High Water Levels: Tips for Boating Safely

Parks Canada has delayed the start of the 2017 boating season for the Rideau Canal and Trent Severn Waterway until Friday, May 26. Both waterways are closed to all boat traffic while all forms of water-based activity are discouraged.

‘According to Parks Canada, the closure will help protect boaters while preventing further shoreline erosion and property damage experienced by local residents and businesses’ Boating Business reported.

Parks Canada will be posting regular updates at www.parkscanda.gc.ca/trent, or if you are on Twitter@TSWBoaterInfo and @RideauBoatInfo  

Meanwhile, on Lake Ontario, as water levels continue to rise boaters should be aware of the risks associated with high water levels.

    • If your boat is on a floating dock you probably haven’t been inconvenienced by the high water levels. However, if your floating dock is secured by anchors you will need to ease the anchor chains as water rises above the norm and then shorten them when the levels start to drop.
    • If you are on a fixed dock you should be checking the mooring lines and fenders daily.

As water levels rise above the shore we are seeing marinas and yacht clubs with docks and other infrastructure completely submerged. With that in mind,

    • The power should be shut off to these docks to prevent electrocution.
    • It’s also a good idea to disconnect the shore power cords. An unexpected power surge when the electrical systems are brought back on line, could damage sensitive electronics on your boat.

As the flood waters sweep the Lake Ontario shoreline, they are picking up a lot of debris which is ending up in the water.

    • Over the next few weeks be mindful that there could be partially submerged obstacles like logs, dock boxes, Muskoka Chairs, picnic tables, and other garbage that can damage hulls and machinery.
    • Fixed objects like breakwaters, seawall and docks are also hiding underwater. Extra caution should be taken when travelling to unfamiliar areas because many of these hazards are not be marked with buoys.

Speaking of buoys and markers.

I just received a notice from the NY Canal authority about navigation buoys that have drifted out of position. That is a risk that I hadn’t contemplated.

Mariners should be aware that high water levels may cause navigation buoys to drift out of position. If you encounter a buoy out of position you should transmit a safety notice to the Canadian Coast Guard or on Twitter at @CCG-GCC.

While this might not be your first weekend on the water, you can still spend time on the boat.  Now you have time to finish off any chores, practice your knots or get together with fellow boaters for a BBQ.

Boat safely everyone!

Andrew Robertson
Senior Vice President | Skippers’ Plan Insurance
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