Boating in Canada Archive

1998 Canadian Boating News

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New Laws and Regulations:


Selling Great Lakes Water

November 1998: Nova Group (of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario) is proposing to sell three billion litres of Lake Superior water to Asia over a five-year period. Nova Group received a permit spring 1998 to draw and sell the water, but Ontario Environment Minister Norm Sterling cancelled it after a public outcry. An appeal under the Ontario Water Resources Act begins December 7, 1998. (Export of "bottled" water is permitted.)

Round Goby spreading in Canadian Waters

November 1998: The round goby, an aggessive pest fish infesting the Great Lakes, has now has been found in two inland lakes. Introducted into Lake St. Clair from Eastern Europe in 1995, these fish have spread from Superior to Lake Ontario. They can crowd out native fresh-water fish and even eat their eggs and larvae. It is assumed that they managed to hitch a ride to inland lakes in Michigan and Indiana in the bilges or bait boxes of trailered boats, much like zebra mussels have over the last 10 years.

USA to continue Loran-C (Oct/98)
US Study Favours Keeping Loran (Aug/98)

October 1998: Loran-C, the economical radio navigation system used by boaters since the 70's has been saved from an early shutdown in 2000 and is likely to be operated by the US government until the year 2008. (The original system was planned to run until 2015.)

Boaters using GPS will be pleased to hear that 2006 has been set as a target date to eliminate "Selective Availability", the degradation of GPS positioning accuracy for non-military users. The use of GPS for marine and aviation navigation has exploded to the point that SA has become a hazard to navigation.

An American government sponsored year-long study finds that it would cost more to shut down the 28-year old Loran land-based navigational system in the year 2000 than to keep it operating until at least 2015! The report had two cost-benefit analyses:

  1. To shut it down in 2000 would cost DOT $100 million to terminate the system (dismantle equipment, remove buildings and clean up 24 land stations in the USA). This figure would rise dramatically if sites had to be returned to "clean" condition. Users replacing their Loran receivers with GPS receivers would cost nearly $700 million more.
  2. To continue Loran as a complement and backup to the satellite-based GPS (Global Positioning System) until 2015 or longer would cost the US government $473 million (for upgrades, replacing transmitters), plus $27 million/year operating costs. Additional cost to users would be nil.

There are as many as a million maritime users of Loran and at least 80,000 aviation users. Comments from the study indicated 94% of users favor keeping Loran operating beyond 2000. Boaters and flyers won't accept GPS until the US military quits degrading the civilian signal (called SA or selective availability). The plans to eliminate SA has been delayed beyond 2000. In the meantime, users of GPS never know when errors in their position will be large or small. There is support across the board in the Congress, long-time policy of using redundant systems in transortation, and there is a large number of Loran receivers in use. Combine this with new evidence of some disadvantages to GPS such as being subject to "jamming" and Congress will probably support continuation of Loran stations. (See the GPS page for more.)

Satellite phones

Satellite phones will become a reality by fall 1998. You will no longer have to deal with any other country's telephone system when you travel! Motorola has invested $6 billion in its Iridium project, which uses 66 earth-orbiting satellites. Star-gazers will notice brilliant Iridium flashes as they pass overhead from sunlight reflecting off their antennas. They can become brighter than Venus for a few seconds. Precitions are available at

Canadian Discussion in can.rec.boating!

June 1998: A discussion group about Canadian boating was created June 1998 called can.rec.boating. The Charter describes the newsgroup in detail, but it essentially for discussion of any boating subject of interest to Canadian boaters (power/sail/oar). Fairwinds to the busy boaters who took the time to support us in its creation!

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Boating Courses for new regulations

July 1998: The Ontario Sailing Association Executive Director, Al Will, sent out a notice that mandatory boating courses and licences will be approved by the Canadian Coast Guard starting August 1998. Until the regulations are passed, however, this is only a list of the schools that will be approved for mandatory boating education.

Read about the Canadian Pleasure Craft Operators Card (PCOC) for comprehensive information about approved schools, new regulations, government proposals, and more.

U.S. Customs & Immigration uses Video

June 1998: I received a report that the American INS had started putting in remote video & document scanner INS stations, starting with Youngstown. A boater wrote:

"You go up to this thing with your regular documents (passport or citizenship card or whatever), and it connects to the INS office at one of the bridges. No I-68 needed. Does both INS and Customs."

In July, I received this confirmation from a query I posted in can.rec.boating:

"Clayton has a video phone - I used it last month. No I-68 required, just march the whole crew up, the agent talks to everyone individually, then switches on the video - you see him (her in my case), she sees you (if the lights work) The phone is at the public dock on the main street, not in the harbour." (From

Soo Lock Reopens

The lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, built in 1890, and closed for the past 12 years, has been rebuilt and reopened May 1998. Pleasure boats no longer have to share the U.S. lock with freighters and ships.

Proposed U.S. Visa

July 1998:The visa proposal is on hold (dead).

In the U.S., a proposed immigration law requiring all visiting aliens to file formal entry and exit documents for travel to the USA could mean vastly different procedures for boats visiting the U.S. The INS confirmed that all Canadians, including those with permanent residency green card and those crossing the border on short-term pleasure trips, would be subject to the tougher immigration laws, if they are passed.

The U.S. Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, passed in 1996, was designed to stop foreigners illegally entering the country from Mexico under a 1986 visa waiver program. The INS is set to test the new border-control measures in a pilot project at the Thousand Islands Bridge.

No word on procedures for boats. It seems that every year they change the border-crossing rules, and charge more money. It's always been more attractive to stay in the Thousand Islands [sigh] anyway! Lastest river rumour is that people are being asked at the US border if they have every smoked marijuana! If you say YES, they can turn you away. Lying to a border official is a serious offense...

Ontario: Drinking and Boating

May 1998: All parties in the Ontario legislature support a new private member's bill to link blood-alcohol levels while operating a vessel with the vehicle licences. In other words, if you drink and boat, you could lose your car licence. Transportation Minister Tony Clement expects third and final reading before June 1998.

Changes to Small Vessel Regulations in Canada

The Canadian Coast Guard has some information on Changes to the Small Vessel Regulations. These are begin finalized and will be published in April 1998.

  1. Two-step phasing in involves the provisions on safety precautions for boat oeprations and activities like waterskiing will be implemented for 1998. Equipment: Provisions on mandatory safety equipment is expected to be in place in 1999 to allow boaters time to acquire any additional equipment required for their boats.
  2. Personal Watercraft: CCG and manufacturers support restrictions on PWC operators to persons 16 years of age or over who have completed a PWC training course developed by a training school or organization. Operators of PWCs who wear an approved PRD or lifejacket will be exempted from the other normal safety equipment required by other vessels under 6 metres in length. [That is surely a cop-out on safety issues. -- Pat]
  3. Boat licensing: A decision on a computerized Vessel Identification system has not been reached.
  4. Operator Training (aka licensing): Recommendations were submitted to the government early in 1998. Course providers should begin to be approved by the Coast Guard by fall 1998.
  5. Contraventions Act: Progress has been made for Quebec and B.C. to join the other provinces in late 1998. The Territories, Saskatchewan and Alberta are still looking at it. Examples of fines:
    • Insufficient # of lifejackets/PFDs $200 per person
    • Insufficient # flares $150
    • Speeding $100
  6. PFD's come in new colors! Canadian-approved PFDs are available in a wide range of eye-catching colors for use as mandatory equipment. Remember that brighter colours will improve their visibility to other boaters and rescuers. Old colours that were not approved are still unapproved for safety compliance with the regulations. Lifejackets still have to be red, yellow or orange. Read the Department of Fisheries and Oceans press release.
  7. Inflatable PFDs: Canadian approved inflatable PFDs for adults only are approved for use in boats (but not PWCs, white-water paddling, etc). OSA had arranged for $24 discounts for members for the Mustang MD3000 inflatable w/o harness.
  8. Safe Boating Guide: A new booklet will be out by May 1998. Boating Safety InfoLine: 1-800-267-6687

Speed Limits in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta

Legislation has been passed to restrict speed of recreational boats to 10 kilmetres per hour within 30 metres of shore. Quebec, the Maritimes, and B.C. are considering following the lead of Ontario and the Prairies. The Canadian Coast Guard wants to have it consistent across Canada. The one exception to the speed limit is for boats pulling a water skier travelling perpendicular to land (pulling a skier away from land or landing a skier to shore.

Speed signs have black lettering on a white background with a red border and red "10 KM/H" printing that makes them official "Speed Limit Notices". These can be posted by anyone on their private property, dock, public launch ramps, marinas, etc. and have been shown to reduce boat speeds around shore areas. They are 25 inches high by 19 inches wide with lettering clearly visible from passing boats. You can buy these signs for $8.50 plus GST S&H ($4.00 for 1 to 4 signs) from:

Federation of Ontario Cottagers' Associations
215 Morrish Road, Ste. 101
Scarborough, Ontario
M1C 1E9
Phone: 416-284-2305 or Fax: 416-284-7108

Around Alone Yacht Race

1998: The Around Alone Yacht Race - this eight month single-handed 43,000 kilometre sailing race is the ultimate in individual sailing endurance.

  1. Sep 1998 - Charleston, U.S.A. to Cape Town, South Africa
  2. Dec 5, 1998 - Cape Town, South Africa to Auckland, New Zealand
  3. Feb 6, 1999 - Auckland to Punta del Este, Uruguay
  4. - Punta del Este, Uruguay to Charleston, U.S.A. ending in May 1999.

Contraventions Act (1996-98)

December 1996: Ontario was the first province to see the new law which allows for "traffic tickets" on the water.

June 97: The Department of Justice is leading the introduction of the Contraventions Act which allows provincial authorities to ticket boaters on the water. In 1997, enforcement authorities in Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island issued tickets, for offences under the Small Vessel Regulations or the Boating Restriction Regulations.

Boaters should also be aware that proposed changes to the Small Vessel Regulations are expected to be in effect in 1998 . Some of these measures include: requirements for boaters to have PFDs or lifejackets of an appropriate size to fit each person on board; safer fuelling practices; and, adjustments to minimum safety equipment. Read details about the Contraventions Act.

"Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
        [Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows]

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