Destructive Power of Wakes

by June and Paul Raker

We are not scientists or biologists, but we do know what destruction of the ecology on our beach looks like.  We have many albums of photographs of our beach going back to 1958, when our family purchased this property.  We love our shoreline property and this County. 

We noticed a change in the landscape of our shoreline.  We believed it was due to the ebb and flow of the tides.  We thought the waves from the passing commercial ships were exciting.  Life was fun and thrilling on the beach.  We were proud to have shoreline property that gave us the thrill and excitement like Ruby Beach out on the Pacific Coast. 

However, in 2003, as we sipped our coffee on the steps of our beach each morning, we started noticing small patches of bedrock appearing near our bulkhead.  Why, we wondered?  Then, in 2006, we were startled! 

On February 2, 2006, a speeding commercial ship passed Kingston around 7:30 a.m., at high tide.  The ship’s wake hit our bulkhead and threw green water 20 feet in the air and 18 feet upon our lawn.  It caused $25,000 damage to one neighbor’s bulkhead.  It ripped rocks off the top of another neighbor’s bulkhead and pulled huge boulders away from the bulkheads of our low bank waterfronts.  After throwing shells and rocks 18 feet over our 6-foot wood bulkhead, the waves washed down the grassy knoll of our low embankment.  We observed our bulkhead didn’t cause that wave. 

Since 2006, we have documented the destruction of our Kitsap County shoreline by the commercial ships transiting Puget Sound at 20± knots.  The destruction is devastating.  These vessels have scoured our beach.  We have no sand for the clams anymore.  We have no oysters or barnacles on our rocks.  The eelgrass is now in small patches, hanging on by its exposed roots. 

In 2006, the deepwater Port of Seattle took out a 4-page advertisement celebrating their success in doubling the shipping traffic to the Port.  Ruining our beaches is a business decision.  The Ports of Seattle and Tacoma don’t want to slow down the commercial vessels because they make millions of dollars operating their deepwater ports. 

The wake from the huge commercial ships is an unnatural force and shoreline homeowners are creating an unnatural barrier against this unnatural force.  If all of the increased shipping and passenger vessels don’t slow down and operate in accordance to Title 33 U.S.C. with respect to the environment, the destruction will continue and the ecology on Kitsap County shorelines will never be allowed to recover. 

We have never seen a house transiting Puget Sound doing 20 knots and pushing up a 20-foot bow wave.  We wouldn’t need bulkheads if the ships would slow down to the speed of the US Aircraft Carriers transiting Puget Sound.  The US Navy leaves no discernable wake when they pass our shoreline.

How to track and keep records                                                                                           

The very best authority on the physics of wave action on shorelines is published by the U.S. NAVAL, OCEANOGRAPHIC OFFICE entitled AMERICAN PRACTICAL NAVIGATOR.  Chapter XXXIII OCEAN WAVES.  It reveals some astonishing information.  

On page 732 it says, “The amount of kinetic energy in even a moderate wave is tremendous. A four-foot, ten-second wave striking a coast expends more than 35,000 horsepower per mile.” (That’s not a typo.) 

On page 731 it says, “As each wave slows, (on reaching our shore) the next wave behind it, in deeper water, tends to catch up.  As the wave length decreases, the height generally becomes greater.”  That is why we have huge plunging breakers caused by enormous ships transiting Puget Sound at 20± knots.  We can document the vessel name and speed via .  Those huge plunging breakers we see several times every day are eroding our shoreline and destroying the fragile Puget Sound tidal ecosystem.

FORM for documentation:

 Destruction of Shoreline Property from the waterside: 

(Print copies of this form to record the destruction of your property from the waterside.) 

Date: ___________________Time:_______________ 

Name of vessel: ______________________________ 

Speed of vessel: ______  knots from website: 

Did you photograph the vessel?  (Yes) ____   (No) ____

Did you photograph the wake of the vessel as it hit your beach? (Yes) ____ (No)___ 

Your name and address: ________________________________________________


Send a completed copy of this form to:

Attn:  Ship Wakes

Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners

P. O. Box 1861

Poulsbo, Washington 98370 

KAPO will ensure your completed form gets to Kitsap County. 


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