It’s no secret there’s a shortage of roads to handle traffic on the Alabama Gulf Coast, brought on by year after year of record tourism.
That same problem is spilling over onto waterways around Orange Beach, creating a shortage of space for boats to operate safely. Overcrowding is prompting the state to implement a new no-wake zone in Terry Cove.
“We’ve gotten so congested we just can’t take a chance of something bad happening in that area,” Sgt. Jody Kelly of the Alabama Marine Police said.
Rodney Jones, who owns Hudson Marina at Skull Harbor with his wife, Laurie, does a big business with a variety of boats for fishing, dolphin, dinner cruises, pirate adventures and sightseeing. Including Jet Skis.
“Believe it or not, even though I’m in the Jet Ski business, I’m pro no-wake zone,” Jones said.
Jones said Terry Cove, the lifeblood of his business, is one of the few remaining places in Orange Beach that is no-wake.
“They have made little bitty Terry Cove the only no-wake zone on the Intracoastal in Orange Beach,” he said. “They’ve forced everything from Cotton Bayou to the ship’s channel back east of Terry Cove, all that’s no-wake.”
When businesses on Cotton Bayou rent Jet Skis and other water scooters, they motor around in a no-wake zone to get to Terry Cove’s no-wake waters to play, Jones said.
“Everybody in Cotton Bayou was sending their Jet Skis to Terry Cove, so I had all of anybody else that rented a Jet Ski over in Cotton Bayou sending them over to Terry Cove because it’s the closest no-wake zone,” Jones said. “Last year we’d look up and have 35 Jet Skis in little bitty Terry Cove.”
That’ll end once enforcement begins, and it will likely cost him a few rentals. Jones says that’s fine with him if it calms the waters in Terry Cove, which can wreak havoc on his docks and boats there.
“If you want to sea trial your boat with four 400-horse engines, you either have to go out in the Gulf or you come to Terry Cove,” Jones said. “So, all my boats that are tied to the dock out there, when that 1,600-horsepower center console comes by sea trialing, it just knocks the sh*t out of everything. We would rather give up a little than have to tolerate that.”
Kelly said he had hoped to have the no-wake zone in place by March 1, but weather and other factors have combined to stall the state’s effort to mark the new zone.
“As soon as we get ‘em up we’ll be pulling all the other signs and buoys out and start enforcing it,” he said.
Kelly said the usual grace period for issuing a warning is about two to three months to make people aware of the new zone. After that, officers will be writing tickets.
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