The ‘wake’ is the trail of waves caused by a boat as it moves through the water. The ‘wash’ (also called whirlpool or eddy) is the circular churning of water created by the boat’s back propeller. Both phenomena can cause environmental damage and endanger other boats. It is important to try to minimize the impact of your boat’s wake and wash.
The following best practices will help you to manage the negative impact of your wake and wash.
Reducing your boat’s ‘drag’ – the resistance caused by your boat as it moves through the water – will reduce the size of its wake and wash. By taking action and adjusting several factors, it is possible to avoid the damage that your wake and wash might cause. To begin, always be sure that you have the necessary boating safety equipment.
Installing efficient boat motors and propellers is one way to reduce the drag of your boat. Less drag translates into less wake and wash.
The lower the resistance, the less power is required to propel the boat, which also saves energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Different types of engines and propellers have different potential impacts on your boat’s wake and wash.
It is important to note that the efficiency of a motor and propeller also depends on the shape and size of the boat. We recommend consulting a boating safety expert to help you select appropriate equipment.
Operating your boat at appropriate speeds will limit the quantity of whirlpools and waves the boat generates. The faster the boat goes, the larger the wake and wash it will create.
In Canada, recommended speed limits vary within different types of boating areas. In many provinces, boaters are limited to a speed of 10 km/h within 30 metres (98 ft. 5 in.) of the shoreline.
Furthermore, boating at too high a speed in certain areas can cause environmental damage and endanger other boats and swimmers. It is important to follow speed limits both to protect the environment and to minimize your risk of collision.
By learning to avoid sensitive wildlife habitats, you help protect marine ecosystems and the species that live there. Fish feeding, breeding and protected areas are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of human activities like shipping.
A boat’s wash and wake can disrupt local species’ behaviors and cause physical damage to ecosystems.
There are several ways to enjoy boating while remaining respectful of the environment.
First, use a nautical chart to identify sensitive habitats and places where boating is prohibited. Navigation systems can also be equipped with mapping functions that indicate sensitive wildlife habitats.
You can rely on marine buoys and markers.
There are also smartphone apps that can show you exactly where not to go with your boat so that sensitive habitats remain intact.
It is important for boaters to control their speed to prevent damage or injury caused by a boat’s wash and wake. Note that speed limits are not always obvious and it is important to remain vigilant and to do all you can to reduce your impact on the marine environment.
If you do not have your Canadian boating license, start preparing now. You can even take your boating exam online with the National Boating Safety School. Learn all about boat safety and enjoy boating responsibly!