Wakeboarding and wake surfing are growing increasingly popular on Brazos River Authority reservoirs, but it's not just boats designed to create big waves that are responsible for their wake.
Whether there are 50 boats or one, per the Texas Water Safety Act law, a boat operator is always responsible for the wake caused by a boat until it flattens out. This is true for all watercraft, from jet skis to yachts, and especially wake surfing crafts specifically designed to generate large waves. These boats have a built-in system – also known as a bladder – to maximize the wake created by the boat by building extra weight.
Boat operators are responsible for their wake no matter where they are on the reservoir. However, there are portions of the lake where boats and personal watercraft are not permitted to create a wake.
The BRA has "No Wake" buoys strategically located across Lakes Possum Kingdom, Granbury and Limestone. While observing the orange and white structures is the law, a little awareness goes a long way too.
Tall, slender white buoys have in black capital letters, Slow No Wake, with the word "No" in an orange circle. Orange lines box in words on the top and the bottom.
No Wake Zones are areas where boats and personal watercraft must operate at a slow headway speed that does not create a wake or swell. This zone includes areas within 50-feet of the shoreline or any boathouse, dock or another shoreline facility, including an occupied watercraft or area where people are swimming or diving.
No Wake Zones are used to mitigate hazards to boating safety. Hazards to boating safety include known navigational hazards such as narrow shallow waters; areas of obstructed vision; structures in the area such as dams, trestles, power lines, and fueling docks; designated recreational or swimming areas; congested areas with high traffic (like marinas); or perhaps areas with a history of accidents.
BRA lake rangers routinely patrol the reservoir and check the buoys. Sometimes, the buoys are accidentally snagged by boats, purposefully moved by pranksters, or intentionally vandalized for sport.
Lake rangers also patrol for violators of No Wake Zones. The Class C ticket can cost a boater up to $500. However, if you see someone abusing the wake zones, there are some actions you can take. A person can record the location and time, and try to note the boat license. If the incident is during normal office hours, call the lake office and a lake ranger, if available, can go to the location in an attempt to see the violation for themselves. Otherwise, a lake ranger can follow up at the boat owner's home to provide education as to why these particular laws are in place. If the situation warrants an emergency, call 9-1-1.
Slowing down is much easier on your wallet than being confronted with costly repairs to another person's property.
Per state law, it is unlawful for anyone to:
- Operate a personal watercraft and jump the wake of another vessel recklessly or unnecessarily close.
- Operate at a speed that causes a hazardous wake or wash.
- Operate within designated "no wake" areas except at headway speed without creating a swell or wake.
A few tips from Boating Magazine include:
- Slow down whenever passing within 500 feet of a small boat, the shoreline or a marina, even if there are no posted no-wake zones. Distances beyond that allow the wake's waves to spread out and get rounder, disrupting other boats less and causing less erosion.
- Slow down in advance. Chopping the throttles while arriving doesn't alleviate the wake's effect.
- When in a no-wake speed, remember neutral trim allows your boat to proceed with the smallest wake.
- Larger boats can go 10 mph while idling in gear due to large props.
However you're enjoying the reservoir on a boat, just remember to watch your wake.