Sailors Love/Hate with Power Boats

The Hate Part

Power boats drive sailors crazy most of the time. They push huge wakes which can rock a sailboat dramatically even when they are sometimes half a mile away. The waves they make have nothing to do with the wind. Sailboats are made to go into the wind and the waves. They aren’t designed to have the wind coming one way and waves another. When the waves hit a sailboat sideways, it rocks violently. That is why you will see sailors suddenly veer as power boat waves get near them so they can have the bow cut through them instead of taking them broadside and getting rolled.

It is particularly frustrated when there isn’t a lot of wind. It knocks all the wind out of the sails and kills the speed of the boat. In heavy air, it is not a big deal. The way for a power boater to be the least annoying in light air would be to cross a boats stern instead of the bow. This way the sail boat is given a push instead of being stopped dead in its tracks.

Then there is the noise. Particulary from jet skis and also from the cigarette boats. Jet skis can just be annoying. The powerful, fast cigarette boats are a mixed blessing. They are so fast thay they aren’t around long. Also, because they plane on the surface of the water, they throw little to no wake.

Some power boaters, probably the less experienced ones, don’t seem to understand when a sailboat is going to tack (turn). They get very frustrated, thinking you are cutting in front of them just to be obnoxious, but if they understood more about sailing, they would understand why the sailboat tacked. Usually the boat has to because it is getting close to shallow water, but there are times when the sailor just doesn’t notice the power boat coming up behind. If they did, they would have waited to tack till the power boat passed unless they had to for safety reasons.

The Love Part

Sailboats generally draw more (how deep they are in the water) than power boats because sailboats have keels and power boats mostly have a flat or slightly angled bottom. Sometimes sailboats run aground, either because an area is poorly marked or the sailor isn’t paying adequate attention or someone less experienced is at the helm.

Frequently a sailor can back off, or use some other tricks to get unstuck. This includes putting everyone on the bow which tends to tilt the boat and raise the deepest part of the keel which is further aft. Or you combine this with rocking the boat from side to side. Or you can row the anchor out to the side and drop it and then try to pull yourself off. But, when all else fails, having a power boat around to throw you a line and pull you off is wonderful. At that point, all prior sins of power boaters is forgiven.