Fishing season opened this past weekend. I noticed a few early season anglers out trying their luck. Most of them were in small aluminum boats equipped with a little outboard motor, usually just under ten horsepower. These are the kind of basic boats you find on most lakes, used for fishing or traveling back and forth to the cottage. They’re not high powered cruisers or ski boats, just your basic work-horse model that has been used and enjoyed by outdoors people for years.
I came across an interesting story on line from Iowa. The Iowa House has approved a drunken boating proposal that excludes boaters who use small motors. Under the bill, impaired boaters with low-powered motors less than 10 horsepower would not be subject to criminal charges. Critics of this bill say the law is ridiculous and drunk driving should be treated the same way whether in a boat or a car.
In Canada if you’re caught driving anything under the influence you can be charged. That includes all boats. We also have a relatively new requirement where everyone who drives a powered boat of any size is now required to have a special boaters license. It’s called an Operator Competency Card. It doesn’t matter your age or how long you’ve been around boats, if it has a motor you need a license to drive it. This includes everything from the biggest yacht to a little aluminum boat with a 4 horsepower on the stern.
This law came about a few years ago because of problems with personal watercraft, also known as jet-skis. People got on these high powered things and drove like maniacs. After they started cutting canoes in half and killing people the government stepped in. Requiring all boaters to know the rules of safe boating and pass a test is not a bad thing. But it seems they’ve used a blanket law to really target a specific problem. Personal watercraft and high powered boats that travel at high speed on small lakes could be a problem. If the operator is reckless or ignorant of the rules, these craft are dangerous. But the 60 year old angler who knows the lake and has trolled around in his little aluminum boat for the last 40 years is not going to be a threat to himself or anyone else.
Boats without motors don’t need an operator competency card. I don’t need to pass a test proving that I know the rules of safe boating to paddle my sea kayak. And yet I need to know a lot of this stuff when I’m paddling in ocean water like the Bay of Fundy where knowlege of tides and current is critical. Where’s the common sense in all this?
Back to the drunken Iowa boaters where again common sense should prevail. That fisherman in his under ten horsepower aluminum boat enjoying a beer while he’s casting is not going to be a danger to himself or others. If he’s pissed up and chasing windsurfers he should be busted. I’ve known people who have been drinking all night and then decide to go for a paddle in the kayak. Bad idea and dangerous. A friend of mine almost drowned doing that. So I guess it’s back to common sense and one important rule that I think should be mandatory for all boaters in all size of craft, powered or not. Wear a life jacket at all times. It’s not good enough to have one for each person on board if they’re not actually wearing them. Accidents can happen, even in tiny aluminum boats and a life jacket can save your life.
Earth Day has come and gone. In this part of the world it was a beautiful spring day, probably one of the nicest days we’ve seen so far. Winter has had a tendency to hang in longer than normal this year.
People celebrated Earth Day here in much the same way as in other places around the world. Children planted trees. Both kids and adults participated in beach cleanups and park cleanups. There were musical concerts and hotdogs and burgers. In Rockwood Park in the middle of the city of Saint John people could go for a hike and even try out rock climbing. It was a festive day and I’m sure everyone participating enjoyed it.
The message to help the environment and take care of the earth is the same as it has always been since the very first Earth Day in 1970. Picking up garbage on beaches and trails is a good thing to do. Encouraging people to recycle, use energy efficient light bulbs and turn the thermostat down are all good ideas. It’s what we all should be doing every day. And given all the media attention about global warming and the sorry state of the environment, none of this is new or surprising, especially for those of us who love the outdoors.
For outdoor people every day we spend outside hiking or skiing, riding our mountain bike or just going for a walk is a celebration of Earth Day. We know how special it is following a trail through a forest
and discovering a waterfall we didn’t know was there. We know how breathtakingly beautiful it can be climbing a mountain on skis and standing on the summit breathing in the view before jumping into knee deep powder for that floating descent to the valley below. We know how awe inspiring it is to see a whale breach or stare at a summer night’s sky so full of stars it almost hurts our eyes. We all have our own special outdoor moments. Adventures and experiences that we always remember, that help make us who we are. If we are true outdoor people we always treat the forest and water and air with respect and love. We don’t need to celebrate Earth Day once a year because we do it every time we go into the outdoors.
As I write this the world outside my window is once again white. A few centimetres more of wet, spring snow fell overnight, adding to the cover we received yesterday. Some skiing buddies of mine headed off to a local ski area early this morning for a few more runs. The resort has been closed for a couple weeks now, but the snow base is still good and they put skins on their skis and climb. I was with them on Easter weekend and we spent an afternoon skinning up the empty slopes and telemarking down. The conditions were actually very good. I suspect they’d be even better today. Maybe I’ll join them tomorrow.
Visiting a ski area after it’s closed is something we do every spring. I suspect we’re not alone. For hard core skiers who can’t let go even though the lifts have stopped, there is always the chance for that last run. The snow on the slopes of most ski areas lingers long into the spring after the grass everywhere else is usually green. It’s a result of a winters worth of snow-making by the resort operator. That artificial stuff is a lot tougher than natural snow and lasts longer. So even though the slopes are in good shape many ski areas, especially the smaller ones, shut down early in April because people don’t want to ski anymore. I don’t understand it but then I’m a skiing fanatic. So it’s a shame to let all that snow go to waste.
It’s not just us skiers who sneak in and take a last kick at winter. Last week about half a dozen little kids hit the slopes with their GT Racers. They’re those plastic and metal sleds you sit on and steer down the hill like a little snowmobile. They were having a ball and even better for them, one of their fathers brought along his ATV and used it to tow them and their sleds back up the hill. They had their own personal ski lift. I have to admit as I trudged past them skinning up a steep incline with the sweat dripping in my eyes from the climb, I was a little jealous of their mechanical assist. They’re probably back enjoying the slopes again today too.
OK enough writing. Maybe I can still catch my buddies today for a few more last runs of the season.
So this is the first official post in this new blog. I was going to wait until everything was in place before starting but people are already checking out the site so I figured I’d better get going. This site is totally about the outdoors. I’m talking about hiking, biking, walking, running, kayaking, skiing, sailing, rock climbing, kite boarding… if you can do it outside we’ll cover it here. In addition to these traditional outdoor activities we’ll also cover hobbies that take you outside like kite flying and model rocketry. We’ll also touch on outdoor pursuits like birding and gardening. We’ll meet mountain climbers and beachcombers and everything in between. We’ll look at outdoor gear, feature equipment reviews and learn about adventure travel. Most of all we’ll tell stories on this bog about outdoor adventures from all over the world. It’s a site for active people who love adventure and strive every day to get the most out of life. We want to inform, entertain and inspire on DoingStuffOutdoors. My hope is it’ll become an on-line home for everyone who enjoys the outdoors.
I know this is a tall order. Much of this content will come in the form of audio and video programs. That’s what I do. I’ve worked in radio and television for over 30 years. I’m also a video producer and writer. I’m a brand new blogger. In fact I was just going to produce this content in a podcast format but I realized the importance of blogging after I started one called River Valley Rambler. (Check out the link) That’s the name of a newspaper column I write in the little town where I live. It’s called Grand Bay-Westfield and it’s in New Brunswick in Atlantic Canada, near the Bay of Fundy where the highest tides in the world are found. And a great place for outdoor adventure.
So that’s the plan. The podcasts are coming soon. They’ll be posted to this site. I love getting comments and feedback and ideas.
Hi there. We’re in the process of building the site. In addition to the blog this will be home to a video and audio podcast about outdoor adventure, recreation and active living for people of all ages. Stay tuned.