500 feet is not enough

The wakeboat rule being drafted by the Department of Environmental Conservation moves Vermont in the right direction, but not far enough. DEC’s draft proposes that wakeboats operate at least 500 feet from shore. RWVL’s petition, supported by current science and by the reality of life on Vermont lakes, calls for an offset of 1000 feet. This newsletter explains why…

500 feet is not far enough…

…to dissipate the power of the wakes. Scientific studies suggest a much longer safe minimum distance. At 500 feet, the wave energy of a wake-surfing boat is twice that of a water ski boat at the same distance (the Minnesota, Quebec, and Willamette studies all confirm this) (See the graphs in the Science section of our website.)

…to prevent what happened on Joe’s Pond. “The plying back and forth of wake boats is irrevocably changing the essence of Joe’s Pond. What use to be a relatively quiet body of water has become a veritable washing machine, with large, artificial waves never seen before arriving from all directions. Wake boats have fundamentally changed the nature of boating, sailing, swimming, paddle-boarding, kayaking, and shoreline enjoyment on our small pond.” -Thierry Guerlain

…to follow the top researchers in the field. The three leading researchers in the field (Yves Prairie from Quebec, Sebastien Raymond from Laval, and Jeffrey Marr from Minnesota) recommend safe operating distances of 984 feet, 984 feet, and “over 600 feet” respectively.)

…to prevent what happened on Lake Fairlee. “A friend of mine was injured when a wake boat wave knocked her down as she was attempting to get into her kayak. During Lake Fairlee’s busy 4th of July weekend, a couple of kayaks were capsized by a wake boat; the wake boat operator didn’t stop to help. Were they even aware of what they had caused? Someone from shore hopped into a boat to assist the kayakers. Luckily no one was hurt this time.” – Tom Ward

…to diminish to the power of a normal boat at 200 feet.The University of Minnesota study measured the power of wake boat wakes, compared with normal waterski boat wakes, at various distances from the shore. The study found that a wake boat 600 feet from shore (the furthest they measured) exerted more destructive power than a waterski boat at 200 feet. Extrapolating the Minnesota data, we conclude that the wake boat would need to be at least 700 to 1000 feet from shore before its wave power equalled that of a normal waterski boat at 200 feet.

…to prevent what happened on Lake Iroquois. “In 2020 my four-year-old grandson was playing in the water next to our dock on Lake Iroquois. A large wave from a wake boat washed him under the dock. Wearing a life jacket he was caught between the water and the underside of the dock. One of his cousins pulled him out before other waves arrived so he was not hurt, but easily could have been. This event reinforced my concern over the generation of such large wakes on small lakes.”

…to satisfy Vermonters. Many Vermont lake associations have voted to support the 1000-foot offset. More than 1250 people have signed RWVL’s petition for an offset of 1000 feet. Dozens have provided testimony to DEC supporting the 1000-foot offset.

…to prevent what happened on Lake Raponda. “Our floating dock is positioned by metal pilings embedded in the lake bottom. The system has served us well for 5 years. But this summer a wake boat appeared on the lake 450 to 600 feet off of my dock. The ferocious waves produced by the boat  rocked and bounced my small Boston Whaler and my dock. The wave action pulled one of my pilings out. Wake boats are inappropriate for small lakes and should be banned.” – Ted Blackburn

…to meet the needs of the future. The four scientific research studies all were based on wakeboats from model years 2013 – 2019. Since that time, the displacement and horsepower of wakeboats has increased by 30% — the boats being sold today are heavier, more powerful, and produce stronger wakes.

It takes 1000 feet to dissipate the damaging effects of today’s and tomorrow’s wakeboats. 

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