Cherilyn Drew enjoys summertime getaways to her cabin on Shuswap Lake north of Herald Park.
While she’s happy the lake gives enjoyment to so many, she is alarmed and frustrated by what she says is an increasing number of powerful boats.
“I am really noticing more cigar boats on the lake this year – several times a day and it concerns me safety wise,” Drew says. “They’re frightening and I don’t see how they can exist with other activities on the lake.”
Drew says prior to this year, she has seen the occasional cigar boat travelling primarily along the south side of the lake.
Friends who have a cabin on Anstey Arm have complained they are also seeing many more and their neighbour advised the boats have been banned from Okanagan Lake.
“They’re starting to come up the middle of the lake and they’re super loud, like a plane,” Drew says. “And they’re travelling really close to you so there is no way they could react to a small boat or a kayak.”
Drew recounts a rescue she and her brother undertook in Blind Bay when a Rotary exchange student was injured by a boat propeller while she was swimming beyond the buoys.
She says it took just 30 seconds to a minute of the boat operator’s inattention for the accident to happen.
“I can’t imagine how long a cigar boat would have to react, maybe a millisecond,” Drew says. “It seems crazy with the amount of traffic on the lake. I don’t see that they’re compatible.”
Cpl J.R. Lechky of the Sicamous RCMP detachment understands Drew’s concerns but says the police are only able to conduct safety checks, enforce regulations regarding safety and make sure people have.
The only place on Shuswap Lake that has a speed limit is Cinnemousun Narrows. Everywhere else is wide open to boat operators.
But Lechky says the new wake-boarding fad has brought a proliferation of ski and wake boats that are a lot louder and a lot more disruptive.
“We were out on Canada Day and they’re just as loud and making twice the wake as the cigar boats,” he said.
Lechky says Transport Canada is the federal body responsible for vessel regulations and so far there are none for Shuswap Lake. Okanagan Lake was able to ban cigar boats following a successful application to Transport Canada.
“It is not necessarily a problem that will be easily addressed in an immediate time; it’s going to be quite a long time sorting this out,” he said, adding a word of caution to those who operate their boats unsafely. “My own personal belief is, if there is to be an accident, I would find it difficult to believe the guy running that boat wouldn’t be found guilty (in a civil suit).”
In a July 10 email, Transport Canada says it is committed to improving safety of navigation and protecting the environment.
“Under the Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations, local authorities can apply to the federal government to impose restrictions to navigation in specified Canadian waters,” reads the email, noting regulations are amended yearly. “The amendments represent the final stage for a local authority to receive federal approval to restrict navigation in their area. Involved stakeholders working together can often find more timely, effective and affordable solutions.”