By Dusty Miller
I have a cottage on a small, serene lake off the Severn Canal. On the far shore is a waterfall that I can hear on still days and quiet nights. Most of the other cottagers on this lake, and the next one, love to come in with their canoes and paddleboats. They follow the shoreline among the lily pads to enjoy the tranquility and watch the birds. Occasionally, some will come in with their electric motors and fish. BY and large the peace remains unbroken.
As is so often the case, there is one exception, in fact, there are two. At about 10 a.m., just as I sit down to my mid-morning cup of coffee, I hear the little 9.9 hp outboard startup and a young boater begins to tear up and down the lake in his 13-footaluminum cartop. UP and down. Up and down. UP and down……you get the picture.
OK, maybe his parents do not want him to go out into the next lake as it is larger and farther from home and out of sight or maybe he is just learning, but that is not the case. As you know, the handle on an outboard angle off to port, so the boater sits in front of the motor, mid-ships, and steers with his left hand. This fellow (I do not know how he does it) sits to the port side of the handle and operates the boat with his right hand. So, every time he turns to starboard, he practically pushes himself out of the boat. When he turns to port, his portside gunwale is dangerously close to being swamped. Once I asked him why he sat like that. He just shrugged and drove away.
To make matters worse, this young lad has a friend. I do not know whether they know each other but they are equally inconsiderate. The second boater has a personal watercraft.
He begins his day by tearing around the lake a couple of times at break-neck speeds then heads straight for the stern of my 25-footer- my pride and joy. Every time, and just in time, he makes a hard turn to Port no more than 20 feet from my boat. If he suddenly lost control he could end up in my boat. Without a break in speed, he goes downriver, leaving boats and floating docks rocking in his wake. This rider even goes under a small bridge at full throttle. This bridge, incidentally, has an overhead clearance of six feet two inches and it is no more than thirteen or fourteen feet wide. Despite this, he just takes a quick aim of what amounts to a blind turn and goes. Heaven help him if there’s a canoe or paddle boat heading the other direction, or, worse yet, a swimmer. He also does the same thing at night – it must be nice to be bulletproof.
Once I was cruising up the Severn from Georgian Bay toward my place. As I passed a marina, a large cruiser backed straight out of its slip into the channel, right in front of me. When the operator finally saw me and realized how close he had come to hitting my boat he got angry at me. He started shouting obscenities as if I were the one who had had put him in danger!
Here is another example. A couple of years ago, a group of Power Squadron boaters and other volunteers, along with one or two police boats, were guiding swimmers across Lake Couchiching during a marathon. A boater cruising at high speeds came through the Narrows at Atherly and headed straight for the swimmers, unaware of what was going on and not even curious about why there were all these boats in a straight line.
The police tried to hail and stop him, but to no avail. Finally, one of the boats had to accelerate right into the Path of the performance boat to save the swimmers. The collision resulted in a lot of damage to both boats but, fortunately, no one was hurt. This guy was caught. Too many of the others are not.
On top of the carelessness on the waterway, boaters do not realize the damage their wake can create to shorelines, moored boats, and floating docks. What disturbs me is these boaters are giving the rest of us a bad reputation. I do not know what the answer is. The Pleasure Craft Operators Card is a start. but you can’t legislate behavior. Inconsiderate and unskilled People will be inconsiderate and unskilled regardless of the law – if only they understood how much fun boating can be when you follow the rules.
You can take a performance boat and run it flat out in a poker run. You can wait until you are out in open water before opening a PWC. You can look where you are going in a cruiser and take great pleasure out of putting it into the slip or up against the dock, so the fenders just kiss the side. But how to make some people understand the rules and consideration on the water is beyond me. I just want to sit on my deck and enjoy my coffee in peace, with-out worrying about some-one flying into my boat.