At the end of May I finally did it. After 17 years in Canada, I bought a boat so I could go fishing on our beautiful lakes around Quesnel.
My boat is only a small boat, enough for a morning fishing trip to a local lake with my kids.
The gentleman who sold me the boat reminded me that I needed a boat operating licence.
Well ”no problem” I thought.
Boy, was I wrong!
First I went to get the booklet.
It is more of a book with 12 chapters and 120 pages of detailed marine knowledge.
As I was in doubt about needing all that knowledge to go kokanee fishing on 10 Mile Lake, I asked at the government building to make sure I had the right book.
The agent there confirmed the fact that the book I had, was the right one.
She also told me that the local Power Squadron Club offers a course as a community service, to assist people in getting their operator’s licence.
This club, run by volunteers, provides information and facilitates the preparation and delivery of the test required by Transport Canada.
The volunteers with the Power Squadron make no money for this service for their club and offer hours of their time to assist people like me who need this licence before I can take my boat out.
I decided to take the course along with approximately 40 other boaters.
The volunteer power squadron members spent more than four hours with us, going through all the information in the book and at the end the participants had one hour to complete a test with 50 questions.
As I looked about the room, I noticed there were mostly older men and women taking the test with me – people probably around retirement age and probably in boats all of their lives knowing all the good fishing holes in and around Quesnel.
I felt sorry for them, having to know what to do in a “conventional water lock” and having to know how to read cardinal buoys or where to store their flares on the boat and in which position (horizontally or vertically?).
They needed to successfully answer questions on these details so they could enjoy a spot of evening fishing on a local lake.
I very much understand that we need regulations and rules on the water but perhaps the Ministry of Transportation could differentiate between a small outboard operator on Milburn Lake and a sailor who spends his or her summer off the coast of British Columbia.
While I was driving home after the test, I was passed by a young driver in a mustang displaying an “N” on the back.
his driver was exceeding the speed limit as he passed me by crossing double solid lines and I thought to myself, “there is something wrong when it is easier to get a driver’s licence than it is to get a boat operator’s licence”.
I passed the test (big thanks to the members of the Power Squadron) but I was not in the mood for celebrating because I know that many in that testing room did not pass.
Approximately one third of those attempting the test on that Saturday failed it.
Again, I understand that safety is an important issue on the water but the Ministry of Transportation needs to revisit the licence criteria and adjust the levels of testing to match specific purposes on the water, so we can all enjoy our great Canadian outdoors,