BOATsmart! USA Knowledge Base

Module 04 - Safe Responsible Boat Operation

Obeying No Wake/Limited Wake Restrictions

As the boat operator, you are responsible for the wake and wash that your boat produces and for obeying the ‘No Wake’ or ‘Limited Wake’ restrictions that some waterway areas will have in place. These restricted waterways might include narrow channels, swimming areas or fragile shorelines that are at risk of breaking away.

The ‘wake’ is created by the movement of your boat—the hull displaces the water that it travels through, leaving a ‘wake’ in its path.
The wash is the disrupted water that flows out from the stern of the boat and is caused by the motion of the propeller. 

Reducing the Effect of Wake and Wash

Your boat’s wake and wash can cause damage to the shoreline by crashing against it. Large wakes may also swamp smaller boats, putting them at risk of capsizing. You must understand the effect of your boat’s wake on the following:

  • Swimmers and beach areas.
  • Docks.
  • Wildlife.
  • Shoreline erosion.
  • Smaller craft (such as fishing boats).
  • Human-powered boats  (such as canoes and kayaks).
  • Waterskiers.
  • Divers.
  • Areas of anchorage.
  • Other anchored or grounded boats.

BOATsmart! docking course content on tablet with USA Boater Education card.
BOATsmart! USA Boater Education card.

Get your Official North American
Boating License

The Official NASBLA and State-Approved Boating Course, Test & License.

Get your Official North American
Boating License

The Official NASBLA and State-Approved Canada Boating
Course, Test & License.

Campfire Collective truck icon.



Go boldly, tell your story. Campfire is building a collective of ambassadors who share a passion for the wild. If you’re an influencer, publisher or sport expert drop us a line. Let’s hook up and inspire others.

Campfire Collective high five icon.



Stay in the loop. Sign up for our newsletter
to get the latest stories from around the fire.