Keeping the waters safe

Raissa Tetanish
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RCMP patrol boat takes cruise along busy Tidnish River

Keeping the waters safe

Tidnish - The sun is shining brightly as Const. Paul Calder grabs two personal floatation devices from the back of his RCMP cruiser.

Heading onto the docks in the Tidnish River, he stops to talk to two residents, Hugh and Linda Brown.

When is the detachment going to get a boat of its own? asks Linda.

Probably about two years after I retire, Calder says jokingly, explaining that the small patrol boat hes about to climb into is on loan from the drug unit in Sydney, which stations the boat in Port Hawkesbury.

Every year, the Cumberland District RCMP borrows a patrol boat as much as possible throughout the summer to keep an eye on the waters of the Tidnish River, one thats been regulated for more than 20 years.

A lot of the complaints we get are of speeders along the river. There are several cottages along the river and with many of them putting boats in the water, it can get pretty crowded, Calder said while traveling through the river.

Because the river is regulated, boaters are to adhere to a 10km/h speed limit. Water skiers are also prohibited from the waters.

The wake from the boats tosses the other boats around, and there are often kids playing in the river too.

While there are some boaters that often dont keep to the rules of the water, Calder says the vast majority of the residents like the idea of the RCMP patrolling the river.

They all know well be patrolling at some point, but not knowing when well be out keeps the surprise factor. By having the boat out on the waters, it gives us a bit of a presence.

Calder explains its on a bit of a whim for the detachment to get the boat when it is available to them, and because of the tides, every two weeks is a good boat week.

We try to get out two or three hours every time were out, and its great because there are a few hours on either side of the high tide where we have lots of water in the river for a patrol, he said.

Throughout his years patrolling the waters, Calder says hes seen a variety of things, from porpoises to a whale shark bigger than the boat he was operating at the time. But hes also seen families not understanding the proper use of watercraft, including personal watercrafts.

He says last summer he came across a man traveling along in his new boat, while his son followed on a personal watercraft. Its currently illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to operate a personal watercraft. Even though the father was watching his son very carefully from the boat, he didnt understand that wasnt proper supervision.

Its about making sure people understand how to properly use the watercraft, said Calder, noting the compliance rate of users on the water is generally pretty good.

Boating season is really short, so the people usually have everything they should need before they head out.

The biggest problem I find out here is that, even though the river is one of the safest, the wind picks up easily, he said.

Although the RCMP cant patrol the waters as much as Calder would like, theres usually a presence for the first week of the season, which is used as an educational tool. If, upon returning, the RCMP checked back on the same boats they had spoken to earlier in the season and the operators hadnt improved their situation, they werent given an extra chance.

Organizations: RCMP

Geographic location: Tidnish River, Sydney, Port Hawkesbury

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