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An Open Letter to Yacht Clubs Everywhere
Open Letter There was a point in time where Yacht Clubs were used as a space to promote the sport of sailing and cruising, as well as to provide a community for their members. Much like golf clubs or ski clubs, the yacht club gathered a group of people with similar interests to make sure their sport lived on. Although they were private and exclusive, their purpose was to keep the club alive and well.

That may still be the case with some clubs, but in my experience it has been the farthest thing from the truth. What I have experienced is outright mutiny to their cause.

There's always a history to mutiny, so here's mine. I grew up sailing the Great Lakes, and when I turned 15 I became a sailing instructor at my local club, not a part of our Yacht Club. At 16 I became the head instructor, and continued to do so for the next five years. For two of those years, the local Yacht Club decided they would take over the sailing school, and then they abandoned us after just two short seasons. We all know clubs of any type have politics beyond what is necessary, but I was 16, and doing the best I could, so no hard feelings right?

Meanwhile at University I was part of the Sailing Team. I was so involved that I ran our sailing team for two of the four years I attended school with a group of dedicated team members. I helped bring our team from a club to a Sport Club, where we received support and recognition from our University. Among the many regattas and training practices I went to, I competed in Canadian Nationals twice, U.S Women's Nationals once, and I was part of a winning team at an international student regatta in France. I was a good sailor. I had good experience. I had done good things for the sailing communities I was part of.

So what do you do once you graduate from University with no money? You buy a boat anyways. At 21 I bought a Pearson 30 from the local yacht club, but lucky for me I did not need moorage for the year, so I sailed away. I spent the summer fixing and sailing it, as well as working at the local chandlery. In august I started thinking I would need to haul out and store the boat for the winter, so I looked into memberships to my local yacht club. And how great - they had Junior Membership options! For applicants under 30, with no mooring needs, I could apply to join their club. That was their only caveat. So I did, in August.

As October got closer I continued following up with my application, and heard only positive things, though they had not brought it to a board meeting to vote on yet. So I wasn't too worried. I was a good sailor, and I had done good things for my sailing community. Not to mention, I was 22! I could be a potential member for two lifetimes! Obvious right? No.

Open Letter Lift out was scheduled for the first Sunday of October, and that Wednesday night around 8:00pm, I received notice that my Junior membership application had been denied - but, that I could pay $2500 initiation, $400 for dues, lift out and another $400 for winter storage to be a full member. The only reason they gave me was that my boat did not qualify for a Junior Membership. But the next day, I found out that they had accepted and deposited my Junior Membership dues that I had sent along with my application before they had denied my application.

I was shell shocked. Not only because I had to make alternative arrangements, but because a yacht club would reject an application because the person applying had a boat. It only takes ten minutes on Craigslist of Kijiji to know that it is not unreasonable for a young person under 30 to be able to afford a keelboat. The market is saturated with boats between $2000-$10000 suitable for someone who does not mind putting some effort into it. I picked mine up for $1500 because of many repairs that were needed, and because a wonderful owner wanted to help out a recent graduate.

What is the point of offering a Junior Membership if you don't promote or support that Junior to know that owning a boat is attainable? Or to celebrate the fact that a young person has a boat of their own? It's mutiny against your own cause to fill your club up with people who don't have boats, or run your juniors bankrupt because they do!

With a New Year upon us, my local yacht club has updated their website. They no longer have a page showing all the available memberships you can apply for. They have also closed off their membership applications for the time being. My boat is sitting at a warehouse right now, no where close to a crane to put her back in the water in the spring.

As a sailor who wants to promote the sport of sailing, who knows exactly how expensive and deterring it can be, and who knows exactly how hard it can be to feel accepted, I feel pushed down. Their decision knocked the wind right out of me. But sailing is one of the most amazing lifestyles out there, and it can bring you so many amazing opportunities if you just push through it. You will meet the most amazing people and have the time of your life.

To Yacht Clubs everywhere, it's hard. I know that. I ran a sailing team and a sailing school for many years, and it is difficult. But remember why you're a club. Remember why you love sailing. And remember how you started. Why would you deny a junior a chance to be a lifelong member of your club because he or she had a boat? Please don't let the next generation of sailors be trampled on and denied opportunities. You are in the positions to bring great sailors into your clubs and keep this sport alive.

Water Levels - What Goes Around ... Comes Around
Water Levels It was just a few years ago when many on Georgian Bay were freaking out about low water levels. Today we have the opposite problem. At Boating Georgian Bay we never believed in the panic regarding low water levels in Georgian Bay. Lobbyists and pundits were crying the sky is falling down, using every excuse from global warming to dredging in the St Clair River. It was all a bunch of nonsense. Great Lakes waters rise and fall over many years all on their own without any nefarious man made problems. Unfortunately there were some who used the opportunity of low water in Georgian Bay to create an artificial cause and raise cash for their own self gain. Shame ... shame. Next time we see low water levels again in about 5 years and someone comes telling you the sky is falling down, tell them history has already proven them full of crap. In fact we put it in writing half a dozen times that the panic on low water levels was bogus and these fluctuations happen cyclically over a number of years ... and they have been happening since the beginning of time and will continue to do so.

Here are several excerpts from past articles we have written:

#1 Well, the everyday scientists say do nothing - the problem is cyclical and controlled mostly by Mother Nature. The $17 million dollar International Joint Commission US/Canada group comprised of engineers and scientists also says do nothing, and eventually things will normalize. Sierra Club says dredging of St. Clair River and shore walling wetlands caused the problem. They endorse implanting hollow sills in the St Clair River to slow things down. Some in the Army Corps of Engineers condone putting in concrete speed bumps on the bottom of the St Clair River. The Lake Carriers Association believes also that the problem is a man made one, resulting from dredging of the St Clair River back the late 1960's. However that was over 50 years ago and during that time Georgian Bay and Lake Huron saw flooding water levels during a number of seasons. Others blame it on global warming. No doubt like most accidents there is more than one cause. We know historically water levels have been higher and lower than the range we analyze. In the shorter term, since humans have been paying attention to Great Lakes water levels, it is clear that Georgian Bay water levels are at an all time low - down some 29 inches over their long term average and down 17 inches since January 2012. No doubt the past two hot dry summers combined with mild low snow winters are the major culprit.

#2 A Canadian/USA advisory group reporting on Great Lakes water levels with particular concern for Lake Huron & Georgian Bay levels has recommended no action be taken by use of major engineering projects to manage water flow. Dams and other structures have been under consideration on the St Clair River. The $14.6 million dollar study suggest costs (up to $130 million) and potential environmental damage from such ventures would make such projects to manage water flow prohibitive. The five year study involved 200 engineers and scientists from both sides of the border. In the end the recommendation was to leave mother nature alone to do her thing, and allow water levels to rise and fall, as they do with natural fluctuations.These recommendations were submitted to the International Joint Commission which advises both USA and Canadian governments on Great Lakes issues. The study group considered the implications of raising the water levels in Lake Huron/Georgian Bay by means of structures in the St Clair River to offset past natural and human related erosion changes, and although technically feasible, with positive wetland affects in Georgian Bay, the offset would be adverse to the spawning habitat of the Lake Sturgeon, which is an endangered species. It would also have a negative impact on the Lake St Clair fisheries. Furthermore man made measures would most likely increase extreme high water situations at unpredictable fashion that could cause widespread flooding during peak water years. Here is a link to some useful research on Great Lakes water levels.

#3 Water levels throughout the Great Lakes and Georgian Bay have been a hot topic for a number of years now. In the Georgian Bay region the problem of low water can be more than an inconvenience. Low water levels cause real economic hardship and affect property values due to the fact that many areas are rock bottom and have marginal deep water access at the best of times. For marinas dredging is expensive and not practical when required on a large scale (and not that environmentally friendly either). In some cases dredging has been the only option to stay in business. However you can't dredge granite and many of the navigable passages are just that - pure granite or limestone base. Many are calling for something to be done by holding back more water flowing from Huron down the St Clair River. Some studies have claimed that the river is scoured deeper over the years by an amount allowing 11% more water flow from Lake Huron. Other water volume studies indicate that from the historic measurements the water flow down the St Clair have increased only 5% from historic levels. One thing is for sure, I don't think they will be controlling water flow from Lake Huron down the St Clair anytime soon with all the major shipping and commerce going on. We're also not alone on the problem. Lake Ontario and in fact all the Great Lakes are suffering from low water problems with year to year variations. Even the Trent watershed had unusually low water levels this spring - the lowest in 20 years. Lake Ontario is down about 14 inches this spring but is expected to gain back 7 inches before summer evaporation begins in earnest.

Last year water levels in Georgian Bay were up over previous years and this year in early spring there was mixed reporting from normal levels on some of the east shore inlets to down a foot around most of the Georgian Bay. One thing is for sure, we haven't had much rain this spring and other than a few lake effect snow pockets there wasn't much snow this past winter. Considering the lack of snow ... oddly enough there wasn't much frost either. Low snow and low frost years create a double whammy because what melt there is goes right into the water table through ground filtering rather than washed into the lakes and rivers from runoff.. That's not really a bad thing either because the underground aquifers need replenishing too from time to time, seeing as that's where the majority of humans draw their water from.

So who is really to blame? Probably no one in particular. Every time Georgian Bay gets really low water levels ... so goes Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes - we just feel it more on Georgian Bay because of the rocky shallow shorelines in many areas of the Bay. What can we do? Probably not a lot. The major factor is ... Mother Nature's natural outcomes of precipitation, snow melt, frost, and summer evaporation that affect water levels. Of course there is latent cause and effect, so we see these things year by year but in reality there are long cycles in weather and ground water filtering that are less measureable and harder to reconcile that also affect water levels. It fits right in with the bigger debate over global warming and it's causes and effects. Some suggest the recent volcanic eruptions in Iceland have a greater net affect on global warming than anything man made over the last twenty years. In the vast interior forested regions of Ontario, an unusual amount of water is being held in large tracts of swamp by beaver dams, and this is a major factor of flows to our waterways. There are no water shortages in the interior swamplands and the beaver ponds are everywhere and countless roads and trails that were open for decades are now under twenty feet of water. It really becomes obvious when you fly over and this has been building gradually for decades. But these swamps are our natural filters as well and support a rich diversified eco system. Some municipal politicians on the Trent water shed regions have suggested beaver culls as a way to bring water levels back to normal in Ontario. Yet only a few years ago they couldn't open the Trent system on schedule because of torrents of water flowing through. One thing is for sure, this is not something that there is a clear answer to that will get solved anytime soon by any single solution or group of bright minds. It is a complex issue and I for one don't believe that we should fool around with Mother Nature more than we already have. These things do correct themselves given time as has been proven time and time again - although it's hard to be patient when your dock is sitting on bare rock.

#4 The rise and fall of Georgian Bay water levels is just part of the natural cycles we see over long periods of time and there is no sinister plot where the US is stealing all the water or water level damage "bathtub drain" effect from the dredging that took place back in the 60's. After all, we've had major flooding on Georgian Bay long after the dredging stopped in the St Clair River.

Do What You Love!
Mandy So there's a guy that just paddle boarded across the Atlantic and a few years ago. We did a story on another guy who paddle boarded across Georgian Bay. Living adventure and doing what you love doesn't have to be dangerous. Witness Mandy Lea who travels around the USA towing a micro trailer, taking beautiful pictures of landscapes and people along the way. Take the time to go through her video Blog. It's an eye opener to a different acceptance of what our day to day lives could be, or perhaps were meant to be. Few could argue that if given the opportunity ... they would jump at the chance to see the world through the eyes of an adventure traveller. Well, fact of the matter is we all have the opportunity. But few of us have the guts to carry it out. In our twenties my wife and I quit our good paying jobs and cast off for a years sailing adventure from Canada to the Caribbean and back. Now as our retirement years loom near, we still look back at that adventure as pivotal in our lives. Soon we will be heading out for motorhome adventures because we want to experience more along the back roads of Canada and the USA.

Take Paul and Sheryl Shard are award winning filmmakers, sailing authors, instructors/consultants and the hosts of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series. They have been sailing internationally for 26 years and through their writing and television programs they share information to help others plan safe long-distance cruises aboard their own boats. They are testament to the notion that you can live your dreams and make money while you do it. There's always a way to make it work when you need it to. Yes there are sacrifices and hard work to do so, but the rewards and memories go with you to the grave. We all have responsibilities that temper our adventure yearning behaviour ... but deep in our hearts we know if there is a will, there is a way to mange those responsibilities, and have your cake and eat it too.

Georgian Bay Water Levels Looking Normal
Yacht I have heard many boaters comment that water levels would be down significantly for the 2017 boating season because of the hot dry summer we had last year. At the end of December 2016 Lake Huron and Georgian Bay were at 579.07 feet. This is about 19 inches over chart datum and about 7 inches higher than the long term monthly average. While it is lower by 3 inches from December 2015 levels ... 2017 will not have significant problems with water levels because the lag affect of water level changes on such large bodies of water means that one hot dry summer has little immediate affect on water levels. Now we may pay for this 2016 hot dry summer at some point, but it's likely to be several years out. So for 2017 don't worry about water levels.

Check Your Safety Equipment
Yacht The last weekend of May we stopped way offshore just to take in the sun for a bit and relax on the glass smooth water. Way out in the distance we could see a dot and we could hear an air horn going off at a continuous steady pace. Although several boats passed between our boat and the boat honking the air horn ... no one stopped. We decided we should investigate so we fired the boat up and headed towards the dot on the horizon. As we got closer the couple on the boat began waving frantically. So it turns out their small jet boat had conked out on them. Both their cell phones had died. They had no charts or safety equipment except for the air horn. They had been sitting out in the water for several hours and no one came to help. They had their bathing suits only, and it was getting late in the day. Although the the day had been a beautiful sunny day with little wind, it was coming to an end an the late May water temps were still chilly and the nights were still dipping down near single digit temperatures. Not a great situation to be broke down offshore in a an open boat in bathing suits without safety equipment at that time of year.  It would have been a long cold sleepless night for them. It took us about three hours towing them to shore at about 10 knots.

Luck was with them that afternoon when they got rescued. A few more hours and the window for other boats finding them would have closed and night would have descended on them. Their first boat ride of the season could have turned tragic very easily. Hypothermia was a possibility, but even higher risk situation would have been if the weather had turned and the wind came up. Anyways ... every boat should have the requisite safety equipment on board and boats planning on travelling well offshore should have lots of extra signalling devices like rocket flares, parachute flares, smoke flares and hand held day light flares. No boat should be way offshore like that without a VHF radio. Handheld portable VHF radios are less than $200 and an essential lifesaver in many situations. Safety equipment is cheap insurance. Don't go out without it. Better yet double up on important things like having on-board a second VHF radio and some warm clothing, a good high intensity spotlight, water and all those past dated flares so you can put on an incredible fireworks show should you get stranded out on the water. On our boat, a second plot charter, paper charts and two or more of everything on the safety list (including extra fire extinguishers and boat plugs) are considered standard equipment.

Mega Yacht the Maltese Falcon
Yacht The Maltese Flacon is reported to be the largest privately owned sailing yacht in the world. When we were recently visiting Malta we were surprised to see her Mediterranean moored right outside our door along with a perhaps a hundred other super yachts that visit or call Malta their home port. This boat is not only huge it is a wonder of technology. Now you might be wondering in these times of people being careful with cash whether these mega yachts are moth-balled awaiting a better economy. Well I'm here to tell you there is no shortage of cash to support the wants and needs of those who play in the big leagues. Year over year sales of super yachts is increasing at 20% per year. Camper & Nicholsons alone took 246 new orders on yachts 24m and above and brokered 502 in 2014. To be honest I didn't realize that there were that many billionaires in the world that had an interest in mega yachts. The small country of Malta (think 12 miles long) has as many super yachts parked as Fort Lauderdale has during boat show week. Many of them fly the Maltese flag as their home port given the flat rate tax system Malta offers income producing private yachts and commercial ships. Most of these yachts spend their time awaiting owners and charters for trips over to Italy, Turkey and the Caribbean. Follow the sun, as they say.

So the Maltese Falcon has an interesting history. It is an unforgettable yacht that captures the imagination with it's massive 289' length, streamlined design and brisling sky high masts that are computerized versions of square riggers from days past. . Did I mention it won Super Yacht of the Year, a few years back?

The yacht was built by Perini Navi in Turkey for American venture capitalist Tom Perkins. Perkins hasn't said how much he paid to have it built in Turkey other than a range of $150 million to $300 million. Now that's a lot of money even for a super yacht ... but this baby is special. The Maltese Falcon was the third yacht built by Perini for Perkins and launched in 2006. The ship has fifteen square sails (five per mast) that store inside the mast and can unfurl into tracks across the yards in six minutes. The three free standing carbon fiber masts are able to rotate allowing the yacht to point higher than traditional square riggers.The yacht is easily managed and can sail off her anchor and out of berths from it's computer program. The yacht's computer detects  wind speed and currents automatically and adjusts the program accordingly. An operator must activate the controls, but it is possible for a single person to pilot the yacht. The Maltese Falcon has two 1,800 horsepower Deutz engines with a top speed of 20 knots (23 mph) and cruises with virtually no vibration or noise. Perkins sold the yacht for £60 million in July 2009 to Elena Ambrosiadou the founder of IKOS Ltd., the Cyprus-based hedge fund.

A crew of 18 maintains and operates the vessel. Truly The Maltese Falcon is a yacht that has status. Now you have something to aspire to ... so get back to work!  Here is the yachts website

Terror Increases Boat Sales
Terror It's a strange world we live in. Right after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, boat sales shot up in the USA. Why did this happen? It happened because many like minded people made the decision that rather than travel to uncertain or potentially hostile destinations around the globe to vacation, they'd stay put in America and go boating as their family vacation experience. In fact, US vacation travel to far flung destinations has never really recovered and Americans are still cautious about travelling away from home to unfamiliar countries.

What we have learned about the terror attacks in Paris and more recently Brussels, is that very civilized places that share our western values are still subject to terrorism. While in North America we are not immune from terrorist activities, the level of security following the 9/11 wakeup call and the geographic advantage of being across the big pond provides some comfort that there is less chance of terrorist activities in our own backyard then say Europe, Asia or the Middle East.

And so it goes. Thousands of North Americans are now cancelling plans to visit Europe and some of those people will make the decision to buy a boat as an alternative to travel. Maybe it's misguided and maybe we will all have fun in our own back yard with a false sense of security. What I do know is this. You are unlikely to get attacked cruising on your boat on North America's waterways. In fact I'd say the odds of terrorist activity happening when I'm out at anchor enjoying a beer in the sun with a little swimming and reading thrown in for good measure are probably less likely than winning the Lotto Ontario jackpot.

I'm booked on a vacation to Malta with a stopover in Germany and to be honest I'm not really looking forward to it anymore with all these terrorism outbreaks in Europe. I know statistically the odds are low ... but I'm not relishing moving around airports with so much security it looks like a military base. Long lines and wait times will be the norm and international airport check in times will escalate from two hours to four. Honestly I'd rather spend the week out in the boat ... maybe do a bit of fishing and relaxing in the sun. Travel across the ocean is getting to be too much of a bother.

So watch now for the next North American boat sales spike. We all have to be in this together fighting terrorism around the world but in my downtime I'll be doing less travel abroad. I know that's not good for tourism across the pond, but it's good for tourism and the boat building industry in North America.

Ready ... Set ... Launch
Ice Out Well the earliest ice out date since we've been keeping track since the 1970's is about to be shattered. In 2012 the ice went out on March 22nd. Many boats were launched and in their slips that year before March ended. I'm going to stick my neck out here and say this spring the ice will go out before the 20th of March. So on what basis can I make this prediction?

- We didn't get much snow this winter and there is frost in the ground so the quick melt off that has started this second week of March means all the water will flow into the rivers and bays and not seep into the ground, lifting the ice and melting it quickly.
- It's warm out there and only a few nights where it even dips below freezing. Lots of sun and some rain with above freezing ... often double digit temperatures all the way until the end of March. The rest of March is way above seasonal thanks to the strong Pacific El Nino which is still powerful and influencing our weather across Canada.
- The chickadees are already starting to get amorous. Now don't you think a Chickadee who lives out in the elements year round knows a thing or two about when spring weather arrives?
- The ice never did build very much this past winter and the the Great Lakes proper were wide open all winter. The frozen bays had only 18 inches of ice and some areas that traditionally have good ice were never safe to travel on all winter.
- The ice has had pooled water on it at least every few weeks all winter and that sun warmed water has seeped through the ice a number of times leaving it structurally honeycombed and weak.

Service departments at marinas are going to be busy early this season so don't wait if you have boat projects that need attending to. I see in some marinas boat owners are already out there removing shrink wrap and getting ready to bottom paint. This coming weekend of March 12th will bring out hoards of folks getting an early jump getting the boat ready to launch. This upcoming season may very well be the longest boating season on record in Georgian Bay. By the May holiday it will likely seem like we're already into summer cruising!

Why Can't Ontario Get It Right?
Newfoundland We have a lot of problems in our home province of Ontario, including lots of government debt, scandal and mismanagement. I'm not picking on any one government (although the provincial Liberal government has done more than their fair share of economic screw ups) but rather successive governments and misguided political agendas put forward, upheld and implemented by civil servants that have never had to make payroll or work sixteen hour days to turn a profit.

With our low dollar, Canada is in the sweet spot to attract tourists. With Ontario's out of control electricity rates chasing manufacturing and other energy dependant businesses out of the province faster than a speeding bullet, it is now more important than ever that the government encourages and supports those things that will bring prosperity to the province. Tourism is a clean industry that filters “out of province” dollars very efficiently throughout our economy. Tourism now accounts for 4.2% of Ontario's GDP. It could easily be double that. Only 12% of our visitors are coming from the US and 10% overseas. The rest is domestic and those dollars are already in circulation in Canada and not adding out of country cash into our economy.

The average person in the USA does not realize the great value in the Canadian dollar ... and other than Toronto, most don't know about Muskoka, Algonquin Park or the Georgian Bay UNESCO Biosphere. There are literally thousands of world class tourism related venues in central Ontario alone. It's hard to get people to travel here even at a 35% discount if they don't know what we have to offer!

Newfoundland Newfoundland and Labrador's tourism campaign is one of the most recognizable and successful advertising campaigns in the country. These folks know how to market tourism and the economic development opportunities that come along with it. They have had tremendous success. With the launch of Newfoundland's 2016 ad campaign, it is reasonable for the province to expect more of the same success. The latest television ad which started recently and runs until 01 May 2016 is called Crayons, part of the award winning Find Yourself campaign. The advertisement is a masterpiece that ties in perfectly to their series of similar ads that are designed to set viewers dreaming of a place that is so scenic and culturally beautiful, that it is on the top of the list for tourist destinations in Canada. Ontario has equally breath-taking tourist destinations to market including Georgian Bay and the North Channel. Sure they spend a kings ransom in Ontario in tourism marketing, but they are not reaching potential tourists or creating the emotional attachment that the Newfoundland campaign is so successful at and necessary in creating a lasting impression.

It all comes down to accountability and in the Ontario government, accountability seems to be in short supply. Come on Ontario, get with the program! Follow Newfoundland, Quebec's and British Columbia's lead and lets help fill in some of our manufacturing deficit with tourism. Maybe you need to hire Newfoundland's ad agency to get things rolling. A TV commercial into the US market showing the beauty, culture and rich history of the Georgian Bay region could be the first in a series.

Here We Go Again!
Boat The IMF has just cut Canada's growth forecast for next year by the most of any developed economy in the world. Most folks are feeling we were just coming out of recession, even though technically, for the most part, we have been out of recession for years. Yes, it is largely about oil prices tanking and other resources like metals are weak too, due to the faltering Chinese economy and their unstable equity market. There was a bad quarter and some warning signs in Canada last year, but things have changed drastically since the new year rolled over. While the last job data report and real estate sales have been positive, almost everything else is going down the toilet. Our dollar is low and that helps exports, but there is very little investment going into resources these days and Alberta is like a red flag for investors, given the lack of political direction in that province. Ontario is not much better off with our debt burden.

It seems unfair doesn't it? We were just getting back on our feet and here we go again sliding down into the abyss. While many traders believe oil will be back up to $50 a barrel by end of 2016 there is no certainty. Without pipelines to move our product and with the Saudi's pumping unrestrained and the sanctions lifted in Iran and that production moving back into the market, things look bleak for resource sales dependant Canada. Who said life was fair? 

With our dollar so low and still heading south it's increasingly difficult to sell new US built boats in Canada ... and let's face it most new production boats are coming in from the US. Lately there has been a move to bring in European lines as a cost savings for some of the higher end product, but the bread and butter is US built boat brands and they are ungodly expensive right now with our dollar.

On the other side of the coin yacht brokers have had a record year and most are selling 30% - 50% of their used boats into the US market. This recent bad economic news has not yet affected their positive momentum and some brokers are having problems getting good quality low hour boat inventory because they sell them so fast. Globally, Yacht World is saying the average boat takes 300 days to sell, but a good low hour boat in Canada should sell into the States very quickly given our dollar. Will it last? I think it will for US buyers because the economy is almost firing on all cylinders and after the US election, I believe whether it's Democrat or Republican leadership, some of the Obama governments paralysis will be lifted and more folks will cross the floor to get stuff done. For Canadian used boat buyers - the other half of the equation - I think sales will dwindle fairly quickly looking past the first quarter and the momentum will be lost again for a year or two.

Basically all this mess got started with OPEC and the Saudis lifting production caps and driving the price down in an effort to put the upstart drillers and frackers out of business in the US. They didn't figure on these upstart drillers in the US being so nimble, and they can shut down and start up again in a heartbeat. So this misguided strategy has managed to drag a good part of the world back close to recession and there's not a thing we can do about it. Saudi Arabia is now spending double what they take in from oil revenue and they will be upside down in five years if things continue with oil flooding the markets. It's not working for them as they expected. Things just have to take their course now over the next few years. I believe it will be short lived and not a retracted recession, but who claims they can time a market and who really knows?

So if you have shelved your plans to buy a used boat I understand ... but just remember, it's a good time to sell high into the US and buy low in Canada if you can find the right boat.   

Great Bar Experience ... Overshadowed By Tragedy
Soggy At roughly 3 square miles, Jost Van Dyke is the smallest of the four main islands of the British Virgin Islands, the northern portion of the archipelago of the Virgin Islands, located in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Jost Van Dyke lies about 8 km to the northwest of Tortola and 8 km to the north of Saint John. Little Jost Van Dyke lies off its eastern end.

Most importantly Jost Van Dyke  has some beautiful beaches including White Bay that is the home of the Soggy Dollar Bar. It's called the Soggy Dollar because whether you anchor your own boat or get dropped off by a charter, you are going to have to wade ashore as there are no docks ... and your money will get wet.

To get there first you get to Tortola and then you will need to get to West End Tortola and you'll take either the ferry or a chartered boat to Jost Van Dyke. The Soggy Dollar is a happening place with lots of character and characters. It is home to the Painkiller cocktail invention, and there are some very friendly people there in including a great variety of very nice bikini clad women. Sting Rays patrol the beach for handouts. The sand is white and the water is warm.

Soggy While we were there there were many boats coming and going including some charter sailboats. Most commonly boats anchor bow out and bring a stern anchor to shore. I was surprised to see most of the popular brand seaworthy center consoles represented in the harbour. Lined up were an Intrepid, Regulator, Whaler, Everglades, Contender and Scout. Only the Jupiter and Southeast were missing. I guess you might expect that kind of marine hardware considering that most of the locals in the Tortola region would be serious about their boats and serious about fishing (and drinking at the Soggy Dollar).

While I was sucking back ice cold Caribs (none of those nasty sugar laced cocktails for me) on the beach in front of the Soggy Dollar I heard some disturbing news. A bus full of tourists on an excursion from a cruise ship went off the road killing two women and injuring 21 including 3 critically injured that were Coast Guard lifted to San Juan Puerto Rico and Miami. So here we were just before Xmas and at least two families lost their Mom. Ironically one of the two people that was not badly injured was the driver. He probably had his seat belt on.

Tortolla We can learn from this experience. When you travel and visit far flung vacation hotspots where the cab drivers and bus drivers drive like idiots passing on blind corners and going way too fast on very narrow treacherous roads DON'T ASSUME THEY MUST KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING. They don't! They have no magic powers to avoid accidents and the statistics are appalling and under reported in these incidents. In fact the stories are buried more often than reported in the media. Don't bite your tongue and say nothing and hope that you'll get through the trip safely. Confront them and tell them to slow down. Tell them if they don't drive safely - no tip from anyone on the bus or in the cab. Remember these guys don't have any legal incentive to insure your safety. They are Teflon with nothing to loose but their own safety (which they apparently don't hold in high regard either). Insurance wise and if you need medical attention - you are on your own. The cab owners and tour company owners are virtually un-suable as there is no rule of law as we know it.

A few tips for travellers:

- Wear your seatbelt whether in a cab or bus. If they don't have seatbelts that work take your business elsewhere.
- Speak out if things are unsafe.
- Don't support drivers who don't maintain their vehicles.
- Set a good example yourself as far as drinking and operating a vehicle or boat ... even if many others on the island seems to think it's acceptable to get looped and drive a car or pilot a boat.
- Even if you are not driving, if you plan on getting blasted, take along a friend or guide who is staying sober so they can look out for you. 

I for one have made up my mind that I will no longer tolerate erratic dangerous driving when I travel. To be fair I have had some very safe drivers in Mexico and in the Caribbean but they are the exception rather than rule. Don't be an unreported statistic because some dope got shorted at the gene pool and is too stupid to know the difference between safe driving and rolling the dice on every corner and hill.   

Winter Boat Projects
Boats Well winter hasn't even begun to arrive yet and and the boat was put away not long ago. If you're like me, the train of thought is already turning to the spring boating season. For many the upcoming January Toronto International Boat Show is when the wheels really start turning. Perhaps the search for a new boat begins? Maybe it's a long list of projects and tender loving care your existing boat needs? New electronics are often on the mind of many boaters.

For me it has at times been all of those things. I have vowed that the 2016 boating season will be one that we are really going to spend a lot of time on the water. Plan is to be out there at least two days a week. I've said this before and what happens is work and life always get in the way. This coming year I mean business. I'm going to do some catch and release fishing and I am going to do some port to port restaurant surfing. I'm going out to get caught in at least one good lightning storm just to remind me that I'm alive ... but most of all I'm going to drift about way out of site of land on a flat smooth day and read a good book in the sunshine.

In Ontario we have to remember the boating season is short. So all the boat prep work needs to be planned and carried out with military precession, because there's no sense in wasting precious days once the weather turns winter into spring and the boating begins. I like to get most of the maintenance done when the boat goes away for winter. But I still have other projects lined up - some that make sense and some that don't. The boat needs a coat of bottom paint and some magnesium anodes ... that makes sense. I think I'm going to take all the decals off the Yamaha engines and paint them royal blue to match the hull of the boat ... that doesn't make sense. To me a boat is a thing of beauty. I've loved all my boats and to me they were all good lookers and loyal to my needs. Every boat I sold I felt some sense of betrayal - like abandoning an old friend.  I've  seen some pretty ugly boats but I'm guessing to there owners they too are beautiful. There is an old saying that I think was attributed to boats “She is absolutely useless – but she does it so perfectly, with such beauty” and I think that about sums it up.   

What Boat Manufacturers Can Learn From VW
VW A business strategy that could potentially ruin trust with customers is a high risk path, with disaster written all over it. VW has eleven million customers worldwide, and their breach of consumer trust has resulted in senior management resignations, fines that will likely exceed $20 billion, class action lawsuits up the ying-yang, massive vehicle recalls, a total loss of brand power that will most certainly spill over to Audi and Skoda, loss of market value and market capital, the inability to raise development capital and no doubt plant closures around the globe. It may not even survive as a company. From the second biggest auto manufacturer in the world to “nowhere” in one easy step - cheat and break your customers trust.

Short cuts to increase business are not a recipe for prosperity. In VW's obsession to beat out Toyota as the worlds largest automaker they put their chips on diesel vehicles that promised high mileage and low emissions ... rather than building hybrid-electric vehicles like the Prius ... probably because they didn't have the hybrid technology to compete head to head in the early stages.

To compete in the U.S. market VW diesels had to provide better mileage and performance while at the same time meeting America's very stringent emission standards. VW simply couldn't meet the standards so they cheated with software programmed to fool the emissions tests and at the same time avoiding additional power robbing expensive pollution control systems. And they had the gall to brand them as “clean diesels”.

Trust can be shattered in many ways. It can be quality, service, promises broken or straight out cheating. We all know more than a few boat manufacturers that take short cuts in the manufacturing process and basically sell inferior quality products that just don't stand the test of time. To be fair, there are some builders who put everything they have into a boat and use top of the line parts and materials ... but that all costs money, and cost pressures keep most manufacturers away from being the best they could be.

We consumers are at fault too because we don't look below the sheets for quality and we often reward inferior workmanship by buying product that won't last - but they are cheap relative to competitive products.There's an old saying - “what goes around comes around”. Eventually cheap materials and cheap construction will catch up with any manufacturer selling a branded completed consumer product. It may take a while, but the chickens always come home to roost.

So let VW be a lessen to all manufacturers and for boat builders to resist the urge to cut back on materials like quality and quantity of resin and thinner fiberglass weaves, cheap offshore made fittings with sub standard nickel content and designs that are unsafe in rough weather conditions. Experienced boaters notice and inexperienced boaters ... well you just set them up for disappointment and there is a very high chance they will exit boating as a form of recreation altogether ... and they won't be back to buy your boat or any other boat. It does the whole boating industry a disservice.

For consumers, educate new boaters as to what to stay away from. Condominium spacious boat interiors at the expense of good seamanship does not represent value. Steer the newbies to higher quality product even though it may be smaller than the boat of their dreams.

And what is to become of the 370,000 VW employees that produce 26,600 vehicles a day. They become collateral damage and in six months time, probably most of them won't have jobs. They should be very angry at the few that somewhere along the way decided to cheat to compete.        

Thanks For A Great Summer
Summer Over Well summer is officially about to end. And it's been a good one. Lots of hot sunny weather and so far the long term forecast for the first few weeks of fall looks a lot like summer. Next summer is going to be one where we really kick back and enjoy the water. Weather permitting we plan to be out on the water every few days. We haven't done a lot of fishing is the last number of years and in 2016 we plan to do a lot of catch and release fishing. You may have noted that we now just do one episode of Boating Georgian Bay TV each season. It was getting to be too much like work cranking out two or three each year and we decided to focus on one so that we can get all the content and filming together by June so we can launch the episode in early July. Some of these episode segments are hard to top ... I mean we've done Florida boat shows, historic boats like Kittyhawk, flown over Georgian Bay, dined on great food, toured some lovely yachts and met some wonderful people in far flung towns around the Bay.

So the next show coming up has several planned segments:
- How To Buy A US Boat and Get Great Value Given Our Low Canadian Dollar
- Snorkling Shipwrecks Near Tobermory
- Chartering a Crewed Sailboat on Georgian Bay
- Historic Mackinac Island   

Boats Changing Hands Offer Big Economic Benefits
Cdn. $ So I thought I'd give you some numbers to demonstrate how even used boat purchases can pump serious $ into the economy. Here's the background. I moved to a new residence and the maximum length on the dock is 30' and only 15 amp power available. The Boston Whaler 345 was too big for the dock so we sold it in US dollars. The Whaler went south to the US Virgin Islands. The new boat, a Jupiter 29, came north from New Jersey. Every new boat invariably needs equipment, service and changes to suit a new owners needs. The Whaler we sold was mint and loaded ... yet it went to Miami for more than a week of upgrades including outriggers and a custom fighting chair addition before continuing by ship to the US Virgins. So on the sale of that boat our broker made money, Andrews trucking made money, a marina in Miami made a good chunk of cash and the shipper from Miami to the Virgins made $. You know the ancillary spin offs from suppliers of materials and parts are also large but unquantifiable from my end.

On the boat we brought up to Canada here's an abbreviated list.

On The USA Side
-selling boat broker made money
-local surveyor made money
-local Yamaha dealer did engine surveys and compression tests
-hosting marina got paid for boat hauling, bottom wash and removing the wheels of the trailer for shipping
-local shrink wrapper got paid for shrink wrapping the console
-title searcher got paid

... about $5000 new $ into the US economy

On the Canadian Side
- Andrews Trucking got paid to float up the boat and trailer
- my broker got paid
- border broker got paid
- Govt. got some $ too
- Crates Lake Country put the boat back together and did a few days of work including detailing the boat
- several other marinas sold me new stuff I wanted on the boat
- an east coast mail order chandlery made a chunk of cash
- when it comes out for the fall Crates will be doing engine & gear case service, impellers and bottom paint
- my insurance broker wrote a new policy
- my indoor heated storage contract is ready
... about $15,000 when it's all said and done

So that really adds up doesn't it ... and this is just a 30 foot boat. The boat's on my dock and I'm a happy camper but boats cost serious money and the spin off into the greater economy is serious stuff too. It doesn't have the volume of car sales but the per vehicle cost is exponentially larger. So help support our economy and buy a new or used boat today!   

Thinking Out of the Box
Cdn. $ The marine industry is a huge economic boon to to Florida ... especially Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Marine repair businesses were running up against coastal states and boat repair yards in other countries that were at an advantage on taxes. Large boat owners tend to have repairs and maintenance done in the lowest cost ports. Even small boat owners will move a vessel state to state if they can save a chunk of cash by avoiding paying taxes.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently signed a bill that caps sales tax on yacht repairs at $60,000, resulting in any repairs over $1 million are tax free from the state's normal 6 percent sales tax. The bill took effect July 1/15.

"We will now be able to compete with states along the eastern seaboard and international yards," said Phil Purcell, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida. "This tax cap will enable us to leverage this opportunity for additional jobs and economic growth."

The bill amends Florida Statute 212.05 that sets the maximum tax paid on the sale of a boat at $18,000 (which was approved in 2010) and now boat repairs at $60,000. Together these tax amendments on boat sales and boat repairs will keep Florida competitive in the boating industry. This kind of out of the box thinking helps with the overall economic prosperity and similar thinking would make a lot of sense in our own backyard.

It drives me crazy the rate of taxation we pay in our own backyard and the high costs of ownership and maintenance drive many people away from boating and in fact many other disposable income related activities. What's worse is we pay more for everything in Canada ... cars, boats, prescription drugs, groceries, fuel ... you name it. In fact, products manufactured right here in Ontario almost always cost more than the same product shipped to the US and sold in Texas or Florida or any state in the Federation including Alaska. There is something wrong with this picture. I'm not talking the dollar difference which is understandable - I'm talking prices after conversion. We Canadians get hosed and the federal and Provincial governments don't seem to give a hoot.   

Canadian Dollar Supports Brokerage Sales To The US
Cdn. $ US brokers have figured out that with our Canadian dollar being so low, there are bargains to be had for fresh water, low hour yachts. Canadian yacht brokers are getting lots of calls right now as prospect buyers push their brokers to Canadian inquiries. It's funny how quickly the tables turned. Not many Canadians are shopping for boats in the US right now.

As the US economy has had a robust recovery in the used and new yacht sales departments ... to find real bargains in brokerage boats, the place to shop is Canada. Our short Canadian boating season means low operating hours, less wear an tear, and of course many boats are stored in indoor heated storage which puts a lot less stress on the boat. And if a boat is coming from Ontario, it is likely that it has never seen anything but fresh water. Combined with a 20% plus discount on the currency, and it's a hard to beat scenario for US boat buyers shopping in Canada.

The phones are ringing for Canadian brokers offices from US brokers and it's only a matter of time before US private boat prospectors eliminate the middle man and start calling directly to brokers in Canada looking for bargains. It works out well for Canadian boat sellers as well because if they bought a used boat in the US when our dollar was high post recession, they stand to make a good profit on selling their used boat back into the US market providing that the boat is a sought after brand and model.

In some cases, as raw materials have risen in the US and as the economy has improved manufacturers prices on popular new boats has risen in the US and this has compounded the need for good quality low hour used boats. The right model used boat bought at a good price in the US two years ago could yield a 30% profit selling the same boat two years later back into the US market. Low fuel prices are further heating up the boat market in the US and depressed oil prices in Canada are likely to push our Canadian dollar even lower making the prospects even sweeter for US buyers and Canadian sellers.

Wrong Again
Almanac By now there should be no doubt that Environment Canada cannot predict long term weather. They do a good job on the 14 days and under forecasts but  the "season ahead" weather predictions are almost always out to lunch. The short term stuff I'm pretty good at it myself. I too can look out the door and predict the weather with some certainty. Sad to say it, but the Farmers Almanac got it right again this year. Maybe we should should trade Dave Phillips Environment Canada's chief forecaster in for a Farmers Almanac and save the tax payers a six digit salary? Actually Dave seems like a nice guy on television but maybe it would be a good idea for him to not stick his neck out every year and end up so wrong year after year. Just keep quiet or vanilla on the long term forecasting. maybe like “there will be winter this year and we do expect some snow and freezing temperatures before the spring melt”. There how's that? That's the way a politician would do it. Maybe Dave deserves points for being courageous ... he certainly must have thick skin.

This from a previous post. Dave Phillips Environment Canada's chief forecaster doesn't agree with the Almanac's prediction of a tough winter. Phillips said Environment Canada's forecasts aren't always right, but that their predictions are more realistic than the Almanac. "I don't know where they're coming from. They're calling it almost the 'winter from hell' and even forecasting 'fluffier snow' " I mean, get with it. How can you possibly know the snow is going to be fluffier?” said Phillips to a news channel. I can't agree with you more Dave on that call ... I mean I have no idea on fluffy vs. non fluffy snow predictions. What if it's fluffy first but then it gets mild or rains on the fluffy. Does it still qualify as fluffy or is that a technical default to non fluffy? Oh I'm so confused! Though he said conditions become more difficult to predict as winter wears on, he has no doubt that - "This winter is not going to be as long and cold as last year"  "Even if it's a normal winter, it will feel like a tropical heat wave compared to what we had to endure as Canadians last year." Phillips added to the newscast.

It sure doesn't feel like a tropical heat wave to me. Last winter might end up being longer but this one certainly isn't any warmer. It's way below normal and frigging freezing cold like I've never seen in the last 20 years where I am right now in the Haliburton Highlands. Week after week of -20 to -30 day and night ... I don't know if I can take it anymore. Our local on property deer herd which normally number around 20 was knocked down by last years harsh winter (and the local wolf population) to only 4 that we have seen. Only 1 of those 4 is is a young one born last year. The big buck will likely make it but the others are probably doomed with this intense cold for such an extended period of time ... and lots more winter to come still.

Hey and guess what? The Almanac forecasted fluffier snow this year and Dave Phillips made fun of them for that. Well we've had lots of snow but it's all been light and fluffy. Three feet of light and fluffy snow just like those farmers guys predicted. It's been too cold to be anything but light and fluffy. It seems like we haven't had seasonally normal temperatures back further than my memory will take me.

One thing's for sure we have some mighty thick ice to contend with on the Great Lakes and it won't be an early boating season this year. Probably a new record for ice out date on Georgian Bay. Last year was a tied record April 30th. It's never been as late as May!!!! Is this the year when we'll still be skating on the Bay in May?

Oh and Dave ... tip of the week - hire the Farmers Almanac guys as government consultants. They could make you look good!

A Common Misconception
Accident I was talking to someone the other day about how many boat owners think that running aground is a relatively expensive endeavour ... but rarely at a cost to human life. In others words it's not like hitting a tree with car. After all, outboards (by example) are designed to shear off on severe impact. While it's true that hitting a prop on a rock or running a sail boat aground on the keel on sand is not likely to kill anyone on board ... it is also true that if you are travelling at speed and the hull of a vessel runs hard aground there is likely to be some carnage. Not just that the boat is likely to sink ... but the impact itself can be devastating. Boats don't normally have seat belts and it's the sudden stop that kills. There is almost always lots of infrastructure in the way and after you are bashed around moving forward at 30 mph it is likely that you will end up unconscious and in the water when all is said and done. Boat infrastructure is not engineered for impact safety and even 15 mph is enough to kill you with a solid connection to a bridge consul or window frame of your boat. If your lucky going through the isinglass on a bridge might cushion the impact ... but the fall onto the for-deck might kill you anyways.

Witness this boat accident posted on Triton News for Captains and Crews:
{Two people who have worked as yacht crew died in a boating accident near Virgin Gorda in the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 24, and their captain was in critical condition, according to news reports and captains familiar with the event. Kari Way and Howard Anderson, who are believed to have worked on the 130-foot Westport M/Y Resolute and recently worked at the owner's resort on Virgin Gorda, were killed when the resort ferry they were passengers in hit a large rock en route to Oil Nut Bay resort. About 12 people were aboard the boat at about 4 a.m. when it crashed. All were recovered except Ms. Way, who was found later that morning in the water. Mr. Anderson died at the scene and two others - including Capt. Fossi - were taken to the hospital in critical condition, according to a news story on VI News Online.}

Now this wasn't a big boat ... maybe 45'. But a lot of mass to absorb energy nevertheless. It wasn't enough to save two people on a rainy dark night when they ran hard aground. A travesty of errors no doubt - no lifejackets on (we're all guilty of that), I'm guessing not watching the charts or plotter ... and I'm thinking no radar. And I'm hoping no alcohol was involved at 4 am in the morning! It's a tragedy and it changes the lives of many forever.

Boating is fun, but it's also serious business. Pay attention like you would driving your car down the 401 highway ... and remember, if you stop unexpectedly, there is no seatbelt holding the metal/fiberglass meets human occupants back.

Fuel Prices Should Be a Positive Influence On The 2015 Boating Season
Oil Prices I bet when you put your boat away in the fall, having the cost of a barrel of oil cut in half wasn't on your radar was it? If this big drop in the pump price doesn't get boats back out cruising in a big way then nothing will. Oil analysts don't see the cost of oil rising up dramatically anytime soon as Saudi Arabia is intent on putting the small cap higher cost oil drillers & frackers out of business, and at the same time they want to lay some economic punishment on Russia and Iran for their arms support in Syria. They have indicted there is no artificial bottom for oil and the competitive forces and the market place will have it's way. Thanks to US shale oil and our own oil sands there is a glut of oil available to the marketplace.

In theory our gas prices in Ontario should be 73 cents a litre ... not in the 90 cent range, BUT lets not complain because fuel prices are at levels not seen since June 15, 2010. The last time you paid this little in Ontario by example, the HST (which added 9.2 cents to the cost of a litre of fuel) didn't exist; the Canadian dollar was 12 cents stronger and retail margins in places like Toronto were like 1.5 cents cheaper. But what about diesel? It hasn't come down that much. Just after the Fall harvest begins, diesel use soars. So does the price ... as diesel cost tracking is almost directly related to home heating oil. As such, diesel prices normally fall below gas prices from April to October and then catapult above them from November to April. So not to worry - by the time you need to fill up the boat, diesel should be down in a price range to that of gasoline or perhaps below.

The wild card is will marinas pass on the savings to boaters? Traditionally marinas always price fuel well above the street price.

There are several reasons boat fuel costs more than that for your car. Most marinas don't sell as much gasoline/diesel as land based service stations, and that boosts the cost marinas have to pass on to customers. The demand for boat fuel is seasonal, running from May to October, so marinas have to make most of their revenue from fuel during that time. Marinas also have to spend more on spill prevention and that adds a bit to costs. But lets face it, marinas have been in a tight squeeze for some years and they will try and eke out every dollar they can, to keep their heads above water. If it were your business, I'm guessing you would be doing the same thing.

Now in my opinion marina operations with a lot of foresight should be considering reducing the upside margin over street prices. Why ... because if the ultimate goal is growth in slip sales and service revenue, it will only come if more people buy boats and use them. Fuel isn't a huge money maker for marinas ... but fuel prices set the tone for all boaters in terms of how active they are with their boat and whether they move up or down in boat size.

Operating costs (including fuel) are a major factor to potential new boaters as they justify in their own minds the economics vs. pleasure relationships of boat ownership. Car owners are susceptible to the same rational when it comes to the road as a recent survey indicates that 7.1 % of owners would buy a bigger vehicle as a result of the new norm in lower fuel prices. Anyone who has been to a boat show has likely seen this first hand. It's a hard sell for the average guy trying to convince his practical partner that it's a good idea to buy their first new or brokerage boat when it's going to chew through thousands of dollars in fuel. The fuel cost is going to be one of those top of mind barriers. The counter to that is ... well finally we can afford to own a boat because the cost of money is low and we haven't seen fuel costs this cheap in a long long time. We scrimped and saved and we deserve a boat and some fun on the water. It's not an obvious transitional effect but rather a slow but sure transition to higher boat ownership numbers and increased boating activity.

So the message is - please marinas ... do your part in helping owners and prospects with their boat fuel operating costs and it will come back to reward you over the near term in added slip sales, service, storage and accessory sales..

Predicting the Weather
Environment Canada
So here is what the Farmers Almanac is saying about the near term winter weather

December 2014
1st-3rd. Rain, wet snow then shifts east into Great Lakes then clear and cold.
4th-7th. Storm from South moves into Ontario, depositing heavy rain, wet snow. Very cold air follows.
8th-11th. A "winterlude" for Great Lakes, Ontario before another bout of wintry weather.
12th-15th. Considerable cloudiness with scattered showers.
16th-19th. Considerable cloud cover. Few showers of rain or wet snow. Unseasonably mild.
20th-23rd. More showers of rain, wet snow.
24th-27th. Showers of rain, wet snow persist for Christmas and Boxing Day.
28th-31st. Blustery, much colder, frequent snow showers and flurries as 2014 comes to a close.

January 2015
1st-3rd. Fair skies and cold.
4th-7th. Fair Eastern Provinces, then snow for the St. Lawrence River Valley.
8th-11th. Snowy around the Great Lakes.
12th-15th. Fair, cold all of Ontario.

The Old Farmer's Almanac claims an average accuracy rating of approximately 80 per cent. Right! According to the Almanac, central Canada is expected to experience a very bad winter like last year (they might be right about that one). They claim one of the few exceptions will be south western Ontario, which will be cold, but with below-normal snowfall.

Dave Phillips Environment Canada's chief forecaster doesn't agree with the Almanac's prediction of a tough winter. Phillips said Environment Canada's forecasts aren't always right, but that their predictions are more realistic than the Almanac.

"I don't know where they're coming from. They're calling it almost the 'winter from hell' and even forecasting 'fluffier snow' " I mean, get with it. How can you possibly know the snow is going to be fluffier?” said Phillips to a news channel. I can't agree with you more Dave on that call ... I mean I have no idea on fluffy vs. non fluffy snow predictions. What if it's fluffy first but then in gets mild or rains on the fluffy. Does it still qualify as fluffy or is that a technical default to non fluffy? Oh I'm so confused!

Phillips says warmer ocean temperatures generally mean a milder winter, and he thinks that will especially be the case this year. Though he said conditions become more difficult to predict as winter wears on, he has no doubt that - “This winter is not going to be as long and cold as last year”  “Even if it's a normal winter, it will feel like a tropical heat wave compared to what we had to endure as Canadians last year.” Phillips added to the newscast.

Hmm ... no agreement there between EC and the Almanac ... but so far from my perspective November so far feels a lot like January doesn't it?

So let's jump ahead to the Environment Canada predictions for next summer. There is a 20% - 30% chance temperatures will be below normal in the Georgian Bay area, a 30% - 40% they will be near normal, and a 40% - 50% temperatures will be above normal.

From a precipitation perspective they are predicting a 30% – 40% above normal rain, 30% - 40% near normal and a 40% – 50% chance of below normal rain. That's a lot of “chances” but it looks like the summer is predicted to be a little better than average by EC if you like a drier moderately hot summer.

Problem is both Environment Canada and the Farmers Almanac got their long term summer forecasts dead wrong last year. Frankly both have a terrible track record of predicting weather in the long term. Environment Canada seems to do a pretty good job on the short term ... and the Almanac? Lets just say if you believe in their ancient formula, you probably also believe in the tooth fairy.

Let me give you my weather prediction. I'm a great believer in averaging out degree days over a couple of years. What goes around comes around, and everything gets it's turn in nature. My prediction is one scorcher of a summer. Hot and humid. Heat creates humidity and although we will be baking in the sun ... when it does rain rarely, it's going to really come down in buckets with lots of lightning and thunder boomers ... and then are going to bake some more like bacon on a griddle until we are well cooked. Do you want to be stuck on land frying like an egg next summer? Some folks these days are tighter than a bulls ass in fly season. Time to open the wallet and go for that new boat, so when the weather is unbearably hot next summer and your neighbours are contemplating crawling into the refrigerator - you will be at a secluded anchorage with a cold beer interrupted with dips in the crystal cool waters of Georgian Bay. BTW your wife just called and said it is ok for you to buy that new boat.

Remember Those Before Us Who Fought For Our Freedom
Francis Pegahmagabow As a WW I sniper, Francis Pegahmagabow was deadly accurate and he was credited with 378 kills, as well as the capture of 300 prisoners. The Ojibway from the Wasauksing First Nation returned from the war a hero. Pegahmagabow was awarded the Military Medal in 1916. The citation speaks of his  bravery, disregard for danger and faithfulness to duty. Similar acts of valour were recognized by additional bars to his medal. Pegahmagabow was one of only 39 members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force to receive two bars to the Military Medal.

Shortly after he came back from the war he just went back to being an Indian and Indians at that time were not even Canadian citizens and the government Indian agents wanted him to shut up and not say anything. The war hero faced poverty and persecution at the hands of Indian agents who controlled even his pension ... even though he served as Chief of the Parry Island Band (Wasauksing First Nation) and as Supreme Chief of the Native Independent Government.

Sculpture In 2006, over 80 years after he served, the military finally decided to recognize him, erecting a monument at CFB Borden and named the building of the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol group after him. In Parry Sound where his home was, they have announced that a life-sized bronze sculpture commemorating Francis as the most highly decorated First Nations soldier of WW I will be installed in June 2016 at the Charles W. Stockey Centre near the marina. An educational video about Pegahmagabow's life and aboriginal people's military service to Canada is also part of the project.

Professional artist Tyler Fauvelle based in Sudbury will create the sculpture.  "Elements of the statue will include a young eagle, symbol of the messenger, and a caribou, symbol of the Deer Clan. I want the work to be noble, to show that the spiritual traditions of his people sustained him through the otherworld of war," said Fauvelle.

Georgian Bay Water Levels Continue To Track Up
Water Levels The rain in all of the Great Lakes basin except Lake Ontario is trending well above average for the month of October. Lakes Superior is 10 inches above and Michigan/Huron are 20 inches above what they were at this time in 2013.

So Georgian Bay is up 20 inches from the same time last year! Lake Superior's outflow from the St. Mary's River to Lake Huron/Georgian Bay is forecasted to be well above average for the month of October. Lake Michigan/Lake Huron's outflow into the St. Clair River is predicted to be near average, while Lake St. Clair's outflow into the Detroit River is predicted to be above average in October. Our observation is the feeder lakes and rivers are running very high. As high as I have seen in my 20 years of observation.

This winter is predicted to be another snowy and cold one. It may not have the kind of cold onset we had last fall but we are seeing mostly below normal temperatures and we are getting lots of rain. Georgian Bay should get a good freezing this winter eliminating winter evaporation again for a second year. Expect even higher water levels for the 2015 boating season. In all likelihood water levels will likely trend up for several years as the is a large lag affect as waters ebb and flow to and from the system.

The rise and fall of Georgian Bay water levels is just part of the natural cycles we see over long periods of time and there is no sinister plot where the US is stealing all the water or water level damage “bathtub drain” effect from the dredging that took place back in the 60's. After all we've had major flooding on Georgian Bay long after the dredging stopped in the St Clair River.

Forecasted Water Level for Oct 17, 2014 (feet)602.72579.20574.80571.72244.72
Chart Datum (feet)601.10577.50572.30569.20243.30
Difference from chart datum (inches)+19+20+30+30+17
Difference from average water level for Sep 17, 2014 (inches*)0+1-3-3-7
Difference from average water level for Oct 17, 2013 (inches*)+10+20+14+7-2
Diff. from long-term monthly average of Oct (inches)+8+4+9+8-1
Diff. from highest monthly average of record for Oct (inches) - 8-38-30-27-25
Year of highest recorded monthly mean19851986198619861945
Difference from lowest monthly average of record for Oct (inches)+24+33+37+38+30
Year of lowest recorded monthly mean19251964193419341934
Projected change in levels by Nov 17, 2014 (inches)-3-2-4-3-4


Economics At Play
Economy As the Canadian dollar tracks down against the American dollar a few things are happening as it relates to new and used boats:

- New boats built in the USA are getting more expensive for Canadians
- New offshore boats may be getting less expensive but duties often kill the urge to buy offshore
- Canadian used boats are sought after because US buyers save on our weak dollar and Canadian buyers find themselves priced out of the US market
- Canadian used boat inventory is a small fraction of that available in the USA so eventually the laws of supply and demand kick in
- The US economy continues to outpace the Canadian economy and with lower costs on Canadian boats, US yacht brokers that were commonly working in Canada actively marketing US boat listings for the last few years will retract back into the US market

So what is the message? Our dollar right now in October/14 is around 88 cents against the US dollar. With a retraction on commodities like oil, gas, potash, metals it is likely that our dollar will stay low and head lower to around 85 cents. Clearly the Canadian shopping experience to the USA will dry up substantially. A lower Canadian dollar keeps Canadians at home and they start to think about alternative recreation such as boating as substitute for US travel and foreign vacation homes. Lower fuel prices mean existing boaters will get out cruising more and will give consideration for trading up with  cheaper operating costs and a healthy used boat market to trade into . Oil is currently at about $80 barrel which will likely settle up to a more sustainable $85 a barrel over the longer term in 2015. As fracking and shale oil uncovered increases more oil production in America, there is glut of oil in the market place putting pressure on fuel prices and less dependency on foreign oil. This should further fuel used boat sales from the bottom up. As good used boats get harder to find in Canada in the next few years, buyers will have no choice but to move to new boats. Now if we can just get to the point where we get consistently positive job numbers and wages start to rise, there could be a real positive leap forward in the marine industry in Canada

Time To Put The Boat Away
Wild We often we leave the boat in the water until just after Canadian Thanksgiving ... just in case a window of sunny warm weather comes along before our long cold winter starts to close in on us. We did have some beautiful weather at the end of September and we were able to get out for few days at anchor. October hasn't been as kind and the weather has turned downright cold and miserable. The end of September was still swimmable although this past summer overall was a bit of dud. The water didn't get as warm as the two previous seasons. So for us, the boats gets lifted out on October 16th and that for me is kind of a sad day. I thought long and hard about trucking it to Florida one way and bringing it back via the ditch in the spring because I really felt we had to get more use out of it somehow ... but the reality is we just don't have the time this year. Maybe next year we can find the time do that, but what's really got me down is because of weather, work and other commitments ... we got very little hours on the boat this year compared to our normal 100 - 150 hours a season. Next year we are really crossing our fingers for some decent hot sunny weather so we can really take off for an extended period.

So here comes seven months of winter. The Farmers Almanac promises us a harsh cold winter like last year. I sure hope they are wrong. What a God forsaken place we live in ... from a weather perspective. Watching the Game of Thrones TV series every time I see the "north of the wall" scenes and the Wildlings bundled up with fur, I'm thinking how much it reminds me of our Ontario winters! So I've mentioned it before on the site ... but why the hell won't our Canadian government talk with the Turks & Caicos when they have demonstrated their interest in being part of Canada. The hospitals and infrastructure are already mostly Canadian built, and even the doctors are Canadian. We also need a deep water port for trade purposes related to Central and South America. I have yet to meet a Canadian that wouldn't throw their vote behind any politician or party that will push this through. But I digress. My wife tells me there is no use bitching about our winters or hoping for something that is not going to happen. I disagree, it makes me feel better to rant and complain about how long and bleak our winters are - and I miss my boat already. By the time March rolls around I'm ready to grab the chainsaw and cut a hole in the ice to launch the boat.

There is one bright light and that is the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show , the biggest boat show on earth in the yachting capital of the world starts October 30th. I love Fort Lauderdale, the restaurants, the vibe and especially the boats. Alas I can't go this year. I have scheduled it for next year but that doesn't mean you shouldn't go. If you have the time go ... because it's a great time down there. And the Miami International Show starting February 12th really breaks up the winter nicely and who doesn't like South Beach in the middle of winter. Boat shows in the sunny south are the next best thing to your own boat on a sunny summer day.

Fall Is Prime Georgian Bay Cruising Season
Fall Well the summers gone ... but the best cruising of the season is about to begin. There are plenty of warm days left between now and Thanksgiving, providing you can pick and choose your departure dates. While the weather becomes a little less reliable the crowds are gone from the anchorages. Mid week even some of the most popular anchorages might have only a boat or two at anchor. For the most part the bugs are gone and the leaves are starting to turn. The water is still swimmable and for the young at heart you can even go for a skinny dip without shocking or offending the neighbors. It is a quiet peaceful time of the year and whether your cruising alone looking for solitude or you head out with a few other boats it is a completely different experience than summer cruising. Right away you'll notice the absence of the many local boats that come in and out of popular anchorages with the teens looking to party. Fall cruisers tend to be quiet at night and you can sit out in the cockpit in breathtaking silence and soak up the star filled skies.

at anchorage There's a good chance that if your more than an hours cruise from the larger yachting centres that you will be the only boat at the anchorage. It is kind of a funny feeling ... a mixture of guilt (that you're out enjoying your boat while most of the population is back working) and a strange sense that maybe the world stopped because you can sit at anchor for days and never see another human. When another boat does join you at an anchorage, you automatically share something in common and you feel obliged to dingy over at some point and pay your neighborly respects. It's also the time of year that your likely to see more of nature like deer or moose along the shores or perhaps a bear filling up on ripe acorns putting on weight in preparation for hibernation. In the swampy areas at the base of most anchorages you'll find turtles and water snakes crowded onto logs taking in the last warm days of the season. So remember the end of summer doesn't mean the end of your cruising season. The best is yet to come.

Getting Deals Done By Boat
Jim Pattison Outside of an office setting there are two important social activities that many businesses use to solidify customer relationships and to get deals done. The one that comes to mind most of the time is Golf. There probably are as many business dealings that get seeded at the golf course as there are in the Board Room. The common business golf strategy is:

1/ You keep the game friendly and not overly competitive
2/ You never keep track of the client mulligans or moving the ball a bit in the rough for a better shot
3/ You always compliment your prospective client on every good shot
4/ Never beat your prospect client badly ... ideally let him beat you BUT it is always a good idea to bring along a young ringer from your organization as a demonstration of competency - besides junior execs are easily forgiven and it gives the prospect someone to slap on the back as a father figure might do
5/ Seal the deal or get that commitment before you leave the clubhouse.

The other important one that doesn't come to mind as frequently but that is just as effective as a friendly game of golf is yachting. Bringing a client for a day aboard a yacht is a completely different strategy and much trickier than Golf.

1/ The perception is the conveyance of success - in other words I must know something you don't to achieve this or we've done well and as a result we have the trappings of doing well
2/ It's a power play, so the message is, I value your time and friendship so I'm willing to share what's good in my life with you and hanging with me is a fun thing to do
3/ It brings the prospect to you on your turf, where you can control the environment on your terms
4/ You know the old saying “The difference between men and boys is the cost of their toys” ... nothing screams business status like a big yacht 
5/ Perhaps the prospective client departs feeling that he owes you one

Jim Pattison So, aside from the fun of owning a yacht and perhaps some part time charter revenue/tax savings, the other reason of course is entertaining and business deals. In Europe and the USA there are plenty of wealthy business owners doing just that. But not so much in Canada.

One example of a guy that resonates business success, that enjoys sealing a deal or two on-board is Jim Pattison. James Pattison is a Canadian business magnate and philanthropist based in Vancouver. He is the Chief Executive Officer, Chairman and Sole Owner of the Jim Pattison Group, one of the largest privately held companies in Canada, making him one of the richest people in Canada worth just under 10 billion dollars. He is a guy who made his way to the top by hard work, quick, well thought out decisions. risk taking and not being afraid to get his hands dirty. His company owns numerous car dealerships, Overwaitea Foods and Save-On-Foods, Ripley's Believe It or Not!, Guinness World Records and radio & TV stations across Canada. He also owned the Vancouver Blazers of the WHA. He married his childhood sweetheart, has three children and donates a good deal of his wealth to worthy causes. In short he is the quintessential model entrepreneur that any hard working Canadian would aspire to be.

Some of the countries titan networking and biggest business deals goes on aboard his $25 million dollar 150' yacht, the Nova Spirit. The yacht comes with a crew of nine and has a range of 6,000 nautical miles. The yacht was built by Trinity Yachts in 1999 and has a displacement of 225 tons. Nova Spirit's home is British Columbia. Pattison has hosted everyone from George Bush Sr. to Oprah ... and half the business movers and shakers on the planet. He even sued Caterpillar Inc. for $2 million in 2004 following a fire that broke out in the yacht's engine room. The fire occurred on Nova Spirit on the way back from a fishing trip off the B.C. coast on Sept. 26, 2004. The Coast Guard extinguished the fire and evacuated seven crew and 11 passengers onto a hovercraft. High profile guests on the yacht included former B.C. premier Glen Clark and Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore. Yikes ... Jim Pattison's company doesn't fool around when it comes to the utilization or expectation of his yacht.

The point is you don't need a 150' yacht and billions to use a boat as a business advantage to entertain, break bread and show business colleagues and prospect clients a good time. It's all relative to the circles you travel in, and almost everyone enjoys good food and perhaps a day of fishing. So don't leave the boat tied to the dock during the week next summer. Set up invitations for at least a day every week to bring out someone new that might appreciate a day on the water ... and that networking will often turn into some added value business for your company. 

Grouper Eats Shark
Grouper Sometimes in nature you might be surprised how our expectations can be fooled. Most people think that sharks are always the top of the feeding chain. Here is a Goliath Grouper that swallows a four foot shark in one bite. Now I have been down south and snorkelled wrecks with giant grouper cruising about and I never considered that a hungry Goliath Grouper is a formidable predator. If a Grouper can suck a shark down like that, he could certainly eat me in one bite. Funny my perception was they were docile ... but then again those massive 1000+ lb. Goliath Groupers don't get that big eating anchovies.

Lake Erie Black Water Discharge Ends
Lake Erie The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has declared the New York side of the Lake Erie shore line a “no discharge zone,” which means that boats are completely banned from discharging sewage into the water. The EPA reviewed the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's proposal to establish a no discharge zone and determined that there are adequate facilities in the area for boats to pump out their sewage. Boaters must now dispose of their sewage at one of the lake's designated pump out stations. This action is part of a joint EPA and New York State plan to eliminate the discharge of sewage from boats into the state's waterways.

Now if you are like me, I thought it had been illegal to discharge black water from boats for decades on all the Great Lakes. Apparently not though!! Lake Erie recently had a huge problem with toxic algae blooms. Toledo citizens could not drink or bath in the water for a week. Algae blooms will likely persist until around October when the water temperature drops. In addition to farm phosphate run off and sewage treatment plants, no doubt the discharge of sewage from boats would be a contributing factor and also toxic in itself, considering head chemicals.

To be honest I'm reconsidering eating Pickerel or any fish coming from Lake Erie ... and when I eat local fish, I'll be checking and insisting that it comes from clean Georgian Bay or I'll take a pass on the fish dinner. 

Times They Are A Changing - Kind Of
Morgan The Charles W. Morgan, the oldest surviving commercial ship in the country, just came home to Connecticut's Mystic Seaport Museum after a historic three month tour. The Morgan was built in New Bedford, Mass., in 1841 and sailed 37 voyages around the globe during it's 80-year whaling career. After a five year, $7 million restoration, the ship set out on her last voyage to raise awareness of America's maritime heritage and to call attention to the issues of ocean sustainability and conservation. It was the first time the Morgan had left Mystic Seaport since 1941. “The nearly three month journey was to commemorate of the role of the sea in the history of America and an appreciation of our changing relationship with the natural world," said Mystic Seaport President Steve White.

Capt. Richard Files sailed the ship from Mystic Seaport and visited New London, Conn.; Newport, R.I.; Vineyard Haven, Mass.; New Bedford, Mass.; the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary; Boston; and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy as part of the celebration of the opening of the Cape Cod Canal. She is now tied up at her permanent berth at Chubb's Wharf. The 19th-century whaling ship and National Historic Landmark will reopen to the public for tours.

The really interesting thing about the Morgan is that this ship circled the globe for decades harvesting whales for commercial gain and now 173 years later it is finally being used for the opposite purpose - to educate people towards preserving the natural environment. Something good has finally come from something that was very wrong for so many years.

Unfortunately there still are countries that kill whales (e.g. Japan), a highly intelligent mammal, and with many of their species endangered ... and they slaughter and process them on commercial factory ships in the name of science. In these modern times when folks do know better, there is no excuse for governments that condone this kind of activity. Human greed and the capacity to dole out the grossest of indignities to other species has no bounds and continues to this day.

Where Has The Summer Gone?
Where Has The Summer Gone Well we got a late start to summer this year. Last year we said this would be summer that we were really going to kick back and do some serious boating. It hasn't happened that way so far. Work gets in the way, an aging parent who needs extra attention, a dog that can't be left without a babysitter and the list goes on. As one gets older, the summers just seem to flash by. It gets exponentially faster every year.

The Beach Boys term “endless summer” it seems, in my experience, is only true up until about age 25, when thereafter summers get progressively shorter. I'm just realizing now, that life is in fact a very short window of opportunity. I'm still hoping there are one or two elusive hot sultry summers left where we can do nothing but cruise around ... and I'm hoping those summers will feel endless like they did when I was a kid. But the window is closing fast.

If you're a young person reading this, my advice is this. There will be plenty of time to work, raise children and get ahead as you work your way through the system BUT take the time before your mid twenties to go on an adventure for a year or two. Routine life, as you remembered it will still be there when you get back. You will never look back and regret that adventure ... and you will have the added benefit of enjoying the memory all through your life rather than than just the later part of your life. Adventures add to the fabric of your being. Better yet rather than just an adventure or two, turn it into a full time job like Paul and Sheryl Shard at . If you are getting older like me, the cop-out is always justifying the situation with “oh well there's always next summer” or “I guess it will just have to wait until retirement”. For some the window closes when you least expect it, due to health, family or financial issues. Grab that endless summer while you can, because in the day to day turmoil of everyday life these summers come and go like a bolt of lightning.

Respecting The Environment
Bunny Today about a ten day old rabbit shows up on the gravel driveway beside our garage. I know mother jack rabbits place their babies around all over and come back only in the night or early morning to feed them for just a brief time. By 15 days they are usually out of the nest and on their own. They say not to move them and the mother will come back – but this little guy got progressively worse in the hot blazing sun lying in the gravel. We made him shelter but he still was going downhill. So on the advice of a friend we contacted Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary who has made it their life's work to help wild animals that are abandoned by parents or hurt. I'm guessing this little bunny probably lost his mom to the great big Baird Owl who frequents our property and is the terror of all squirrels, chipmunks and wild turkeys. Can't blame the owl for doing what comes natural. But I hope this little guy gets a second chance at life. Being human we don't do a lot positive for wildlife – so misguided or not ... it's the least I can do.

One thing positive that came out of this is that I now know the good people at Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary and they are a non profit organization that I feel comfortable and good inside in donating to them ... and yes they do issue tax receipts. If you have a soft spot for wild animals like I do, give them a call (705) 286 1133. On the same topic when you are out and about boating, do what you can to avoid disrupting the wild habitat. Don't harass the turtles and throw rocks at snakes. If you're on an island and you pick and eat every blueberry and raspberry off the island, keep in mind your taking some animals sustenance. I'm guessing you can go without the calories and they can't go to the grocery store. If the sign on the shore says “No Fires” – why would you want to light a fire and endanger the whole area? And hey how about considering catch and release ... at least some of the time? Sorry for being a pain, but we humans take so much ... how about trying to give back or at least be neutral for while.

Do I Get the Idiot Award Now?
Hey look at me ... I'm on video ... look how fast I can go ... I don't need a life jacket – I'm too smart for that ... hey where did my motor go? ... what do you mean I should have tightened the motor mounting screws on the motor mount bracket? ... safety chain for the motor - what's that? ... why is there gasoline all over the place? ... it's been a rough day – let's have a smoke.

Horrendous Florida Fourth of July Boat Crash
Miami accident Miami had just concluded a fireworks display at about 10:45 p.m with hundreds of boats in the waters of Biscayne Bay when a 32' boat with five young people crashed into another vessel in the night. The boat's skipper was thrown overboard along with another passenger. Two other passengers were left critically injured and unconscious. With no one on board, the boat circled around in the dark crashing into a third vessel.   Finally a commercial salvage vessel from Atlantis Marine Towing  pulled up alongside and crew jumped aboard to stop the speeding boat. The toll was steep with four dead and eight injured.

"I can tell you, based on the officers on scene, it was one of the most chaotic scenes that they have ever been involved in'" said Jorge Pino of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Accident victims from the first boat were identified as Andrew Garcia 23, Victoria Dempsey 20, and Kelsie Karpiak 24 (all from Miami).  Jason Soleimani 23 (of Old Westbury, New York) was on the second vessel and killed instantly. In addition eight other people were injured and hospitalized.

Investigators say the second vessel was hit with such force that a hole was left in its side. Eight people were on board the second 36' vessel. The first vessel continued on at about 25 mph with no one at the helm striking a 345  Boston Whaler with nine people on board. There were no serious injuries aboard the Boston Whaler ... probably due to it's heavy construction and closed cell foam coring that absorbed a lot of the impact.

There have been above normal boat accidents in Canada and the US this season already - many involving young adults and alcohol. For some reason, folks that would never think of drinking and driving in their car, feel it's ok to do so on a boat ... even though the penalties are the same. It has gotten so bad that in busy harbours and channels experienced skippers are giving any boat coming at speed a wide berth because of the unpredictability of some boat operators that don't seem to know boating rights of way practices and proper boat etiquette when passing or approaching other vessels. Part of the problem is that on the water, policing is sparse in comparison to roadway policing. Some people take risks because the odds are much lower in getting caught on the water, resulting in more boating accidents related to alcohol use while underway.         

Lucky To Be Canadian
Canada Day Whether you were born in Canada or had the good fortune and judgement to immigrate to Canada, we are indeed a fortunate lot. I've travelled far and wide and when you put the whole package together Canada is the best place in the world to live. Sure we complain about our harsh snowy winters but you know what? ... if you went off to Panama to live full time for five years you'd be dying to come back and play in the snow.

What makes Canada so unique and special? Well it helps that we have have abundant resources and the biggest economy in the world as our good neighbour to the south. It's wonderful the sheer space and the immensity of our country north to south and east to west. We have room to grow for many generations to come. The diverse topography from the spectacular Rockies to the west, the huge energy reserves of Alberta, the wide open space of the prairies which is the bread basket of the world, cottage country Ontario and the contrast of Toronto as a thriving financial hub and culturally diverse metropolis. And let's not forget the beautiful culture of Quebec, who with all the talk of separation remains an integral part of the social fabric of Canada ... and the charm and beauty of the friendly Canadians on the east coast. In our own backyard we have the best fresh water cruising in the world right on Georgian Bay. All things to be thankful for.

Yes we have many layers of Government and a bloated civil service at all levels, but we have some very important and caring benefits like health care, community services and old age security. Canadians by and large look out for each other and as a society we have strong moral values and want to help out and do the right thing. We have a certain degree of over socialization but we are also capable and fierce competitors when it comes to entrepreneurship, and somehow the two find the right balance. Most important by and large we are tolerant people. The vast majority of Canadians would never think of pulling the country part for a self serving political agenda. Sometimes our Parliamentary system works very well and sometimes it doesn't, but we move forward in a positive way regardless of political affiliations because in the end we respect one another as Canadians.

In my opinion the biggest thing that defines Canadians is TOLERANCE. Tolerance at all levels – religious, ethnic, gender and social. All are uniquely woven into the fabric of our society and they make the country both interesting and a safe place to live. Tolerance is the glue that binds us together as a country. The country has a certain way about it, that everything miraculously always seems to come into balance. I was thinking the other day that with all the Gay Pride publicity in the media that it looks good on Canada that there is acceptance and in fact support of same gender couples. It's good for business too. Twenty years ago there is no way I could imagine why anyone would want to support gay culture, but now that I know several gay acquaintances I have to say that I don't know what I was thinking back then. Sometimes we are slow to learn, but in the end Canadians come around to the right beliefs and values that are inclusive to all and support a tolerant society. In Canada it's a live and let live culture.

The other neat thing about Canada is that it's edgy enough that it breeds unique characters – that is people that march to the beat of a different drummer ... and you might even call them eccentric. Eccentric in Canada is a badge of honour and it all works somehow. Some of our greatest entrepreneurs could easily be labelled as eccentric. And for the small population of our country we certainly  generate more than our fair share of celebrities, business leaders, sports stars, philanthropists and hard working everyday people.

I am a news junky. I look at the religious oppression and cultural depravity around the world where for the most part all people are not being treated equal by there own governments. I see countries tearing themselves apart ... often their citizens full of hate for their own neighbours and brothers. I see starving children and people moving in nomadic fashion as refugees to avoid war. I thank my lucky stars to be a citizen of Canada and if you are a Canadian, when you look at the worlds overall population, guess what? ... you won yourself a lottery bigger than any jackpot that you could win with a lottery ticket. Yes we complain sometimes, but in a harsh world we are privileged and have very little to complain about.

HAPPY CANADA DAY DAY from Boating Georgian Bay!        

Sydenham Sportsmen's Association - Volunteer Excellence
Conserve I ran into Chris Geberdt and Wayne Gallaugher at the Midland Boat Show and learned about SSA. No it's not a communicable disease, it's a conservation sports club. The Sydenham Sportmen's Association is not for profit and all volunteer ... and they are instrumental in a large amount of conservation work organized from their Owen Sound base, that benefits all of the Georgian Bay region.

They have a long history of important volunteer work. In 1925, 300 North Grey residents got together to form an association known as the Grey-Bruce Counties Fish and Game Protective Association. In 1947, this organization became the Sydenham Sportsmen's Association. In 1959, the SSA built and maintained Ontario's first fish ladder at the Mill Dam in Owen Sound. In 1997, further fish ladder improvements were completed to facilitate fish movements and improve volunteer safety.

The group is involved with many fisheries and wildlife projects which include projects like raising up to 500,000 salmon fry each year, raising and releasing trout, spawning ground enhancement, building and maintaining hundreds of Eastern Bluebird nesting boxes, nesting platforms for geese and ducks, planting endangered American Chestnut trees ... along with organizing and operating an extremely successful fishing derby at Owen Sound Aug. 22nd – Aug. 31st in Georgian Bay called the Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular. The fishing derby is the funding source for many conservation projects. These projects are sanctioned by local MNR staff and completed totally by volunteers. These dedicated group of conservationists help make a difference on the Bay.

 If you care about the wise management of our wildlife resources, the future of hunting and fishing and are prepared to get involved and be active, you are likely a potential member of the Sydenham Sportsmen's Association and they invite you to complete the membership application form located on their web site.

Something You Might Want To Know About Search and Rescue
Search Rescue Most boaters think that if they need to be rescued, the Canadian Coast Guard will send a boat to rescue them. In fact if you need to be rescued it is the JRCC Trenton joint rescue service that will attend to your needs. Depending on resources available JRCC Marine and Air Search and Rescue will throw all the resources it has available at the issue, to facilitate your safe return to land. Of course if there is voice contact they will want to assess the level of danger to coordinate your assistance, but if your EPIRB has gone off on the water or you are in a May Day situation you can be bet there's going to be a whole lot of help coming your way as fast as they can get there. That may include OPP, Coast Guard, helicopter or plane support and sometimes ALL of them together. The JRCC coordinates the rescue - not the Coast Guard. Whoever you get in contact with by VHF, cell phone, EPIRB, flare signals etc. it all is going to end up going through the JRCC command centre to marshal the resources to save your ass.

So it's quite possible that you might have a helicopter/diver, Coast Guard ship, Coast Guard fast response Zodiac, OPP patrol boat, even Coast Guard Auxiliary all show up within a few minutes of each other while and spotter plane circles overhead. It's essentially a race to see who can get to you the fastest to save lives. Wear a life jacket ... it's critical for the first 30 minutes to an hour until they track you down even in the remotest regions of Georgian Bay.

Search Rescue They do have pumps but they are not a towing service. They are there to save lives. The boat can be handled by a towing company or salvage company depending on the circumstances AFTER you are rescued off your boat. If it's on the bottom your insurance company will be involved and a salvage company and adjuster will be coordinated. If you need to call JRCC Trenton Marine and Air Search and Rescue they are at 1 800 267 7270 or on VHF Marine 156.8 MHz or cell phone *16

We're Going To Need a Bigger Boat!
Click to enlarge
Six massive glaciers in West Antarctica are moving faster than they did 40 years ago, causing more ice to drop into the ocean and ocean levels to rise, according to the latest research. The amount of ice draining collectively from those glaciers increased by 77 % from 1973 to 2013, scientists reported in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. Pine Island Glacier, the most active of the studied glaciers has accelerated by 75 percent in 40 years, according to the paper. Thwaites Glacier, the widest glacier, started to accelerate in 2006, following a decade of stability.

The NASA and University of California research group used satellite data to look at sequential images of the glaciers from 1973 to 2013. The scientists then calculated how fast the ice was moving by tracking surface features, such as cracks in the ice, to determine the distance the glaciers traveled from month to month and year to year.

The study is the first to look at the ice coming off the six most active West Antarctic glaciers over an extended time period.. Almost 10 % of the world's sea-level rise per year comes from these six glaciers. The amount of ice released by these six glaciers each year is comparable to the amount of ice draining from the entire Greenland Ice Sheet annually. If melted completely the glaciers' disappearance could raise worldwide sea levels 4 feet ... putting many ocean front communities (including the State of Florida ) underwater.

It is thought that the glaciers are melting beyond the point of no return and they will be completely gone in two centuries. An increase in the amount of ocean heat beneath the floating parts of the glaciers is the likely cause. As the ice brakes off into the ocean, more slides down to replace it.The melting of these glaciers is also likely to trigger the melting of other glaciers on the Antarctic continent making it real challenge for humans living on coast lines.

Top researchers from the British Antarctic Survey say that the Pine Island Glacier - famous as a possible major cause of global-warming-powered sea level rises was melting just as fast thousands of years ago as it is melting today. It appears that the recent rapid flow of the Pine Island Glacier into the ocean may just be one of those things that happens from time to time, as it did 8,000 years ago. This is borne out by research in 2010 in which researchers sent a robot submarine under the glacier's projecting ice shelf and found that its acceleration in recent times probably resulted from the fact that it has just finished grinding away a troublesome underwater reef which was slowing it down and causing ice to back up. According to some scientists, it appears most likely that the rapid melting of the glaciers sea ice shelf from the early 1990's to 2010 would have happened anyway, regardless of humans carbon footprint.

Hmm this is serious business. I guess maybe it's time to reconsider real estate investment in Florida and maybe go for a bigger boat.

Have Yer Ever Been To Sea Billy?
Whale I came across this quote from the book Moby-Dick. If your like me, as a small business entrepreneur there are times when you really need to drop everything and get on the boat and go ... to preserve your sanity.

"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth, whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping onto the street, and methodically knocking peoples hats off ... then, I account it is high time to get to sea as soon as I can." Herman Melville, Moby-Dick 

National Life Jacket Day
Life Jackets Thursday May 15th is National Life Jacket Day. Each year tragic and avoidable boating related drownings occur. The second week of May and already six people have drowned in two separate boating accidents in Canada. In the spring, falling overboard becomes tragic in just a few minutes as hypothermia sets in quickly. Each year over 160 Canadians drown while boating. 88% are not wearing life jackets. A study of long term trends indicates that most boating related drowning's are totally preventable with the proper use of personal floatation devices.

Before heading out on the boat this spring ensure that all persons aboard are outfitted with correctly sized lifejackets appropriate to the activity. The inflatable vest style lifejackets are the most comfortable and most likely to be worn. The vest style PFD's that automatically trigger inflation when someone hits the water are a little more money but well worth the investment, as in many cases on the way overboard one can hit something on the boat and get knocked unconscious.

Location Electronics Could Save Your Life
Click to enlarge
If you have been watching the news lately you have seen with amazement that Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 with over 200 passengers has simply disappeared from the face of the earth. So far there are lots of theories and false starts but the fact of the matter is this plane is lost and everyone is guessing as to what happened and it's whereabouts. It's easy to have the same kind of thing happen with boats on large bodies of water. Georgian Bay is no exception. The Bay can be brutal given the right inclement weather conditions and there are hundreds of shipwrecks and more that a few that were never found. You leave your home port on a nice sunny day and by mid afternoon a gale blows through and s**t happens. Most boats don't sink immediately. Many take hours to go to the bottom. Aside from watching the weather and utilizing your trusty VHF, what can you do? Well there are a few electronic gizmo things that you can equip your boat with that could save your life and that of your crew in times of peril.

Automatic Identification System (AIS).
AIS works through a transponder. The unit automatically broadcasts information, such as a vessel's position, speed and navigational status. This data is sent at regular intervals via a VHF transmitter that is built into the transponder. The yacht's information originates from navigational sensors, typically a GPS unit and gyrocompass. Other important information, such as the yacht's name and call sign, is programmed into the AIS unit. The signals are received by AIS transponders fitted on other ships, yachts or on land-based systems, such as those used by Vessel Traffic Services. The received information is displayed on a screen or chart plotter, showing the other vessels' positions in a format similar to that observed on a radar screen. Benefits include collision avoidance, search and rescue, and accident investigation.

Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). EPIRBs are tracking devices that aid in the detection and location of vessels in distress.They are basically radio beacons that interface with the worldwide system known as COSPAS-SARSAT. This service is a satellite-based search and rescue (SAR) distress alert system established in 1979. When manually activated, or automatically activated upon immersion, EPIRBs actively send out a distress signal. The signals are monitored worldwide at dedicated rescue centers. Satellites detect the location of the distress. The ideal location for an EPIRB to be stored on a yacht is the open deck, unobstructed from any overhead structure. It should be attached to the yacht via a hydrostatic release unit which is a pressure-activated mechanism designed to automatically deploy when the unit is submerged to a maximum depth of four meters. The pressure of the water against a diaphragm within the sealed casing causes a plastic pin to be sawed off – the containment bracket then releases the casing and allows the EPIRB to float free.

Search and Rescue Transponder (SART). A SART is a self-contained, waterproof transponder intended for emergency use at sea. The device may be one of two types. It will be either a Radar SART or a GPS based AIS SART. The Radar SART is used to locate a survival craft, life raft or distressed vessel. It does this by creating a series of dots on a rescuing ship's radar display. The radar observer will see a distinct pattern on the radar screen that provides a bearing toward the distress location. Radar SART will only respond to a 9 GHz X-band radar. It will not be seen on the S-band or any other type of radar. The AIS SART calculates position and time from a built-in GPS receiver. At an interval of once per minute, the position is actively sent as a series of eight identical position report messages creating a high probability that at least one of the messages will be sent on the highest point of a wave. The rescue ship or aircraft gets the exact position and a visual bearing on the radar display.

On our boat we have both AIS and EPIRB. It seems like overkill sometimes, but it also gives you some peace of mind during offshore passages. You really should have some kind of emergency transponder on the boat. If the boat has complete electrical failure and gets overwhelmed by water your hardwired VHF won't help ... that EPIRB will get the help you need on the way in a matter of minutes. A portable VHF that floats is obviously a good idea too and cheap insurance at that.

It's Going To Be A Late Launch This Spring
Dealer So what happened to global warming? We have had the coldest and snowiest winter in many years. There is no let up in sight. March is forecast to remain well below normal and there is so much ice and snow, even if temperatures did come back to seasonal in late March, there is a months worth of melting to take place before you'd see green grass in the Georgian Bay region. Until the jet stream gets pushed north it isn't going to warm up anytime soon and right now that jet stream is way south from where it should be ... and it's not budging. Water temperatures in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico are cool - we need some heat build up from the south to push this northern polar vortex back into the artic, but the warm trade winds that would come across from Africa to the Caribbean are not cooperating yet to make this happen.

For the first time in many years most of the Great Lakes are almost totally frozen over. In Georgian Bay, even in exposed areas there is ice 30” thick in spots. In 1992 the ice in Midland Bay didn't go out until April 29th. This was the latest date in 35 years. Just 2 years ago in 2012 we had one of the earliest ice out dates at March 22nd. This year, don't count on the Bay being ice free before very late in April or even into the early part of May. The norm is that all boats are launched the week before the May long weekend and out and about by May 24th. This year it could just be a pipe dream.

We understand the Coast Guard has already done some ice breaking in Georgian Bay for commercial traffic ... but when it's this cold, those ice bergs quickly settle back and meld back into solid ice in just a few hours. It doesn't really do much to move the season ahead for recreational boaters.

Here's the good news. Over a season or two, the degree days almost always balance out. This means we are due for a really hot summer and a warm fall. Chances are that some time in May the weather will shift from ice fishing mode to full blown summer ... overnight. Expect a late start but a great summer of boating - touch wood.

Payback Time
Dealer There are some people in the world who will fight back with every means possible when they believe they have been wronged. Jerral Parris is a guy a we ran into at the Miami Boat Show who was making his point. Jerral came all the way from Tennessee to make his stand in Miami. He had hired several people to walk around and protest Cummins Power South for what he says were “bait and switch” tactics. He paid protesters to walk around with signs right at the Convention Centre location where thousands of attendees line up for shuttle transportation. His point was hard to miss and I went over to talk to him about what his issue was. He gave me a copy of the lawsuit he had initiated which had found it's way up to the Supreme Court level in the USA. This guy is not a quitter that is for sure. This kind of thing is certainly bad publicity for Cummins and it's the kind of nightmare scenario that most businesses might regret that they had not worked it out with the customer before it came to this.

It seems according to Jerral that he purchased a boat after getting a quote from Cummins Power South for a contract amount of $31,123.42 for engine work. The problem surfaced when after proceeding with buying the boat and authorizing the work at that quoted price, the bill came back at an additional $28,876.58 and Jerral was less than happy. His legal fees are now higher than the extra costs of the engine work and he is fighting this battle and representing himself now after being tapped out by legal fees. He doesn't plan to give up ... that is for sure, and this is not a guy you want to cross swords with. I'm guessing he'll fight this to his grave.

Dealer I don't know definitively who is right or wrong but I do think it's ballsy that an everyday guy exhausted of resources would take a stand like this and push on regardless of his unlikely chance of winning his money back and the related legal expenses. He wants a jury trial and he wants it conducted in plain English, not Latin legal ease, so that he can be heard and that he can understand the proceedings without a law degree on the basis of his Constructional Rights. And he has done some homework and has some legal precedence.

The lesson here is some guys you just can't beat down and they will come up swinging until the end – last man standing brew-ha kind of thing. Maybe not the best move, but certainly he deserves credit for standing up for his principles. We'll probably never know the outcome but it is something that businesses should consider in customer relations - be fair, live up to your promises and quotes and most of all sort things out reasonably with the customer before things spin out of control and the customer makes it his/her life work to hurt your brand and reputation ... or worse have things turn violent. It's not worth it. In the end both parties loose and only the lawyers win.

Boaters & Cottagers Can Get Along
Boaters / Cottagers This Code (shown below) has been on Our Favourite Anchorage page for years. After just coming back from the Toronto Boat Show and having a few conversations with boaters and cottagers alike, I think this code of ethics is worth repeating here.

My Dad taught me that you have to put your feet in other folks shoes and understand their perspective if you want to get along in life ... and if you want to reduce your stress in a world that already has more than enough to go round. Boaters need to show some empathy for cottagers when it comes to using the channels and anchorages around the bay. Cottagers and homeowners on the bay have invested heavily to ensure their enjoyment on the water. Likewise boaters have done the same - albeit boaters have options as to where they move around to - while cottagers do not because their real-estate is anchored on the ground.

I do see boaters trespass on cottage property when the owner is not there. Even using the dock and peaking in windows. Taking their dog to do it's business and not even picking up. It's not right. We all know it's not right but yet it happens over and over and the result is friction between boaters and cottagers. Friction we don't need.

We all have to get along or we eventually will all find ourselves in a lose / lose situation. It really comes down to respect and being considerate to fellow human beings. Read the Boaters/Cottagers code and make a commitment to yourself that you won't be one of the ones trespassing or creating damaging wakes while transiting past cottages.

Georgian Bay Boaters and Cottagers Code

1. Respect private property. Absolutely do not go ashore without permission if land is posted or has a cottage or building on the site. If you are a landowner, you are encouraged to post your property. Property owners should be polite and reasonable in asking trespassers to leave their property. Trespassers should comply promptly with a request to leave private property.
2. Anchoring near cottages. All stakeholders are entitled to maximum privacy. Anchor and camp out of sight of cottages whenever possible. While cottagers don't own the water, they cannot move their cottage the same way that a boat can be moved. Conversely many bays have traditionally been used as anchorages.
3. Anchoring locations. Occasionally it may be necessary to anchor close to a cottage for safety reasons. This may be due to wind, water depth or other safety concern. When this occurs, boaters and cottagers should engage in open and friendly communication. If you have anchored close to a cottage because of an emergency or safety reason, explain your situation to the affected cottagers as soon as possible. If cottagers are unhappy about proximity, let the boater know that you are the owner of the adjacent land and would appreciate a little more space. Suggest an alternative anchorage that would be more suitable for both parties.
4. Going ashore on crown land. Always leave with everything that you brought ashore. This includes refuse. It also includes dog feces where reasonably possible.
5. Fires on crown land. When going ashore for a picnic, always abide by fire safety rules including temporary fire bans. Some sites are posted for "No Camp Fires". In such areas, the best alternative is a cooking stove. If you must have a fire and you are in an area where fires are allowed, attempt to use safe public fireplaces and be sensitive to overuse of "deadfall" which upsets the ecological balance of the site. It's best if you bring your own fire wood. Always drown your fire before leaving.
6. Minimizing noise from vessels or cottage. We are all entitled to quiet enjoyment of the water and shore. This applies especially during the evenings. Keep noise to a reasonable level. Use of PWC's is a growing concern. Use of these or other noisy craft should be limited out of respect for both people and the environment Use of un-muffled exhausts is prohibited by law within 5 miles of shore.
7. No wake in anchorages. All boaters should make no wake in bays where boats are anchored. Beware of anchor lines, swimmers and small watercraft.
8. Responsibility for wake impacts. All boaters must be aware of the impact of their wake and abide by speed limits. Minimize your wake in narrow channels, near cottage docks and in government posted speed zones. All boats should minimize wake for small runabouts, kayaks and small sail craft whenever possible.
9. Respect the difficulty of manoeuvring larger vessels. Smaller craft should maintain a reasonable distance from larger cruising yachts. Larger craft need longer to respond and can't see smaller craft close to them. Please refrain from recreational activity such as tubing, fishing, windsurfing and swimming in major boat channels.
10. Gray and black water. We all have equal right to enjoy the water and responsibility to keep it clean. Polluting the water with unlawful black water and other discharges is a crime. We can all go further by using environmentally friendly, biodegradable cleaning products, refraining from bathing in the lake, ensuring septic systems are operating within code and limiting gray water discharge in enclosed/confined bays to the extent possible.

2014 Is The Year
2014 Is the Year Many years beyond the worlds financial recession, we are still looking for that growth that puts the tough times behind us. Five years is an extremely long time to wait for a return to anything normal economically. Will 2014 be any different for the boating industry? We believe 2014 is the pivotal year for bringing things back on track.

When all the leading indicators are added up into the OECD composite leading indicator index we see a year of successive increases. This wasn't the case immediately following the time of fiscal stimulus in 2009/2010. The leading indicators are rising now in a sustainable way pointing to a strong upsurge in the economy. There is strong evidence of pent-up buying pressure in the USA, EU and Japan. Folks can only put off purchases for so long before things need repairing or replacing. This applies to car repairs/replacement, house repairs ... and yes boat repairs and replacements. It's a more discretionary form of spending, but guess what ? - the emotional attachment makes up for it. Consumers and businesses are finally at a point that they have to spend. Generally speaking they cannot put it off any longer.

One of the important developments in the economy of late is the return of confidence. For the best part of five years it has been absent, stalled at recessionary levels. About six months ago, confidence reappeared into the normal range in the U.S. & Canada and consumer confidence has hit post recession highs in Japan and the EU. This new mantra to get back into the economy “actively” suggests that from a psychological point of view, a ramping up of activity in 2014 is already here.

For years public sector cutbacks had taken a lot out of the economy. We all want governments to be more efficient and they have been. But government spending is also an incredibly strong driver that filters through the economy. The worst of austerity is now behind us in North America & Europe and government cutbacks are expected to be less pronounced in 2014. This suggests an economic growth spurt that is the result of the end of austerity. Without growth, there is no need for cutting back on tapering. Central banks have seen sufficient proof that the economy is gaining momentum and building up a head of steam.

There has been a decided change in the publics negative discourse in the post recession period toward the next economic problem, the next negative political event or government scandal that has fanned the flames of gloomy expectation. Over the past six months, general word of mouth has made a shift: growth chat is now in fashion. Boat shows are way up in attendance. Folks are buying. Used boat prices have stabilized and are moving up. There is a growing amount of evidence that suggests 2014 is going to mark a significant positive economic growth departure from recent negative economic experience in the marine industry. Get ready to roll.

Be In The Moment
It is Always Now I recently viewed the Sam Harris video IT IS ALWAYS NOW. Mr. Harris is a cofounder and the CEO of Project Reason, a non profit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. He received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA. This is a very moving video about death and the importance of living in the moment.

Most of us have to work and pay bills to get by in life. Sometimes it's hard to find balance and we get caught up in day to day struggles that in the grand scheme of things are really not that important. The Harris video got me thinking about what is really important to me and what I like to do most of all. In other words if I can choose and enjoy when I can be in the moment what would that look like? Well for me it would probaly look like this ... first and foremost is time with my family and friends. Second is I like to experience new things and places. Travel usually facilitates this and it is a great way to leave all the minutia and small issues behind. Right behind that would be boating. Yes I suppose boating can be travel too. I love everything about boating – cruising to different anchorages and marinas, just being on the water, talking to boaters on the dock, working on the boat, shopping for boat gear and yes attending boat shows.

Why attending boat shows? I'm not 100% sure why ... I just know I feel right and in the moment looking around and talking to people at boat shows. I travel far and wide to boat shows – Miami. Fort Lauderdale, Annapolis and shows in our home province of Ontario. I always take a few days to enjoy the Toronto International Boat Show. I love the smell of fiberglass and new boats. I appreciate the craftsmanship of a quality built boat. Most of all I just like to poke about on boats for ideas. This year Boating Georgian Bay will be at the boat show with our own booth at G 315. We really don't have much to sell at a boat show so we are there primarily to have fun and talk boats and Georgian Bay cruising. It's an escape I guess. Anyways if you are at the show stop by for a chat and be in the moment. 

Don't Learn This Lesson The Hard Way!
Accident The captain of a ferry that recently capsized about 1,500 metres offshore from Pattaya has turned himself in, telling Thai police he was high on drugs. The Bangkok Post reported that the 42-year-old skipper turned himself into police, hours after his ferry capsized while returning about 200 Thai and foreign tourists from a day trip to Koh Larn. A police chief said the captain confessed to officers that he took some drugs before going to work, and that he and the crew lost control of the vessel as a result. He allegedly confessed the ferry wandered off course, and hit rocks. Thailand's Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation confirmed to the Bangkok Post that six people died - 3 foreigners and 3 Thais. Another 18 were treated for injuries.

In Canada we have plenty of our own examples where drinking or drugs has lead to boating accidents ... including a fairly recent commercial ship accident in British Columbia. The penalties for drinking or drug use while driving a car are the same for drinking or drug use piloting a boat. However if you have an accident and damage your boat that is the least of your worries. If people are injured, there will likely be other criminal charges filed and of course civil lawsuits that follow. Another big problem is your insurance policy will not cover your loss or legal fees, as most have exclusions for being intoxicated and operating a vessel. One thing is for sure, if you have a boat accident while intoxicated it's going to ruin what's left of your life.

So there's a lot more to it than just the issue of law enforcement catching boaters at the helm intoxicated. I am surprised that quite a high proportion (no pun intended) of boaters do drink and drive their boat, while perhaps entertaining guests on board. Simply put it's not worth it. The risks are way too high. Even if you are sober and some inebriated guest falls overboard and bangs his head on the way down you're facing criminal negligence. In Georgian Bay there is always an anchorage somewhere close at hand to every port. If you want to party, wait until the anchors down and then have some fun. If your not staying at anchor over night, the skipper should be designated driver so to speak. It's surprising how many folks would never consider drinking and driving in their car, that think it is somehow acceptable to do so on their boat. In most cases they know better, but assume the risks of getting caught are low ... and they probably are low until the unexpected happens. Overall the risks are huge and running your boat requires just as much attention or more than driving your car. 

Get Ready For Higher Water Levels On Georgian Bay
Great Lakes We have brought forward an article from this page from a few years ago ... when the panic about low water levels started. Not because we want to say “see we told you so” but because it illustrates the point that mother nature has her cycles and we humans have to learn to chill out rather than moving towards drastic man made changes like concrete barriers on the bottom of the St Clair River.

Spring 2013 showed a reversal in the trend to lower levels with record inflows into the Great Lakes. The French River, by example, last spring was absolutely cascading record out flows into Georgian Bay. Lake Superior levels are the biggest factor on what comes downstream into the other lakes. Lake Superior is on the rise. Here are some outtakes from reporting on the Lake Superior Board of Control this past summer:

The International Lake Superior Board of Control has ordered six gates open in the compensating dam above the St. Marys rapids to “significantly” increase the outflow of unexpectedly high Lake Superior water levels. “This past month the level of Lake Superior rose 14 cm., while on average it rises four cm during the month of July. ”The board reports a rise of 24 cm, the second highest since 1918, a result of snow melt and above-average precipitation. ” Lake Huron-Michigan rose 12 cm. On average it rises eight cm in May.”} And since that reporting lake levels continue to rise at record levels. We have more water flowing into the Great Lake basin since anytime back to the early 1900's. So you know what is likely to happen over the next few seasons don't you? A couple years from now will likely look like 1986 when many areas of Georgian Bay were flooded. Yup ... your going to get flooded before too long.

Why? Because that is what mother nature and evolution dictates to ensure diversity of species. Only humans buck the natural selection thing. The old saying “what goes around comes around” is also true of water levels on Georgian Bay. Now it wouldn't be a good thing if all the intervener groups just disappeared over night because low water levels are no longer a problem. In my opinion it's always a good thing when various groups are paying attention to what is going on and robust discussion is a learning experience for us all. But in the end humans just need to sit back and minimize their impact and let mother nature do her thing.

Previous Article:

Water Levels Are Falling! ... Don't Panic

The lowest water level ever recorded on Lake Huron/Georgian Bay was in 1964. The highest water levels were in 1986. Some of you might remember that because the Parry Sound docks were flooded in 86. Fluctuations of about a metre of chart datum are normal even on a short time horizon. Currently Huron is hovering around chart datum and it is expected water levels will increase again ... given time.

Geologists say there are seven historic shorelines and it is currently possible to see four of those. At Cave Point Bruce Peninsula there was once wave action that carved those caves 20 metres above the current water levels. In contrast there are carbon dated cedar roots just few miles away that are 10 metres below current water levels. So as you can see water levels fluctuating at least 30 metres over time has happened historically in the past. And to think that we complain about a few feet of water fluctuation levels these days.

Sierra Club wants to put big concrete curbs at the bottom of the St Clair River - water speed bumps. Other have said private sector companies are grabbing the water and floating it overseas in giant bladders. Get real people! Sit down relax and have a beer, mother nature is just doing her thing. Water flows from the Great Lakes to the ocean one way or the other. Planet earth maintains the same amount of water overall as it doesn't escape through the atmosphere.

Humans see things on a short term time horizon. Mother nature remains clearly unconcerned with what mankind sees as normal or abnormal.

Breaking Bad Yacht Captain Arrested
Breaking Bad Just like the TV show ... crime rarely pays. Why folks take on this kind of risk is beyond me. There are easier ways to make money without the consequences associated with drug smuggling.

- lesson one ... with extreme greed comes extreme risk!
- lesson two ... the Captains quarters on a 106' yacht are a heck of a lot nicer than the inside of a jail cell ... no doubt the food on the yacht is better too than that in prison!
- lesson three ... there are no friends amongst criminals – everyone gets ratted out! 

Jonathan Costenbader was the 34 year old Captain of M/Y Secret Spot (a 106-foot Lazzara private yacht) and he was arrested Oct. 6/13 as he unloaded duffel bags containing cocaine at the Palm Harbor Marina in West Palm Beach, Fla. Captain Jon Paul Costenbader has worked with the Discovery Channel for shark week and with Spike TV for a series on surviving disasters and now faces federal charges. Costenbader received his 100 ton Master's captain license in 2006 and has had 10 years of experience with a charter scuba diving boat in the Bahamas. Diana Nyad, who recently swam from Cuba to Key West credits Jon Costenbader as part of her Shark Safety Team during her record breaking swim.

Michelle Daniel and Steven Davis were also arrested and the three were charged with conspiracy to import more than five kilograms of cocaine and conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver. About 621 pounds of cocaine was seized by the authorities. Daniel was arrested when she was seen in the salon onboard with bags of cocaine. Davis was arrested when Costenbader worked with officials to sting the intended recipient of the cocaine. DEA agents conducted a controlled delivery to Davis using fake cocaine. After the exchange was concluded, the investigators made the arrest. Davis disclosed to the authorities that he was expecting to receive about 200 bricks of marijuana and/or cocaine from Costenbader and he admitted to arranging to meet with Costenbader to receive the cocaine. Costenbader had received the cocaine from a vessel in waters off the Bahamas and planned to deliver the bags to Davis via a pickup truck.

The investigation began when the yacht Secret Spot was seen offshore by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and put under surveillance by Homeland Security as it traveled to Florida's Lake Worth inlet and through the Intracoastal Waterway to the marina while not clearing customs. I guess Secret Spot wasn't so secret after all!

The owner of the yacht at this point is unclear. A Marshall Islands flag is on the back of the yacht. The yacht is for sale for $4,595,000. Let's hope the yachts' owner had nothing to do with this ... or his beautiful yacht will become the property of the federal government and could be auctioned off at some point following court proceedings..

Life Jackets Save Lives
Lifejackets If your like me, you don't always have your life jacket on when your on the boat. It just doesn't seem needed when your up on the bridge or inside the boat or for that matter swimming in the water. That is, until something goes wrong and you have to find it and get it on. That situation might arise if someone else fell off your boat that you had to rescue ... or God forbid your boat starts taking on water in a hurry.   Recently someone told me a story about a boat that just left their marina and the skipper went back to the swim platform to adjust the dingy being dragged behind the boat and he fell overboard. His Admiral didn't know how to stop and manoeuvre the boat to go back and get him (that's another safety issue to talk about later). Lucky the water was warm and the guy could swim. He made it to a nearby island. Sounds funny, but there could easily have been another unhappy ending.

The thing is, when the weather gets cool and the water gives off it's heat, you don't have the luxury of a lazy swim while you wait to be rescued. Hypothermia, exhaustion and cramps set in quickly in the Spring and Fall, so every second counts - and a life jacket can turn a potentially tragic situation into a happy ending. Heck you can be unconscious with cold and some good Samaritan can drag you out and warm you up ... and life goes on.

You can leave the swim suit behind if you want when you end up in the water ... but you should really have a life jacket or floatation with you even if your a good swimmer and you're just out fooling around in the water. Your swimming ability won't save you if a Sea-Doo comes by in a busy anchorage and accidently clips you in the head. I'm always surprised when I'm snorkelling out doing an anchor check or just goofing around some distance from the boat at how many boats don't see you when they are coming or going from an anchorage, and you have to make your presence known by waving. The bright orange or red of a life jacket also makes for high visibility when your in the water.

You probably won't change your ways in the summer ... but in Spring and Fall do yourself and your family a favour, and put on the life jacket while underway or swimming in the water.

Anchors Away
Anchor Well I was sitting out in a busy anchorage the other day watching people pull up their anchors to depart for home on a hot Sunday afternoon. The amazing thing is most boats still have the puny undersized and underrated anchor that came with the boat. Very few production boat builders put a decent anchor on a new boat. Some of the higher end builders will put enough weight out on a standard no name plow anchor, but most will ship with a tiny plow or perhaps an undersized Danforth. Boat manufactures have cut expenses for profit and competition. Unfortunately most of those anchors are unsafe in stormy or windy conditions when ground tackle is most needed. Heck ... on a calm day a brick will hold a 50 foot yacht on the bottom. Sooner or later all those boats that get some serious time at anchor will get into trouble dragging when the bottom conditions are not perfect and the wind gusts up. Only then when a boat owner has been sufficiently scared silly in the middle of the night, or worse yet the boat has dragged and has been damaged hitting another boat or ending up on shore, that the owner finally realizes it's time for some serious ground tackle.

A cursory glance down our dock and most of the anchors are vastly undersized - and I'm guessing there's not much chain in those lockers either. Most 50 foot boats have factory anchors that belong on a 30 foot boat. Every boat should have a minimum 200 feet of chain plus a few hundred feet of rode. Better still, if your boat is weak in the chain department, sell your tackle at a garage sale and go all chain and you'll sleep much better at night. I learned my lesson thirty years ago when I dragged anchor on our 36 foot sailboat in a blow down in Moorehead City North Carolina. My 35 lb. CQR with 75 feet of chain and a 100 feet of rode let go and I had to motor around all night in the harbour along with half a dozen other boats who also dragged. Very soon after that incident I had 300 feet of 3/8 “ chain on that boat ... and I always slept like a baby in any weather after that.

Everyone has their favourite anchor - Bruce, Delta, Danforth ... but for all conditions I recommend Rocna, Quickline Ultra, Manson Supreme style anchors that roll over well and set fast and deep even on weedy bottoms. The harder the pull the deeper they go. Your biggest problem is breaking the anchor free in thick mud/clay conditions. I'm sure people look at the Rocna's I had on the last two boats and shake their heads at how big they are for the boat size. I always go to the upper end of manufacturers suggested weight, so my Rocna on the 345 Whaler is 55 lbs. and 200 feet of 3/8 “ chain and 300 feet of rode. Last boat was 52 feet and went all chain rode and 88 lb. Rocna. Did I say I like to sleep at night?

Caution - Avoid Rattlesnakes
Snake We are not trying to scare you ... BUT you should be aware there are rattlesnakes in the 30,000 Island area and you need to give them a wide berth when encountered. Having said that, if you are careful, you are not likely to encounter a rattlesnake ... unless you spend a lot of time tramping around islands and even then, your odds of a bite are extremely low. MNR and medical officials are advising vacationers to take precautions with more Massasauga Rattlesnake bites than normal reported this summer. The Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake lives in areas around Georgian Bay and is commonly seen in the 30,000 Islands from Midland to the North Channel. It is Ontario's only venomous snake. In 2009 it was a busy season and there were fourteen snake bits - and this season there are already six. Usually snake bits don't get reported very often until August or later.  Massasauga Rattlesnakes are very common on most islands that have a food source (and the main land too) on Georgian Bay's eastern shore and the Bruce Peninsula. They are excellent swimmers looking for rodents, frogs etc. and just because you were on a small island and didn't see one before, doesn't mean there isn't one now. This year there are three factors prompting early-summer interactions between rattlesnakes and humans. It's mating season so the snakes are active, and cooler weather in June meant snakes stayed on the higher ground instead of moving to cool off in the swampy areas that have fewer people intruding.

People likely won't even notice the snakes because of their excellent camouflage. If you hear the rattle pay heed and back away from the sound even if you can't see the snake. They will hold their ground when threatened usually and may strike if you do not back away. Most strikes are the result of people trying to coral or scare the snake away or by accidentally stepping on them. Appropriate footwear and long pants are essential for walking in the bush in the 30,000 Island area. It gives me the willies when I see kids and the dog (without leash) dingy to the shore and start hiking around the rocks with sandals and a bathing suit.  In Ontario's history there have been two fatalities related to rattle snake bites and both happened more than 40 years ago due to a lack of appropriate medical attention. But prompt medical attention and antidote is required and bites or especially multiple bites should not be taken lightly as the objective is to avoid organ damage. The anti venom is super expensive and in limited supply so if your pet dog gets bit rooting around in the bush your odds are not good for the dog.

The species is threatened and the Massasauga Rattlesnake are a protected species. Killing a Massasauga Rattlesnake carries a hefty penalty of up to one year in prison and a $250,000 fine. When someone is bitten by a Massasauga Rattlesnake, the immediate step is to get to a nearby clinic or hospital promptly and limit exertion and stay calm to slow circulation keeping blood pressure stable. Read this account to put some perspective on the situation The West Parry Sound Health Centre is the hub for the province's anti-venom program for Massasauga Rattlesnake bites.

West Parry Sound Health Centre Foundation
6 Albert St
Parry Sound, ON
P2A 3A4
705 746 4540

Georgian Bay General Hospital Foundation
112 St. Andrews Dr
PO Box 760
Midland, ON
L4R 4P4
705 526 1300 

The Future Of Recreational Boating
Canada Day Boating I recently read through a study presented by a Doctor/Professor at a well respected US university. The study predicted some fairly dire consequences to boating recreation as a result of many emerging external factors. Some of the logic of his conclusions would be hard to refute with unemotional numbers or statistics. It looked like a very thorough study. There is a long summarized list below that deals with many factors including demographics but it does not jump to conclusions on changes in boat manufacturing.

- population has more free time on weekdays than it does on weekends
- people have shorter attention spans and tend to think of recreation activities as being wrapped up by dinner
- implies that after dinner is relaxation or media time as opposed to recreation time
- people are taking shorter vacations due to economic and job protection factors
- there is a negative association with drinking & boating
- people are looking for more adventure in their activities and they want that adventure to come in a narrow time band
- some people perceive the stuffy “yachty” image as being old school
- boating is becoming more regulated creating barriers
- geographically getting to a boat is becoming more difficult
- ability to use a boat is contingent on many factors
- changing demographics ... smaller households but bigger houses and responsibilities, shift to women as prime purchasers, half of adults are not marrying, ethnic minorities are growth area of population and have a declining interest in outdoor recreation, rapidly aging population, prolonged adolescence, increased urbanization, rapidly shrinking white families, economically divided middle class
- good fishing locations are getting further from home
- fishing not seen as environmental stewardship
- work and family responsibilities get in the way of boating
- impact of global warming and rising coastal waters as Antarctic ice cap melts

  Well all of these factors carry some weight. The notion that rising coastal waters will dwarf all other issues is a scary one. A metre rise in the Atlantic translates to 1/3 of Florida disappearing and an over all decrease of land in North America of 14%. 30% of existing beaches would disappear. At the same time inland fresh water resources are said to be affected the opposite and heat and evaporation will drop those levels. The whole ball of wax sounds pretty terrible doesn't it?

But let's step back and take a sober second look at the situation. First of all the effects and outcomes of global warming are not conclusive. There very well may be rising ocean levels over the very long term, but nature and humans are very adaptable given enough time to adjust. Global warming might be the least of our worries when it comes to catastrophic events. It is futile to sit around and ponder when a comet may streak down and wipe us all out or when a volcano might erupt spewing the atmosphere with corrosive ash. There is no sense or logic in crawling into a bunker to wait for a meltdown that may or may not ever happen. So let's strike the catastrophic stuff off the list.

All industries and activities have their ups and downs. Boating requires disposable income and without question consumers have been through a tough patch. It has been a slow post recession recovery but finally the signs are looking positive and American economies have some momentum behind them. In the 80's housing and boat manufacturers especially had a tough time then and things came around as they always do. In fact since the 1790's we have a had a parade of 47 recessions that have come and gone and over time and the overall economy has always strengthened during the prosperity periods. Ask yourself – are we as a society better off today then we were 20 or 50 or 100 years ago? Of course we are. Moving forward expect more of the same. Strike economic doom and gloom off your list because the downtimes are always short lived in the comparison to the good times.

Most of the other detriment factors are lifestyle or demographic based. Let me state these truths:
- humans like to have fun
- humans for the most part are attracted to water
- people are resilient and bounce back quickly from economic negatives
- the old saying goes “what goes around, comes around” ... and things are coming around in a positive way
- given disposable income, people will inherently spend for their own enjoyment

Most important is ... boating is sexy. It doesn't matter whether your young or old, rich or poor. Most people given the opportunity want to get out on the water and have some fun whether it's fishing, sunbathing, cruising or just relaxing with family or friends. There will always be many people that see the value of boating as part of their lifestyle and they will spend the money to participate. The population will continue to grow and even though the demographics are shifting like sand dunes in the wind, there will be a robust and healthy market for recreational boating mainly because ... IT'S SO MUCH FUN. Boat manufacturers will innovate and technology will become increasingly efficient but the one thing that will remain constant is the emotional attachment people have to the water and the NEED to get out there and boat. That attachment goes back to the earliest days of man when dug out canoes were the top of the line boat and that emotion not going away any time soon as long as humans reside on earth. 

Watch Those Toes!
Snappers You should be careful when your sitting on your swim platform and wiggling your toes over the edge. Why? ... because most of those scenic little coves you anchor in have more than a few big snapping turtles cruising around under the water. In an anchorage a few weeks ago a guy had his toe bitten by a snapping turtle and it was a small one compared to some I have seen swimming around. Now I'm not going to tell you what anchorage, because it's a popular one and I don't want people to be afraid to swim.

When you are going in for a swim, dive right off and make a splash.They will then avoid the area. Even the biggest snapper won't be interested in a human splashing about. But hang those toes over and wiggle them and that's an edible snack size meal and your asking for trouble. Now don't run off and start killing snapping turtles please. They are important environmentally and they keep these anchorages cleaned up of dead fish and other wildlife. They certainly won't bother you if they understand that your a great big human ... they didn't survive since the dinosaurs by not being able to distinguish prey from danger and humans are plenty dangerous to a turtle.

Snappers A bit about the snapper ... your neighbour in the anchorage. They are the largest freshwater turtle in Canada. They can live to be 70 years old and can grow to tortoise size proportions (31 inches/250lbs.). The triangular spikes look like they belong on a stegosaurus dinosaur and indeed they have been around that long too. Adult snappers have few natural enemies (except humans), however they swim away when threatened. If you corner them or harass them, they will fight back. Females don't breed until they are 17 to 19 years old. They lay 50 round eggs buried in a nest in sandy soil near the water. They like slow moving water with a mud or sand bottom and plenty of vegetation along the shore. They hibernate close to the shore buried in mud or silt. They do not swim particularly well in comparison to some other species of turtles and they can often be observed walking along the bottom. 90% of their diet is dead animal and plant material although they do eat frogs, snakes and some fish. They are not endangered but are considered threatened and both the turtles and their habitat are protected by law since 2007. You cannot eat them as they live to be so old they become toxic over time from all the bottom feeding and build up of metals in their flesh from dead fish etc..

So you will see big snapping turtles now and again if you peer over the side of your boat, or you may see them basking on shore or on logs. However they are harmless to humans as long as you don't harass them or unless you dangle feet in the water and they accidently don't recognize there's a human attached to the other end. By all means swim around your boat and claim your temporary territory and you won't have a problem.

Canada Needs A Tropical Island
Island Most of the civilized countries in the world have a tropical island stashed away somewhere in the world for it's citizens to vacation or retire in a warm place, while still having the benefit of their home countries health care, currency, tax status, rule of law and cultural expectations. Our good friends to the south have many choices – US Virgins, Puerto Rico, Hawaiian Islands and of course many other options just off the mainland like the Florida Keys.

I know summer is approaching ... and I also know by the time it gets here it will be gone eight weeks later and we'll be back freezing our butts off. It seems uncivilized that a well respected and well to do country like Canada can't hook up with a tropical island somewhere that needs us as much as we need them. It almost happened with Turks & Cacaos back in the 70's but somehow that fell apart.

We need it really bad now and I will go on record to say I will vote for any Federal party for life regardless of their politics if they find us a Canadian tropical island I can vacation or even retire too. Heck lets make it another province ... Great White South. I'll speak whatever language their culture demands and gladly pour my hard earned tax dollars into that new province. I'd be up for giving them even more concessions than Quebec to keep them onboard and happy. I already know the economy of this island is going to boom and the current residents can all get incredibly wealthy if they are willing to share a little. Quality of life on the island will be supreme for all.

I'll bet anyone, that in our current demographic cycle of retiring boomers that even the worst politician could get elected running on a tropical island for Canada platform. Let the negotiations begin and sign me up for a waterfront condo with a sand beach. Any ideas how we get this rolling?

It's A Special Place
Special Place Seeing astronaut Chris Hadfield's pic of Georgian Bay taken from the space station orbiting earth put it into perspective for me. Georgian Bay seems large and endless when cruising on it's waters but from outer space it really is a small oasis in a sea of humanity. There is no where like it on earth. The oldest mountains in the world, part of the fur trade route that opened up Canada, rich in first nations history and historic home to many native American tribes, British fall back position during the War of 1812, Group of Seven painters backdrop, shipbuilding history, shipwreck history, lumber barons paradise, fisherman's paradise, major shipping port for western grain to the world, host to early steamship tourism, cottage country, host of small towns, yacht cruising like heaven on earth - all of these things ... and it has endured before man covered by warm seas and glaciers and once host to mountains higher than the Rockies ... and it will be around no doubt long after mankind ceases to exist.

As temporary guardians of the Bay it is our duty to protect it, preserve it and yes have fun on it. Happy to say that Georgian Bay is probably in better shape today then it was 100 years ago when industrialization and the lumber industry was at it's peak in the area. Don't take it for granted. By shear luck of location and geography it remains as a pristine example of unique rugged Canadian landscape that was named by Cruising World to be one of the top 10 yacht cruising destinations of the world. We are so lucky to have it in our backyard. Care for it like it was your own.

Model For Lighthouse Preservation
Lighthouse Preservation As we have reported before many lighthouses coast to coast – including Georgian Bay are threatened to be dismantled because of underfunding to protect and preserve these historic tourism legacies. In some cases with public pressure they can be protected and in some cases private groups or local governments can adopt and maintain some lighthouses. But many have and will soon be torn down because the continue to deteriorate and are of no navigational use to the Canadian Coast Guard. Unfortunately in the federal government, seldom do different government entities shift responsibilities from one budget to another. Logically Coast Guard dollars would be shifted to Tourism to give these icons of the great waters a chance to live on and play testament back to the days when they were vital to the safety of ships, crews and their passengers. No light house should be razed – there are always options regardless of condition or location.

One good example of practical preservation is the 1907 McKay Island lighthouse at Bruce Mines in the North Channel. The wooden lighthouse/residence was 32.8 ' above the water level and had 5 mile visibility and was built by the federal government on land supplied by Bruce Mines Copper Ltd. for the ships who picked up from the copper mine and timber industries. Joseph Harvey was the original light keeper until his death in 1913. Angus James McNeish had tenure from 1915 –1946. Merritt Strum then took over for one year followed by Gordon Inch 1947 – 1953 and the last light keeper Harold Wing until 1955 where it became uninhabited when the season ended. After that point it was manned only part time by a non resident. The commercial ships stopped coming to Bruce Mines by the late 1950's.

In the late 1960's, for cost reasons, the Canadian federal government decided to tear down the abandoned, dis-repaired lighthouse. Mr. Harold D. Peterson, town resident negotiated with the Federal Government to reconsider the destruction of the old lighthouse by selling it to him. Mr. Peterson was the owner of McKay Island and wanted to preserve the landmark as a heritage. Both the Federal Government, and Mr. Harold D. Peterson, shared in the cost of installing electricity to McKay Island from the main power grid. It was also agreed that the beacon from the old lighthouse would never be lighted, as long as the replacement steel tower light existed.

 In 1971, renovations began with Mr. Norman Beilhartz as the prime contractor. Mr. Beilhartz was a skilled carpenter, plumber and electrician. Carpentry work included handmade  pine cupboards and the structure was fully el ctrified. A pressurized water system and septic system were also installed. The lighthouse is still under the care of the Peterson family, doing business as Bruce Bay Cottages and Lighthouse. The lighthouse is an all-season, self-catering lighthouse resort. You can still climb the ladder to the beacon's rampart for an amazing panoramic view of the North Channel of Lake Huron. Guests can accommodate in the lighthouse and relive history. The survival and ongoing use of the lighthouse as an income producing property is a good example of what the government can do to preserve these structures when they are motivated to do so by public pressure rather than tear them down.

CANWARN Volunteers
CANWARN Volunteers Want to help others by contributing to CANWARN? This Government of Canada Weather Office group depends on volunteers to report timely news of developing storms called their Watch and Warning program. They offer training which can come in handy if you're a boater and want to learn more about reading the weather. And you will be helping other boaters and folks on land avoid dangerous weather conditions.

If you want to attend a training session, please RSVP to

Here are some training locations that would be useful for our Georgian bay audience:

Hamilton - April 20th 9 am Nash Auditorium Chedoke Hospital Sanatorium Rd.
Orillia - April 27th 9 am Rama Fire Hall 7454 Williams Rd.
Toronto - May 4th 9 am Environment Canada 4905 Dufferin St.
Toronto - May 8th 7 pm Environment Canada 4905 Dufferin St.

Giving Back
Boat Cleaner Our parent company First Page SEO supports a number of not for profit causes like Volunteer Dental Outreach, All Those Movies, Highland Yard, HATVA, Dorset Community, SPCA. Accordingly Boating Georgian Bay tries to do it's part on a smaller platform.

When we launched our Boating Georgian Bay “Seriously Great” Boat Cleaner we said we would donate 10% of the profits (about 50 cents per bottle) ... so we just made our donation on the first 400 bottles to Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. North Channel Preservation Society/ GB Land Trust, The Shark Trust. All are worthy causes ... especially The Shark Trust that is doing what it can to stop the mindless slaughter of sharks for finning which is driving some of the species close to extinction. If the shark population collapses ... so the goes the rest of the fish in the ocean that are closely tied in a delicate balance of nature.

We hope that if folks continue to like and purchase our environmentally friendly boat cleaner we can contribute a lot more in the years to come. We also encourage you to help if you can. A little bit from many goes a long way.

Thinking About Doing The Loop?
Doing the Loop If you have a boat and are dreaming about travelling America's Great Loop Waterway ... send us an email to with a pic of your boat attached and tell us about it.

Information collected is not used for any other marketing purpose than to join the association.

Sleep Like A Baby
Boat Girl It seems it took me forever to realize where I was. In realty it was a matter of seconds that seemed like minutes. The bed did not feel familiar. I scanned the room as my brain began to recognize it's surroundings. The gentle lapping of water along the hull confirmed what I should have known. This was the same gentle water movement that put me into a deep sleep. Then I remembered ... yup I was on the boat in a safe anchorage. If you're like me ... and the weather forecast is for calm seas, there is nowhere comparable to a boat for a deep restful sleep. My AGLCA burgee that swivels on an aluminum post on the bow pulpit is my alarm clock should the wind pick up even the slightest. On one those starlight sultry summer nights where there is hardly a breath of wind, even the smallest current is enough to bring about the faint lap along the hull and the night sounds through the open hatch that is so hypnotic and reassuring that it drops one into a transforming REM sleep in minutes.

So now the sun is up and the day promises to be hot with leading indicators as I open the stateroom door and the bright light blasts in through the glass cockpit doors. A few are already up and about. Hmm I guess I better get out there and mop the dew off the boat before the sun dries it. It's amazing how shiny a dew mopped boat is when it dries. Soft water I guess ... and the dew gives the boat a good overnight soaking loosening up anything adhering to the boats fiberglass ... including the bits and pieces of whatever from the previous nights wine appreciation session in the cockpit. Hey someone's in the water. Oh it's one of my favourite crew. Where's your suit? Can I take your picture. No? Ok I'll take it anyways – a bit of skin always adds spice to the Boating Georgian Bay website. Ok I'm sorry. Maybe I should start a tabloid or something. Naw too much work.

Well ... time to get mopping. Funny, work on the boat never seems like work. Hey do I smell bacon? After breakfast it's time to read for a bit. Maybe go for a dingy ride and a swim. By noon it's happy hour somewhere. A cold glass of Pinot Grigio washes down that Prosciutto and grilled vegetable sandwich very nicely. Wonder what we should BBQ for dinner tonight? Steak & shrimp maybe?

Ok lets take the dingy and visit some boats and swap pirate stories and tales of the sea. Man that BBQ was good. Look at those stars – there's a billion of them and satellites and shooting stars are as common as cars on the freeway. Boy I'm getting sleepy. Time to hit the sack. Ugh ... one more day and I've got to pull anchor and get back to work. I wonder why all the folks back at the office wonder why I spend so much time and money on the boat. I guess if I wasn't on the boat I'd be mowing the lawn, watching TV or sitting on the deck looking at a neighbours house or something. Oh well - their loss ... they really don't know what they're missing.

No really, if your reading this and don't have a boat you don't know what your missing. Save your life and call a Yacht Broker today before it's to late. Life doesn't give rain checks - seize the day. 

So Your Buying A Used Boat?
Buying A Used Boat Most folks that are buying a new “used” boat must sell their existing boat first. Sounds easy, but to do a deal through a Broker chances are there are several buyers and sellers lined up for every deal and if any one boat fails a survey, financing conditions or for any reason fails to close, you have a cascading domino affect that leaves more than one prospective boat buyer back where they started from.

It's tricky business and Brokers have to work hard to put these multi boat deals together and see them through, especially in these uncertain economic times. Most offers have several conditions including a survey and a successful sea trial. Usually the boat buyer isn't committed to the boat purchase until his/her own boat sale is consummated. Nobody wants to end up with two boats. So deposits change hands and everyone waits on pins and needles hoping that all goes well with surveys, sea trials and closings and the Broker sweats it out. Timing on a lot of the steps never seems to coincide. One boat in the chain is in heated storage while another is not and must wait for mild weather for the survey. Sea trials have to wait until winter is over. Banks that might be providing financing can get cold feet sometimes for no apparent reason.

If you are a buyer with cash and you don't have another boat to trade you truly are in the drivers seat and things get a lot smoother. But not glass smooth. If you have ever tried to move a US boat to Canada and register it as a Canadian vessel you know how many steps are involved in that process. Typically you need a broker on both sides of the border. Most US boats are financed because they take advantage of tax deductions in the US. That means bank checks and often bank releases. Coast Guard title changes, taxes landed in Canada, measuring the boat and registration follow. You have to work hard to own a boat. Just to get it found and locked down is an ordeal and it has to be paid for and maintained. As they say everything worth owning is worth fighting for ... and that my friends is why boaters really love their boats and empty their wallets without hesitation for the sake of the boat. The reward is those long sunny weekends in some secluded harbour with a cold beer at hand. Owning a boat defies logic and any practical semblance of cognitive reasoning - but most boat lovers have stars in their eyes ... and logic can go suck.

What's In  A Boats Name?
Whats in a Boat You can look around any marina and guess at the character of those that own the boats, judging by the boat names. My favourite boat name of all time is Spellbound. Spellbound was a 100+ foot yacht that showed up in the night when we were docked along the Erie Barge Canal and it departed in the early morning hours when it was still dark. I thought the name was appropriate when the yacht arrived in the night all lite up like a spaceship from Star Wars. Only a super yacht can get away with a name like Spellbound.

I am the type of personality that likes boat names to be serious and cool. I would never think of naming my boat Lucky Sperm or Breakin Wind. Some folks show their boats no respect ... or maybe they just have a unusual or over active sense of humour? Here's a few names I have come across – Ship Happens, Bull Ship, Wasted Seamen, Cirrhosis Of The Liver, D-Cup, Miss Adventure, Lady Candy, Mama's Money ... and so it goes.

The most bizarre name I have ever seen was on Georgian Bay – Tits R Real ... and what a proud wife she was to have the boat named after her and have the hoot spa to hang out on the boat to acknowledge those passing by, chuckling at the name.  

The most common name is Aquaholic, and you know that anyone that names their boat that, has either had too much to drink, or they aren't very creative in coming up with an original name. Next to Aquaholic comes On the Rocks.

Then there's are the middle of the road semi funny names like Rock Buster, Vitamin Sea, Cay Nine, Just Sayin, Sea Ya, Chicken of the Sea. Middle of the road boat name owners I'm guessing are team players, with a good sense of humour ... and they probably work in little cubicles in some big corporation. How cruel it is to name your boat Chicken of the Sea.

Serious sailors that like to compete use names like Liberty, Defender, Reliance, Resolute, Enterprise, Courageous, Intrepid. These are macho manly names that cry out confidently looking for challengers.

Some smart guys name their boats after their wives like SS Melinda or Suzie B. I bet they had to ask their wife's permission to buy the boat.  

Then there's the cranky owners that use names like Back Off and Up Yours. Kind of rude I think. You might think twice about inviting Up Yours over for a drink when you're sharing the same anchorage. You might even want to change anchorages.  

My wife likes Messing Around from the book Wind In The Willows ...  cute, but no thanks. Had a sail boat named Rascal which seemed ok at the time ... but not anymore.   

My neighbours boat is his business email. Maybe he thinks that's enough to let him write off his boat against the biz? Didn't want to say, but boat expenses on a tax form are a red flag to any Cdn. tax auditor. Tiger Woods named his yacht Privacy. That worked out well didn't it. It's for sale now at a 50% plus discount to the purchase price.   

A lot should go into thinking through your boats name. It has to have the right balance. Not too goofy, not offensive and not too pompous. Something meaningful. I know, how about Fiscal Cliff?     

When Things Go From Bad To Worse
Barack Obama No one expected a hurricane the size and scope of Sandy to coincide with full moon high tides and collide with to other frontal systems setting it on a destructive path for the most populated area of the north-east USA. The flooding created massive destruction and significant loss of life. Current count is 60 human lives and 45 billion in economic losses. We have to remember that Hurricane Sandy affected 1/5 of the population of the USA in some form and many island countries suffered equally the devastating consequences of the storm. Even in Canada we had several deaths and significant property damage.

Two weeks after the storm nearly 700,000 homes and businesses still don't have power and it may be another week or more before all power is restored. In the Caribbean it may be many more months before things are back to normal. Some people blame it on global warming, some say it's an act of God but whatever the reason mother nature is now and has been forever unpredictable and cruel at times. Storms this big just don't normally come this far north this late in the season and turn west into the mainland. Yes there is logical reason it did follow this unusual pattern, and the hurricane trackers and predictors did a pretty good job giving all the warnings they did but the surge was unprecedented and caused far more damage than anyone could anticipate.

As boaters we like to live and play by the water but we know from experience there is more vulnerability on the coasts or even inland lakes and waterways. Most of those Canadians that died in Hurricane Hazel lived along rivers and creeks that flooded.  

Many cruising boats had waited out the 2012 hurricane season in the Chesapeake and were just in the process of moving south thinking it was the safe normal time to do so. Many marinas in the New York basin and along the New Jersey shore right down to the Delaware were totally wiped out – no docks left, all boats damaged or destroyed. There is not much hope that they will rebuild anytime soon in the current marine economic environment. No doubt some will be lost to condos and other uses as time marches on. Marinas are having a rough go all around North America with few exceptions.

So what is the point and what is to be done? We are all always at risk and mother nature has no favorites. Perspective wise, mush less severe single storms on Georgian Bay has caused greater loss of life as ships went down. Boating has some risks that we all accept in exchange for the pleasure of being on the water. But it behooves use to take precautions as to watching the weather and respecting it, equipping your boat with as many safety systems as you can afford, understanding the mechanical systems and capabilities of your boat and learning as much about good seamanship as one can absorb. Oh by the way, check your insurance and make sure your covered for events like this. In the worst storms other folks are usually to busy trying to save themselves and simply can't save you so you must count on your own capabilities. While many of you may have read about the sinking of the tall ship HMS Bounty and their loss of life off of Hatteras during Hurricane Sandy there were dozens of other pleasure boats heading south that ran smack into it. The storm was just too big to avoid or skirt around ... even large high speed powerboats and cruise ships got caught. But most of those offshore sailors survived battered and bruised with their boats in tatters ... but alive to tell the tail, and with more experience to show for it.

And remember next time you complain about how much it costs to keep your boat in a marina ... think about how the marina owners in addition to their overhead take on significant risk running a business like that on the water. Need proof? Attached is a pic of Obama hugging a marina owner who lost it all and not enough insurance to carry on. On Georgian Bay almost every marina on a yearly basis suffers some kind of storm damage, ice damage or costs associated with changing water levels. Usually the damage is manageable but every once in a while mother nature presents a total wipe out, just to keep us all on our toes.

Enough Of The Politics
ObamaRomney Many of our viewers are US based. Up in Canada when the US sneezes Canada catches a cold. Fortunately Canada has weathered the recession better than most. Our banks luckily were rock solid. I am a news nut ... so I spend an hour or two each day between CNN, BNN, BBC and CBC. My motivation is primarily business and the effect world events have on business.  

It is hard to ignore the US election. After all, the positioning and campaigning has been going on for two years! A new President barely gets into office and the campaigning is already starting. It strikes me that US politics is a very polarized blood sport. Many voters tend to line with their “brand” or “team” and stick with them come hell or high water – only about 10% are undecided voters. The truth gets stretched, promises are made, self interests are apparent, policies change on the fly, campaign promises are rampant, details are hard to find. It seems it is more important that your “brand” wins than what might be best for the economy – like getting people back to work or paying down debt.

From an outsiders perspective there is lots of policy overlap and much of the debate is simply splitting hairs - while in the bigger picture the country is going down the toilet economically ... and it seems many don't want to recognize that reality. The fiscal cliff looms, cities are going bankrupt, housing is still more or less in crisis mode and unemployment (especially youth) is a disaster. The surprising thing won't be who wins or looses the election – the surprising thing is time marches on, things are falling apart and the politicians can't get together to help the country because they are too busy at any cost fighting with each other. It doesn't matter who the leader is if one side can't agree with the other side ... even when issues that are blatantly obvious slap them on the side of the head. It is politics run amuck. Control for the few at the expense of the electorate – rich or poor.

What does this have to do with boating? The industry teeters in the balance. Many builders went bankrupt in the last recession wave. Those that survived restructured, laid off staff, stiffed investors, shut down plants, sold off brands. There really are no healthy boat manufacturers at this point. The ones still operating are counting on an economic recovery. It has been slow to materialize and the recession ended two years. Boat manufacturers hold on by the skin of their teeth. Europe dithers wallowing in debt, US politicians won't address the fiscal cliff until after an election and the US debt also soars out of control. You could flip a coin as to whether the USA like Europe will fall back into a full blown double dip recession. The multi billion dollar boating industry will not survive a second major recession – they have not yet recovered from the last one. Glimmers of hope are quickly dashed by political indecision and paralysis. Consumers are frozen like a deer in the headlights of a car speeding towards them. Just to make sure the coffin lid will be nailed shut tightly, both Republicans and Democrats are talking about closing “loopholes”. One of those loopholes is the US tax deduction on yachts. China meanwhile rises in stature and emerges as the worlds economic leader ... and they just so happen to own the lions share of the US debt. WHAT A MESS!!!

Don't we all agree it's time that these politicians on both sides of the border (who incidentally are our employees) get to work, drop the perks and pork barrel benefits and for once work hand in hand with each other to salvage the economy (including the boating industry)? We need leadership and constructive solutions to eliminate government waste and help folks get back to work by addressing bureaucracy and inspiring confidence. We need politicians with a “lets fix it together” mentality, not an “I'm right and your wrong” mentality. If your child was in the hospital with a life threatening injury would you put up with doctors who spend hours bickering about who has the right course of action while the patient dies? Well the US is in the hospital and has a life threatening economic injury and politicians won't get together to save the patient.

Enough already – at every opportunity tell the politicians and their cronies to set aside their petty differences and get back to work and cooperate to get the country back on it's feet ... before the situation becomes permanently irreversible.

Never Look Back
NeverLookBack A complete stranger from Quebec called me the other day and we got to talking and the conversation went something like this:

It's been my lifelong dream to retire to my boat to cruise south during winter and perhaps keep sailing indefinitely seeking other adventure. The wife doesn't mind visiting but has no interest as a permanent live aboard, partaking in the cruising lifestyle. There is enough pension money to cruise indefinitely as long as my health holds up. I feel like life has passed me by and I want some adventure before it's too late. I love sailing and have a magnetic attraction to the water and that is the way I want to see at least part of the world. Am I crazy?

Feeling like Ann Landers, my part of the conversation went something like this:

No, your not crazy. Many individuals, couples and families are drawn to the adventure of a cruising lifestyle but few fully execute such a move. Too bad about your wife - think that one through as it might screw up your marriage. Sometimes this kind of arrangement works and sometimes it doesn't. I have seen cruisers literally chuck the phone in the water and head south planning on never returning only to find themselves back in the rat race the next spring and I have seen cruisers head south for one winter that never come back. When you strip away the glamour of the cruising adventure and realize the boredom and sometimes sleepless nights and hardships, your perceptions might change once your doing it - it's not for everyone. Nothing ever goes according to Hoyle. You'll have good days and bad days. You will miss your family and you will probably miss your warm bed on firm ground at some point. You will encounter good people on your travels and you will also find the scum of the earth who will take advantage of you at every opportunity. You need thick skin and some level of self sufficiency or a dam big bank account

His part of the conversation continued like this:

I feel I have to do this, or I will regret my life sitting in the old age home. I have worked hard all my life and have sacrificed my dreams for a practical lifestyle and things I no longer care about. I want to shed the baggage and I want a fresh start.

My advice for what it is worth went something like this:

Dude it sounds like you need to get this out of your system, or at least test the waters. You can't plan this type of thing beginning to end, you just go with the flow and adjust along the way. Nothing is forever. Life is really short and you have to do what you have to do ... but you will no doubt have other regrets in any event so weigh that out, as it's a big decision. Everyone has regrets and impulses. Lots of people lead a nomadic life quite happily and thrive on the uncertainty and adventure but on the other hand, lots of people who think they want that, figure out along the way it wasn't really the answer they were seeking.

Humans come programmed with some strange emotions. You know humans are the only animals that cry and can hate without reason. Thorold said “Never look back unless you are planning to go that way”. Life rarely unfolds to the grand plans of man ... so perhaps the lessen is go with the flow rather than fight the current and just enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

Water Levels Are Falling! ... Don't Panic
low water The lowest water level ever recorded on Lake Huron/Georgian Bay was in 1964. The highest water levels were in 1986. Some of you might remember that because the Parry Sound docks were flooded in 86. Fluctuations of about a metre of chart datum are normal even on a short time horizon. Currently Huron is hovering around chart datum and it is expected water levels will increase again ... given time.

Geologists say there are seven historic shorelines and it is currently possible to see four of those. At Cave Point Bruce Peninsula there was once wave action that carved those caves 20 metres above the current water levels. In contrast there are carbon dated cedar roots just few miles away that are 10 metres below current water levels. So as you can see water levels fluctuating at least 30 metres over time has happened historically in the past. And to think that we complain about a few feet of water fluctuation levels these days.

Sierra Club wants to put big concrete curbs at the bottom of the St Clair River - water speed bumps. Other have said private sector companies are grabbing the water and floating it overseas in giant bladders. Get real people! Sit down relax and have a beer, mother nature is just doing her thing. Water flows from the Great Lakes to the ocean one way or the other. Planet earth maintains the same amount of water overall as it doesn’t escape through the atmosphere.

Humans see things on a short term time horizon. Mother nature remains clearly unconcerned with what mankind sees as normal or abnormal.

What Goes Around Comes Around
Wye2012 Docking a big boat into a narrow slip can be tricky if the winds are not favorable. Ever noticed that in some marinas neighboring boats rush to the aid to assist incoming and outgoing boats with their lines on a regular basis while in other marinas folks can be sitting on the boat right beside you and won't lift a finger to help. I notice this especially at marinas that have a lot of transients coming and going.

From my perspective, whether the boat coming in is your long time marina neighbor or a visiting boat, the right thing to do is make an effort to help. I worry that courtesy is becoming a lost art. Many people just don't seem to care anymore unless it's something that benefits them. Recently I was in line at a drug store and a twenty some year old walked right to the front of the line with his energy drink purchase and butted in. The lady at the front of the line was afraid to say anything not wanting to start a commotion. The clerk pretended she didn't see it avoiding a potential conflict I suppose. I couldn't help but address the situation, and for that he just glared back at me and walked away after making his purchase. At the Midland Dock Party this summer I witnessed young people who were fighting over and high jacking cabs rather than wait their turn. There seems to be a lot of disrespect in our society today due to the self centered nature of a high percentage of society.

  Now if your reading this and thinking ... who cares – you are probably the type of person who wouldn't lift a finger to help others out of common courtesy. But think about this for a moment. Everybody needs and appreciates a helping hand at some point. Maybe it will happen tomorrow and maybe it will happen when you're in the old age home ... but as sure as the sun will rise, it will happen sooner or later. Maybe some night you will have to come into the dock with a pop up storm happening and you will require help with the lines because the marina staff have gone home. You are more likely to get help if you have helped others on the dock. Besides, it's a good feeling to help others ... even holding a door open for someone benefits both parties.

Boat Yoga
boat yoga Here's a great way to chill and stay limber while cruising. Yoga on the boat. In Florida where there are as many boat services as there are stars in the sky, yoga and boating have gone hand in hand for many years. You can hire a personal yoga instructor to come to your boat and do regular yoga classes as a way to relax and stay flexible.

As you get older, you tend to loose your flexibility and there is nothing like yoga to condition it back. I confess I attended a Yoga class series once, along with my Muscle Plus training and I really enjoyed it. Gail of Holness Yoga demonstrates just how easy it is to find a spot to spend and hour doing yoga on your boat. Like everything else when your cruising yoga is even better on the boat, because the motion of the boat adds an element of balance complexity.Take a conventional onshore yoga class and then apply it on your boat. It's hard to get enough exercise while cruising so try it ... you'll like it.

Every Boat Has Character
unusual boat Boating can often be a status driven thing for many. It's always nice to look at a sleek new yacht, but lets not forget - rich or poor, new boat or old boat, the main thing is to get out in the water and enjoy. Most would agree that everyone likes their own boat regardless of condition or age. It's like their child – unconditional love ... well behaved or unruly ... beautiful or homely – what counts is it's yours and yours to care for and enjoy.

Sometimes marina boating communities can be cliquish. Certain boat owner groups tend to hang and cruise together based on size and status ... a pecking order perhaps.

I've seen some very unusual and homemade boats at dock and anchor that are not normally what most boaters would call a boat. I've seen people poking fun at them with the owner out of earshot. But you know what? - if the owner has fun with it, and can get away to some secluded cove and drop anchor to spend the weekend with friends ... I'm guessing he/she is just as happy as the million dollar sleek yacht owner that may be on the hook beside them.

One thing I noticed down south cruising is that cruisers share a common bond, and it is normal that folks from a large power yacht might invite folks from a small sailboat (and vice versa) to drop over for drinks and a snack given that they are both at the same anchorage and both share an affinity for cruising and the shear joy of living and traveling on a boat. The camaraderie crosses age groups and economic demographics. You see less of that up in Canada than you would in the Caribbean by example.

Maybe it's because up here most boats are coming from a home base marina and they don't feel like real cruisers. When live aboard cruising, one usually learns that you make friends along the way where you find them and everyone depends on each other. Or maybe it's because Canadians in general, are warm and friendly people ... but somewhat reserved and private by nature.

This summer I'm going to make a point of saying hello and sharing a few kind words with the other boats in my anchorage regardless of power or sail, size of boat, homemade or just out of the factory. It's the way it should be. Pass it on.  

Not Enough Courage
cruise ship The 952' Italian Cruise ship Costa Concordia was built in 2006 for Costa Cruise Lines which is owned by the Carnival Cruise Line. It sank on January 13, 2012 when it ran aground the Isola Del Giglio at Tuscany Italy. 4252 people were evacuated and 27 people died with others still missing. The ship was Captained by Francesco Schettino. It was the ships first leg of a 6 port cruise and the passengers had yet to go through their life boat evacuation safety drill. After clipping a reef that was part of the island, it had it’s diesel/electric engine areas flooded and lost all power where it drifted in deep water for about an hour until the winds finally pushed it back aground on an underwater shelf protruding from the island.

Ships Officers told the passengers the problem was a repairable electrical fault. They told the maritime authorities it was an electrical "black out". The Captain delayed evacuation of the ship while he tried to figure things out. He was on the phone to a retired Captain discussing his sail past when they struck the rock. The sail past was endorsed by the cruise line and the Captain was under steam at more that 15 knots steering visually only, off the normal course for ships and without the aid of instrumentation which had been overridden to take the ship off course for the sail past.

The ship was as close to land as the overall length of the ship as it sailed past the island. The normal shipping channel was 5 miles offshore. As the ship listed and rolled over, aground on the rock ledge, the life boats on one side of the ship could not be lowered due to the list of the ship. The Captain left the ship during the evacuation leaving behind 300 passengers and claiming he fell into a life boat despite orders by the Italian Coat Guard to get back on the ship via the pilot ladder.

The Captain was charged with many offences related to the incident including multiple manslaughter and abandoning the ship. Seven other Officers are under investigation and may be charged for abandoning incapacitated passengers. One Officer and the ships Doctor stayed aboard through the entire evacuation. By tonnage, it is the largest passenger ship ever to sink. Fuel is being pumped from the vessel in a race to save the local ocean environment. The plan is to refloat the ship but it is already collapsing in the mid section which is unsupported and bridged between rocks. All in, after insurance repayment and negative stock impact the accident could cost Carnival $175 million.

Many more lives most surely would have been lost if the ship had not drifted back to the island where it grounded, avoiding a complete sinking in deep water. It was also a stroke of luck that the boat listed down to a level on the lee side that lifeboats could take passengers off the partially submerged ship from the lifeboat deck ... otherwise many more would have had to jump and be drowned in the surf.

Here is a fascinating GPS recorded account of the ships course as it approached the island and hit the reef and drifted back to it's final grounding spot. It is clear the Captain made the turn far too late and the side slippage of the vessel meant that the ship travelling at an excessive speed for it’s proximity to land was a very risky maneuver that ended badly.

None of us were in the Captains shoes, but the evidence is very condemning. People make mistakes, but it was unforgiveable for the Captain to abandon ship in advance of his passengers who struggled to live and as an aside, also in direct violation of Maritime law. Even though the ship was not imminently on it’s way to the bottom, the Captain made the morally bankrupt decision to leave the ship. Everyone knows, including the Captain, that he should have been be the last to leave the ship. He may have been a good person who made a mistake, but he is also a coward in the eyes of the passengers and general public. So the question is, at what point does a human being toss great risk and personal threat to the wind and execute ones responsibilities? Complete strangers often do put their own lives on the line to save others without giving it a second thought. In this case it was not only a moral responsibility ... it was a legal accountability issue and one that any Captain of a vessel should be fully committed to, regardless of consequences.

Perhaps one of the questions in a job interview for any prospective qualified Captain seeking employment should be - "If you are selected as the ships Captain and Commander - are you 100% certain you have the courage to give up your own life, as may be necessary, to save your passengers and crew with whom you are charged with the responsibility of their safety and well being ... YES or NO?"    

Yacht Sales Track The Stock Markets
yacht sales Well I guess it's no surprise that boat sales can be plotted against the ups and downs of the TSX & DOW. Some enterprising broker types with time on their hands have discovered that every time the US/Canadian stock markets rise, so do boat sales rise ... and every time there's bad news and the markets fall, so do boat sales fall. Why the US and Canada markets together? Because in most cases, with a few exceptions, they rise and fall together. The two economies are very much tied together.

What seems kind of strange is that the ups and downs are not so much seasonal anymore. In the current market, boat sales cycles can change in just a few weeks time ... based on where the markets are headed. And these days with the up and down influences from the European crisis it's like follow the bouncing ball. Now luckily the overall trend has been up for a while and most wouldn't argue that the USA is in a technical bull market ... yacht sales have improved in an upward trend with a lot of little setbacks along the way. It's frustrating exercise for everyone on the selling and buying side, trying to guess that market - but confidence is returning albeit very slowly. Knock on wood that most of the European debt problems are priced into the market already - but who really knows for sure?   

Parks Canada Attendance Down
Parks Canada The number of visits to Parks Canada attractions fell 7% from 21.8 million visits in 2006/2007 to 20.2 million visits 2010/2011. In 2009 the government announced a freeze on Parks Canada fees that has been extended into 2013 for the general public and into 2014 for groups. They have recently launched a Parks Canada clothing line to try and raise revenue and are considering other money making concepts.

Parks Canada has hired the Toronto marketing firm Veritas for $395,000. over the next two years to learn how the parks can better promote themselves and to look at other revenue building opportunities and in general boost the Parks Canada brand. The program specifically includes national parks and national marine conservation areas of which Georgian Bay has many. They are looking for a 10% increase in visits by 2015 and will be targeting urban centre new immigrants.

Come 2014 ... hang on to your wallets as the Parks Canada bureaucracy will ratchet up the budget and go about making up for lost time. Parks Canada does a pretty good job protecting and operating the Parks at the on site level, but the overhead and bureaucracy is staggering and for this reason, catching up at some point is almost a given - unless the politicians extend the freeze further into the future.

You'd think with all that government employee talent and exposure to the day to day park management situation they could save the consultant fees and invest that money in their own brand awareness destination marketing campaigns. Remember the Veritas contract is only consultant advice – after that you can be sure an advertising budget and other overhead will be required to deliver the consultants recommendations. Otherwise it will just become another report sitting on the shelf with no budget to support it right?

Personally my read is - leave it alone and the situation will mostly correct itself once the economy clearly turns around and folks have more discretionary income to travel. Of course the other longer term issue is demographics. Parks are very much family places and the wave of boomers is getting older and they are empty nesters for the most part, with kids off to work and university. So a shift to more couples and seniors attendance is inevitable. That's probably what the consultants will tell them for $395K.

I believe the fortunes of federal and provincial park attendance are largely tied to the effectiveness of provincial tourist marketing. Provincially, Quebec and Newfoundland are doing a great job on tourist marketing - but Ontario through their private sector Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership has done a tepid job and many of the new RTO geographic catchment areas have nothing in common and the dollars are being squandered on overhead and wages with little going into destination marketing.

Anyways, hats off to the men and ladies on the front lines who run around the parks keeping order and cleaning things up ... and a raspberry to the Parks Canada administration who should wean themselves off consultants and get out in the field and enlighten themselves as to the issues at hand and do this work themselves.

Perhaps all the senior Parks Canada staffers need take an all expenses trip to Greece to see how they manage the state parks there . Peter McKay can be their escort and arrange the flights and accommodations! I hear he knows a lot about arranging special flights and he sure knows how to pick nice hotels. Or maybe Peter can pay for the Parks Canada study – after all he just spent about the same amount of money redecorating his executive suite in Ottawa. And yes I'm Conservative .. at least last time I checked.

Will The European Debt Crisis Hit North American Boating Industry?
Lately there has been some good news pertaining to the boating industry in North America. Boat show sales are up. Consumer confidence is rising according to the USA Conference Board. Dealer sold boat sales has risen 11.6% nine months ending Sept. 30th 2011 over the same period 2010 based on Spader Business Management dealer reported statistics. 2011 dealer operating profit is up 3.9% the highest level since 2007 at 4.4%. New boat sales overall are up 16.2% and used boats up 11.6% this year. The average spend transaction rose 9%. Info Link Technologies reports outboard motorboat sales over 15 ft. went up 7.4% Sept 2010 to Sept 2011 ... first positive growth in over 5 years.

Miami Boat Show But there is a dark cloud looming. In Europe and Australia boat sales are falling. Australia has just lowered their interest rates after a number of hikes post recession. Asia manufacturing is slowing along with the raw materials they purchase from the west. And Europe - well it's a heck of a mess with all European countries paying higher or unsustainable bond yields to raise capital, austerity measure implementation in some European countries like Greece, Italy, Portugal & Spain ... high unemployment, banks going under, the Euro falling ... and it doesn't look like any short term solutions are on the horizon.

So far the North American economy has been able to shake off most of the fiscal problems and the affects of an imminent recession about to sweep Europe. Standard & Poors has all European countries (even Germany) on credit watch to downgrade. That could make bond yields really out of reach for many European countries when they are already at unsustainable levels of 7% now. Corporate earnings coming from the US and Canada have been fairly positive and most companies have cut costs and paid down debt and are in healthier shape than they have been in many years. But there's nothing much left to cut and future growth depends now on innovation, hiring and consumer spending. Signs have been looking very positive in North America but the million dollar question is how badly will Europe's problems affect America on this side of the pond? Lately it looks like the DOW & TSX markets are taking it in stride but how long will this last? It is possible that the European Union will get their act together and come up with a plan that can best manage a very bad situation over the long term, spreading out some of the pain while taking immediate measures to be fiscally more prudent. But short term they face certain recession and austerity and in this time of globalization it's a small world ... and domino affects can panic edgy markets spinning things out of control in a hurry affecting other markets an ocean away.

The Miami Boat Show and Toronto Boat Show will be a very important boat shows for reasons one might not have normally considered. Because of the timing to the European fiscal drop dead dates while stick handling these European issues. These two shows will be the virtual "Canary in the mine" for the marine industry in North America and the ongoing recovery of boat sales as a disposable income expenditures will show the industry clearly whether it will continue to lead out with it's recovery or fall back to the abyss of the last four years. Clearly the industry would be positioned for a major positive roll if it were not for this European uncertainty! Stay tuned and lets see if these two upcoming shows will deliver the prospects and sales that we hope for ... and that consumer optimism continues to rise from the ashes. Cross your fingers.

Trickle Down Economics
trickle down economics I had a interesting discussion recently on the Occupy Wall Street type protests that are going on around the world. While lately some of the focus of purpose is being lost to other fragmented interests, the original direction was clearly:

  1. the need for jobs
  2. the erosion of the middle class including the bigger divide between rich and poor
  3. the perception of inequities in taxation of the wealthy
  4. inequities of tariffs and low cost offshore produced goods flooding the markets that can often result in industries that no longer compete domestically in manufacturing

I think a lot of people who work and are well off have much sympathy and support for those that want to work but can't find jobs. We all want economic prosperity and both rich and poor are frustrated by the anemic economy, lack of political leadership in some cases and the constant turn of reoccurring bad fiscal policy and lack of regulation in the financial jurisdictions of many countries. I believe it's also reasonable to assume that most don't want to see CEO's of poorly performing private or public institutions or derelict businesses rewarded unduly by shareholders or with government taxpayer money for bad decision making. People have a right to complain and protest - that shouldn't translate to riots in the street and violence though.

But what I don't hear people talking about is the benefits that trickle down in some industries that result in a high ratio of economic benefit across all class structures. I heard that the "Occupy Wall Street" movement was planning on disrupting the Fort Lauderdale Yacht Show to make their point that life is not fair and those that can afford big yachts should be sharing more of their wealth. While it wouldn’t be fair to comment on individual cases (because I don't know any billionaire yacht owners personally), I think it is fair to say that the yachting/boating industry is in general an excellent example of how a manufactured product can have widespread positive economic benefits to many. Sometimes "trickle down economics" work.

Consider the following:

  • boat building is still a labour intensive process ... many are employed from design, production, marketing, sales and post sales service
  • boats use more than their fair share of raw materials from a broad cross section of suppliers including petroleum based resins, steel, other metals, plastics and wood
  • many individual parts of a boat are subbed out to a wide variety of manufacturers
  • the financial services industry and charter industries greatly benefit from boat builds, especially large yachts
  • boats trade often and new boats are built to replace old boats that depreciate quickly but continue to require healthy amounts of cash for maintenance
  • boats burn fuel (environmental concerns aside) and the oil industry is a huge and has far reaching positive economic impact around the world from the guy that pumps the fuel ... to the chemist in the refinery ... to the guy that drilled the well
  • boat owners spend 10% - 20% per year of the purchase price of the boat paying for storage, dockage, maintenance, insurance, upgrades, equipment, fuel and all the taxes that go with those things
  • everyone benefits ... marinas, local retailers, restaurants, grocery stores, parts suppliers, electronics, fuel suppliers, sundries & supplies, third party maintainers, sometimes crew and certainly all local businesses within a few miles of where the boat is docked or anchored
  • service rates for yachts are much higher than service rates for mechanical products with wheels or white goods that sit in your house
  • although there are usually relative low hours of actual operation added to a yacht yearly, the hourly averages to own and run a boat are in the $200 – $300 dollars per hour range (for actual use with costs rolled in) that trickles out and around ... even for boats in the 35' to 50' range (and exponentially higher as size increases)

Every yacht owner knows the shocking reality of the cost of ownership of a boat or yacht. The family car pales in comparison and quiet frankly a garage full of Ferrari's doesn't even come close to the kind of expenditures that even a 50” boat takes to maintain and the resulting dollars that it spreads through the economy.

You know the old saying – "a boat is a hole in the water that you pour money into".


Now if your planning on buying a boat don't let this scare you. It only hurts when you write the cheque or pull out the Visa card and the rest of the time it's PURE HEAVEN! Boats are an overall excellent investment in your well being – but perhaps not so good to your pocketbook. However you can sleep well, knowing that you have done more than your fair share to help others in a very diversified way ... spreading money throughout the economy. You can't take it with you anyways - and it's a much better and more effective way to help others then say, general tourism or buying real estate.

So to those that were going to protest the Lauderdale Boat Show I say to you ... you're harassing the wrong folks! These boat buyers and boat owners are the sharers of wealth - not hoarders of wealth.

Gales of November
November Gales Georgian Bay is littered with hundreds of shipwrecks that have accumulated over the years. Even with modern navigation and forecasting capability mother nature still claims many a boat caught unaware by rapid changes in weather. There is no area on the Bay that isn't a grave for at least one ship, but around the east perimeter of Georgian Bay from Tobermory to Britt is where the largest concentration of wrecks can be found. Maybe "found" is the wrong word because there are still plenty of boats known to have gone down that have never been found.

If you are a captain on a recreational or commercial vessel and you believe in stats or the folklore of the "Witch of November" then this would be a good month to avoid the Bay. November is the month when the weather really turns over and the south and west winds tend to shift from the north as the jet stream pushes to the south. Cold fronts move south and clash with the still very warm air pushing up from southern USA. Boat sinking's due to gales and blinding snow storms are legendary during this month.

These ships are known to have gone down in November on Georgian Bay: Reliever, Mapledawn, W J Martin, Atlantic, June McLeod, Seattle, Northern Belle, Hibou, Gargantua, Michigan, Marquette, New Yago, James C King, China, Alice G, Wabuno, Hibou, Mary Ward, J H Jones. Many lost their lives that were caught off guard. Check out our Ship Wreck page for more information.

Most recreational boats are off the water by November but there are work boats and commercial vessels where November is just like any other month. Even the occasional bought or sold recreational boat gets delivered from A To B in this month. Mother nature can be cruel and the odds of having problems turn against you. Like a friend once said to me, "minor emergencies on a still day turn into all hell breaks loose catastrophes on a windy day". If you’re out in November the other boats that can assist are few and far between. Lifejackets, EPIRBS, liferafts, ditch kits all take on a whole new meaning during the gales of November. Even if ship wrecked and survivors were able to make it to some rocky outcrop, chances are one just prolongs the inevitable as exposure takes hold. The nights are long and cold in November.

So if you have to be on Georgian Bay in November ... respect mother nature, go prepared and take your best good luck charm with you to ward off the Witches of November. Most of all remember the weather forecast is only right about 75% of the time and it's the 25% when it's wrong that catches you with your pants down.

Etiquette While Underway
Etiquette While Underway Well after our last piece on anchoring etiquette we received half a dozen emails suggesting doing an editorial on being nice to your fellow boaters while underway. So here it is.

The three specific comments that we get most often are as follows:
  1. Local cottagers race around everywhere is smaller power boats and cut in and out of traffic with no adherence to speed limits close to shore or the wakes they are causing.
  2. Larger yachts do not slow down when passing other boats causing tremendous wakes that throw the boat and it’s contents all over the place.
  3. Boats entering narrow channels are not respecting the VHF Security warnings of others and they enter channels without responding to the Security warning causing a dangerous situation.

Now lets discuss a bit about each one.

Have any of you been through Honey Harbour lately on a weekend? Well I'm here to tell you it's a complete zoo. The problems I see are not with the bigger boats cruising through but with the small local boats running way to fast and weaving in and out of other boat traffic and across channels with total disregard to safety. I had one boat roar by and then stop dead in front of me in a narrow channel while the skipper pointed out landmarks to his passengers. A blast of the air horn was required to wake him up. Small boats don't realize (or maybe don't care) when they roar through narrow cuts that big boats are carefully crawling through the channel trying to avoid shallow water. The wake causes rolling on the bigger boat that can make it difficult to keep the big boat safely in the channel. I have seen small boats on the Small Craft Route race by big boats within a foot the boat in narrow channels. Often it is teens driving the boat but many adults are guilty as well. Not much can be done about this. These local runabouts in a race to nowhere don’t monitor VHF and they are obviously ignorant and self centered and will probably never change their ways.

Larger yachts are also guilty of passing slower boats with wakes that pitch slower moving boats all over the place. Usually it is power boats doing 15 knots passing sail boats doing 6 knots. In any event it is disrespectful and unnecessary. Faster boats passing slower boats should do a slow pass which only takes a few seconds or closely match the speed of the slower boat and creep by until the wake is past the slower boat. If you are doing a slow pass let the skipper of the slower boat know you will be coming up at speed behind the stern and then gliding by to port. I suggest that if you are waked by another boat passing, that you let the captain know on VHF 16 that you don't appreciate the wake and don’t forget to mention the boat name. Maybe peer pressure can help correct this common problem in the busier areas.

Two large boats in narrow channel meant for only one large boat is a recipe for disaster. Large boats entering a narrow channel are obligated to broadcast a Security warning on VHF 16 with location, direction and time to channel. Other boats are obligated to respond if they are in the channel or if they are also entering the channel from another direction and have an objection. First come first serve, so if you hear a security southbound and you are getting close to entering northbound then you should be waiting outside the channel for the boat that issued the security to pass. Everyone can make the mistake of missing a Security on occasion (and radio apology is in order) but some boats are habitual offenders and never acknowledge Securities and enter the channel regardless, playing chicken in the channel. It drives me crazy when I give a security and then halfway through the channel watch other boats enter without waiting and without acknowledgement. Twice in the last month I've had to wait in narrow channels for other boats that come in after the fact and want to push through regardless of the danger. I suggest admonishing the Captain by boat name on VHF. Something like this. "Captain of xxxx vessel you ignored my Security go channel xx" and then "Vessel xxxx why did you ignore my security endangering both boats? If you can’t follow some basic rules of the water then you shouldn't be skippering a boat - you should park it" and back to 16.

It's only going to get worse if boaters don't start showing some respect for fellow boaters and start following the rules of the water. I have heard from some safety conscious boaters that they avoid some areas because of the boat kayos ... so there are also some economic considerations at play as well. Just having the discussion can help and we all need to do our part. Treat you boat with the same care you would driving your car - with the chance of a cop around the next corner.

Anchoring Etiquette
Anchoring Etiquette The second weekend of July was to be a hot one so we headed out on a Thursday to make sure we got our preferred anchorage for the weekend. Sitting on the bridge watching the boats come into the harbour to anchor inspired this editorial, which I write as we swing slowly at our anchorage on a calm Saturday. The anchorage is busy but not full. Here are some observations.

Anchoring protocol is that you follow the lead of the first boats in the anchorage. Typically some boats will tie stern to along the shore out of the way and usually boats in the harbour are swinging on one anchor. If the first boat in out in the harbour drops a stern anchor then you should too. I was really surprised to see several boats come in forty feet from another and drop a stern anchor when the rest are all swinging freely. It was calm so it seemed there was space but as soon as a breeze comes up the swingers had the stern anchored boats as obstructions. Given that there was still tons of room to anchor safely and swing freely or tie stern to shore it is perplexing to say the least to see the lack of judgment of some folks who are operating boats.

It was also interesting to watch boats come in and scout a spot in amongst the already full areas of the harbour rather than take advantage of good anchorage spots on the perimeters of the existing boats already anchored. Bizarre ... it was like they wanted a group hug at the cost of damaging boats. Several put anchors down and ten minutes later figured out they didn't have the swing room and then picked up and left the anchorage to look for another while good spots with plenty of swing room get left ignored as if some disease lurked below.

Remember it is your responsibility as a skipper to ensure that you don't interfere with boats already at anchor before you. That means as you enter the anchorage you scout out possible spots and take note of wind direction, chart depths and whether existing boats have stern anchors down or not. Anchorages generally fill from the core out so why try and squeeze into the crowded centre of the core when the good available spots are on the perimeter?

The weirdest thing I saw was boat vacated a prime free swinging location just a ways behind me and before he was even out of the harbour another boat came in and set anchor with his boat twenty feet away to my starboard while starring right at this expanse of prime available swing room real estate just behind me. Boats all around him (including me) were giving him the stink eye wondering what the heck he was thinking. He had his anchor up and down three times within ten feet of his original drop point. He moved on his own eventually and left the anchorage after a little hissy fit with his wife who was manning the bow.

I guess one of the other common things you see is a big boat (say over 50 feet) with safe amount of chain down (say 100 feet in 12 feet of water) and a little boat comes in and drops 30 feet of rode straight up and down and doesn't even back into it to set the anchor. When the big boat swings there is going to be trouble so ere on the side of caution and put at least 7:1 down as you know the bigger heavier boats might have 10:1 down or more depending on the weather outlook. Remember it's usually too late to adjust scope when the anchorage is busy and a storm blows in in the middle of the night.

The last thing on my rant that drives me crazy is boats that anchor near me that don't have the tackle for the boat. Granted most manufacturers supply anchors and rode that are not adequate for serious safe cruising but good judgment says you go out and buy yourself an anchor and chain that will hold your boat in all conditions so you are not a liability to the rest of the boats at anchor. Sometimes it can be comical - there was a guy on mid 40 foot express cruiser who was overheard saying "I got 16 feet of chain down and 20 feet of rope" in an anchorage that was 12 feet deep. That's all he had and his plow anchor was puny. If you want fellow cruisers to think you have an idiot stamp on your head, do what this guy does. When you see a 40 foot boat with a 40 lb. anchor sporting all chain and lots of it you know the skipper means business and you appreciate that because you'll be able to sleep at night. In my opinion any boat over 30 feet should be carrying at least a minimum 100 feet of chain plus rope rode.

That's my rant and I'm sticking to it.

Watch The Weather
Watch The Weather It seems every year the extremes in weather get less predictable. When you get one of those powerful warm fronts from the south supporting hot muggy days and a cold front from the north pushing back ... all hell can break loose with down drafts, waterspouts and even tornadoes. Waterspouts are seen commonly on Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay and usually they are not accompanied by unusual weather around the area – just hot sunny afternoons. Downdrafts and tornadoes are hard to predict and they can be sporadic or spotty touching down in an area and completely missing everything around the surrounds or they can touch down and stay down cutting a swath over a wide area as happened in Midland during 2010. The weather forecasters do not have a good track record of predicting tornadoes downdrafts or waterspouts until they are imminent or happening on the ground in bordering areas. If the weather is very hot and humid and the barometer is falling and perhaps afternoon or evening thunder showers are forecast then plan for the worst. On June 8th downdrafts hit the Kawartha & Haliburton regions causing major damage and power outages for up to week. Georgian Bay got some of that too in specific areas. Wye Heritage Marina experienced some boat damage and in general things were all over the place. By example my boat had much debris in it including gravel and dirt blown across the Bay. Blew the button down canvas off my cockpit bench seating. My wood picnic table was moved down the dock and the umbrella was snapped off just above table level. The picnic table beside us was in the water with the umbrella still in it. Neighbor on one side ... big gas BBQ all over the place and neighbors dock box on the other side upside down with the contents spilled.

A fella a few docks down did a video of the storm from his truck. It was wild and looked like a hurricane with waves coming up onto the dock causeway that is ten feet above the water level. It was forecast as possible thundershowers and 15 km hour winds. Now if you were at anchor when that came through ... even in a very sheltered anchorage with two anchors down you would be in trouble. Earlier the week before, another neighbor got caught at anchor in Lost Bay in a much lighter gusty blow and he dragged in the night and ended up against the rocks. For your own safety and to avoid boat damage watch the weather (check the weather page and in particular the NOAA Weather radar on this site) and if the barometer is falling on a very hot humid day while you're out at anchor, head for a dock before mid afternoon or nightfall. It could save your boat and even your life.

Nautical Folklore
In the early days of sailing commerce it was common for sailors to have their ears pierced to improve the eyesight. If they were gold earrings they could ensure a proper burial if they die at sea or in a foreign port. Crosses were tattooed to the soles of feet to ward off sharks and a rooster on top of the foot with a pig on the other could prevent a sailor from drowning.

Seeing a green flash right at sunset was a sign of good weather to come -
"Glimpse you ere the green ray
Count the morrow a fine day"

Sailors would also tattoo a sparrow or swallow for every 5000 nautical miles sailed and to ensure they could always find their way home as sparrows and swallows apparently do. It was bad luck to have a woman aboard a navy sailing ship ... except for bare breasted figureheads of women which could shame nature and keep the waves down. I personally believe that bare breasted women on board can ward off bad weather don’t you?.

Even today we accept red sky in the morning sailor take warning - red sky at night sailors delight. It is well documented that most good Captains and Second Mates could easily predict hurricanes in the Caribbean well in advance in time to take cover - by a variety of strange methods related to wind and wave directions. And lets face it, how did Newton ever come up with the theory that lead to the octant and sextant for navigation? Observe and ponder!

People were serious observers of nature at one point in history and had an animal like fixation on the subtle signs that could mean the difference between life and death whether on land or at sea. It was self serving and provided a sweet reward in the days of natural selection.

These senses have been lost to all but a few in the world we live in today - chart plotters, weather radar, satellite communications have numbed our senses into oblivion. Like the recent situation in Nevada with the couple stranded for seven weeks because they blindly followed their GPS even when the road turned to a goat path - the wife survives and the husband has not been found at the time of this writing. We depend heavily on technology. There was a time when humans could wander on land or sail on the seas of the world and survive perilous conditions and have their place in nature with the rest of the animal world.

One thing hasn't changed - the water can still be a dangerous place for those who get too complacent about mother nature and depend solely on technology. Study up on folklore as it isn't always as silly as it seems and use "the force" of your own senses in combination with technology and you will have rewarded yourself with something worth knowing that just might keep you safe in certain situations.

Think About It
Nibbling on sponge cake, watching the sun bake
All of those tourists covered with oil
Strumming my six string, on my front porch swing
Smell those shrimp they're beginning to boil

You know the song - everyone knows Margaritaville. So what if Jimmy Buffet makes a hundred million a year, tours relentlessly, owns two restaurant chains, merchandizes Parrot Head paraphernalia up the wazoo and lives in a West Palm mansion. The point is he did do business from a Caribbean island telephone booth at one point in his life. For that reason alone he deserves to remain high on the cool scale.

I wonder if Jimmy ever looks back and wonders if life was simpler and less complicated sitting on that porch swing in West End Florida before the lawyers, business managers and publicists came along. I wonder if he sometimes yearns for those days when his pockets were for the most part "empty" and time stood still on those hot sunny days - just like when you were a little kid and the days went on forever and the summers were endless. Maybe adults can live like that too, all through their working lives ... with less work and more adventure? Maybe Jimmy dreams about it and maybe he doesn't. Everyone loves Jimmy Buffet because his brand personifies what we all aspire to have deep down in our hearts - a laid back carefree adventurous lifestyle with little responsibility and no baggage.

I got thinking about this after reporting on the two couples who are working the marina for a season at Killarney Mountain Lodge to build up their cruising revenue to set sail once again for a multi decade never ending continuance of their sailing adventures around the world. Yes there are real people out there doing this. I met a few in the Caribbean and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. What goes on in the human mind that creates lifelong boat bums. Did we get it wrong? Way back in our twenties when we sailed off to the Caribbean, did we take the wrong fork in the road when we returned to the civilized corporate world? You can't buy back time and you can't do it over again but you can pass the benefit of knowledge to others with the bigger part of their life in front of them still. Comfortable life (maybe too comfortable) - no regrets - but we might all do it differently ... if we had a second chance.

Did I tell you about the couple we met going south forever on their sailboat who threw their telephone into Lake Ontario and ripped up their phone bills. They got as far as Florida and a year later they were back at the marina with their boat for sale. Not that easy to break the chains that tie us to our normal predictable lives. But there are those out there who are anchored right now in some remote harbour with no plans for tomorrow or the year after tomorrow.

One thing is for sure, on my death bed I'm not going to be thinking about 30 years of corporate meetings and the rat race. I'll be thinking of my childhood, wife and kids and the good times including the cruising in my 20's and the cruising in my 50's. My advise for those "ready, willing and able" is that the rat race isn't all it's cracked up to be. Go cruising for a year or two or do the loop while you can. There will always be a job when you need it - if you want it ... and you won’t be missed that much in the grand corporate scheme of things, whether you're the CEO or the guy that mops the floors - go cruising for a year or two ... or maybe ten. It's not the destination but the journey.

Focus Group with Parks Canada
Boating Georgian Bay was involved in a Focus Group with Parks Canada last fall and they were looking to understand what boaters want and how that may or may not coincide with Park use. Specifically they were looking to glean insight from the Georgian Bay Islands National Park that could be applied to the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve in British Columbia. It is an important balance. On one hand Parks Canada has an obligation to insure minimum impact on the environment and on the other hand there would be no need for much of Parks Canada to exist if it were not for the tourism component of Park visits. Of course humans always impact on any environment to some degree. So it really begs the question as to how human activity is managed in balance with the impact by activity and how much is too much.

So over the course of the Focus Group discussions both sailors and power boaters gave their opinions on many issues related to cruising preferences, Park attributes, management issues, how to handle certain situations etc. Parks Canada really wanted to hear things from a boaters perspective and it was clear that they already understood the issues at hand and some of the rub points between those that want to enjoy public space and those that want restrictions on public space and those environmental purists that want no human activity whatsoever on public space.

Even inside the boating community it became apparent that there is a divergence of opinion between sailors and power boaters and even between yacht owners and small boat owners. By example there were a few who were endorsing generator free anchorages. Others were suggesting time windows for generator use in anchorages. And some like myself were suggesting not running a generator a few times a day is not an option for bigger boats in isolated anchorages - and it was more a matter of courtesy of use and education than the suggestion of banning generator use altogether. Most seemed to agree that it was really the portable generators sitting on swim platforms that created most of the noise issues and disturbances at anchorages. The bigger issue is perhaps the all night partiers rather than generator use and even the ability for legal enforcement when there’s a problem. Point is though, there was no overall consensus on many issues among boaters.

Now some of you may know that a few good folks have fought long and hard in the courts to insure that those boating on the water still had some rights and freedoms as to the use of the water. Most realize their has been some incredible battles over the public use of beach property vs. the right of ownership above the water line. You may also be aware that in some municipalities there are bylaws that allow the sale of water rights below the high water line for the purpose of permanent docks and mooring in front of homes. Most often this has been a grandfathered loop hole going back to when these properties were in use for mooring large ships where the ship terminal owned the land under the water. Everyone has an opinion and it is a murky situation indeed.

I have always been suspicious about government involvement pertaining to the rights and freedoms of others. For one, if you give a government bureaucrat and inch they'll take a mile. The second typical outcome is the public welfare gets paralyzed by an over abundance of rules and regulations. The third issue is when government creates structure they also want money to run the bureaucracy that comes with the new structure ... as if we don’t pay enough taxes already. However, few would argue against the notion that there is a need for some rules and regulations in our society.

So where am I going with this? I want to talk about boat moorings in public waters as one example of many that are coming down the tracks. In British Columbia they already have designated mooring locations at some Park anchorages and they are planning more. In Florida municipalities cannot control the offshore anchorages unless they implement mooring buoy fields which then gives them the right to charge and regulate the service. The cost is usually low (but out of your control) and in some cases a "turd tug" will even come to your boat to pump out the waste tank - perhaps a good idea, given the number of live-a-boards that frequent anchorages in Florida. In the Bahamas some of the small towns let free enterprise reign and local entrepreneurs will just drop an engine block to the bottom and attach a mooring buoy and next thing you have a business where they collect from those boats that want a mooring buoy rather than anchoring out. I can tell you in the Bahamas ... I was always happy to pick up a mooring buoy for a few bucks rather than take the trouble to set the anchor - and of course there is always the issue of dragging anchors in a tight harbour during a storm. Been there and done that, and it's not pretty in the middle of the night blowing 60.

In Georgian Bay particularly around the Park islands the anchorages can get very crowded and sometimes out of control on summer weekends.

The pro side of Parks Canada putting in mooring buoys might be:

  • more boats could fit into some of these tiny anchorages as swing room would be minimal
  • you wouldn't have a three ring circus every time a storm comes through and a quarter of the boats are dragging anchor
  • you would spend more time enjoying the anchorage and less time putting ground tackle down
  • in theory you could eliminate anchorages being so overcrowded with boats to the point of being ridiculous
  • it would potentially give some enforcement body the right to manage the anchorage and have some say and jurisdiction over objectionable activities by few that ruin it for everybody
  • it would create less disturbance on the bottom of the anchorage and would be environmentally responsible
  • it could encourage more "stay at marina" boaters to become cruisers and spread their wealth more broadly into the economy
On the con side perhaps:
  • some Park CO in uniform with a gun could be bugging you, telling you what you can and cannot do
  • the person above is likely going to be collecting money for the service
  • mooring buoys would make it too easy and attract boaters who would otherwise be staying at a marina somewhere in bad weather
  • mooring buoys might encourage overcrowding via rafting
  • it's against the principals of freedom and rights where when you own a boat, you can pretty much drop anchor wherever you want and no one can tell you to get lost
  • it gives some enforcement body control of a mooring field and you end up with other enforcements and bureaucracy (like generator use policies)
  • it could hurt transient marina business

So what is the answer? I don't know - but it is something we will have to deal with sooner than later because it's being talked around now. There are dozens of looming issues like this. As populations continue to grow, we all face potential changes. My only advice is that boaters should be on the same page together and should have in place a strong enough lobby that they have a seat at the table when these decisions are made by government and various hired consultants. My experience has been that often the decisions are almost in stone before the consultants are hired. The public hearings and consultants reports only serve to valid the whim and locked down wishes of the bureaucracy in a particular Ministry.

There are many boating organizations of various ilk's - from clubs to power squadrons to private sector industry groups both non profit and for profit. It is time that some kind of Canada wide alliance with teeth was formed between all boating organizations that want a managed approach and a seat at the table before policy gets dictated by various levels of government? If you love boating then get involved in an organization and have your say.

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Oil Crisis
Well just in time for boating season fuel prices are on their way up. Tensions in the Middle East have created some concern in the market place as to the availability of an uninterrupted supply of crude down the Suez Canal. Already Libya has most of it's wells and refineries shut down as civil war ensues. One can only hope that some form of democracy emerges, given the blood that has been shed by young revolutionists that want nothing more than the basic freedoms we all take for granted.

Most of the Libya oil goes to Italy, and virtually none goes to North America. In fact most of the US oil comes from Canada - followed by Saudi Arabia. So why are we getting whacked on fuel prices? Because oil is a worldly commodity controlled by speculative markets. Oil has far reaching affects that go way beyond filling up your tank. Manufacturing, farming, food processing, transportation, raw materials production and the list goes on. Oil is integrated into everything you do and everything you own. And yes, that includes your boat.

At the time of this writing, oil in North America is over $104 a barrel. Brent Sea Crude is even higher and Europe is really going to feel the brunt of the Middle East turmoil. At $125 dollars a barrel oil is likely to force the US back into recession. US officials are already trying to calm frazzled nerves by suggesting that supply can be supplemented from the US reserves over the short term ... but no one really believes that the situation in the Arab states will be a quick fix easy solution as the political outcome of the area will take years to evolve and hopefully land back on it’s feet.

We are very well off in Canada and our good fortune in resources will no doubt temper the downside of a double dip in the US economy. But that's not to say that we get away completely unscathed, as we are economically glued at the hip to the USA - and our other markets like China are not yet fully developed.

So what does this have to do with boating? Well a few things really. First of all, boat manufacturing is highly dependent on petroleum for the manufacturing process. Most boat manufacturers have just picked themselves off the ground are are still staggering as they restructure and get ready to ramp up their future production as the recession had just started to wane. Boat manufacturers truly will be out for the count if the US enters a double dip recession. The industry simply can not raise capital and pay down debt in such an environment - and the banks won't be giving any second chances. The remaining could be gone for good this time around.

The other factor of course is sales. In the last six months yacht sales have achieved some traction, but most boats are bought with a combination of discretionary income and bank financing - and when the markets turn down both dry up, and the boating industry gets whacked severely.

And there's one last thing and that is the operating costs for existing boat owners in fuel and repairs. Looking back the last three years there certainly were many boats that didn't leave the dock for fear of a repair bill or just the general expense of burning fuel.

  • The boating industry is a significant player in the overall economy and the positive benefits are wide reaching spin through all aspects of the market place. Neither government or private enterprise can afford to see this industry flat on it's back so soon right after this past recession. So keeping business taxes low is good news but we should also continue to push our elected officials to squeeze more inefficiencies out of the process of governing.

Now we can't do much about the oil situation in the Middle East but on a micro scale, marina suppliers, operators and boat services have something they can contribute to keep the industry healthy. Fuel prices are going to rise at the docks ... but please don't gouge the users on fuel prices or the boats will stay at the docks again and there will be fewer of them. Margins on marine fuel have always been high at both the supplier and seller level when compared to the automotive sector. And it's not just a volume thing ... most busy marinas take on fresh fuel every few days and lets face it boats are high volume consumers when they are running. Yes everyone has to make a buck but please ... adjust your percentages accordingly. When fuel prices rise 40% the margins don't have to remain straight line as the price per litre goes up.

Believe me there's not many Canadians that are going to feel sorry for you when the yacht has to stay parked at the dock - but the marinas and the rest of the economy will feel it because cruising boats spend money that goes well beyond fuel ... into repairs, maintenance, transient dockage, food and discretionary spending. Fuel cost is the big psychological barrier and if the price at the pumps on the highway matched the price at the pumps at the gas dock, that would go a long ways to quelling the fears of the average boater ... and they might be around for another year to buy more fuel and pay for their dockage rather than sell the boat.

So boaters do your part and spend at the marina and marinas do your part and provide the best value and service you can ... given the situation at hand.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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