Concord — May 16, 2008 — Speed boaters on Lake Winnipesaukee will likely have to slow down next summer. The Senate yesterday passed trial speed limits for the state’s biggest lake in a 14-10 vote. The bill would limit speeds to 45 miles per hour during the day and 25 miles per hour at night.
Boat speed limits have been debated for years. This bill differs from past plans in that it applies only to Lake Winnipesaukee and sunsets after two years, in 2011.
The bill was hotly debated by the public, and senators continued that debate yesterday. Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, a Manchester Democrat, was perhaps the most excitable. He spoke against the bill. “I always thought this was the ‘Live Free or Die’ state,” D’Allesandro said. “And here we are restricting every aspect of our lives.”
D’Allesandro also suggested the speed limits would, in fact, cause even more speeding – by what he called “the boat police.” “Who is going to arrest the boat police?” D’Allesandro said. ” ‘Cause they’re going to have to speed to catch the speeders.”
Sen. Robert Letourneau, a Derry Republican, also opposed the bill. He said the possible speed limits have made boaters hesitant to put their boats in the water, which hurts lakeside businesses. Letourneau said he’d rather enforce existing boating laws.
But Sen. Peter Burling, a Cornish Democrat, said it’s important to consider those who say fast boats are bad for the lake. He said lawmakers tried to strike a balance. “It’s ‘Live Free or Die’ for everybody, and that includes the family in the kayak,” he said.
The bill now heads to Gov. John Lynch.
It amazes me that so much political pressure was applied over the past few years to pass this bill. I guess I shouldn’t really complain as I am a bass boater (this is one of the reasons this bill came about as we can drive at 70 mph safely as these boats are designed to do), pleasure boater, and kayaker and did little to fight this battle. We all say we don’t have time but when we really think about it we can always make time. Regardless, I disapprove for many reasons. One of the other larger complaints besides bass boats has been “beach and land erosion” due to the wakes some boats leave behind. Wait until that 18′ to 30’+ cabin cruiser can’t reach it’s cruising sweetspot by keeping it at 45 mph or less and see what size wake that throws. Surf’s up! Kayakers and canoers will be thrilled when they see this wake coming at them instead of a smaller one when boats cruise at thier normal high speed. Wait until marinas and stores on the lake see a decline in business as some boaters will seek another lake in which to enjoy their watersports safely. What about the boats marina’s have sold waiting to be put in only for the new owners to find out thier 50-60 mph pleasure boat can’t be run that fast for the next two years or more. Maybe Ossipee or Squam can handle an overflow of boats from Winni since we only have a few on the lake right now. Right! We can’t even launch our boats in any of our lakes with out paying a fee. Public access? Another topic. How about all the businesses around the big lake including motels, restaurants, sports stores etc. I’m sure the’re going to be happy if they aren’t located around Winni.. I would think that in order to enforce this speed limit more marine patrol officers and boats will be needed. Is it in the state’s budget to fund this? I bet we end up paying for it. Maybe they’ll just take some officers from other lakes and swamp Winni next year with speedtraps. I understand that we all need to share the waters of this great state but is the loss in revenue, the additional funding probably needed, and the hardships local businesses are going to suffer worth it. I think not! There are laws on the books to protect shore and land owners, boaters, kayaks and canoes. It’s hard enough to enforce all of these without adding to the fray. We all have a right to be on the water so we should all take the time to be considerate of others and follow the laws already written and in place.
I have negative feelings about this bill. In my opinion what needed to be done was to actually enforce the existing safe operation laws, and shoreline protection laws.
I have a 20 foor Daytona Ski Boat with a hopped up 200 HP Evinrude XP-200 engine. The boat is capable of 74 MPH, but very rarely does it ever see over 45 MPH. Usually it is not moving over 25 MPH. I also have a 12 foot 1963 Glasspar G-3 Ski boat with a matching 50 HP Mercury engine. The G-3 tops out at about 35 MPH. I also have a 12 foot aluminum boat with a 6 hp motor, a 14 foot canoe, a 14 foot sunfish, and a 8 foot pontoon paddleboat. My family, extended family, and friends use all of them all of the time.
I know what it’s like to be out in the broads on Winnie in the small boats and to have two 46 foot cigarette boats, separated by about 50 feet, side by side, coming right at you at 80+ MPH racing each other. The marine patrol does a great job of stopping all of us about 20 times a year to check for jackets, horns, cushions, lights, fire extinguishers etc.. but what about stopping the headcases for unsafe operation, because that’s what’s been missing. A boat owner is responsible for the safe operation of the boat. Additionally, the wake is his reponsability, and a 5 foot wake is dangerous to a canoe or small boat as is excessive speed when in close proximity to other boats. A damaging wake of any kind is the responsability of the operator. Setting a speed limit is the easy way out because it’s enforcable with nothing more than a radar gun, and no argueable judgement about safe or unsafe operation is envolved. Mark your calendar for this time five years from now. If you think this is going to be limited to Winnie you are kidding yourself.