NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

July 30, 2013

Our view: Boaters should heed warnings of river mouth's dangers

The Merrimack River is a playground for thousands of people at this time of year, but its well-earned reputation should always cast a sobering shadow over it.

Two boats and a kayak navigating at the mouth of the river found themselves in danger over the weekend. The larger of the boats — a 23-footer — sank. Luckily, thanks to fast reactions by nearby boaters, no one was lost. But the incidents serve as a reminder to boaters that even in the summertime, the river mouth can be extremely hazardous.

The Merrimack is one of the largest rivers in New England, and on a daily basis millions of gallons of water rush through its relatively constricted mouth. The result is a funneling effect that can produce waves in the river of unexpected size and currents with unexpected ferocity. Even for experienced boaters, a trip through the Merrimack’s mouth can be a white-knuckle, hair-raising experience.

There’s a perfect storm of conditions that can create life-threatening hazards, and those forces were in play this past weekend. The river mouth is often at its most dangerous when the outgoing tide and the river’s natural sea-going flow combine, creating an enormous current rushing to the sea. The water can run so fast it requires significant engine power for boats to push their way upstream. An engine breakdown in these conditions can send a boat helplessly out of control.

Then, there are the large standing waves caused by these currents and the sandbars that lie under the surface. The waves’ location and size change as the tides and conditions dictate. A boater navigating along the river can go from relatively flat water to fast-flowing waves of 4 feet or more in the space of a few feet, leaving little reaction time. These are the kinds of conditions that can cause boats to capsize, if a boat is broadsided by such a wave.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

NDN Video
Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Don't Be A Tattletale: Bad Bullying Tips For Students Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday The trillest thoughts on marijuana "RHOA" Star Charged With Battery Grizzly Bears Get Snowy Birthday Party Weatherman draws forecast when another technical glitch strikes WGN Elizabeth Olsen's Sexy Shoot Bay Area Teen Gets Prom Date With Help From 'Breaking Bad' Star Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Behind The Tanlines Jersey Strong Part 1 WATCH: Women Fight To Marry Prince Harry! Jenny McCarthy Engaged to "New Kid" Kate and Will Land in Oz O’Reilly Launches Preemptive Strike Against CBS Pixar Unveils Easter Eggs From its Biggest Movies Baby Sloths Squeak for Their Cuddle Partners in Adorable Video
Special Features
NRA Waterfront Plans