Opinion: Cruise ships belong on the ocean

December 2010 News
This past summer, I read a story in the Lake Sun about a 26-foot pontoon boat which capsized from a, "rogue" wave or waves during the peak of tourist season on a weekend. I have read (too) many stories over the years of poor tourists unfamiliar with the lake suffering terrible injuries while boating here with us. I have read and heard about broken legs, broken arms, broken necks or even broken backs after their boats have gone airborne after colliding with huge wakes.

When I owned the Days Inn Lake of the Ozarks with my wife (1993-2000) we would very often witness, first-hand, many torn up or damaged boats limping back to our parking lot after smacking waves on the lake. One time, we had a bass fisherman that had his fishing boat snapped in half during one of these unfortunate encounters. He and his fishing companion went out on the lake to pre-fish for an upcoming tournament on a busy weekend. While heading back to the dock after a great day of fishing (most certainly traveling way too fast for conditions), he collided head-on into a large wake which forced his trolling motor down off of its cradle. The anchor falling down acted like a sea anchor digging into the swell snapping the fiberglass high performance boat in two pieces. The violent crash catapulted the two men over the bow of their Ranger boat. Witnesses (also staying at the hotel) said they flew at least 15 feet into the air before skimming the surface of the lake for at least 25 feet more. One of the men had a broken arm and the other suffered an injured leg on top of numerous bruises/contusions all over their bodies.

We full-time lake residents all know that going out on the lake during tourist season in anything less than a 26-foot boat on the main channel near Osage Beach is a virtual suicide mission, but you have to feel sorry for those, "not in the know." I myself nearly fell victim to sinking one year when my family ventured out on the lake to enjoy the fireworks at Tan-Tar-A. On the way home, on a moonless night, we were traveling in a convoy of mega-yachts, virtual air craft carriers and virtual cruise ships. When they all suddenly stopped it was very nearly every man (and Mother-In-Law) for him - or her- selves.

I know that we can't set up highways on the lake with traffic stops, traffic signals or clearly defined traffic lanes, but we should do something. I say that any kid who hasn't got a driver's license shouldn't be unleashed on the rest of us in high powered boats or SeaDoos with 100 or 200 horse-powered engines on water. If your boat is large enough to land small aircraft on the decks, perhaps the open seas might be a better boating option than here at our confined lake? If your boat is so large that other boats just become speed bumps as you pass over the top of them, perhaps the open ocean would be a better boating location for you?

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