Paddling and Boating Etiquette
Few things beat paddling around the French River with its magnificent scenery and it is a relaxing experience unlike any - provided everyone follows the unwritten river etiquette rules everyone is happy on our crowded waterways. As with everything in life, a little bit of respect goes a long way to keeping the peace and ensuring a smooth flow of traffic. For the safety and enjoyment of everyone using the river, it is important to keep in mind courtesy and guidelines outlined on this page.
Parking, Launch Sites, Boat Ramps
Common courtesy applies to parking and launching your canoe or kayak. These vessels do not require boat ramps to launch.
- Do not park on trailer boat ramps.
- Use cartop-only launch sites whenever possible. The friendly staff at Hartley Bay Marina will direct you where to go.
- Load or unload your canoe or kayak away from the traffic lanes leading to the ramps.
- Launch to the side, or away from the ramp if possible.
- Learn to fasten your kayak spray skirt on the water in order to avoid holding up other kayakers who want to launch.
- Speed is important to get your boat launched since others might be waiting to launch. Try to pack/organize as much as you can – prior to reaching the dock.
On the Water
If you're a regular paddler, you will notice the water traffic increasing over the summer weeks. While it is nice to not be completely solitary out there, crowds can make it a bit more difficult to navigate the waterways.
With more pleasure craft on the water, going at much greater speeds than a canoe or kayak. Following these rules will help keep you safe on the water.
Always Remain Visible
Believe it or not, but bright colors disappear at a distance and most big boats are unable to see your small kayak. Experienced ship pilots or ferry captains know where to look, but all they might see is the flash of paddle blades.
However, you can improve visibility by:
- wear high visibility clothing (yellow, orange, pink or red)
- spray your hull a more visible color
- paint the tips of your paddle blades orange
- use retro-reflective tape on your carbon paddles and near the bow and stern of your kayak, as well as on the power and back faces of your paddle
- use a white light at night
- invest in green/red running light accessories
- carry smoke signals and flares
It's particularly important to have smoke signals and flares in the early morning and at night.
Paddling Etiquette: Right-of-Way
Kayaks are easy maneuverable, and it is therefore our legal responsibility to give right-of-way to less agile watercraft. However, it is important to consider that other boaters may not know the rules, even if they are able to see you.
- Always keep to the right and close to the shore. Other vessels may have to navigate certain areas for their own safety.
- If in a large group of paddlers, follow one behind the other – in order not to clog waterways and hold up other faster “non agile” boats.
- Like a large truck on the road, motor boats are less agile steering and need more room than smaller boats. Keep this in mind – bigger boats should be provided right of way since they may not be able to stop or maneuver around smaller boats, and they may not be able to move on a different path since they need deeper water to drive safely.
- Motorboats need to make sure they do not cause a big wake to swamp paddlers
- If the water is too rough closer to the shore, wait until the other traffic has passed before going down the middle.
- Allow head-on traffic to pass to your left by making a clear course direction.
- If a vessel is approaching from your stern, remain on course, paying close attention to ensure they see you.
- Exercise caution with boats entering from marinas or waterways, as they will not be able to see you.
- Avoid shipping lanes and ferry lines marked on charts as well as less formal ones (if out on Georgian Bay).
- If you have no option but to cross a ferry run or shipping lane, be quick and do so in a perpendicular path.
- You can never outrun a ship or speedboat, and do not try to pass between a tug or workboat/haul boat and its tow.
- All paddlers are required by law to use the angle-on-the-bow method to estimate the course of another visible.
Paddling Etiquette: Additional Resources
“Rules of the Road” in the Coast Guard’s book Navigation Rules
Coast Pilots contains applicable rules for navigating the water.
Consider taking a defensive paddling course and be smart when planning your kayaking trip on the French River. This will ensure your safety and the enjoyment of everyone.