LAKE OSWEGO, OR (KPTV) – Boaters are taking advantage of the sunshine while it’s still here, but many rowers are praying for rain, after what’s been a crowded and at times even dangerous season on the Willamette River.
The Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB) has looked into several instances this summer of motorized boaters creating dangerous wakes next to man-powered boats, at times capsizing them or filling them with water.
But what happened to a Lake Oswego rowing team is pretty much unheard of.
“The jaw dropped,” said Ashley Massey with OSMB. “We were startled.”
The rowing team’s boat was split in half by a large wake on the river.
“Just saw somebody in my peripheral vision and I’m just like, ‘Oh no, this is going to be it,’” rower Grant Crotau said.
“It was exactly the kind of wake we can’t handle, I was saying five to eight feet, it was huge,” their coach Laura McArdle said.
The Marine Board, which is the state’s boating safety agency, said just a few weeks ago when the team was out practicing, a wakeboard boat knocked them over, snapped their boat in half, tossing everyone in the water, and sped off, which is the equivalent of a hit-and-run on the road.
“They didn’t stop, they didn’t render aid,” Massey said.
It’s just one example of what the board says has been a problem this year, due in part to more people on the water plus new technology in boating and boats that create bigger wakes, but it all really comes down to some reckless operators.
“People not following the rules of the road, not having a baseline education,” Massey said.
FOX 12 took a ride with the team’s coach to check things out firsthand, and it didn’t take long to start to see it several times.
“We really look forward to rain,” McArdle said. “Keep the crazies off the water for us for a while.”
But it’s a problem that requires more than just a seasonal change to address.
There’s a Calm Water Coalition working on this issue.
“Until you’re actually in it, it is very hard to explain to people that water can do that much damage,” the coordinator Renee Morgan said. “I just hope we don’t have injuries or worse.”
And the board said they’re focused on encouraging people on or near the water to report any kind of bad boating behavior so they can hold those boaters accountable. They say law enforcement simply can’t do it alone.
“The statistics don’t show that there’s a lot of accidents or injuries on the entire stretch of the Willamette River, yet anecdotally we’re hearing all the time things happening, so what I really want to call to action is that if you see something, say something,” Massey said.
Meanwhile, the Lake Oswego team will keep riding things out, hoping to avoid another accident.
The Marine Board has a meeting coming up in October to hear some of these concerns. They say that will help them determine what more needs to be done to keep everyone safe on the water.
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