Cottager association floats idea of designated anchoring bays for floating cottages

UPDATE: A message from the communications and executive co-ordinator of the GBA says Rupert Kindersley’s comments to the Parry Sound North Star have been misconstrued. The GBA’s position could have been put much more clearly. I have let this post stand, but please read the response in the comments section.

The executive director of the Georgian Bay Association has proposed that the solution to floating cottages—vessels that are de facto accommodations on barges—is to accommodate them. Rupert Kindersley is quoted in the Parry Sound North Star saying, “Let’s find some really nice place for them to tie up safely.”

The controversy over floating cottages on Georgian Bay was kick-started by one barge with accommodations whose owner announced plans to build and sell more of them. It set off a sort of regulatory panic in Georgian Bay Township and precipitated a terrible no-good proposal by the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to impose severe restrictions on anchoring by all vessels, not just floating cottages. The MNRF has gone back to the drawing board after attracting the ire of cruising boaters. In the meantime, it has sunk in just how hard it is to deny anchoring rights to a barge with accommodations, when anchoring is a broadly protected right of navigation under the Canada Shipping Act, and the federal act does not distinguish between types of vessels, as I discuss on my Anchoring Rights page.

Unless the federal government finds the will and a way to amend the Canada Shipping Act so that floating residences are treated distinctly, it’s hard to see how any provincial or municipal regulations can treat them distinctly, either. The GBA, which represents the various cottagers’ associations on Georgian Bay, now is toying with the idea of recognizing that floating cottages might be here to stay, and that the solution is to dedicate specific anchorages for them.

Frankly, I don’t know how that is going to fly. Designating specific anchoring areas by definition means designating areas where anchoring is forbidden, and the folks wrestling with the floating-cottage issue seem to keep forgetting about the Al Will case I describe over on my Anchoring Rights page. The province learned that it could not designate certain bays within Massasauga Provincial Park as anchoring bays (with requisite fees) and declare other bays off-limits. On the same basis, I don’t know how some anchorages on Georgian Bay could be assigned to floating cottages and others declared off-limits.

I’m just blue-skying here, but one strategy might be for the province to enter into water lot leases with municipalities, handing over to them control of anchoring in certain bays, where floating cottages could be accommodated on a sub-lease fee basis. But what prevents the floating cottage owner from dropping anchor elsewhere? One incentive would be that a sub-lease from a municipality could be guaranteed all summer, while anchoring where you like would be subject to the restriction of 21 non-consecutive days that is the current policy of the MNRF.

Of course, this then leads to the question: which bay or bays would be turned into a floating-cottage neighbourhood? You can be assured it won’t be ones with shore-based cottages on them, and those that aren’t are very few and far between. We’re a long way from such an approach becoming a reality, but cruising boaters may find that one or more of their favourite hideaways have been turned into another cottage community in which they’re not welcomed.

4 Replies to “Cottager association floats idea of designated anchoring bays for floating cottages”

  1. The GBA stance has never been to try and ban floating cottages (FC). GBA has consistently said that they need to be properly regulated and located in a place where they can get connections to hydro, sewage, water supply and garbage disposal services etc., as available. Such a place would be a permanent, fixed location such as a marina. In other jurisdictions that is how floating cottages are managed and those locations are often attractive places, which provide a good experience for the FC owner, and eliminate the safety issues for FCs moving around freely and anchoring wherever they want. Furthermore, such FC owners will often have a boat at the location, which they can use to explore the area, as other boaters do.

    The interpretation of the Parry Sound North Star article is incorrect. GBA has never proposed, and would never propose “designated anchoring bays” for floating cottages. It is access to services at a marina or similar location that will reduce the potential environmental impacts of FCs and deal with safety issues.

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