Boats speeding too close to swimmers

Some boats on our lake come very close to our dock, at high speeds. At times, we have had to wave our arms to warn them that there are people swimming. What are the regulations governing this, and what would you suggest we do?
—Jill Di Bartolomeo, Jack’s Lake, Ont.

In Ontario, there is a province-wide limit of 10 km/h within 30 metres of shore. That’s not quick—think a brisk walk. In most cases, this speed limit isn’t posted, says Sgt. Karen Harrington, marine programs coordinator for the Ontario Provincial Police, but that doesn’t matter. “The shoreline doesn’t need to have signs up. It’s ten kilometres everywhere, period.”

Well, except in a few rare exceptions: For example, it doesn’t automatically apply on a canal or a river less than 100 metres wide (in this case, the municipality decides if one is needed), nor in the case where “a boat follows a path at a 90-degree angle to the shoreline,” says Harrington, when a boat is driving directly away from shore. This is to facilitate water sports, she explains.

If the Speedy McRushalots on your lake are indeed coming closer than 30 metres to shore, they might not realize they’re breaking the law. Try talking to them and informing them they could be fined $200 if caught. “When people find out there’s a fine, they tend to pay more attention,” says Harrington. If that doesn’t help, call your local police and tell them that you need some enforcement on your lake. When an officer catches a boater in the act and the situation warrants it, he or she also has the authority to lay criminal charges, such as “dangerous operation of a vehicle,” regardless of whether or not the person is boating within 30 metres of shore.