Join Date: May 2002
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12-16'''' beginner recommendations??
Most sailors hold stinkpotters in contempt, because they foul the air with fumes and noise, and they smear the water with oil. Etiquette requires that they pass other boats at such a speed and distance as to minimize the disturbance to others that is caused by their wakes, but they don''t all conform. If you want to sail in waters where they habituate, you just have cope with the annoyance.
When you are going through narrow, marked channels, such as when you are passing through an inlet, you can''t avoid them. But, after you get into deeper water, you can stay clear of them.
But, even at their worst, all they can really do is make you momentarily uncomfortable. They might be able to break a dish or a drinking glass, but they can''t damage the boat enough to sink it.
I suspect that what is happening is that, as a powerboat passes, the wake hits your boat, your boat pitches severely, the tiller pulls in your hand, you feel that the boat is out of control because it is so hard to steer, and the motor may rev up and whine (if you have an outboard motor). All that sound and fury can be very frightening, but it really isn''t dangerous, and it subsides as soon as the wake passes by.
When you see that a powerboat is about to pass by, leaving a large wake, steer your boat so that it crosses the wake at a diagonal angle. That will reduce the degree to which your boat will pitch and roll, and it will be much easier to steer. You might have to change your course substantially in order to do this, but that''s o.k. If you have an outboard motor, reduce the throttle slightly, but not completely. Reducing your speed will also reduce the pitch and roll of your boat. As soon as the wake passes, you can return to your previous course. While the boat is pitching, get a firm grip on a lifeline stanchion or other handhold, to steady yourself.
The reason why you are afraid is because when something unexpected happens on the boat, you don''t know how to deal with it. You feel helpless and out of control. That is why I am convinced that sailing lessons will make a good sailor of you. You can ask your instructor to show you how to steer across a boat wake, and knowledge will make your fear vanish.
Don''t let your fear of powerboat wakes deter you from sailing in big waters. Some of the most glorious sailing takes place out on those bays and along the coasts.