Be An Engine of Change

LSL-logo-croppedLake Simcoe Living Magazine published one of Doug’s articles “Be An Engine of Change” in the July\August 2008 issue.

Johanna Powell, Publisher has given us permission to share his story with you on our website. Enjoy Doug Dawson’s article about what has happened to Lake Simcoe and what we can do to help save and restore the lake.


photos on the dockTop and lower left: The Dawson family and friends swimming at the marina beach in 1972. Right: The March/April page from a 1942 calendar showing the marina

The golden days of yesteryear could return with help from thousands of Lake Simcoe boaters. By Doug Dawson, Published in Lake Simcoe Living Magazine 2008

 Cool, clean water lapped on the beach as my friends and I ran into the lake for our daily swim, laughing and splashing the water high over our heads before diving under the water as young boys do. The water was so clear, it was easy to see the clamshells on the bottom. We would spot one and swim down without a mask with our eyes wide open. Retrieving the shells was so easy when we could see so clearly.

My friends and I would spend countless hours, day after day, in the shallow water along the shoreline, clearing a path through the clam beds to the diving raft. We would pick up the live clams by the handful and relocate them off to either side of our path so that the open shells wouldn’t cut our feet. I also remember seeing fish swimming in the harbour and my sister dropping a hook and catching them without any problem. She could see them swimming around the hook and pull it at just the right time.

That was about 50 years ago, when I was growing up at my dad’s marina in Keswick — Dawson’s Marina. Those were the days. Great memories!

What Happened?

What happened to the magnificent Lake Simcoe where I played as a child?

People happened to Lake Simcoe. As the population around the lake increased, the water quality suffered increasingly. For a long time, people weren’t aware of the damage that was being done to the lake. As a result, Lake Simcoe is under severe stress and needs to be healed.

How Do We Heal It?

People have to heal it. Each of us has to do our part. With all the attention paid to the environment today, most are aware of the problems — and boaters are no exception. Boating is a huge recreational activity on Lake Simcoe, enjoyed by thousands every year.

Forty-one years ago, in 1967, Ontario boat owners were required to have holding tanks installed on their boats to collect sewage from the toilet, and marinas installed pump-out stations so boaters could dispose of their waste. This practice spread across Canada.

Marinas started replacing the chemical cleaners and service products as more environmentally friendly products became available. The Ontario Marine Operators Association, of which I am a past president, is in its 41st year now. Along with more than 20 marine industry professionals and Ontario’s boaters’and anglers’associations, the OMOA formed the Clean Marine Partnership in 2000 to develop a voluntary program that is recognized as the leader in North America. This program educates, markets, audits and certifies marine facilities. Most marinas use low-toxicity anti- freeze for winterizing engines, and in 2006, more than 20% was saved for reuse; 24,000 litres was recycled. Also in 2006, almost 71,000 litres of used oil was collected and recycled, while 750,000 bottles of a federal government-approved and certified environmentally responsible bottom wax replaced less desirable products.

Marinas are minimizing solvents and disposing of cans of paint and other toxins in more environmentally friendly ways. They are doing hull work on land, away from the water, with drop cloths to catch spills and dust, thereby containing runoff within the work area and disposing of it correctly. New fuelling procedures eliminate spills and new cleanup procedures in the event of a spill minimize the damage to the water. New waste management at marinas provides for recycling of waste.

Two hundred and fifty-eight Ontario marinas are now Eco-Rated, and they are educating their thousands of resident boaters in environmental best-management practices to protect our lakes.
An increasing number of marinas are doing the right thing to help restore our environment and preserve it for future generations.

What Can Lake Simcoe Boaters Do?

You may think you are only one boater and that your efforts won’t amount to much. But, collectively, the thousands of boaters on Lake Simcoe can and will make a difference — if we all make a few changes.

Follow The Lead

  • Choose an Eco-Rated Clean Marina. Check that your home port is Eco-Rated, and when cruising, stay with marinas flying the Clean Marine flag.
  • Clean responsibly. Do your heavy spring cleaning on land before launch. Look for products with Environment Canada’s Environmental Choice logo to use on your boat. Products bearing the symbol with three doves intertwined to make a maple leaf are products that have been produced in a more environmentally responsibly manner and their use leaves the least impact on the environment. There are many cleaning products on the market that do not have this label and are good, but there are some that are misleading in their environmental friendliness. Read labels very carefully. One rule of thumb: avoid all those cleaners that warn “do not get in eyes” or “always wear gloves.” These can harm the environment.
  • Repairs and Maintenance. Use products sold by your Eco-Rated marina and follow their practices and procedures for repairs and cleanup.
  • Reduce Toxic Discharges From Bottom Paint. Minimize the discharge of heavy metals that come from antifouling paints by using a hard, less toxic or non-toxic antifouling paint. Use only non-abrasive underwater hull cleaning techniques to prevent excessive paint discharge. Pick a marina that does this or, if doing it yourself, research proper procedures and do it away from the water. Dispose of the hazardous waste properly.
  • Tune up your engine. Keeping a well-tuned engine will help prevent fuel and oil leaks. In the event you do have a leak, use absorbent pads and dispose of them as hazardous waste at a local marina.
  • Stow it — don’t throw it. Always wrap your garbage and sort your recyclables, then dispose and/or recycle at your local marina or take refuse home for proper disposal and recycling.
  • Keep bilges clean. Always check your engine and lines for leaks, use a drip pan and absorbent pillows or cloths to soak up any spills.
  • Use safe fuelling practices. Follow the fuelling rules posted at Eco-Rated marinas to spillproof your fuelling practices.
  • Reduce grey-water discharge. Use phosphate-free soaps with Canada’s Environmental Choice logo to minimize the impact of grey water on the marine environment. An alternative to doing dishes and taking showers aboard is to use the marina facilities.
  • Watch your wake. Always look behind to make sure your wake is not causing harm to another boater, a swimmer or the shoreline. Reducing shoreline erosion will go a long way in helping to restore the lake.
  • Stop aquatic hitchhikers. If you take your boat out of Lake Simcoe or bring another one in, be sure to remove all visible aquatic plants and animals from your boat, motor, trailer and other equipment before launching. This practice will help slow down the spread of zebra mussels and other nuisance aquatic species.
  • Pick up debris. Whenever you see debris in the water, pick it up and dispose of it as if it were in your own backyard. If everyone adopted this simple attitude, think of the difference it would make to Lake Simcoe.

If all Lake Simcoe boaters practise these environmentally friendly tips, we can help stop water quality from worsening and we can start the healing process.You can make a difference.
Perhaps children in future generations will be able to enjoy a clean, clear Lake Simcoe — just as I did when I was a child.

A Family Afloat

dandb2Doug Dawson is a fifth-generation boat businessman, born and raised at the family marina on Lake Simcoe — Dawson’s Marina Ltd. As a youth, he learned the boat business and drove everything from runabouts to motor yachts. He brags that he “was taught by the best boat driver in Canada — my dad, Art Dawson.”

Doug and Brenda met as teens, married in 1967 and have been a boating and business team since their honeymoon aboard a 31-foot (9.5-metre) Trojan Cruiser.

At Dawson’s Marina, Doug managed sales and administration for 16 years. Doug and Brenda were active members of the Ontario Marine Operators Association for 23 years, and Doug is a past president.

For 30 years, the Dawsons have been actively involved in organizing such boating events as the Georgian Bay Sailing Regatta, poker runs across Ontario, boat shows and marine trade shows, and they have written boat reviews for Canadian Yachting Magazine and Power Boating Canada Magazine.

in 1984, Doug and Brenda created Computer Boat Search, Canada’s first marine multiple listing service for North America, and they published the Canadian Boat Value Book for 23 years.

They have two recent books, Buy a Boat With Confidence and First Mate 101, and dozens of Docking Lessons to help boaters enjoy boating more. These books, as well as scanned copies of old boat brochures from the 1950s to the present, are available at www.

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