I sent the following e-mail to Seaworthy Magazine about their assertion that wakes break down over distance. Their position leads skippers of large power craft to assume that if they pass a smaller craft at a distance, their wake will cause no problems.
Regarding your article on wakes, I see that you advise skippers who are creating large wakes to pass other boats from as much distance as possible. While I have observed that wakes do flatten out after running a long distance as you say, I have also observed that wakes generated by boats that pass me abeam at one hundred yards or so, continue to rock my boat for several minutes. Look at any aerial photo of the wake of a boat and you will see that as the wake spreads out from the boat, more wakes develop. If a boat passes me close abeam, I have one or two wakes to hop over at a comfortable angle. If a boat passes me from a distance, I have dozens of wakes to roll me for what seems an endless period of time tossing my passengers belowdecks and above from side to side . I prefer to hop once or twice even if the wakes are larger than wakes approaching from a greater distance.
Read it at Seaworthy - October 2009
The editors found an expert on wakes who refuted my comments as well as the evidence provided by any aerial photo. He insists that multiple rolls are not possible. Again, look at any aerial photo.
I think that Seaworthy has created an injustice against sailors by convincing thousands of their readers who operate wake producing boats thay they only need to pass us at a distance; not pass closer abeam where we can both slow to a calmer speed.
As I travel south this fall on the ICW, I am impressed by the number of large powercraft who slow to idle speed in the narrow parts of the channels to avoid throwing a large wake at we sailors--as long as we also slow to idle. I have seen nothing but consideration.
But in the open sounds, larger craft will maintain speed and pass at a hundred yards or so. My 32 rolls through 20 degrees on their wakes for quite awhile. I then see ahead, as the big boats pass more sailboats, the continued roll of their masts as well.
My only interest in writing that comment to Seaworthy was to advance the safety of passing slowly while passing close abeam, not only in channels but in open water as well, to the skippers of wake producing boats. I would like to see skippers who want to maintain speed as they pass us, do so at several hundred yards not a couple hundred feet.
If any of you agree, please mount a campain to convince Seaworthy to alter their advice about wakes. They don't flatten out over a short distance as they maintain and we sailors do roll more that once on the bow wake and once on the stern wake.
If I'm wrong and you think I'm all wet, then I will remain respectfully yours,