Thursday 31 July 2008


The joys of renting a cottage for a week, without the significant outlays of buying and maintaining a property (as well as property taxes) can be nullified by citiot renters around you. Beware of these city-folk, puerile and disrespectful of other cottagers and renters.

In our case, renters arrived next door on a Sunday, and they were fairly quiet. By Monday, a fairly hot day, they had the tunes cranked up, blasting down towards the shore. It was far louder than necessary, and really disturbed the peace. The noise by-laws apply all the time, but I didn't interfere, as it was 3:00 in the afternoon, and thought they were simply vegging by the lake. It was a mistake.

If you give someone an inch, they take a mile. Ooops, rewrite: cm and km! By Monday night they were down by the lake, singing old camp fire songs badly. Thank goodness they didn't have a fire, as the smoke in the evening lays on the land. With open windows on a hot summer night, it is hard to breath. At that time there were 3 vehicles in the driveway.

That night they quit early, but I should have phoned the police at that time! They were loud, singing and it was the first sign. The night after was quiet. I was lulled into a false sense of security.

Wednesday night it all began again around 10:00 p.m.: floodlights lighting up the entire area, loud raucous laughter, and three cars parked when only two couples were supposed to be renting the property. I e-mailed the owners of the rental property and explained what had gone on. I explained that I would be calling the police after 11:00.

At 11:15, after several sets of fireworks had gone off on municipal property, at the top of our common lane, they were down by the lake, again, where noise carries so easily. I felt that since they disrespected neighbours so much, what were they doing to the cottage itself?
I chose to phone the OPP: 1-888-310-1122. They were very positive and promised to look into it. At 11:50 more fireworks were set off, and then they began blasting rap music out on the lake, more singing, too.

The police arrived at 12:15 and spoke to them, giving them a warning. The music dulled, and then returned as they found their voices, deliberately ignoring police advice to cease and desist. Out on a boat in the lake, they were singing lustily out in the bay. By the time (12:45), I should have phoned our trusty officers. Drunk, in the lake at this hour would not bode well. We do not need to waste EMS crews on needless field trips and drownings. The costs to society, the grief for families, is pointles. That said, I closed the windows, and hoped things would calm down. Dumb move.

I walked up the driveway and found the remnants of the fireworks that had been boldly planted at the end of another property. I called the OPP back to ask if they had visited the property last night. They had, they said, and gave a warning. I should have asked that they get back to me after the first call. I would have known that the police had visited once and that we should keep on this.

The next morning I phoned our neighbours, the property owners who were in the city, and let them know what was going on.

In hindsight, I should have kept on it. Our pets were upset with the noise, other neighbour's pets were upset and barking at the fireworks. It really is unfair and intrusive when our by-laws are clear about respecting the quality and tranquility of life in cottage country. I felt powerless, when, in fact, our OPP were most responsive and have promised to be vigilant with this property, award a fine if it continues, and check on the marine end of things should they continue their ignorant behaviour.

Wednesday 30 July 2008

Drowning Statistics 2008

We live in Canada, a country with a population of 31.6 million (, in the province of Ontario (12 million), in Muskoka (population of 57,500 people). With this size of population accidents occur. There are 8 million people living in the Golden Horseshoe, just south of us, an area that feeds our tourist industry. There are a further million people per weekend who might visit us here in the central and north areas of the province. For those unfamiliar with the water .... disaster can follow. Be safe. Be careful.

On August 25, 2008, at approximately 3:08 PM, the Bracebridge OPP Marine Unit was dispatched to McKay Lake in Bracebridge to a personal watercraft (PWC) accident.
The driver drove the PWC into a water hazard, was ejected and suffered head trauma. The victim, 62 year old Pauline Moore, a visitor from England, was transported to South Muskoka Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced deceased. A visitor to the Muskoka area, she hadn’t received any formal marine training and had only brief instruction on the operation of the watercraft prior to the accident.
Huntsville OPP is investigating the death of a 17 year old youth from Oshawa who went into the water of Lake Vernon on August 24, 2008. Huntsville OPP was assisted by the Under Water Search and Recovery Unit (USRU). On August 24, 2008, around 9:40 am the USRU located the victim, John Riberio, in 27 feet of water.
Aug. 19th, 2008, two more drowned in Kingston as a grandpa tried to save an eight-year old caught in an undertow.

CBC reports that on August 17th, a man drowned while fishing with a friend east of Peterborough. August 16th a 62-year old drowned while sailing. He did not have a life jacket on in calm conditions and police do not know why he drowned. August 15th a man stripped down to shorts in the downtown Toronto pier, and jumped in. An hour later they found his body.

On Sauble Beach, a 65-year old drowned in shallow water this past weekend. Family were on the shore.

On July 26, a beautiful day for a sail, a 16-year old Toronto boy drowned in branch of the Muskoka River, near Bracebridge. Another immortal 20-year old drowned while jumping off of a railway bridge near highway 11. I feel so badly for family, friends and EMS crews. This was the helicopter I saw on the weekend.

A 50-year old father tried to save his 15-year old daughter, who fell off of a dock on July 25th. He ended up in hospital trying to save her since she couldn't swim.

Another drowning, July 24, 2008, a 13-year old jumping from a PWC to another. What are they thinking? He was wearing a life jacket, says, but still he drowned. High waves, overloaded vehicles, who knows? I think it time we regulate the size, the type of vehicles on smaller lakes, and educate those who scream up and down our tranquil waters.

July 15th, 2008, a young man has disappeared after he and his brother were kayaking. The lakes are susceptible to sudden winds and rains. Fortunately, he turned up, getting lost is not too hard with bays and shorelines looking the same. As I wrote previously, drowning in this age category are down (18 - 24), but one is too many.

On July 12th a 20-year old drowned , on the same beach as the July 24th incident, after taking a dinghy out from Wasaga Beach.

A 32-year old man was missing in Elgin County. He went under in Lake Erie. How tragic. His body was found by search crews.

Friday, July 11, a 15-year old drowned when boating to work on Lake Kaminiskeg Lake near Barry's Bay (200 km west of Ottawa).

In Ottawa-area cottage country, July 9, 2008, there were separate drownings of a toddler in a pool and a 50-year old man at a Gatineau marina.

On our narrow roads in Muskoka there is a risk that you can plunge into the lake. On July 3rd, three young men drowned due to speed and alcohol, after their car plunged into Lake Joe. Rick Smith's photo demonstrates said risk.

On Saturday, June 21, 2008, a young man (24 years old) died while boating in Bala Bay. Again, alcohol and carelessness.

The coast guard had to rescue boaters in Parry Sound on the June 29 weekend.

More recently, May 23, 2008, a 60 year old man went to sort out his dock in the high, cold, spring water. The police report says the empty canoe was found 2 km away, his body 100 m from the canoe. His wife of 65 years, alone and, no doubt, bereft.

Another man drowned while trying to rescue teen-aged kayakers on Lake Huron. The 2007 Canada Day long weekend had nine fatalities, seven on the roads and two deaths on the water.

Saturday 26 July 2008

July bug alerts

It would appear that the bugs are happily reproducing. The worst, during the day, are the deer flies. They are the mid-sized biters that like to take a chunk out. They are merciless during the day, even in the hot sun. They have coloured eyes and bands across their wings. If you wait for them to land you can give them a good swat. The only remedy we have found is a product from Lee Valley Tools called Deer Fly Patches (product # AB715; photo used by permission).

The horse flies, the largest, drag away small children, or, at least, small house pets. They are less frequent, and easier to swat. They land, inspect and THEN take a chunk out of you!

Mosquito biting fingerThe mosquitoes remain relentless. The only mercy is that they do not like the hot sun and the wind, of which we have had plenty lately. They are worst in the dusk and evening, but have not troubled us during the day in open spaces by the shore.

The black flies, unfortunately, have been procreating and reproducing. They seem a bit smaller than they did in Spring, when they were at their worst. They only hunt for our blood in the cooler parts of the day, or when the sun hides behind clouds. They do not live indoors, like that one mosquito that pursues to the death in the dark of the night!

The dragonflies (Bless them!), continually chase and hunt down those flying pesks. They are delightful to watch. I captured their dance in a photo from across our lake. They alight gracefully on a flower and get the bugs out of my flowers.

Saturday 19 July 2008

Traffic in Muskoka

Both lake traffic and vehicle traffic have increased exponentially. Remember to be careful out there!

Drivers seem to forget to use signals, to drive somewhere vaguely near the speed limit, to slow down on curves, and to forecast their next move by slowing down before they turn left across a lane of traffic.
This loon, innocently taking a bath, had to duck as the PWC approaches. The boaters do not faze the ducks, but the loon was splashing and being noisy and it spooked them. The mother ducks and ducklings often go at each other. With lake traffic food sources are iffy. One duckling has a broken leg and we have to let nature take its course.

Many boaters do not know, or remember, the marine speed limits. They are limited to 10 km/hour 30 metres from shore. Our lake, 3 km x 400m wide, seems to be populated by an inordinate number of PWCs zipping back and forth. I realized that when Joe takes out his watercraft, then Judy, Justin and Jane must follow suit. Each zips back and forth, while the loons dive under the water to escape. Then, parents cram a couple of kids on, as well. One in front and one in back. Illegal and dangerous at best.

The towns are busy. Parking is tricky as tourists are in to visit the various shows on this weekend. Bala parking is tricky with the new garden plots. In this early Spring photo you can see the Bala parking problem. The LCBO allowed the Communities in Bloom people to take up parking spaces for some unknown reason.

The Summer Show in Bracebridge had many quality crafts. Beautiful works by many artisans. The Muskoka Wharf is filled with boats, people, and sundry at the In-Water Boat and Cottage Show.

The Muskoka Wharf, which used to be a pretty little bay with the steamships moored, and spectacular view of the wee island, and the surrounding Precambrian shield, is now marred by condos and docks for those who might visit a few weeks of the year. Thankfully, the company that wanted to put in a tourist airline company was turned down. With one small plane on our lake it is noisy enough. I cannot imagine what several would do to the bay as they come into conflict with boaters and the steamships. The heron continues to feed in the bay. Unfazed by tourists gawking.

The downtown businesses are suffering with the amount of traffic and attention focused on the Muskoka Wharf. Parking is tricky, organizers have brought in shuttles for those forced to park well away from the action.

Sunday 13 July 2008


Your joy, your laugh we all adore
your body will not wash ashore
The question´s asked: Where goes my life?
Will I find myself a wife?
We talked at length, you told me how
It´s you who choose the colours now
Everything seems black and white
But we must paint the picture bright
We wrestle long with evil trolls
We box our shadows, we search our souls
True faith abides, I am certain
Your lubberfiends will face a curtain
My heart will rend should you not try
To paint your rainbow in the sky
It´s up to you, you are the one
To seize the day, to find the sun

Wednesday 9 July 2008

Accidents in Muskoka

On our narrow roads there is a risk that you can plunge into the lake. On July 3rd, three young men drowned after their car plunged into Lake Joe. This road is not wide, there are places where one is hard pressed to drive safely even when speed and alcohol is NOT a factor. We are often passed by impatient drivers on solid lines and on curves. The worst are those who travel in a full car who must show off for friends, or who are distracted. Young drivers do not have the experience and the automatic responses that many years driving brings to some.

On Saturday, June 21, 2008, a young man (24 years old) died while boating in Bala Bay. What a shame. What a shame for the rescue crews: Bracebridge OPP, the Muskoka Marine Unit, Muskoka Lakes fire department and local paramedics, and, of course, family members who will face the impact of this tragic death. The 25-year old driver of the boat has been charged with impaired operation of a vessel causing death, and criminal negligence causing death. The pair did not have on life jackets. In yet another incident Friday, June 27, and one is already too many, a father drowned trying to rescue his 24-year old son on a small lake near Huntsville. They were canoeing. How horrible for the wife and mother who watched.

Safe boating is a good practice; this shot, taken in May, 2008, in VERY cold spring water shows some of the dangerous kinds of behaviour. This is a self-inflicted wound and highly preventable by following the safe driving Transport Canada guidelines. Those who operate a boat must have operator cards. The Safe Boating Guide is required knowledge to pass this test. Yet in reality many continue to flaunt the rules.

I know how much of an impact it has for any ambulance crew to work with those who are ill, dying, or who have died. The emotional toll on crews is dear. OPP crime alerts are filled with news about our first response teams, bless them all. It is not easy to come to terms with our mortality; even more disturbing to face an unnecessary death. How simple it is to prevent such a tragedy. Such a shame. Someone has to take responsibility. Perhaps, as with drinking and driving, with drinking and boating with more time we will learn the lessons. It is up to friends, family and neighbours to take a role in preventing such tragedies.

The coast guard had to rescue boaters in Parry Sound on the June 29 weekend. Another man drowned while trying to rescue teen-aged kayakers on Lake Huron. The 2007 Canada Day long weekend had nine fatalities, seven on the roads and two deaths on the water, and the 2008 weekend was not over yet.

How little we think of others and the impact our actions makes upon them, both personally and professionally. How much of a cost is this to others? We often see people fishing standing up in their boats. They drain the emergency support services in terms of the time, and the costs to human and financial resources. How little some think of others. My thoughts and condolences go to family members. These deaths can be prevented. Traffic laws and the system should be able to predict behaviour, demonstrate serious issue that can be forecast, and protect our citizens. Those who love their friends should speak out when they see them exhibit dangerous behaviour. For those with demerit points, parents need to be proactive and take responsibilty. We forbade our sons from driving with friends until they demonstrated that they had earned the privilege to drive. Graduated licensing is a good idea. Limits never hurt anyone. If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. You can help protect society. Speak out and save a life.

Thursday 3 July 2008

Canada Day CBC

I was excited to sit by the TV for our annual Canada Day celebration. We moved from Ottawa two years ago, and have fond memories singing in choirs on Parliament Hill, hearing the RCMP band, and watching and listening as other Canadian performers sung of what it means to be Canadian. In the old days, of course, were the old songs, “Canada, proud and free” and songs written for the massed choirs that lauded Canada, written by Canadian songwriters such as Paul Halley, who were commissioned to write such pieces.

Traditionally, families go down to Parliament Hill to watch the festivities. The kids have their faces painted, and adults have fun, bring picnic lunches and lawn chairs. They watch the changing of the guard that preceeds the arrival of the Governor General in the horse drawn carriage. There are flags flying, banners waving, people in brightly coloured red and white. It is quite a joyous celebration.

Living far away in Muskoka cottage country I thought I would tune in to see the big event on TV. I was happy to see a children’s choir singing an albeit slow march-time of “Oh Canada”, and the exciting group, Drum, that integrated the drumming of four different cultures all influencing these Maritime musicians. The country musicians were fun, I know that the western influence brings a whole new flavour to our collective Canadian soul. Our aboriginal peoples were represented, and they shared some of the sadness in their songs as they mourned a way of life gone by. Thankfully, we have noved into the new millennium and can honour the spirit of the ancient cultures that forged a living, a society, and a population of founding native peoples who helped the white settlers conquer the climate of this difficult land.

What was a disappointment were the subsequent musicians who seemed to be flaunting their artistic interpretation of time-old teen-aged with songs that depressed and unmotivated me, as a middle-aged Canadian. While many musicians dressed up in the colours of the land, they chose the colours that were least reflected in our flag. What has happened to the construct of this annual show? The older woman with the delightful (?) flowers in her hair, attired in a suit, singing what felt to me to be a morose song in French.(I do not understand enough French to understand her apparently poetic allusions to flowers and, perhaps, Canada. I just felt sad listening to it! She looked rather bizarre and I did not know how to interpret her performance.

I forget what the Prime Minister said, but recall his honouring and approval of our new respect for aboriginal peoples. In rereading the speech, it occurs to me that the democracy was fought for with the blood, sweat, and tears of our aboriginal peoples, as well as the war and weapons that served to secure said democracy. I is amusing to be reminded of the anniversary of Quebec City, and yet he did not mention any of the other people and places. He left that to be done in the GG’s speech, obviously directed by the government anxious for Quebec approval in the next election. With so many people from our provinces and territories in the land, it is embarrassing yet predictable that the Governor General’s message, written for her, would mention so heavily the contribution of the French. So many people fought so long and hard to create this land. Champlain’s group was comprised of a multi-cultural group of men, yet Quebec fights so hard against the influence of its aboriginal people and new Canadians. I was sad to listen to this speech in its narrow focus.