The lead petitioner in a successful bid to establish a no-wake zone between Pig Island and Lockes Island said, “We are thrilled to have made a difference and, hopefully, it will last for a while.”
Approved on Nov. 16, the decision is subject to a 30-day appeals period but, as of Nov. 23, Safety Administrator Christopher Casko said there have been no appeals filed. Petitioner Joni Hinterhaeuser said she also is not aware of any effort to overturn Safety Commissioner Robert Quinn’s approval of a no-wake zone between the two islands.
“There was very little opposition to it,” Hinterhaeuser said. “I’m looking forward to a summer that is not dangerous, where we can paddle over to our other island friends.”
The next area of concern for small boaters is an anticipated bill to eliminate the daytime boating speed limits on Lake Winnipesaukee. In effect since 2004, the law established a daytime speed limit of 45 mph and nighttime limit of 30 mph.
“There’ll be a lot of people opposing that [bill],” Hinterhaeuser said. “It makes no sense to go over 45 miles an hour on a lake that’s 27 miles long.”
Currently, the effort to overturn speed limits has no bill number, existing only as a legislative service request sponsored by representatives Mike Bordes (R-Laconia), William Infantine (R-Manchester), John Potucek (R-Derry), Richard Littlefield (R-Laconia), Douglas Trottier (R-Belmont), Dennis Thompson (R-Stewartstown), and Robert Healey (R-Merrimack).
Bordes, the lead sponsor of the legislation, said he expects his proposal to get a bill number and committee assignment soon.
A resident of Weirs Beach, Bordes said, “When I was out knocking on doors and making phone calls and everything throughout my area, I had literally hundreds of people bringing the topic up to me, from business owners down to just average everyday boaters, that we need to do something about the speed limit.”
He said his original idea was to focus his efforts only on the area known as The Broads — the open waters north of Governors Island — but “I got some pushback about that, so I went all in to remove the daytime speed limit. It was basically my constituents’ requests.”
Bordes noted that his own boat has a maximum speed of about 58 mph, and he cruises at only 35 mph. “So the speed limit doesn’t really affect me personally, but it affects local businesses and my constituents, so it was something I felt needed to be put in.”
Asked what businesses had expressed concerns, Bordes said it was waterfront businesses and marinas “to a little bit of everything.”
He maintains that the claims about speed limits reducing boating accidents is not true, and said even Marine Patrol Captain Timothy Dunleavy had said as much.
Dunleavy is out of the office until Dec. 1 and could not be reached for comment.
“The majority of accidents, as both you and I know, is related to alcohol,” Bordes said. “There’s an argument on the other side, and I do understand that aspect, is the lake is more populated than it’s ever been; but the people that out buying these $250,000, $350,000, quote-unquote high-performance boats, they’ve been boaters their entire life, and they have some of the safest boaters on the waterway.”
He said the other impact of his bill would be that, “instead of us spending money on radar and training and all this stuff for Marine Patrol on one specific lake, Lake Winnipesaukee, we could take that money and utilize it in a better boating education system or even Marine Patrol just getting out there and being able to speak to boaters about the rules and the laws and the lake, because we have an education problem on the lake more than anything.”
Relating it to the reasons for the no-wake zone between Pig Island and Lockes Island, Bordes said many boaters are unfamiliar with New Hampshire boating laws. “Anybody can go online and get a NASBLA-approved safe boating certificate from another state by answering a few questions online, and that doesn’t mean meeting New Hampshire safe boating laws,” he said.
“I’m from New York originally, and we don’t have any 150-foot rule. We don’t have any speed limits. We don’t have half the rules we have up here,” he said. The only way he knew about Winnipesaukee’s speed limits, he said, was because he came here shortly after the state had implemented them, and the new rules were posted at all the gas stations on the water.
“Weekends is when you have a high amount of tourism, a high amount of rental boats, and, you know, I feel there is a big education problem, because I go past Eagle Island a lot, by Governors over there, and there’s a no-wake zone, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people flying through there, wide-open throttle, and I’m yelling at them, ‘No wake’ and telling them to slow down, and they just wave and smile at me. I really think we have to educate boaters more effectively.”
Hinterhaeuser said it was the boaters’ disregard for kayakers and standup paddle boarders that prompted her to work with Kathy Boselli and Alan Posnack to petition for the no-wake zone between Pig and Lockes islands.
“I think the thing that got me going,” Hinterhaeuser said, “was I was kayaking across to Pig Island one Sunday afternoon … and a very big cabin cruiser was coming at me going fast, and I held up my paddle to make sure they could see me, and they kept going fast, went right by me, gave me the finger, and I went, ‘Wow, I could have been run over, could have been swamped.”
In comments to the Department of Safety in support of the no-wake petition, speakers told of other near-misses and one instance in which two students taking sailing lessons were thrown overboard by the waves created by a boat failing to observe the 150-foot rule that requires boats to operate at headway speed when passing close to other watercraft.
The channel between the islands, as shown on illustrations that accompanied the petition and in the fact-finder’s report, allows only 180 feet of safe passage:
“This is a narrow passage between Pig and Lockes Island on Lake Winnipesaukee in Gilford. There are several homes in this area. There is a significant amount of boat traffic. The total area is 480 feet across. The area where boats may drive at greater than headway speed, after application of the current safe passage law, is approximately 180 feet,” the report states.
If more than two boats are in the channel at the same time, it is impossible to pass without violating the 150-foot rule.
In deciding in favor of the no-wake zone, Commissioner Quinn wrote, “Pursuant to RSA 270:12 and the New Hampshire Code of Administrative rules, Saf-C 409, the information submitted was thoroughly considered within the petition, along with the public commentary received. The evidence demonstrates that the petition is in the public interest and will fulfill the purpose of the law.”
Bordes said of his efforts to repeal the daytime speed limit on the lake that he’s willing to compromise on the proposal. Leaving the speed limit in place on the weekend, or on holiday weekends, is something he considered, and he also is willing to shrink the proposal back to encompass just The Broads.
The problem, he said, is that, without a blanket rule, boaters are not going to know when and where the limits are in place.
“It’s going to get confusing,” he said. “There’s a lot of room for compromise; honestly, if we get an outcome that the speed limit gets raised, I’ll be happy with it. But I think speed limits in The Broads is pretty much — there’s no need for it. I mean, it’s wide open. People are saying people could race through Paugus Bay and people could race through Meredith Bay. Yeah, I get it. I do understand it. But I’m going to start with this and we’ll hopefully come to a compromise that appeases everyone.”
For his part, Littlefield said he is not a boater and has not heard directly from anyone asking to eliminate the speed limit. He said he put his name on the legislative service request but he’s waiting to see what the bill entails when it goes to committee.
“But if it does what I’ve heard it does, then I have no problems to be part of this bill,” Littlefield said. “If it’s going to help these residents, and they’ve been asking for it for a long time, so why don’t we help them out?”