I Learned About Boating From This: Niagara Falls Boating Danger

A boater's lack of equipment almost causes a tragedy.
I Learned About Boating from This: Niagara Falls Boating Danger
This boater lacked so many things. Tim Bower

When I was a teenager many (many) years ago, I had a 15-foot Starcraft SS15 powered by a 60 Evinrude. I loved that boat and had many great adventures in it. One day, some buddies and I were exploring the upper Niagara River and Chippawa Creek. Chippawa Creek is on the Canadian side and meets the river about 2 miles above Horseshoe Falls. After exploring the creek and re-entering the river, we stopped to relieve ourselves. I turned off the engine, and we took care of our business. By the time we had finished, we had drifted past the warning sign on the bank of the river. The sign, in a typical Canadian manner of understatement, read “Navigation Prohibited. Dangerous Waters Ahead.” By dangerous waters, of course, it meant that we were about a mile and a half from the top of the falls.

Anyway, upon trying to restart the engine, I was greeted with total silence. Nothing, not even a click.

The first thing we did was toss out the anchor. Having only the 20 feet of line I used to anchor at the beach, the anchor hung straight down and we continued to drift. The next thing I did was reach for my tool box. Oops, no tools. I was too lazy to carry them out to the boat that day. I had a paddle, but the ­current was too strong to make any headway toward shore.


To say we were getting nervous would also be an understatement. Also, this was pre-cellphones, and I didn’t have a VHF radio.

Finally, the only thing I could think of was that since I was getting nothing at all from the engine, it could be a battery problem. I pulled the anchor back up and tapped the terminal connections with it. To our great relief, the Evinrude fired up and off we went.

Read Next: How To Assemble a Great Anchor Rode


The lessons I learned start with carrying a sufficient length of anchor rode. Next, I learned to always carry tools. Lesson three is to always have a communication ability — a cellphone or preferably a VHF radio. Fourth, don’t turn your engine off when you are near a known hazard. Finally, don’t use cheap Styrofoam coolers. They squeak and break when someone steps on them in a panic.

I hope others can benefit from my youthful stupidity. I have been up Chippawa Creek many times since that day without incident, but I have never turned off my engine. Live and learn.

Bob Miller
Buffalo, New York


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