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Dangerous wake downs boat, riders rescued

Dangerous wake downs boat, riders rescued

Six people were rescued from Lake Granbury after a passing boat sent a dangerous wake their way, swamping and sinking their ski boat, and sending a sobering reminder of the importance of watching your wake.

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Photo courtesy of Daniel Lee showing Forth of July
at Possum Kingdom Lake

No one was injured during the Fourth of July weekend when a 20-foot-long ski boat with six passengers took on water due to a wake from a passing watercraft. Thankfully, a nearby boater saw the occurrence and quickly navigated to the sinking vessel, pulling all on board to safety.

The boater who caused the potentially life-threatening wake was not identified at the scene, said Judi Pierce, Brazos River Authority, public information officer.  The sunken watercraft remained at the bottom of Lake Granbury for nearly a week before being raised by a professional salvage operator.

Whether a watercraft operator is in a No Wake Zone or not, the Texas Water Safety Act states a boat operator is always responsible for the wake caused by a boat until it flattens out, said John Riley, BRA Lake Ranger Sgt. That means a watercraft operator can be held responsible for injury to people or damage caused by a wake to another person's property, whether a floating dock or a moored watercraft. Watercraft at BRA reservoirs operating within 50 feet of the shoreline or any boathouse, dock, on-water facility, occupied watercraft or area in which people are swimming, or diving are required to operate at a slow, no-wake speed.

Wakes can be minimized by avoiding congested or confined areas, staying in the middle of the lake, and if equipped with ballast bags, by draining them while traveling. A wake loses its power the farther it travels. So, give other boats a lot of room while passing and avoid them feeling your wake's impact.

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"Alas, not every skipper is as courteous as you are. There will be times when you'll encounter a wake that has the potential to do serious damage to your nervous system, passengers, and the boat itself … Bringing the boat to a complete stop, however, is counterproductive; boats are far more stable when they're moving, and you must also be careful not to lose steerage … it's better to turn toward the wake briefly, then come back on course when you're in smooth water. Rather than plow directly into the wake at a 90-degree angle, bear off a few degrees so that you cross at a slight angle. This helps your boat's hull grip the waves and reduces the chances your boat (and passengers) will be thrown into the air." – BoatUS

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

No Wake Zones are indicated by buoys with an orange circle reading, "Slow No Wake." These zones indicate to watercraft operators they must slow to the point they do not generate a wake or a wave created by the passage of the vessel.

No Wake means no wake.

An important key to boating safety is to be aware of those in the water around you and the effect of your boat's passage.

Chances are, if you've been on the water much, you or someone you know has had a close call with another boater's wake. So, what do you do the next time it happens?

If you see someone abusing the wake, there are actions you can take. A person can:

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  • record the location and time,
  • try to note the boat license,
  • take pictures and/or video.
  • 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 explain why these particular laws are in place.
  • If the situation warrants an emergency, immediately call 9-1-1.

And as always, Watch Your Wake.

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