Crossing the Line: Boating’s Cultural Advantage

By John Morris

For two-plus years, most Canadians stayed inside and atrophied. It was sad. The world stopped, most folks sat in masks and watched game shows until their minds turned to mush. Perhaps we isolated too long, but no matter what, most everything was put on hold.

But not boaters. With attention to restrictions, distancing sailors and powerboaters alike were able to use their boats initially as families, then bubbles and later, bigger bubbles. The result is that the boating communities were able to carry on with life while time stood still for the rest of the world.

Today, Canadians look on in awe at the boating community, seeing a somewhat advanced civilization that developed during that hiatus from normal life, today leading the way in lifestyle, fashion, and social communication. It’s 2023 and lockdowns have been unlocked, but everyone is following the boating leaders. Nautical references are everywhere in recognition of the clear achievement boaters harvested while everyone else stayed in.

Now we can share what was until now, largely a niche interest. Wet weather gear, previously confined to the cockpit has become the must-have look for trendsetters. Helly Hansen, Musto and Henri Lloyd have replaced Versace and Missoni on the runways. Kids are wearing their PFDs to school so they can look like their peers who head out to Christian Island on the family cruiser every weekend. Come June, fashion forward brides wear ‘foulies’ to exchange vows. You see blue and white stripes more than ever before. Home decor is no longer complete without flags, anchors and pictures of boats. Boating has taken over!

It cannot start too early. Proud parents who previously were satisfied that Little Marky could identify the heroes in Paw Patrol are racing to teach the four-year-old port-starboard rules and drilling semaphore flags. In short, aspiring to be part of the society’s boating tranche has swept not just early adopters, but Canadian culture as a whole. No wonder – as Dr. Sheldon Jeanneau of Rideau Canal University explains it, “put your kid in the boating cohort you’re adding 2.5 years of sophistication as a minimum.”

The years 2021 and 2022 then some way into ’23, were times of repressed or even backward progress. How many times have you heard that online education was inadequate and that kids as well as their parents have suffered, possibly permanently from lack of social interaction? On our dock, while initially people were staying off each other’s boats, we could toast across cockpits and eat lunch together but metres apart. All the while air was circulating, not to mention that the sun was shining, and the birds were singing. No Netflix in sight.

Small wonder boaters have survived and even prospered over the last years even as Canada stagnated. But we as boaters, unsurprisingly, remain modest, unassuming, and humble. The moral of the story is what you already knew – boats are the source of happiness, fun, health, and friendships. Too bad it took an insane crisis to point that out.

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