With the flip of a switch, some motorboats get really, really loud. A special feature diverts the boat's exhaust from underwater to an outlet in the hull. It's supposed to give the engine more oomph, but there's another attraction -- your boat will bellow.
"Why does a guy own a Harley with straight pipes? It's cool. It looks tough," said Wayzata boat dealer Dan Gau, trying to explain the appeal.
The exhaust diverter is marketed under names such as "Captain's Call" and "Silent Choice." But it can't be sold or used in Minnesota. These devices have been against the law here since 1980.
That's fine with Gau, general manager of Wayzata Marine and Minnetonka Marine. He thinks lakeside homeowners and quieter boaters don't want a lake that sounds like a drag strip.
Yet the boats roar through the bays and rivers of Minnesota anyway. People buy them in other states and bring them here.
The state Department of Natural Resources can't refuse to register these boats even though they have illegal equipment, said Kim Elverum, the DNR's boat and water safety coordinator. Under Coast Guard rules, only questions about ownership or tax payments could block registration in Minnesota, Elverum said.
So that means the water patrol has to catch the loud runabouts in the act. Lt. Kip Carver of the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office water patrol says that on Minnetonka, it's a "very small group of boats" that draw complaints, typically when they speed through channels in summertime.
Still, Gau thinks it's wrong that the boats are allowed into the state in the first place. "They could be enforcing it. They're not cutting it off at the pass."
Lakeside tranquility isn't the only victim of the loophole. Gau is losing business to boat dealers in other states.
After a boat equipped with an exhaust diverter came into his shop, Gau learned that he shouldn't fix the exhaust system because he might run afoul of the law. The situation, Gau said, "just makes me sick." Unless the law changes, he'll feel that way every time he hears a boat streaking across the bay with a defiant roar.
JAMES ELI SHIFFER