August 5 – 11, 2022Vol. 24, No. 9

Wake No More!

by Anthony Wilson

One of the amusing scenes in the classic film On Golden Pond occurs when, as they are pulling away from a dock, young Billy asks crotchety old Norman Thayer if his boat is fast. In classic curmudgeonly Norman Thayer fashion, he drops the throttle and the boat rockets forward, throwing Billy back into his seat.

Of course, On Golden Pond was made 41 years ago. Today there’s a greater appreciation for how damaging wakes crashing into shorelines are on the health of lakes. Hence the rule to travel no faster than headway speed when in a stream or within 200 feet of shore. Headway speed is the slowest speed at which a motorized watercraft may be operated and maintain steerage. For most boats, that’s no more than 6 mph.

The State of Maine defines the area within 200 feet of shore as a water safety zone. The state normally does not place hazard buoys within this zone except when marking critical, high traffic areas or a channel (as in the Mill Stream that flows from Great Pond to Long Pond). So safety is one reason to slow down to headway speeds in the 200-foot zone.

But so is lake ecology. Consider this: As wakes ripple outward, they form waves. Waves eventually crash into shore. That pounding can create erosion, particularly on shores not fortified by riprap. That erosion loosens dirt into a water body. Dirt contains phosphorus. And phosphorus is the nutrient that feeds algae, which can turn the water in lakes a sickening green.

So, a simple way to protect lakes, which, along with conserving land, is the mission of the 7 Lakes Alliance, is to slow your motorboat or jet ski as it approaches the shore. Wakeboats designed to create giant wakes should stay even farther from shore as they speed across the water.

For folks who rent their camps to summer visitors, for new camp owners and for businesses that rent boats, a reminder of the 200-foot no wake zone would serve both those clientele and the lakes well.

Anyone reading this publication likely loves the lakes. As such, we all have a responsibility to be good stewards of them so they can be enjoyed today, tomorrow and for generations to come. That stewardship includes taking actions to prevent erosion that degrades lake water quality.

Anthony Wilson is the 7 Lakes Alliance’s communication director. You can write to him at

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