Photo by Laurie Grantham

Five Tips on Cottage Boating for 2020

by Peter Frost and Tom Martin

1. Water Levels: always changing

Water levels are likely to be up again this season. This means there will be many shoals that 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. Be cautious, especially in the opening months of the season!

2. Boating Regulations: changes on the way

Vessel licences

The regulatory framework for boaters has been relatively stable for the past few years. However, there are changes on the way. Vessel licenses (those numbers on the side of your hull) will likely no longer be free in the next couple of years. Currently, the Feds 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. We’ll keep you posted.

Stand Up Paddle Boards

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 signalling device (a whistle), there will be no requirement to carry a heaving line. A watertight flashlight must be carried after sunset and before sunrise or in periods of reduced visibility.

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. 

Click HERE to download a PDF copy of this guide

Safe Boating Guide

Sadly, the Federal Government chose to stop publishing the Safe Boating Guide a few years ago in its former paper format. However, you can download a copy of the 2019 guide above. We encourage you to check out any questions you may have and to make others aware of this resource.

3. The Operator’s Card: it’s not a license

As you are no doubt aware, you must carry with you your Pleasure Craft Operator’s Card when operating a motorized boat. 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 misnamed. 

Obtaining “The Card” (your proof of having passed the test) supposedly shows basic boating knowledge, analogous to the written part of an automobile driver’s test. Passing the written driver’s 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, tie up a boat, run a boat or navigate a boat, amongst other things. So before allowing others to run your power boat, ensure that they have The Card, but also that they have the necessary driving, safety, and navigational skills.

Teach young boat drivers

Anecdotally, we hear that parents are not paying enough attention to teaching youngsters the skills of operation as the kids have their own card. We emphasize: having The Card is not a substitute for teaching proper operator skills to young boat drivers.

What about your renters?

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 a checklist is allowed as a substitute.

4. Watch Your Wake: bigger isn’t better

The trend to bigger, faster and heavier power boats continues. One of the problems with bigger boats is that they throw larger wakes, which endanger other boaters, swimmers, docks, moored vessels, wildlife and the shoreline. Look behind you occasionally when driving and be aware of what your wake is doing in relation to other boaters and the shore. Consider using a smaller vessel to create less wake when possible, for shorter trips or recreational jaunts.

5. Show Courtesy: we go to the cottage to slow down!

For over 20 years we have been seeing a decline of courtesy on the water. Be aware of others and respect their rights to use the lake. When you think about it, can’t we spare the time to show more courtesy to others when we are at our summer residences? 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 the vulnerable small craft: canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, and sail boats.