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If you ever sat around a fish house listening to old timers talk about mystery tidal waves and high seas on the big lakes, you might have wondered, “Are these tales true?” A rogue wave, as it is commonly called by present-day mariners, is not necessarily the biggest wave recorded. It is a briefly-formed wave that becomes far larger than the largest occurring wave on that body of water at that time. A rogue wave does not have a single distinct cause, but factors such as high winds and strong currents cause waves to merge to create a single, exceptionally large wave.

What would you do if you experienced this phenomenon? A rogue wave moves with great speed and force. The possibility of turning your vessel and out running the wave is slight. You could easily be overtaken by its strength and possibly capsize. With few exceptions, you have to ride it out. Should you encounter a monster wave; quick thinking and fast responsiveness will be of the utmost importance.

Dealing with a rogue wave is not the same as running into rough seas. You seldom have time to make changes in course or fasten down loose equipment. Before you can prepare for it, the wave has passed. Your best course is to remain calm and keep control of your vessel by changing speed. Slow first as the wave passes and then increase power to maintain control and bring your bow up.

Set your speed just fast enough to maintain headway, but not so fast you bury your bow. Taking the wave at a slight angle off the bow may increase control; however, too much of an angle will cause loss of steerage. A quick shift of weight, such as moving passengers to adjust the ballast, might be possible, but they should be instructed to take a firm hand hold.

An experience with a rogue wave will test your skills in seamanship, but with a cool head and a bit of luck, you too may sit around the bait shop talking about the “Monster Waves”.

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4 Responses to Wall Of Water

  1. William Brand says:

    I haven’t experienced rogue wave myself and I think it’s so tough to handle it. I hope I won’t meet it ever but I know that’s inevitable.

  2. Terry Wood says:

    I have found this happens fairly regularly in the gulf stream between NC and the entrance to the Chesapeake, especially off Hatteras with a strong northerly wind. Waves two or three times the normal swell can happen several times an hour, with some really big ones ocasionally.

  3. Bob Brink says:

    I have not experienced a rogue wave even after almost circling the world with the Navy, but a friend of mine did…ON AN INLAND LAKE!
    He was night fishing for crappie under the Pendleton Bridge on Toledo Bend in East Texas. The year was 1968. He was on his pontoon boat by himself & there were two bass boats near him with a man and woman in each. They never saw the wave coming as it was night. The bridge is about 50 miles from the dam to the south & there was a strong wind blowing from the south.
    When the wave went under him, it slammed his boat into the bottom of the bridge girders…about 14 feet high. He jumped off onto a beam and stayed there for the remainder of the night because his lines had been broken and his boat floated away. The two bass boats also hit the bridge and capsized. The two women stayed with the boats and the two men swam for help. Both men drowned.
    All of the stanchions on the pontoon boat had been smashed to the deck, as were the console and seating. When I saw his boat, I couldn’t believe he survived.
    Never believe that rogue waves only happen in salt water. I fish salt water often. In fact, as I write this, I am in Port Aransas, TX for a tournament. I will keep a wary eye to the south because of predicted high winds.

  4. Robin Moyer says:

    Randy I experienced such a wave. In late 70’s entering Mobile Bay from the Gulf of Mexico under reefed main, no beadsail. Most iof my crew was seasick. Strong Tide was running out with 35+Kts from south. I looked back yelled at crew, put my stern to the wave and it picked up my 43’Columbia very high and pushed us on top of it with a rush and then passed us.
    Fortunately we were in the deep ship pass so we were not pushed onto shallow water.
    Wave was totally a result of outgoing tide and wind at 180 degees from tide.

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