Lake Community Expectations Boaters Always Care

When there is a bit of wind and the water is still high there is a lot of stuff in the lakes: frisbees and tennis balls (well chewed by canine chums), an occasional flip-flop, water bottles, boat bumpers of course, and lots and lots of wood of all shapes and sizes. Last weekend I saw a boater slow down and stop ahead of me as we were heading to the marina and one of the passengers leaned out and pulled a board out of the water and into their boat. It looked like a 2x6, a metre long or maybe a bit more; I couldn’t see if it had any nails in it, but they often do, making slippery boards a bit dodgy to handle.

That boater, by taking a minute to pull the wood out of the water, was demonstrating what the people of Safe Quiet Lakes think of as the foundation of our Muskoka culture of boating: Boaters Always Care. Boaters operate with caution and courtesy. Always keep a 360° watch and minimize wake and noise. Care for passengers, respect regulations and offer PFD’s and safety instruction.

The culture of Muskoka boating is a lot like the culture on streets we have lived on where there was a park or other common area. Everyone gets that the park is a shared space, so we pick up after each other, watch out for each other’s kids, keep the volume down early and late in the day, make sure visitors know the drill and generally show respect for the park and the community.

It’s the same with our lakes and that’s largely because of lake community culture which is that Boaters Always Care. The boater I saw pulling that 2x6 out of the lake was probably in a hurry and doubtless had a long list of other things they would rather be doing than wrestling with a wet and slimy board that might be plugged with rusty nails. But they took a few moments and suffered a bit of inconvenience to reduce the risk for themselves and for other boaters by pulling that board out of the water. They were very clearly showing that they care about our shared space by making that small but thoughtful effort. And they have the right to expect that the rest of us will keep doing the little things that make the lake a little safer, a little quieter and more enjoyable for everyone.

There are always going to be things that we find a bit irritating about the behaviour of others, whether it is in the park, on the roads or on the lake.  But just the way there are community expectations that (generally) keep things under control on the road and at the park, there are lake community expectations that we need to keep in mind as we enjoy these amazing waterways that we are lucky enough to share.

The people engaged in Safe Quiet Lakes believe our positive lake community culture is strong in Muskoka, but we also know that we need to keep talking to each other and working at it. And we might need to wrestle with the occasional slimy board to do our part.

Greg Wilkinson
Safe Quiet Lakes

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