Monday, April 05, 2010

Flat Wakes and Blessed Quiet

"My starting premise is the prediction that ten years from now, the recreational use of carbon based fuels on the water will be accorded the same level of social scorn and rejection that smoking now receives... just as we have come to resent smoking as an intrusion on our fundamental right to fresh air - so we are now empowered to newly aroused indignation over the loss of our original and fundamental right to flat wakes and blessed quiet on the water."

Not my words, but a quote from Garry Hoyt's new book Go For The Green.

Wow. Strong words. Do you think this is really going to happen?

Will the addicts of jet-skiing and water-skiing and the like be confined to small, unattractive areas of water designated for carbon hogs? Will we sailors think nothing of complaining to a power-boater about the health dangers to us of his "second-hand gasoline fumes"? Will socially responsible sailors forgo the use of auxiliary carbon-fuel based engines and actually learn to "sail" their yachts?

Of course, we have touched on this subject before. A couple of months ago I
gave you 23 Reasons Why Putting an Engine in a Sailboat is the Worst Sailing Innovation Ever. And, a few weeks before, in $20 Gas and the Future of Sailing I reported on Christopher Steiner's prediction that, once the price of gasoline reaches $10 a gallon as it surely will one day soon, the "giant fleet of motorboats, speedboats, and ski boats that crowd our waters will be thinned to a tiny convoy. Sailboats, canoes, kayaks and rowboats will rule the waves."

The future is coming faster than you think. Personally I can't wait for the era of "flat wakes and blessed quiet" that Hoyt foretells...

However, in another report from the front in the war between real sailors and carbon hogs, I read some disturbing and sad news this week. I have written before of my delightful experiences at my first sailing club in the UK, Taplow Lake Sailing Club which is Where It All Started for me. I even wrote to my former club members a thank-you letter for inspiring in me a life-long love for sailing. As you can imagine I have a special affection for this club.

I didn't mention before that the sailing club at this lake shared its waters quite amicably with a group of water-skiers. The lake was way too small for sailing and water-skiing to take place at the same time, so the two clubs agreed to use the lake on different days. As I recall, when I was a member we sailed on alternate days each weekend, Saturday one week and Sunday the next and so on; and I assume the water-skiers used the other day each weekend.

However time moves on. The owners of the lake decided to increase the rent for use of the lake and the water-skiers negotiated a lease solely in their name. No big deal initially, because the sailors were still allowed to use the lake under a sub-lease on several days each week including all day Saturdays and afternoons on Sundays, and the sailing club continued to flourish.

However, when the sub-lease came up for renewal recently, the ski club (which apparently is changing its status into a for-profit business) decided it needed to use the lake at all prime times during spring, summer and autumn including Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. This made it impossible to run a viable sailing club and Taplow Lake Sailing Club had to shut down at the end of last month.

Very sad.

On a brighter note, the former members of TLSC have all been invited to join a similar lake-based club only a mile or so away, with the added advantage that the new club has a bar!!!

So the carbon hogs won this particular battle. Or did they? Maybe they just created for themselves one of those "designated polluting areas", and eventually all the petrol and diesel addicts from other nearby waters will be forced to go and pursue their filthy habit on Taplow Lake, leaving the rest of the area's waterways free for sailors to enjoy Hoyt's "flat wakes and blessed quiet."

We can only hope.


EscapeVelocity said...

I'm in Texas, and I sure don't see that happening here--I'll be doing as much of my sailing on weekdays as possible from now until football season. The whole point of making money is to be able to show it off, and the more it costs to run a cigarette boat, the more desirable they're going to be. As for considering the greater good--why, that's socialism.

Anonymous said...

We have some new traffic coming our way:

High-speed cruises coming to city - baltimoresun. com

Doesn't sound too bad, the Patapsco R. is pretty wide where the tour boats will get up to speed. I'll still be more worried about the freighters in the ship channel.

Steve in Baltimore

Anonymous said...


maybe this link will work

jbushkey said...

Some people believe we have entered "peak oil" Basically the theory is that we can no longer meet world wide demand for oil. Oil doesn't have to run out for change to happen. Oil becomes harder to get and lower quality when fields pass their peak. Both of which cause prices to rise. Also taking into account the increasing demand from industrializing giants China & India as well as the crumbling of our own economy it may not be long now until blessed quiet.

SoxSail said...

The relevant economic rule, is that if the laws (on externalities and ownership) are clear, and the two sides can talk, then the correct agreement will be reached. Unfortunately, the motorboaters had more money, and few if any externalities imposed upon them. We need higher marine gas taxes.

Pat said...

And what do the property owners think about increased noise and pollution?

Baydog said...

No way. I appreciate Gary's prediction. However, there's no way that will ever happen. The majority of people, when asked about boating, invariably think of motorboats. "Sailing is too much work" is what I hear more than I want to. There's a certain attraction to sitting in a cushioned seat and pushing that throttle forward with ease and, voila, reaching unimaginable speeds within seconds. Surely that is more than worth the pocket change required to fill a 100 gallon gas tank. We are fighting a losing battle against the stinkpots and we will not gain redemption in our lifetimes. My prediction. The rich keep getting richer, and the vast majority of them have no idea how to trim a sail. Not until we come to another major energy crisis where fuel is rationed will we notice a decrease in loud, obnoxious motorboats. Until then, keep that middle finger at the ready.

Regarding the Taplow predicament: It seems like the decision should have gone the other way, in favor of the quiet, peaceful sailboats. Can't the waterskiers find a larger lake to impose their noisy, wavy pastime upon?

I really think I'm turning into a crotchety old man.

Carol Anne said...

Pat and I already see that sort of segregation in Northern New Mexico. Heron Lake is a no-wake lake, upon which boats with motors must go slowly enough not to create a visible wake. That makes it a very peaceful place to be, as it is populated by sailors, kayakers, and fishermen.

Just a couple of miles away is El Vado Lake, where the water-skiers, jet-skis, and other things that go vroom can have fun.

The system works quite nicely. The only problems arise on busy holiday weekends when visitors unfamiliar with the segregation system try powersports on Heron or peaceful activities on El Vado.

Dennis @ Marine Electronics said...

I used to love jet skiing, but then, with all the no-wake zones, it just stopped being fun. But turns out, while I was zipping to and fro, I missed all the manatees and dolphins and the quiet peaceful mornings on Intracoastal Waterway in FL. It felt tons better than jet skiing (and that's not even considering carbon footprint).

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