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Safe Rowing--comments please

Folks, on November 22, 2004 seven of us met with Captain Sanford, Lieutenant Emerick and patrol officers at the Harbor Patrol headquarters. Lt. Emerick had carefully taken pictures of the existing signs and expressed his concerns about the conditions of the present day signs. He also was keenly interested of whether the Federally mandated 7 knot limit would essentially preempt the proposed zones of danger and prevent issuance of tickets for negligent operation of a vessel. Captain Sanford indicated that Seattle DOT would be making the signs and that all had been approved by Edsonya Charles of the Mayor’s Office. We discussed locations of signs and the type of signs. Margot Booth of IRC and an excellent graphics designer was present and her initial designs were discussed. Karyn Crouthamel of LWRC and the police officers (Blair and Nelson) noted that boaters frequently increased their speed (and the wakes) after leaving the congestion of Fremont as they head for the Locks. The reverse is also true the patrol officers noted; leaving the Locks boaters line-up and proceed East, unable to pass until they hit the LWRC area where they speed up to get around slower moving boats. There was some discussion about increasing the size of the danger zone.
Permit me to provide some history:

This quest to reduce wakes began with Karyn Crouthamel calling a general meeting of all interested rowers and the Harbor Patrol at the LWRC. From that meeting a “Petition” was developed and posted and a lot of folks signed it and sent copies to the Mayor and the City Council. That Petition called for a reduction of the speed to 3 knots (consistent with speeds in closed harbors) in three areas. Those areas were selected due to the narrowness of the passage, the restricted visibility, restricted hearing, multiplier effect of boat wakes due to the concrete walls and the large number of human powered small watercraft that are now permanently part of the inner Ship Canal. The Federal 7 knot speed limit was set with an aim to reduce wakes because of the harbor. While the City of Seattle cannot change Federal Law it can properly enact a harbor code which augments Federal Law. For our purposes the City enacted Seattle Municipal Code section 16.20.090 which provides “A person shall not operate a vessel or aircraft on the water in a
negligent manner. For the purposes of this section, to "operate in a negligent manner" means operating a vessel or aircraft on the water in disregard of careful and prudent operation, or in disregard of careful and prudent rates of speed that are no greater than is reasonable and proper under the conditions existing at the point of operation, taking into account the amount and character of traffic, size of the lake or body of water, freedom from obstruction to view ahead, effects of vessel wake, and so as not to unduly or unreasonably endanger life, limb, property or other rights of any person entitled to the use of such waters.”

7 knots is actually the City and Federal MAXIMUM speed under ANY conditions in any area of the ship canal—except the Locks where its 4 knots max.. Even if you are the lone boater on a flat calm day with unlimited visibility, you can still only go 7 knots. However, 7 knots still leaves a heck of a wake in many boats. The production of a wake triggers SMC 16.20.090 as, regardless of the maximum posted speed (just like on the highway) the boater still has to not “operate in a negligent manner.” Therefore, considering the “amount and character of traffic, size of…the body of water, freedom from obstruction to view ahead, EFFECT OF VESSEL WAKE” I believe, and I think that all reasonable minds will agree, that there are certain areas or zones on the Lake Washington Ship Canal that have, over the years and with the increase in recreational use, forever acquired certain static conditions that make operating a vessel in those zones virtually per se negligent if a boater leaves a significant wake. Those areas are (1) the Montlake Cut due to its narrowness, the traffic and the concrete walls which multiply the wakes bouncing back and forth for up to 20 minutes; (2) the waterway (Pocock Passage) between the Eastern edge of the University Bridge and the Western edge of the I-5 bridge due to all the reasons mentioned regarding the Montlake Cut and, in addition, the noise of traffic which prevents a skipper from hearing a warning, and the very poor sightlines caused by the pilings of the University Bridge and the sharp curve of the channel; (at the recent Head of the Lake this was the absolute no passing area) and, (3) the area marked by the Western edge of the Fremont Bridge and on the East, a N-S line roughly from the old LWRC dock. This area is more open but the traffic coming from South Lake Union as well as from the Ship Canal creates a “funnel effect” which makes it a dangerous area. The area is also deceptive since boaters coming off the Lake U

Re: Safe Rowing--comments please

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