs in/out while balancing a bit better, and maybe just using the paddle on the surface of the water for support while each leg goes in, you'll have a lot more options for launching and landing. I often come into shore already out of the cockpit and sitting up behind it on the deck, ready to put feet down and wade in from there.

They won’t change.
So you must. Get your act together. Learn to balance and paddle better. Don’t go out in conditions you can’t handle. Expecting powerboaters to change is not going to happen. You deal with what comes your way. You expose yourself to challenges you can handle. When pushing your limits, expect to be pushed, rise to the challenge if you exposed yourself to it.

I agree it was a miserable experience. Don’t expect it to get better. Expect that you will get better and you will. Otherwise, stick to small ponds where these boaters are restricted. Paddle with the big dogs or stay on the porch.

The fact you found this so distressing that you required a rescue indicates you were definitely in beyond your skill level. Bad judgement on your part. No body flipped, swamped, was lost, injured, yet you were so shaken you required a tow back to dock. Stick to the swiming pool until you are competent and confident.

My Comments
I sympathize with your experience. Unfortunately, as others have pointed out, there are rude and inconsiderate boaters just like there are rude and inconsiderate drivers. Nothing you can do will change these individuals. Therefore, you just have to improve your skill level and learn to deal with them or paddle elsewhere.

I recently had an experience on Lake Marion in South Carolina. Was fishing in the shallows, casting to the undergrowth along the shore. A power boater with a trolling motor came into the area where I was fishing, and began working his way down the shoreline fishing. The vast majority of power boaters will normally bypass me by a wide margin. This boater just continued down the shoreline until he cut me off from the shore where he stopped and began casting into the area where I was fishing. Lake Marion is a 110,000 acre lake and the day I was out I probably encountered 2 boaters the entire day and this boater just decided to fish exactly where I was fishing. Why? Who knows? Inconsiderate? Obviously. But what can you do? People like this are not the type I want to tangle with in an isolated area a long ways from the nearest takeout. I just moved on to another area (hey, there were another 109,999.999 acres of lake left to fish).

My point is, sure it’s infuriating, but there are lots of places to paddle and most boaters ARE considerate. Why let the relatively few idiots out there spoil your day.

I strongly agree that since
you paid the launch fee, you are entitled to use the launch ramp. That’s a sore spot w/me. However, w/boating season in full swing, it isn’t always the best or safest thing to do, especially for a novice paddler, not comfortable w/turbulent water. And that’s what you’re going to get at a boat ramp. Boats are being pulled n pushed in n out of the water, engines are throttled, vehicles are on the move, etc. A ramp isn’t a library, there’s supposed to be a lot of activity and therefore a lot of water movement. A good example: I’ve learned to stay away from most of the ramps during a fish opener, such as the spring Chinook run etc, as it’s mass chaos from 3:00am on. The back up at one ramp is always at least a mile long in EACH direction.

As to the wakes, most boat ramps have a no wake policy, which is usually marked with a no wake channel marker/buoy. There is NO EXCUSE for creating huge wakes when entering and exiting a boat ramp. It is dangerous. The rule states, every boater is responsible for their wake and the damage it causes…PERIOD, no matter where they are on the waterway.

This bohica (bend over, here it comes, again) attitude has got to go. It doesn’t mean that you should have a chip on your shoulder and strut around the marina policing everyone, because you -will-get your ass kicked, but boaters need to be held accountable. We had to break up a huge fight on the water last night between 2 hot headed boaters so choose your battles carefully, but it doesn’t make breaking the rules acceptable.

I too sympathize with you/wife…
…But as she’s still in the “perpendicular to wave” stage…I’d not only “try” not to launch at same time and in same neighborhood as powercraft, make it “The Rule”! Simply wait or ask them if you two could make it out ahead em’… Just keep things social and you’ll have few problems in the future…but as mentioned, when you have a difference of wakes in a bathtub, one has to learn how to cope with the conditions.


Try to Avoid Weekends
My experience is that weekends attract the most inexperienced power boaters at the public ramps. These power boaters have so little experience and knowledge that they have considerable trouble just launching their boats, let alone powering away from the ramp. I avoid weekends with my own power boat, which at 18.5’, I can launch alone literally in just a couple of minutes. Walking back to the idling boat from my truck takes me longer than the launch. Some day, strike up a conversation with a public ramp attendant and you will be amazed at the stories of boats launched onto concrete, launched with their trailers still attached to the boats, tow vehicles being launched, launching injuries, etc. Its ridiculous. I once re-arranged my work schedule so I could work on weekends and boat during weekdays. Now I do my chores on the weekends, like right now waiting for the grass to dry to start mowing.

I’d rather walk on glass than launch my kayaks at a public ramp.

inexperience and lack of knowledge
I live on a pretty busy on the weekends water ski lake. Nine of ten boaters know nada about the rule about no wakes within 200 feet of shore. This despite the State posting it at launch ramps!

That said it cuts both ways. Kayakers do get in the way of working boats and go right down the middle of channels where they dont belong and sometimes plug up launch ramps(it seems to be getting better). Again its lack of knowledge.

The power boaters in the OP didnt seem to be rude but fell in to that vast majority who are clueless about how their boat handling affects others.

They do have a plus side… perhaps someday you will be rescued by one…

This subject
comes up every year but with the increased number of kayakers out there, there are more close calls.

Sadly, it isn’t always kayakers. Last summer, just a mile from our house on our river, a power boater towing a tube ran over two other kids on tubes, killing one. They weren’t drunk, just not paying attention.

It would be nice if paddlers and boaters alike showed good common sense and courtesy. However, I doubt THAT is going to happen anytime soon.

Last weekend I had an encounter
with a brain-dead pontoon boat driver. I was crossing Pymatuning Resevoir in NW Pennsylvania in a direct, straight line. This lake has a 20 hp limit so speeds are low. But approaching me on an an opposite course was a pontoon boat with two men on board trolling. They were about 30 yards to my left so if we all just kept going straight we would pass with no problems. Suddenly, and I KNOW they saw me because we made eye contact, he turned 90 degrees to port and crossed so close in front of me I had to stop and backpaddle. I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT! I sat there speechless trying to decide what to say to him, not quite sure what his motivations were. He said quite calmly and without any sarcasm, “Nice day to be on the water eh?” I really don’t think he understood what a stupid move he just made! I just silently stared at him figuring it best to keep my mouth shut and let it go.

Somewhat familiar with that location
Been through there several times when I had bigger boats, sail and power. The tides are large and the currents run swift, generally, 4-6 knots; all the banks are mucky and marshy and full of oyster banks. Probably very few, if any, places to launch that have sandy shore or grassy banks.

My rules are:

  1. Avoid all boating on the weekends.
  2. Never, ever, launch a kayak or any small boat from a public boat ramp.

Given your and your wife’s skill levels
if you want her to learn to love kayaking, I suggest you stick to small lakes with 0-10hp limits for awhile. If you aren’t ready for boat wakes from thoughtless speedboaters, there’s a lot of other stuff in the ocean you aren’t ready for.

No doubt about it, loud, high-powered speed boats appeal to those with little brains and a desire to compensate for what they may be lacking physically. But, as others have said, the Yahoos in the powerboats don’t tend to be early risers, tend to be out in full force only on weekends, and generally limit their boating to the three summer months.

Take your boats to all the wonderful places the powerboaters can’t go, either because of physical or legal limitations: marshes, shallow back estuaries of large lakes, smaller lakes, etc., and plan your trips for early mornings and near dusk (best times for encountering wildlife anyway) and take advantage of the long off season, when most of those boats have been stored away in expensive storage units.

and there is a bright side
to expensive gas.

At least in my area.

Usually they yahoo up and down a three mile lake in 400 hp boats towing tubes and skiiers.

This year…blessed silence. About half of the docks formerly berthing motorboats now have at least two paddlecraft. The other half have boaters just using it for a cocktail platform.

But now you have to watch out for new sailboat sailors…some of them really have no control.