Battling the speeding boats and big wake problem

Published: June 17, 2020

A speeding boat on the lake By Suvorov_Alex/Shutterstock

First came Slow Food. Then Slow Fashion, Slow Travel, even Slow Gaming (what?). Now Muskoka’s Safe Quiet Lakes hopes to make Slow Boating the next hip thing on a busy route near Port Carling, Ont. 

“We’re not bringing in extra rules, we’re just asking people to be more aware of their wake,” says Colleen Kennedy, the leader of a project to calm boat wake along a two-plus kilometre stretch of the Indian River and Mirror Lake. “It’s about common courtesy and keeping the lakes safe for everyone.”

Speeding boats also aren’t great for wildlife; boat wake can disrupt loon nests, and even make them abandon your lake.

To encourage boaters to ease off the throttle this summer, volunteers with Safe Quiet Lakes will install No Wake signs and buoys along the busy waterway connecting Lakes Rosseau and Muskoka. A radar sign, meanwhile, “will let boaters know how fast they’re going,” Kennedy adds.

The Township of Muskoka Lakes is pitching in with additional 9 km/hr speed signs and highlighting the project on its website. “People look to the municipality for leadership in responsible boating. This is one way we can show support,” says Phil Harding, the mayor of Muskoka Lakes.

The project is similar to an effort on nearby Loon and Turtle Lakes, where the local association’s volunteer Water Safety Awareness Committee posts signs with tag lines including: Can Two On A Tube Result In A Concussion? Yes! Just Ask Your Doctor! “I think we’ve made a difference,” says Michael Clarke, the committee’s chair. Thanks to comments on social media and at the association’s annual meeting, “I do know people are reading the signs.” 

Kennedy will gauge the impact of the Wakes and Speed Pilot Project at the end of the season. Markers of success include lower speeds logged by the radar sign and a thumbs-up from the locals. On the heels of a 2019 survey of area cottagers and residents, “I’ll do a follow-up survey this fall to see if we’ve changed perceptions of boater behaviour.” If the view is positive, Kennedy adds, the campaign “will offer tactics that can be used in other areas.”

Boat legal, folks. Here are 5 things that could get you a fine while boating.

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