When is a boat wave a wake?

The Oregon State Marine Board is looking into whether it should come up with a clear definition of a boat wake that is helpful to boaters and defensible in court.

The agency is asking boaters for their ideas about how to craft a solid explanation of what are acceptable levels of waves emitted by a moving boat that relies on more than just a minimum speed limit.

Possibilities include keeping the maximum speed at 5 mph but adding provisions that take into account the minimum speed needed to provide steering ability and headway, as well as language defining the wake itself and acceptable impacts on other boats.

"Different boats behave differently," says Rachel Bullene, the Marine Board's policy analyst. "We can't just rely on the speed limit. Boat-enforcement officers don't have radar out there. They can't clock you."

The Marine Board is expected to discuss wakes at its Jan. 9 meeting in Portland. If the five-member board opens up rule-making, Marine Board officials will begin more formal procedures that include a draft definition and public comment next spring, Bullene says.

The idea of a new definition of wake and its application to "Slow No Wake" zones came after a Clackamas County judge threw out a citation for violating a no-wake zone this summer after the defendant argued that there was no clear definition of wakes in statute, Bullene says.

"Until we get a definition, it will be hard for those cases to stand up," she says.

The current rule states that no person shall operate a boat on the no-wake zone faster than 5 mph within 200 feet of a boat launch, marina with a capacity of at least six boats, as well as floating homes and other areas.

The agency held an informal meeting to gather ideas Dec. 18 in Portland. Ideas can be submitted to osmb.rulemaking@state.or.us through Tuesday.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

Reader Reaction
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form. New comments are only accepted for two weeks from the date of publication.