October 19th, 1998
Sharing The Water?
From: The Catch and Release Bremerton Washington Chapter #143, Trout Unlimited.

by Terry Sonnabend


As a fisherman I see the surface of a lake as a place to sit in a boat or travel at a slow rate searching for that record breaking, tippet breaking, and story breaking monster.

Not so with many others, they see the water's surface as a place to have fun at a much higher pace. They are the speed boaters, jet skiers, water skiers, and those other crazy people who make life miserable for fishermen.

I see some conduct by boaters and especially jet skiers as downright dangerous to everyone on the lake. From Camp McKean [on Kitsap Lake, Washington] where I worked this past summer, I have observed jet skiers coming close and trying to spray girls on paddle boats with the jet stream from their craft.

Such conduct awaits just one misjudgement - a parts failure or even the vortexing of the jet pump to cause the craft to miss a turn and cause great harm. It has been my observation that it is not the machines, but it is the operators that place these personal water craft in a position of 'no way out.'

They make runs at one another, turn without looking, cross in front of fast moving boats, follow water skiers and watercraft at close distances and turn into traffic.

I called 911 [emergency response] three or four times during the summer but received no response from the legal authority of the lake, the City of Bremerton, WA.

My next to last call was made on Friday, September 4, 1998, when I informed the Bremerton WA, Police Department the traffic was just crazy on the lake, and it would be helpful if they could just make a visual showing. I was told, "all extra Bremerton, WA, police were needed to patrol the local Blackberry Festival."

About an hour later a jet ski from Camp McKean guest dock took off parallel to the shoreline, inside the no wake buoy line. The wake bounced a paddle boat that a lady was getting into, throwing her into the lake. Leaving her little girl screaming in fear alone in the paddle boat.

You don't know the feeling you get while trying to calm a child while coaching the mother on how to roll onto the dock with a life jacket on. When I finished chewing out the jet ski operator he didn't have enough hips left to hold up his belt.

I truly do wish that was the end of my story, but just two days later, Sunday September 6, 1998, I was informed a lady had been hit by a jet ski down at the guest dock, and she was bleeding badly.

I grabbed the first-aid kit and headed for the dock. It was in my mind this was probably a dock- side incident. Just then I heard the sirens of the medic truck.

After directing the medic team to the dock I got my first look at the lady. I didn't feel too well. Then her husband came up to me, put his arm around my shoulder and said, "That's my wife."

He was weak and could hardly stand due to stress and anxiety. Then I learned the accident had taken place out on the lake. The lady had been struck by a jet ski going at high speed. I walked over to the jet ski where the driver, her brother-in-law, sobbing, used my shoulder as a brace. This man could hardly stand on his feet.

This all really bothered me, but I could take it until I saw her crying, grief-stricken children. I had to leave.

Then I made my last 911 call to ask the Bremerton Police to investigate a water-craft accident.

I truely believe I would give up fishing that lake if it would only bring back the children's mother. ~ TS


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