By Amanda Comission

With files from the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations

Boats are built to be used. Maybe it’s for practical reasons, like getting gear over to a water-access island cottage no matter the weather. Or maybe it’s just for fun, like sunset cruises or early morning sessions with the kids. However you choose to use your boat, I’m sure you’re mindful of other vessels and give them an adequate berth. But can you honestly say you afford the same respect to our shorelines?

I spent many summers on a small bay that was the main transit point from a large lake to a central town for getting gas, groceries or just an ice cream. I can say from countless hours sitting on the boat house deck that the vast majority of boaters do keep a more than respectable distance from land – or at least slow right down to a no wake speed when necessary. But there are certainly those out there that don’t.

Boaters may know the 10 km/h within 30 metres of shore rule, but do they really know why? Most will probably tell you erosion, which is definitely one main reason, but a recent paper I received from the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ (FOCA) brought a few more things to light.

Not only can the constant beating of wakes erode land along the water’s edge, but they can flood the nest of loons and other birds that choose locations along the shore that are protected from prevailing winds. This is particularly true in the spring.

I bet boaters aren’t particularly fond of weeds and algae blooms. Well, producing too much wake in particularly shallow water can churn up sediments that release dormant nutrients and cause just that.

And even though the hard and fast (no pun intended) rule is 10 km/h, 30 metres within shore, Waterski and Wakeboard Canada actually strongly recommends staying a minimum of 50 metres from any shore and in a minimum of two metres of water.

So what can boaters do? The FOCA paper, which is courtesy of the Pike Lake Community Association, has several ways boaters can be “Wake Wise.” Here are a few:

  • Position your passengers throughout the boat in order to reduce the time spent in transition speed.
  • Look behind you to see & understand the impact of your wake on shorelines, docks or other structures. Adjust your speed & direction to minimize the impact.
  • Respect the shoreline zone. Reduce your speed to less than 10 km/h within 30 metres of any shore, including the narrow channels between islands.
  • Water-ski, tube & wakeboard well away from all shorelines. Try to make use of the entire length of the lake.

We can all take steps to be a little more vigilant when boating our waterways, and help keep them beautiful, full of wildlife and lined by scenic shores. After all, these are why we’re out there in the first place, isn’t it?

The “Watching Your Wake” paper can be found on the FOCA website at www.foca.on.ca.

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