Running an inlet can be a stressful event, but it’s made worse when there’s a ton of boat traffic. What takes it from worse to really bad is a bunch of big battlewagons on your tail. I don’t know if it’s ego or impatiences, but for whatever reason, it always seems like the captains of those boats refuse to pull back on the throttle to give other boats a little bit of breathing room.
You don’t want to get run down and you also don’t want to let the big boats run you off, so what’s the guy at the wheel of a 20-something supposed to do when those big boats refuse to give way – even though you have the right of way? For starters, always maintain a steady course and speed. Accidents happen when boats unexpectedly veer one way or the other, and chopping the throttle is just as bad. Think of it like slamming on the brakes when you have a tail-gater in the rear-view. It’s tempting, but it’s also not worth the risk. Secondly, remember that the larger sportfishers are actually a lot more constrained in where they can go. Many inlets have a deep water channel, and water that’s deep enough for you and I to either side. But the big boats may need to stay right inside that channel. In this case, there’s no good reason to stay in-between the markers; you may as well cruise in through one side of the inlet or the other, to make more room for everyone.
You also need to carefully watch their wakes. The boat wake thrown off by a 50-footer is big enough to cause serious problems for a small center console. Remember to meet the wake at a 45-degree angle to the bow, and go fast enough to keep your bow up, yet slow enough you won’t launch off the wave. Don’t let one of those wakes catch you in the stern – it can shove the boat in an unexpected direction – and always warn your passengers to hold on tight before it hits.
If you and the big boat are going to reach the inlet at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with backing off a bit and swinging in behind. In fact, this can be advantageous; his heavy hull will knock down the chop, and make for a smoother ride. And if any of you guys who run those big boats happen to be reading this: it wouldn’t hurt you to back off a bit, too. Having that big bow barreling up from behind is not fun, and it wouldn’t kill you to get to the dock a minute or two later.