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What part of ‘smarten up’ do you not understand?

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I can’t believe how many people went canoeing on our lake this past weekend without wearing life-jackets.

There’s a rental outlet at our store, and a couple of the owners told me that provincial regulations require that there be a life-jacket in the boat for each person, but that there is no authority for requiring the canoeists to wear one.

With the tragedies we’ve had this summer, and so many summers before?

Education comes in many forms, and a lot of the people who go out on the water need educating. I’ve seen people who’ve obviously never been in a canoe before, they drive out from the city and rent canoes, load up with camping gear to head for the tunnels and camp sites on more distant lakes, and then paddle around in a circle, hitting boats and docks and the floating waterslide, because they’re all paddling on the same side of the canoe.

Last year some young people ditched in the bay before they’d gone 200 yards. Fortunately, they had on life-jackets, and people with boats went out and brought them back.

Saturday, four teenagers rented two canoes, stuffed them with gear, and set out in a high wind and choppy water, no one wearing a life-jacket. "This feels really unstable," said one, "I don’t know how to paddle," said another.

No one uses our family’s kayaks and our canoe without life-jackets. I can swim, but I never take off my life-jacket while kayaking, whether I’m on the open lake or going up a narrow creek where the water is two feet deep and the shore is 20 feet away.

If we can regulate seatbelts, and smoking in buildings and in cars with children, why can’t we regulate the use of flotation devices that save lives? The conservation people who are out looking for fishers without licences and fishers using barbed hooks, let them hand out tickets to anyone in a canoe or kayak without a life-jacket. Give stores the authority to insist that anyone renting their boats wear a life-jacket.

Harumph.

While I’m on the subject of water safety......this is for the calorie-overadvantaged guy who was operating his motorboat in the south Whiteshell recently..........

You understand, surely, that before you enter the tunnels separating Caddy and South Cross lakes, and separating South and North Cross lakes, that it’s for everyone’s safety that you obey the posted rules and regulations on the signs, such as listening for a whistle/horn before entering the tunnel, and sounding your own whistle/horn repeatedly before entering.

When you prepare to enter the tunnel without sounding your horn or whistle, and an emerging kayaker — let’s say, hypothetically, my wife — advises you that there’s a canoe and also another kayak coming through behind her, you stay put, rather than gunning your engines.

I saw my friends ahead of me in their canoe, desperately paddling to the tunnel wall, then being pushed up at a 45-degree angle and trying not to ditch as your large motor boat swept past them. You’re aware, or maybe you aren’t, given that you seem pretty clueless, that the tunnel is narrow, the walls are stone, there are many large and often-jagged rocks on the bottom, and that your boat has a propeller which can seriously injure or even kill people dumped into the water.

I was backing up as fast as I could go, got turned around, and had the current with me, narrowly getting out onto South Cross before your boat ran over me. I don’t recall your making any attempt to slow down.

Afterward, you’re cackling with laughter and telling your mates, "I almost killed someone in the tunnel!"

Not that you care, but our friends managed to stay upright. I also eventually got through the tunnel, shouting all the way that I was coming through, and listening for a whistle or horn.

Sigh.

In another matter only peripherally linked to schools, the city rec department is offering volleyball at Carpathia School again this fall. It took me 78 minutes to get through on the first day of registration, and I’m signed up.

Moving along.....

I’m speaking to a workshop for the Manitoba Teachers’ Society Tuesday morning, and for my employer’s agreeing to do without my way-beyond-invaluable services for the morning, MTS wants me to agree not to report anything that happens at the workshop.

Huh?

I’m probably (rude word ending in ‘ing’) off the union just for even mentioning that.

Apparently it didn’t go over all that well that after a previous workshop at which I spoke, that I blogged about right wing radio trying to get a (vulgar word for urinating) contest going over which right wing radio personality is the world’s greatest journalist, and which other panel members can only grovel in the shadow of his greatness.

OK people, let’s be clear here — I put stuff about education in the paper for a living. I’m not going to suddenly bolt from the workshop to text in a breaking story to our website, but if you tell me that your principal is an alien disguised as a human, or your average class size will be 47 kids next month, or your division is trying for a wage rollback while your bargaining unit is asking for 15 per cent annual raises plus perks, I will remember that and will check it out subsequently.

Sigh.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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