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Right-of-way rules

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Don Monnot
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Right-of-way rules

Postby Don Monnot » Sat Nov 16, 2013 4:09 pm

It's almost snowkite season here in Wisconsin, and it got me thinking about some of the near misses or situations I've been in regarding laws or right of way rules. Where I kite in the winter is typically on a frozen inland lake, where there's plenty of truck/car/snowmobile traffic, and an occasional ski-plane landing/takeoff. I also hit some terrain where there are plenty of snowmobilers. My question is whether there are any official rules regarding right-of-way for those situations.

On the water the Coast Guard rules apply, but do they apply when the water is frozen? Do we, as wind-powered craft, automatically/officially/legally have the right-of-way over mechanically-powered craft? Would Coast Guard rules apply on land? I usually see trucks/ATVs/snowmobiles giving me a wide berth, but just wondered if they are legally required to do so. I have had a couple of annoyingly close encounters with a plane landing on a frozen lake. I didn't hear or see him coming, and he once landed directly in my path, close enough that I felt I needed to change direction.

Any legal opinions out there?

Don

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Re: Right-of-way rules

Postby SaulOhio » Sat Nov 16, 2013 6:03 pm

Can't say this is official legal opinion, but a plane very likely can't even see you. Yes, the cars and snowmobiles should stay clear. The best thing I can say is always keep your eyes and ears open.

Where in Wisconsin do you kite? Anywhere near Lake Winnebago? I'm thinking of making a trip up there, looking for smooth clean ice for speed runs. Wisconsin is upwind of any lake effect snow.

Don Monnot
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Re: Right-of-way rules

Postby Don Monnot » Sun Nov 17, 2013 2:48 pm

I live in a NW suburb of Milwaukee, and kite Lake Winnebago pretty often, year round. The ice on Winnie can range from unrideable to awesome. I've been there on nearly perfect speed conditions--smooth hard snow and 30+ wind. Typically by mid-late January people drive their cars out onto the lake, and rig right next to their car. Lots of ice fishing on the lake, and plenty of snowmobile/ATV traffic, too. If the wind is out of the south, west, or north it's pretty clean. Most riders launch from the east side of the lake. When you want to head up here, there are a couple of message boards and websites to check. Try Kiteboardmilwaukee,com on their message board, or Windpowerwindsurfing.com. The kiters on Winnie are a great group of folks. They usually do a kite gathering that coincides with the opening weekend of sturgeon spearing season in early February. It's a fun time even if there's no wind.

I'm also surprised to hear you suspect that the plane's pilot couldn't see me. Are you a pilot? I've not been in small aircraft often enough to know what the visibility is like as you're landing. I would think that a plane coming in for a landing would first do a visual on their planned landing strip to check for hazards, and that would include looking for ice fishermen, ATVs, snowmobiles, etc. that might be about to cross their planned landing strip. It seems to me like the pilot was being a bit arrogant/negligent, unless I'm wrong and the plane has right-of-way over folks already navigating on the ice.

Don

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Re: Right-of-way rules

Postby Craz Z » Sun Nov 17, 2013 4:47 pm

Don, I can assure you that the airplane takes precedence over any other craft whether it is gas powered or not. Even though its not a typical runway they are still goverened by the FAA and NTSB if something where to happen.

Basically when a plane sets up to land or takeoff aborting are not really on the piliots mind. I'm sure if he hit the kite the plane wouldn't even miss a beat. He might consider deviating his flight path if a truck is parked in the way or stalled out.

The plane is going to need a 1000-2000 feet of open space. The last thing any pilot would want would to be an incident. Although you may have thought it was a close call he problably knew it was safe to continue landing.

As far as all the other motorized maniacs I would assume traffic laws would apply as they are operating a motorized vehicle and if they hit you I would assume its like hitting a pedestrian.

As far as I know we don't really have any actual written down rights other then basic laws for sailors pedestrians etc. we are not goverened by any associations, non-profit organizations or government.

The only enforcers i've seen on lakes are fish and wildlife officers. that will write tickets but mostly only checking fishermans tags and an occasional DUI.

the shit that pisses me off is these people that haul all kinds of garbage on the lake like burn barrels oil jugs etc and leave them. in the spring its going right in the lake. My friend had stitches from a beer bottle near the shoreline buried in the sand ruined the whole day.

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Re: Right-of-way rules

Postby Don Monnot » Tue Nov 19, 2013 12:27 pm

Craz Z wrote:the shit that pisses me off is these people that haul all kinds of garbage on the lake like burn barrels oil jugs etc and leave them. in the spring its going right in the lake. My friend had stitches from a beer bottle near the shoreline buried in the sand ruined the whole day.


Yup. That kind of thing bugs me, too. Fortunately not so many folks here tend to do that. Most of the ice fishermen are pretty good about not leaving crap on the ice. Once in a while we get a quick, unexpected warm spell in the Spring where somebody doesn't get their ice fishing shanty off the ice before it's no longer safe to do that. Then the shanty winds up on the bottom. Hopefully without too much nastiness in it. If that happens the DNR gets after them to get their shanty out of the water after the ice breaks up. That's a hassle that most folks want to avoid, so it's pretty unusual. I think part of the reason most folks here are pretty good is the environmental awareness and self-policing that goes on within the fishing community. That, plus the DNR folks are pretty diligent!

One thing that the ice fishermen here do pretty often is push sticks into their ice fishing hole, either to mark the spot or warn others that there's a hole there. Not sure why they do that, but it does pose more of a kiting hazard than just the little ice "volcanoes" that they leave. The sticks like to snag lines and kites when you're launching/landing, and they're a hazard when riding at night.

Don

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Re: Right-of-way rules

Postby william_rx7 » Tue Nov 19, 2013 9:29 pm

You're out on a frozen lake without a cop in sight, surrounded by drunken drivers in every kind of machine that will propel them across the ice. For many snowmobile / ATV riders a frozen lake is a drag-strip, with no speed limits. It's their chance to drink, speed and do whatever the heck they want. Plus, you're riding in America, which means that many of these drunken idiots are also armed!

And to really spice it up, throw in a bunch of self-appointed sheriffs "self-policing" with a "we were here first" playground mentality.

And you're looking for Rules?

Here's a legal reference

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Re: Right-of-way rules

Postby edt » Tue Nov 19, 2013 9:52 pm

william with the apt thunderdome reference.

As far as sticks in the holes, I prefer those to unmarked holes. On my ice board I get up to 50mph pretty easy. If I hit a hole which is hidden by a thin layer of snow I go head over heels it's painful. If they put up a marker it's a lot easier to avoid. If I'm riding the snowboard I don't mind either way you can ride over the holes, and sure it's a bit of a hassle rigging but nothing to complain about. Last winter the way the season was I did most of my riding on the iceboard.

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Re: Right-of-way rules

Postby Don Monnot » Wed Nov 20, 2013 3:34 pm

Here, too. Last winter had a definite lack of snow cover. Lots of riding on bare ice. I've got a switchblade on my snowboard, and it was blade down most of the winter. Hoping for more snow this winter, and not that slushy yuck we had last year.

I also agree with the "lots of drunks doing stupid stuff, armed, with no cops in sight" comment. Kinda like the wild west of the 1800's. Rules? What rules?

I checked with our local cop, and she didn't know what would apply or who would have jurisdiction. Granted, in her district, there are no lakes big enough to worry about. But I woulda thought she'd have at least a clue about what might apply. I guess cops are like a lot of the rest of us. Our knowledge is typically pretty narrow--we just know what we need to know for our daily lives.

I may check with the DNR guys at the State Park that bounds most of the lake I ride pretty regularly. Maybe they have some ideas. Otherwise it's Thunderdome!

Don


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