Every year we face a challenge when planning the next season of PowerBoat Television and that’s where to go and what to do. After 26 years on the air we have gone a lot of places and done a lot of things. We try not to be repetitive, but finding new places to go or ways to explore can be tough. It’s a good problem to have, no doubt, but still a problem.

One day while waiting in line for a coffee I overheard a conversation about geocaching. Interest piqued, out came my phone and I asked Lord Google what this was all about. Immediately it seemed like a perfect idea to try out.

Essentially, it’s a massive scavenger hunt using GPS. Each find, or cache, is planted and maintained by a volunteer. They are all listed on the free Geocaching app. You can upgrade to a premium app with more features if you really get into it. The geocaches are all over the place, but the app just shows the rough area. You still have to find them.

I must warn you, it’s addictive. But it’s harmless fun and it gives you an excuse to get out and explore, so why not?

 

In our first attempt, we decided to keep it small—at least in terms of the boat we planned to use. We wanted something that was easy to manouevre and easy to beach so we called up our friends at Yamaha and asked if we could borrow a couple of WaveRunners for our adventure.

Here is a good spot for the second warning. You’ll find yourself having to explain what geocaching is to most people!

The folks at Yamaha thought the idea was neat and gave me the keys to a VX Cruiser HO and a VX Deluxe. I recruited a good friend of mine, Chris, to be co-cacher and we picked three different spots in our home province of Ontario to try out: Barrie, Kingston and Hunstville.

Destination for cache one was Barrie. It’s where the PowerBoat TV and Boats&Places offices are located so if this turned out to be a bust we hadn’t gone too far.

Opening the app we immediately saw dozens of sites around the shores of Kempenfelt Bay, but only a handful right near the water. That helped us narrow down our target. We picked the closest one, started the app tracking and off we went.

We didn’t go too far before we realized this first one was a bust. It was along a massive breakwall protecting the shoreline. I was not going to try to tie up a WaveRunner against boulders. That would have resulted in all kinds of scratchy nonsense.

We moved on. The app showed another cache about two kilometres north-northeast along the shoreline. Here we found a little beach where we could park with big trees to tie off on. Then it was up the hill along a path and into a little park area to find our first cache.

There are descriptions on each location and often there are clues to help you along. Here the clue was “tree.” But given the fact that we were in a pretty lush forest that was like saying “Barrie” to narrow it down.

After a few minutes of hunting and following our GPS coordinates in a semi-sophisticated game of “hot and cold,” we found it! Inside a small, watertight container was a logbook filled with all the names of fellow geocachers that came before us and, of course, there was the treasure—a few trinkets, like small animals, coins and colourful kiddie erasers. It was nothing of real value, but something to retrieve as a reward.

The idea is that after taking your found treasure, you have to leave something in its place then put the container back exactly where you found it. You can leave a comment if you wish for the cache manager to see.

We left a new treasure for the next person to find, marked that cache as “found” on our app and on we went.

Deciding to push our luck we continued out of Kempenfelt Bay, around Big Bay Point and south towards Innisfil where another waterfront cache was “allegedly” waiting for us.

I say “allegedly” because, although the GPS coordinates had it right at small dock and there were multiple comments from those who had found it, we had no luck. Oh well, we marked it a DNF (did not find) on the app and hauled the WaveRunners out of the water for the day.

The next morning we launched in Kingston and after heading up the Cataraqui River we found, yet again, our first choice was impossible to safely reach from the water. On the bright side, it got me to a stretch of water I’d never been on before. I’ve taken my cruiser to Kingston en route to the Thousand Islands but never headed up river.

That’s part of the joy of geocaching. You’re not just arbitrarily cruising about, you have a specific target and you head for it. It forces you to check the charts and maps, learn about a new region and then go out and experience it. Having the challenge of the find and the reward of the cache really was a lot of fun.

There we were, onto Plan B nearly immediately. We didn’t want to have driven all the way here to get skunked!

The next option was in close proximity to downtown Kingston, which meant we could make use of the city docks. Just like street parking in many cities, Kingston has pay-and-display machines so we plunked in our $1.55 for an hour, tied both WaveRunners up in a single slip and went back on the hunt.

Not good. Cache two could not be found. Even our cameraman, Aaron, after watching us fail for 15 minutes put down the camera and got in on the action. Twenty-two minutes later we called it a DNF. We were 0-for-2!

No pressure should be applied, but we had competitive juices flowing. That meant cache attempt #3 had to be a success. It had a higher difficulty rating than the others and the clue was an anagram.

Spoiler alert! We ruined this one on the TV show too. Well, we had to show at least one of them to highlight how creative and fun they can be. It may be moved by now.

In any event, the anagram was THIN WITCHES and the clue was “turn on brain.” Chris started sniffing around the area that the app marked as the GPS coordinates, and I set to work on the anagram.  White… Winch…. Nope.

IN THE SWITCH!!

But what switch? We were in a park with nothing around but a light post and a big electrical panel box, not something I wanted to try to open.

The geocache rules state they are not to be hidden on private property or anywhere that could be dangerous. We knew that couldn’t be it. As we were talking this out Chris pointed to what looked like an every day, household light switch on the steel paneling.

Could it be?

I hesitantly reached out and when I tried to flick the switch the whole box moved. It was magnetic! We pulled it off and found it full of coins and the logbook was inside too. It was one of the coolest and most creative ones out there, but more importantly, we didn’t get skunked!

We hauled out and headed northwest, this time to the lake of my family cottage. I spent many weekends and summer days, learning to love boating here. My goal was to see if I could explore somewhere new on a lake I knew very well and, frankly, got a little bored of years ago.

The first cache took us into a bay that I had only ever driven past, mostly because it was small and I had no reason to get close to the shore. By the time we beached our WaveRunners I had already achieved the goal. I felt a mixture of accomplishment and sadness at the same time. It was too easy. I was guilty of falling into the rut many of us get in, going on the same lake, in the same boat and doing the same route. Geocaching worked as a fun way to bust out of that monotony.

I won’t ruin the geocache we hunted for on this lake, but “Portage Flyer” was another successful find by the dream team of Chris and Steve! With that success under our belts, we went in search of one final cache on the old steamship canal that links Peninsula Lake and Fairy Lake.

It wasn’t really a beachable option, but there was a spot wide enough to inch the bow of one WaveRunner. While Chris held it in place from his ride, I climbed up under the bridge to see if I could find it.

Given that Chris was integral in finding the previous ones, it’s not a massive surprise that I came up empty handed solo. But this was a bonus stop anyways and the DNF was no damper to our fun.

The WaveRunners are super easy to launch, especially with the new RiDE system and trailering them can be done with small vehicles, but even if you have a bigger boat, there are caches out there for you.

Get out of your regular routine, get out a chart, and give it a go. I, admittedly, only tried it as an excuse because I needed something for the show. But after one, I was hooked. And when the cameras were off Chris and I kept hunting until the sun went down.

This article is featured in the 2017 season of PowerBoat Television and the Fall 2017 issue of Boats&Places Magazine.

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Steven Bull is an Associate Producer and Host of PowerBoat Television. He grew up boating on runabouts and PWCs on the lakes around Huntsville, while his wife grew up on cruisers. It only took months after getting married for Steve to adopt that lifestyle. Together, they purchased a Sea Ray 380 Sundancer they keep at the Toronto Islands. A graduate of the University of Windsor’s business school, Steve worked in the front office of OHL and CFL teams before moving to Europe and working as a Ski Guide in the French Alps. He returned to Canada get a Master of Arts in Journalism from Western University (formerly UWO). Steve’s broadcast experience ranges from the BBC World Service in England, to business reporter with NTV in Kenya, and from 2010-2014 as a multi-platform reporter and host with CBC News. In 2014, Steve combined his passion for boating with his skills as a broadcaster by joining Lifestyle Integrated where he contributes to Boats&Places Magazine, BoatTest.ca, BoaterNews.ca, and of course, PowerBoat Television.

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