Pushing for safer waters

A boat passes a no wake zone sign Saturday at the Yacht Club. A second sign is in place at Tanasi.

Boating season is currently at its peak, which has some Tellico Village residents voicing concerns over boaters not following the rules on the water.

Mark Gregory lives across from the Yacht Club and has noticed an influx of boaters speeding through the area’s no wake zone.

“We’ve had several boats every day and they’re coming in here pretty fast,” Gregory said. “About a month ago, I had a confrontation with a guy on a personal watercraft. He’s flying in here and I’m waving for him to slow down. He slowed down and was wondering why I was waving and I told him that this was a no wake area. Well, he started arguing with me and telling me that I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about. Finally, he just boarded and took off once again.”

Chuck Zimmerman has experienced similar situations on the water.

“I’m on the end of each dock and I see the shoreline each time,” Zimmerman said. “There’s these little kids playing along the shoreline and they’re by the swim ladder. When some of these boats come in with a large wake, they smack these kids right up against the side. They can’t see the wakes and that can be a very dangerous thing.”

In response, several Villagers, including Gregory and Zimmerman, pushed for new signage on the water. There are now two markers in place at the Yacht Club and at Little Tennessee River mile 5.3, which is near the docks at Tanasi.

“Since I’ve been here, and Chuck’s an old-timer who’s been around here, but the new markers have been placed in the water within the last two weeks at the most,” Gregory said.

Any area within 300 feet of a commercial dock is considered a no wake zone by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Large wakes around docks and other boats carry the potential for injury or damage, which is considered reckless operation.

Reckless operation carries a $2,500 fine and a year in jail for any act that endangers life, limb or property.

“Any vessel that is used with the owner’s consent is liable,” Tom Dietrich, Knoxville Power Squadron instructor, said. “The main reason they put these signs up is because these boats that come in with large wakes, which disturbs a lot of the boats at the docks. One of the the things that people don’t understand is that they are responsible for the damage their wake causes. If they go by some area and their wake causes damage to either boats banging into each other or things falling over, they’re responsible for that.”

Dietrich believes the majority of boaters do not understand many rules and regulations on the water, which is something the Power Squadron teaches through free boating safety courses.

“We have what we call America’s Boating Course and it’s an eight-hour course,” Dietrich said. “This course is a formal introduction to boating and boating safety and is beneficial to folks planning on buying their first boat, those who already own a boat and would like to feel more comfortable on the water or for those who have experience but just don’t know the rules. I truly believe the only way you can know the rules is through boating safety courses.”

The Power Squadron will hold its free boating course 6-8:30 p.m. Aug. 7, 9, 14 and 16 at the Louisville Town Hall in Louisville. For more information, call Dietrich at 865-423-1171 or visit www.kps-site.org.

“At the end of the day, safety is our main concern,” Gregory said. “In addition to all of that, these wakes can also cause injury for people that kayak or paddle board around these no wake zones. We just want people on the water to have fun and be safe, while also respecting other boats or docks out on the lake.”

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