Why should you Watch Your Wake? Science!

Why should you Watch Your Wake? Science!

So, Newton's Third Law. No, not that one about the apple – the one about action and reaction – specifically your boat and the water you've just launched into.  

Whether you're paddling your kayak or sporting the newest MerCruiser engine, your watercraft will make some type of line in the water. Yep, that's your wake. 

And, whatever type of wake your boat produces, you are responsible for that equal and opposite reaction.

Wakes are not a problem if you're in a kayak or canoe. But any watercraft, from a bass boat to a major cabin cruiser, will create a wake that could harm swimmers, other boaters, and even your granny as she's taking in the sun on your dock.  

And, woe be to those that cause granny to lose her seat!

The Texas Water Safety Act states that a boat operator is always responsible for the wake caused by a boat until it flattens out. Since many crafts, from jet skis to wake surfing boats, are specifically designed to generate large waves, the driver must be mindful of where they are before powering up to wake speed. Each lake in Texas has areas where boats and personal watercraft are not permitted to create a wake. 

On the three BRA reservoirs, Possum Kingdom Lake, Lake Granbury and Lake Limestone, "No Wake" buoys are strategically placed in areas where docks, marinas and people could be harmed.

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 100-feet of the shoreline or any boathouse, dock or other shoreline facility, including an occupied watercraft or area where people are swimming or diving on a BRA reservoir.

No Wake Zones are used to lessen hazards to boating safety 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.

These buoys are tall, slender white markers have 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. 

Lake rangers and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Wardens patrol BRA reservoirs. Violators of No Wake Zones are issued Class C tickets that can cost a boater up to $500. 

If you see someone abusing the wake zones, there are some actions you can take. First off - report the boat immediately. 

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 will attempt to see the violation for themselves. Otherwise, the officer 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 – or with granny's hospital bills. 

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.