Key Biscayne

Dangerous Wake From High-Speed Watercrafts Concerns Rowers

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Slow down!

That’s what parents and teens are calling for on the waters of Key Biscayne. Some of them recorded video showing a high-speed watercraft zipping by rowers and paddle-boarders, leaving dangerous wakes in their path.

The concern is at the Miami Marina Basin, where during the day, it can get packed and dangerous. Police are limited with enforcement. They can pull some people over for intoxication and reckless driving. But they technically can't pull anyone over for how fast they’re going.

“It's kind of like a helpless feeling because there's a boat speeding by you, and you're like so much smaller than it," said 15-year-old Luisa Mantilla. "So if it's a big boat, it can leave such an enormous wake, you can't do anything because you're just stuck on the boat."

Mantilla is an athlete with the Miami Rowing Club.

“I love the environment that it gives to bring like-minded people together," she said.

Mantilla showed us video of a peaceful day in the basin with no fear of watercrafts speeding by. Then, she showed us another four-second video of two watercrafts speeding in Key Biscayne. When we slowed down the video, you see a group of rowers -- at least four of them, sidelined, eating the wake left in the vessel’s path.

“There have been cases where the jet skis come so close to the boat that they can almost hit it, or they don't hit or they can do donuts around the boat, which is really dangerous." Mantilla said.

In August, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation says somebody died after losing control of their watercraft and crashing.

And in the month of October, specifically in the basin, Miami Marine Patrol stopped 34 vessels and issued 20 infractions. City of Miami Commissioner Ken Russell represents the area and says he's aware of the dangers.

“I used to be in the paddle boarding industry. I used to be a professional....I’m a waterman who has a long history in that basin," Russell added.

Parents and rowers have complained to Russell about the problems on the water, calling for a no-wake zone. But there’s already a no-wake ordinance on the books, which was approved by the city in 2014. 

Effectively, the existing no-wake zone is useless.

“This issue was the administration never finalized the actual documentation with the state," Russell said. "So while the City of Miami was operating under the idea this was a no-wake zone, it never got officialized at the state level.”

That 6-year-old administrative glitch means no-wake can't be enforced until the city properly gets the state to sign off.

“So I called our FWC commissioner, who promised me he's going to help fast track our ordinance,” Russell said.

A solution athletes, like Mantilla, say would allow her to row more and worry less.

“I really like it because it's a sport, it's a team sport, but it’s like the perfect balance of strength and endurance,” she sad.

Florida State Representative Nick Duran, who represents this area in the Capitol, says the no-wake could be approved in a matter of weeks.

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