Boat-tiquette: Don’t be known as “that” boater

Boat-tiquette: Don’t be known as “that” boater

You don't want to be that boater. The boater everyone can tell doesn't know what they're doing. That boater that's disregarding buoys, other recreationists on the lake, turning what's supposed to be a fun day in the water into a frustrating or dangerous one.

Part of that boater knowledge surrounds the size and location of any wake coming off your watercraft, no matter if you're on any of Brazos River Authority's three reservoirs of Possum Kingdom Lake, Lake Granbury or Lake Limestone, or any other lake in the state.


There are so many different watercraft styles, designs, and primary functions, but no matter what it looks like or what it's designed to do, in Texas, per state law, all boaters are responsible for their wake. And captains are responsible for that wake whether they are in a No Wake Zone or not, or whether or not they own or rent the craft.

This becomes increasingly important as visitors to Texas waterways continue to increase in numbers.

And it's not just your imagination. More and more people in the U.S. have purchased boats this past year and a half.

Boat sales reached a 13-year-high in 2020 – with sales through March 2021 up 30% compared to the 2020 average, according to a National Marine Manufacturers Association report. There were 415,000 first-time boat buyers that entered the market in 2020 across the U.S., according to the report. In addition, the report notes that sales of wake sport boats — popular for wake surfing, wakeboarding and skiing — were up 22% to 13,600 units in 2020.

Wakeboarders, in general, are looking to crank those wakes up so they can get big air for even bigger moves. Wakeboarding and wake surfing towboats can range from $150,000 to the more high-end models at $200,000, according to DiscoverBoating.com. There are, however, sterndrive wake surfing boats available for as low as $52,000, which has opened the sport to far more people, according to the site.

That's not the only price a boater could incur. The problem is wakes don't just stop after a ride.

The Texas Water Safety Act states a boat operator is always responsible for the wake caused by a boat until it flattens out. That means a watercraft operator can be held responsible for injury to people) think swimmers, fishermen, etc.) or damage caused by a wake to another person's property, whether that's a floating dock or a moored watercraft.

A boat's wake can rock, swamp or capsize other boats, sending passengers overboard, leading to serious injury. 

So how do you ensure your wake isn't the one being reported to law enforcement?

A wake is the wave a boat generates as it moves through the water. That wake disperses an amount of energy based on the boat's speed and the amount of water the boat displaces.

Slow down whenever passing within 500 feet of a small boat, the shoreline or a marina. Distances beyond that allow the wake's waves to spread out and get rounder.

And do not forget that No Wake Zones along the reservoir are marked by buoys to indicate where no wake is permitted. According to Boat-Ed, boaters should slow down in advance of a No Wake zone. 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. And, shift in and out of gear as you proceed if your vessel produces a wake in idle gear, according to Boat Ed.

Lake rangers and game wardens also patrol for violators of No Wake Zones. The Class C ticket would cost a boater up to $500.

Other etiquette tips from Boat U.S. include:

•    Minimize repetitive passes.
•    Drive a predicted path.
•    Avoid close passes to other boats, and don't follow another boat too closely.
•    Don't impede traffic.
•    Look before you turn.
•    Refrain from tricks when near other boats.

Leave happiness in your wake this summer and not frustration or destruction.  Remember to Watch Your Wake!