R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Safety and Courtesy on the Water
It's seven AM on a sunny, lazy Saturday morning in July. The lake is like a mirror. The stillness is broken by a parade of specialized fishing boats running at full throttle as they streak westward to a favourite fishing spot. The tournament is on.
On a peaceful weekend afternoon, a lone rider in the bay, on a personal water craft, carves concentric circles in the water. The angry voice of the engine rises and falls as the rider mounts and leaps over his own wake, again and again, and again.
Powered by a silent electric motor, the fishing craft, with its two anglers appears before it is heard, scant feet from the end of the dock. Lures are cast under, on and around the dock and boat lift. The process is deliberate and unhurried as the boat silently moves on to the neighbour’s waterfront.
A pleasure craft, with a “dad” at the wheel and three young passengers is towing two shrieking children in a tube. The excited children are focused on the riders in the tube. Dad has one hand on the wheel as he swivels around to watch. The boat carves a tight loop, intended to dump the tube and the riders. An oncoming craft, unseen by the dad slows down, alters course and avoids an unhappy incident.
All of these anecdotes have been related by shoreline property owners and other users of the lake. The people depicted in these anecdotes have every right to use the lake in pursuit of recreation.
The missing link is their lack of respect for others; the lack of understanding that their pleasure or purpose is taken at the expense of others who have an equal right to enjoyment of the lake, whether it be simple peace and quiet, security of their property or personal safety. In our world, every individual has an equal right to enjoy the lake. No one has the right to deprive others of enjoyment, in pursuit of personal pleasure.
On many occasions, the Mississippi Lakes Association has been called upon to regulate inconsiderate or unsafe use of the lake. Only the Ontario Provincial Police have jurisdiction for enforcement and their scope is limited to unlawful behavior; alcohol use, inadequate safety equipment on board and unlawful operation of a vessel. There are no enforceable laws governing thoughtless, inconsiderate or downright rude behavior. Although, many would argue, there should be.
Harmonious use of our lake by all, in every way, revolves around one word: respect – respect for good boating practice, respect for the law, respect for the rights of others and respect for the lake environment.
Safety and Courtesy on the water can be summed up in one word: R-E-S-P-E-C-T:
R Respect safe boating practices, your neighbors on the water and on shore and the environment
E quip your vessel with the necessary safety and emergency equipment
S Slower vessels like sailboats, kayaks and canoes have the right of way
P Personal Water Craft are subject to the same safety requirements as other vessels
E Every powered craft operator requires a pleasure craft operator's license
C Exercise caution and slow down when operating near shore
T Towing skiers, wake boarders and tubes requires a driver, an observer and a place for the person being towed.
Let’s all play nicely out there.