Originally Posted by Ken Bracewell
Since the US Coast Guard gave us a pilotage exemption in US Waters, the Canadians Great Lakes Pilotage Authority has decided to partially follow suit.
We now only require a pilot from St. Lambert Lock until Snell Lock. After that we need a pilot through the Welland Canal and then are free to go where we like.
I'll post the rates after I've completed the trip.
Although this is was what was discussed over the telephone with Captain Daniel Trottier, I am kicking myself because I didn't request that ruling in writing. After making my way all the way to Chicago and then back as far as the Welland Canal, the GPLA put me over a barrel yesterday. They called me (on a weekend, when I had no access to legal advice, none-the-less) and informed me that if I didn't take a pilot all the way from the Welland Canal to Montreal (as opposed to the agreed upon Snell-Montreal section) that I would be in violation of the law. I reminded Captain Trottier of our conversation in September and he gave me some BS about being confused and thinking that RENA
was a US flagged vessel, rather than Marshall Islands. I know this is BS because I have copies of every email between us, clearly stating the vessel particulars as well as copies of the licenses of each crew member.
So it goes something like this:
GPLA: "You'll need to take one of our pilots from Montreal all the way to the Straights of Mackinac". Remember, this is a Canadian government owned AND regulated company- A GOVERNMENT REGULATED MONOPOLY.
ME: "Well, perhaps we may not come to the Great Lakes then."
US Coast Guard: "Since you're a private vessel, you are welcome to cruise in the US Waters of the Great Lakes without a pilot."
ME (to the US Coast Guard): "Great. Thanks very much Captain Eullitt!"
ME (to the Canadian GPLA): "I will take a pilot as far as Alexandria Bay, NY. At that time, I will release the pilot and stay in US Waters until I am at the Welland Canal. I will then take a canal pilot through the Canal before heading back to US waters for the remainder of my trip. I'll do the same on the way home. You know, this is really a shame for all the Canadian business owners who could benefit from the money we would spend along the way."
GPLA: "We have decided that you will only be required to take a pilot as far as Snell Lock. Thereafter you can go where you like, with the exception of the Welland Canal."
ME: "That's great! In that case, I'll spend some time and money in Canada."
That is how it went; the GPLA pilot got off the boat at Snell and wished us well. We then cruised through both countries and really had a great time until Captain Trottier decided that he could change his mind and force us to take a pilot!
I see this as pure extortion! They've essentially duped me into bringing the boat into the Lakes and then forcing me to pay pilotage costs before allowing me to leave (I have it on good authority that if I hadn't taken a pilot, I would have been detained above the locks in the Cornwall District).
Additionally, I am concerned about the reasons for the rule changes and inconsistency. You see, I believe that the GPLA changed the minimum size for mandatory pilotage from 1500 GRT (a small ship) to 35 metres (most yachts) was due to a slow down in shipping as a result of the economy. There is also a great fear (as expressed to me from numerous pilots along the way) that impending NY State ballast water regulations will drastically reduce shipping traffic. I am convinced that the GPLA is scrambling to make up for lost revenues and to justify their own existence.
I would caution anyone considering coming to the Great Lakes to reconsider. You may think of Canada as a pretty civilized country, but this action leaves me feeling like I am dealing with a Banana Republic or Third-World Country.
If you're a Canadian citizen and it burns you that your Government is passing legislation that is driving business away from local economies, I urge you to get in touch with your MP. If you doubt that this is happening, I can promise you that I will not be recommending a trip back to the Great Lakes. While we were in Canada, we spent well over $150,000 on various services and goods.
It may also help to drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
I will also be happy to share his telephone number via PM.