The Depth of the Water this Summer

Marin conduisant un bateau

Interview with Louis Gosselin, Marine Surveyor

What’s behind this year’s low water levels?

The water level at the start of the boating season generally tends to be quite low. It’ll be this summer when we’ll need to be more careful. The low water levels this spring are fairly easy to explain. We had a warm fall and little snowfall this winter. And what did fall melted quickly. On top of that, we haven’t had any real heavy rainfall this spring. While a dry spring maybe be welcome news to those who worry about flooding, for others it means summer water levels will be alarmingly low – to the point of being dangerous. When the land gets too dry, it absorbs all the water before it can work its way into the rivers.

Fortunately, thanks to upstream water control and retention, not all regions have been affected. I’m thinking more about the shores of Lake Champlain and the Richelieu and Ottawa Rivers, for example, where water levels are below normal. And we can expect to see lots of incidents at Lake of Two Mountains or Lake Saint-Louis, which are both well-known and very popular bodies of water.

How do you avoid hitting rock bottom?

First and foremost – and I can’t stress this enough – training is key. It takes more than just a boat license. You need regular training, to consult the authorities for information, and to buy and read the maps of the bodies of water you’ll be boating in. Basically, you want to know as much as you can before hitting the water.

Second, once you’re out there, you have to navigate safely and cautiously. Be vigilant at all times. Keep an eye on the GPS and electronic map reader, stick to a reasonable speed, avoid venturing into unknown channels, stay between the buoys – essentially, follow good boating practices at all times. If you hit the wrong spot of a lake with an uneven bottom while cruising at 35 mph and your depth finder suddenly starts beeping, you won’t have time to react. Impact will be inevitable and the damage can come with serious consequences.

Third, make sure you know how to correctly use the tools at your disposal. Even when navigating at night, your GPS will show you things like reliefs, shallows and shorelines. But not everyone knows how to use an electronic chart reader or how to properly adjust the settings. Some don’t even know how to read and understand the directions from a GPS. Paper maps, on the other hand, are inexpensive and easy to understand. They’re also available everywhere. Most accidents could be avoided by simply following these few tips.

One last tip for the road?

Get training and get informed — you will never regret it.