If you spend any time on the water on eastern Georgian Bay, you’re going to come across cottage properties where there seem to be a lot of cruising boats, all the time. The supposed problem of such densification/intensification has not been lost on some local politicians, who are concerned about the amount of grey water such congregations of vessels at residential properties might be pumping into the bay. At a September meeting of Council for Georgian Bay township, the council was addressing a single problem, the case of a converted shipping container mounted on a floating dock. It had apparently been evicted from the Trent-Severn Waterway, but its present whereabouts were unknown, and council feared that if the legality of such a thing (Is it a floating home? Is a vessel? Does it enjoy transient anchoring rights?) isn’t dealt with effectively, there could be a proliferation of them in Georgian Bay waters.
In the course of discussing the matter (see 2:45:07 in the streaming video on Youtube), councillor Peter Cooper raised the parallel issue of what he called “yachting outstations”.
There’s a number of different, what shall I say, intensifications of transient vessels…in our township. So I don’t think it’s just sea containers. I think it’s yachting outstations. We have a number of seasonal residences that are meant for one family, and we’re seeing now some really big problems. We’re seeing where there’s three, four, five very large vessels at a third of an acre island off Camp Queen Elizabeth. I can point to several other examples, and I don’t see them as separate issues. I see them as all part of a, sort of, a floating invasion as it were. Whether they’re going to mooring buoys or going to docks…I go down certain channels to my marina and I see four or five, six, vessels at one seasonal residence. They’re there often for a long period of time. We need to deal with that. I think we have verbiage in our by-laws in certain parts of township that deal with that and effectively say you can only have a boat there for whatever it is, 24 or 48 hours, and that’s it, but they all will be dumping grey water. So, yes, these steel containers are a new spin on it, but it’s been around for a while and I think that we need to deal with it.
I think the legal tools already exist to deal with floating homes masquerading as cruising boats where abuse of anchoring rights are concerned, as I discuss over on my anchoring rights page. As for “yachting outstations,” I don’t know how much of a thing they actually are, and I’m interested to see where this debate goes. It’s worth remembering that cottager hostility to cruising boats has a long history on the bay. Years, ago, when “citizen science” was much more politicized around here, I can recall an effort to prove through water testing that cruising boats were harming water quality through grey water discharges in anchoring bays, which would have provided an excuse for having them banned from certain areas. That study came up blank, to the best of my recollection. I’m not sure how four or five boats at a cottage is any worse than those same four or five boats being rafted up in an anchorage, but the issue of course is cumulative. It may also be that some cottagers have figured out that having a cruising boat at the dock for guests is a lot cheaper than building a guest house or boat house with accommodations, and sidesteps zoning problems that would require appropriate septic capacity. And on that front, I can see a municipality wanting to step in.