This post has been saved as a draft for months now, since a discussion in a captains group I’m in. I’ve held off on publishing it, because I was afraid of the shit storm it may start. But after an article from BoatUS just a few days ago about boat wake damage liability, I figured what better time than now.
Most cruisers and live aboards will say the big sport fishers are the worst, and no one seems to like jetskis. In my experience, though, and I’ve yet to find someone around here who hasn’t had similar experiences, nothing tops flats boats, when it comes to thinking they own the water, and having zero regard for anyone else out there.
I’m not saying they’re all like this. The guy with the boat in the photo actually operated in a safe and responsible manner. Earlier in the season there was a captain who was Sparky’s buddy. He’d actually cruise at idle speed, and not speed up until he was clear of the entire anchorage.
But by far, the majority of these boats are operated in an unsafe manner, with zero consideration for anyone else on the water.
The Wonderful Things They Do
I’ve seen them pass at high speed, much closer than 100′ from vessels with a dive flag up. It’s happened more than once, and one time a guy almost ran over people I had in the water.
They speed through every narrow cut, and rarely slow down no matter how much boat traffic there is. Often they’ll even slam kayakers and paddleboarders into the mangroves with their wake.
They’ll constantly pass extremely close to anchored vessels, often within 10′ and at very high speeds. When I first moved back down here, one of them cut a neighbor’s anchor rode by running over it.
Another neighbor had one of these guys tell him that he came really close to a boat to purposely try to cut the anchor rode, because according to him it was in the channel. It really wasn’t.
My boat is currently anchored very close to shore, in shallow water, inside of a no wake zone. Every single day I see them come in, and not slow down until their well past the buoy marking the no wake zone. They’ll also slam their throttle when they’re still well inside the no wake zone on the way out.
Pretty often these boats will pass very close to mine while doing this (and I’m in the no wake zone). Just a few days ago I was hanging off the back of the boat on the paddleboard, getting Sparky back aboard, when one of them slammed us with their wake. There’s also a place on the beach that’s putting people out on kayaks and SUPs right in front of where they do this.
I had one pass in between 2 jetskis on a tour, on another tour one cut right in front of a ski, and just recently one passed very close behind the last ski, without slowing down, or moving to give him more room. Every time this happened, we were crossing over from starboard.
You may not like jetskis, but the USCG defines them as a vessel, and we were clearly the stand on vessel. Here’s a little book you may want to get, that explains these rules that you should already know…especially if you’re a captain.
What Makes Them Worse
Besides the way many of these guys operate their boats, they’re also hypocrites. As soon as they drop their hook in the water, they’ll jump up and down, flailing their arms, screaming and yelling at you, if you’re even in the same ocean.
They have this fake unwritten rule that everyone should give them at least a few hundred feet, and never pass inshore of them when they’re fishing. How can you expect people to obey this “fake” rule, when you don’t even show the same respect for everyone else on the water?
Earlier in the season, they’d often anchor right next to some of the inlets. I’d even see them right in front of Indian Key, a state park, with a dock. Even those guys would start screaming when you got too close. Maybe park services should close the park down because you’re fishing?
You Need To Change Your Ways
Like I said at the beginning of this post, not all of them are like this. If you’re one of the few who operates you’re boat like the captain I mentioned earlier, THANK YOU! This post isn’t directed at you.
If you’re one of the others, though, you really need to think about this. The water doesn’t belong just to you. You need to start acting in a more responsible manner, so everyone can be safe out there, and we all can enjoy the water.