Speeding tugs are a menace on the Elizabeth River
Memorial Day in the Elizabeth River near the naval base, we were
running south from a weekend trip to the Eastern Shore on our 42-foot
A tug was heading upriver at a very high rate of speed, plowing a mountain of water.
we passed the tug with its formidable bow wave, I called to everyone to
prepare for a huge wake. I stopped all power and turned the boat’s bow
directly into the wake, which was at least 6 or 7 feet high. It totally
buried our bow in heavy water.
books, everything that wasn’t fastened down went flying from every
spot. The galley was destroyed; one person was thrown to a bulkhead
and, fortunately suffered no more than a bruise or two.
I looked back at the menacing tug, a small sail boat and several
fishing boats appeared to be at the point of capsizing. The radio was
suddenly full of, “Why is he going so fast? What’s the emergency?”
One telling response was, “no one regulates
these guys.” From my balcony in downtown
Norfolk I see a regular parade of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and
Virginia State Marine Police boats stopping small outboards whose wakes
are less than a foot or two and presumably writing them tickets for
Are tugs immune from the
rule that says, “You are responsible for your wake”? Why are they given
Tug boats, with their immense
displacement and enormous power, can create tsunami-like waves. They
are potentially lethal in restricted waters and in close encounters
with small boats.
It is time that the
Coast Guard and the local Marine Police refocus on this menace and stop
harassing small boats whose wakes are little more than a ripple.
Get the big guys who really do damage. Or are they outside the law?
J. Daniel Ballard Norfolk
A tug heads down the southern branch of the Elizabeth River.