Best for boaters

There’s a lot of boaters in the Ladysmith/Chemainus area.

If you grew up here or somewhere on the water, you’ve probably been boating most of your life. So when the government comes along and says you now need a piece of paper, it may not be warmly received.

When it happened with firearms a bunch of years ago, many of us weren’t overly happy then either. We are the Wild West and all that. Those of us that spend time deep in the bush may feel the need to protect ourselves from bears, cougars and those invasive eastern grey squirrels. I’ve spoken to folks in places like Zebellos and Port Edward that had bears tear the doors off their homes looking for food.

People who raise sheep and chickens sometimes need to protect their flocks with some firepower. After a bit of whining and complaining most of us that wanted to keep our guns got the piece of paper allowing us firearms possession and then dutifully went about registering our firearms. All-in-all, this was probably a good thing, but there are many who would disagree.

Those good old days in the pre-9/11 era also included the ability to buy low-power dynamite without any permits, etc. It may have been called low-power or stumping dynamite, but if you weren’t careful, that stump could go a long ways. It’s probably best that most of us can’t just drive out Timberlands Road anymore and buy a bit of fuse, some blasting caps and a box of 40% sticks. The drive home was fun with explosives signs on all four sides of the car. People didn’t tailgate me on those days.

Fond memories, but back to boating. There’s between four and six million boaters in Canada and only roughly 1.9 million of us have our Pleasure Craft Operator Card. The fact that I need a boat operator card if I want to have a gas powered egg-beater on my little 14-ft sailing dingy, sort of got my hackles up. The $75 or so that I would have to shell out added to my reluctance to get this card.

So the logical choice was to procrastinate. Wait until they catch me and give me a warning. Or better yet, wait until someone I know is given a fine for not having the card. Twice I weakened and signed up for a course, only to be told that there weren’t enough people to run the class.

You can take the course online at http://www.boaterexam.com/canada/, which I found appealing, plus the price was only $50. Fortunately, before my procrastination ended, a notice arrived in the mail letting area residents know that there was an upcoming safe boat operator’s course in Ladysmith and it was only two hours long with the test immediately after.

Katherine and I both signed up, and we both enjoyed the class. The instructor was full of enthusiasm, extremely knowledgeable, and able to answer questions, like “does a kayak have right of way over the 40-tonne trawler that is bearing down on it?”  We also learned “red right return” and other fairly practical stuff.

The course and 36-question test seemed a bit too easy. A week later, or so, it was announced that the government also thought the process was too easy and there’s now a 50-question test. Whether it really makes people safer boaters or not is really questionable. Most boating problems are alcohol-related, weather-related, mechanical-related or a result of not understanding charts, tides and currents.   Not understanding red right return probably does account for a few damaged hulls.

After the exam we visited with three others—one had a 10 hp motor and no boat, and the other two had 12 foot aluminum boats with tiny motors like our 3 hp Merc. The five of us made up a third of the class, which was probably not the target audience, as most of what we learned wasn’t overly applicable to tiny boats. We got our cards and we are still doing the same-old, same-old, but with card in hand we are now doing it legally. At least having the card might be a good excuse to go looking for a bigger replacement for the Chicken Sloop, our 14 ft day sailor.