Finally! It’s time to get your boat ready for the new season. So you start checking things. Whether you have a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard, there’s always something to check for wear and tear. And the bigger the boat, the more to check.
Transport Canada’s Boating Safety website (bit.ly/3sQxOBe) includes a list of the required safety equipment that grows exponentially to the type and length of the vessel. Finally, when all the checks are done, you climb into the boat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi is a story about a boy and the misery of survival on a boat with Richard Parker (the tiger who ate the hyena, who ate the rest). The fictional animal characters are metaphors for human personalities in conflict, both with each other and the elements of survival at sea.
What has this got to do with a fun day on the boat? Well, try a Google search on “boating with families,” and you’ll see kids with perfect teeth perched on the bow, while mom in a bikini and dad behind the wheel, smile a mile wide behind their $300 sunglasses. You’ll read how boating families “bond over shared joy,” and best of all, “create fond childhood memories.” I’m not sure which fictional planet these people boat on, but I can assure you that some of my own fond memories include wishing I could jump out of the boat and swim home.
One kayaking website came closer to reality by describing how planning a paddling trip with other people can sometimes be a “painful undertaking.” And that’s before you leave the dock and find out your cousin’s friend of a friend who’s coming along is a real hyena.
You have the right to expect your companions on the water to be as safe and prepared as the vessel that holds you. The pleasure boat operator is, among other things, legally responsible to provide the necessary safety equipment. And just like you wouldn’t hop into a car with an impaired driver, the same offence applies to boaters under the Criminal Code of Canada. Sometimes, people can surprise you. As an informed boater and educated passenger, you’ll be able to assess the level of competence that’s responsible for keeping your head above the water and leaving tigers in the jungle where they belong.