Muskokas boating culture Boaters Always Care

People who are new to life on the lakes often have questions about the “rules” for being on the water. The answer is that there are lots of different rules and they can be a little confusing, even for people who have spent their lives boating. For some things, there are no rules or regulations at all, and for some of us, that can be a little confusing as well.

Rules are certainly important to understand, but it is even more important to understand the culture of boating.  It’s already understood that when you travel you need to know about both rules and culture.  For example if you travel to China on business, you should know the rules for visas and what you can and can’t import or export.  But it is also imperative to understand the business culture, all the way down to how you hand someone your business card. Boating culture, or more simply put, “the way we do things around here”, is just as important as rules are to sharing our lakes respectfully.

When Safe Quiet Lakes brought together a stakeholder group this past spring including boaters, lake associations, the OPP, elected officials, marina operators and boat manufacturers, the subject of boating culture was high on everyone’s list. Safe Quiet Lakes was encouraged to describe that culture in a simple, clear way.  After we thought about it and talked to different groups the answer was clear: Boaters Always Care.

We summarize it this way:
Boaters operate with caution and courtesy
Always keep a 360⁰ watch and minimize wake and noise
Care for passengers, respect regulations and offer PFD’s and safety instruction

By “boaters” we mean everybody on the water in every kind of craft: large or small, human powered, engine driven or sail, from paddle boards to wakeboats. There are more boats and more types of boats on our lakes than ever before. And that is fantastic and it makes the lakes even more fun. But it also means there is a lot more traffic and a greater need for all boaters to comply with the local norms to reduce risk and conflict.

By “always” we mean always. Muskoka boaters don’t have days when they skip being respectful of wildlife and people on the water and on shore.

By “caring” we mean simply looking out for and considering each other. We see examples of it on the lakes every day, and we don’t celebrate it enough. Most boaters give a wide berth to other boats or areas where there could be swimmers.  Most boaters consider the people on shore when they choose the time limits on their water activities and the noise they make. Most boaters ensure their passengers know the emergency protocol for their boat.

But some boaters don’t do those things every day. And as a result we need to keep reminding others and ourselves: since we all treasure our time on the lake, we need to share the space in a respectful way.  And it’s easy to remember, because Boaters Always Care.

Greg Wilkinson
Safe Quiet Lakes