Five Thoughts for Cottage Boating for this Season

Five Thoughts for cottage boating for this season

By:  Peter Frost and Tom Martin

  1. Water levels are likely to be up again this season. At the time of writing, mid March, it seems this summer’s level may be up by as much as a foot or more. This means there will be many shoals which you could see last year but which will be under water this year.  Whether the water goes up or down, new hazards for navigation are ‘discovered’ as we often forget that which we could previously see or that we could not previously hit due to adequate depth.
  2. Boating Regulations. The regulatory framework for boaters has been relatively stable for the past few years.  However, there are changes on the way.  Vessel licenses (as indicated by the numbers on the side of the hull) will likely no longer be ‘free’ in the next couple of years.  Currently, the Fed’s are trying to determine the price for a license based on ‘cost recovery’ for operating the licensing system.  Nor will licenses be permanent.  They will have to be renewed every five years or so.

Stand up paddle boards are becoming increasingly popular.  Many are not aware that stand up paddle boards are considered to be a boat and that you must comply with the regulations for carriage of safety items or be subject to a fine.   Regulations should be coming into force for stand up paddle boards which will make the regulations similar to those for a windsurfer.  In other words, if whoever is on a stand up paddle board is wearing a legal PFD and has a sound signaling device, there will be no requirement to carry a buoyant heaving line.  A watertight flashlight must be carried after sunset and before sunrise or in periods of reduced visibility.  Clearly, carrying a heaving line is impractical and that is why the regulations are in the process of being amended.  Unfortunately, there is a defined, lengthy process for this.  We suspect your chances of being charged will drop dramatically if you wear a PFD and have a sound signaling device (a pealess whistle will do) with you.  As well, it is unlikely that one would be fined if the boat is being used for yoga very close to shore.

Paddle boarders should also be aware that they tend to be a lot less visible than most vessels on the water and should therefore use extreme caution when in areas frequented by powerboats such as on main boat channels.  There is no moral victory in being dead right and holding your ground or right of way in front of a large, fast vessel which hasn’t seen you.  Wearing a brightly coloured PFD when on your paddle board will help to make you more visible to other boats.

Sadly the Federal Government chose to stop publishing the Safe Boating Guide a few years ago in its former paper format. However, it is available in soft copy on line.  Just ‘google’ ‘safe boating guide Canada’.  We encourage you to check out any questions you may have in the on line edition and to make others aware of this resource.

  1. ‘The card.’ As you are aware you must carry with you your operator’s proof of competency when operating a power vessel. Sometimes it is referred to as a license.  It is not.  Some think it proves proof of competency.  It does not.  In fact it is badly mislabeled.  Obtaining ‘the card’ (your proof of having passed the test) supposedly shows some basic boating knowledge, analogous to the written part of an automobile drivers test.  Passing the written drivers test doesn’t give any indication that you actually know how to drive a car.  Likewise, having ‘the card’ doesn’t mean you know how to sit in a boat, how to tie a boat up, how to run a boat or how to navigate amongst other things.  So before allowing others to run your power boats ensure not only that they have ‘the card’ but that they have obtained the aforementioned skills.  Anecdotally, we hear that parents are not paying enough attention to teaching youngsters the skills of operation as the kids have ‘the card’.  The card is not a substitute for proper operator skills.

If you rent your cottage and boats to others, the renter must have ‘the card’ to use your power boats as must any guests or family members of the renters (or of you for that matter) who wish to use your power boats.  A dockside checklist, while still a good idea, is not a substitute for the card for cottage rentals as opposed to renting a boat from a fishing lodge where they are allowed as a substitute.

  1. Watch your wake. The trend to bigger, faster and heavier power boats continues. One of the problems of these bigger and heavier boats is they throw larger wakes which endanger other boaters, swimmers, docks and moored vessels, wildlife and the shoreline.  Look behind occasionally and be aware of what your wake is doing and to be aware of others.  Consider using a smaller vessel to create less wake when possible.
  2. Show others courtesy. For over twenty years we have been noting the decline of courtesy on the water. Be aware of others and respect their rights to use the waters.  When you think about it, surely we can spare the time to show more courtesy to each other when we are at our summer houses.  Part of the reason we go there is to slow life down and smell the pine needles.  We suggest you review the courtesy issue with all those who operate your vessels before the season begins.  Explain to them what is involved and to show respect for the natural environment, fellow boaters and cottagers, and to watch out for paddle boarders!