Extend Summer with Fall PWC Riding

Many cottagers hang up their PFDs after Labour Day. Psychologically, this long weekend marks the end of summer for many folks. But anyone who puts their personal watercraft away this early misses fantastic fall Sea Doo riding in the Kawarthas. What’s so special about autumn on our waterways?

Fall Colours: Autumn simply has a different rhythm and ambience from summer, one that’s well worth experiencing by jet ski. Of course, the pièce de resistance is a tableau of changing colours. Our lush shores explode in a riot of red, orange and yellow, and the best seat in the house is on your PWC.

Colours typically peak in the first two weeks of October, but the transition is evident throughout September.

Fall colours and blue water. Photo Credit: Al Fletcher


Autumn is also when some lakes undergo a major transformation that can “green” their surfaces, as water layers turnover thanks to cooling temperatures. Flocks of migrating birds and waterfowl are also a sight to behold as they gather to head south.

Autumn Weather: Summer temperatures don’t suddenly end at Labour Day. Fall offers many sunny and warm days at least until Thanksgiving – ideal conditions for Sea Doo touring. Yes, as the nights get cooler, mornings can be brisk. But heat and humidity don’t build throughout the day as happens in the heart of summer with more hours of daylight – and no bugs! So, fall weather can be even more pleasant for riding than those dog days of summer.

Easy Riding: Early fall Sea Doo riding is also highlighted by less boat traffic. Like their PWC brethren, many recreational boaters turn off the ignition key for the season on Labour Day. Same goes for waterfront property owners who only show up again after the long weekend to put the boat and seasonal cottage away for the winter. Also, fewer anglers are out on the water. All of which makes our waterways less crowded, even on weekends.

The result is less wake and other boat turbulence to contend with while PWC riding, hardly any waiting at boat launches, and more available dock spaces at shoreline marinas, restaurants and other facilities. Through autumn, most shoreline accommodations also have more room choices and lower rates. Meanwhile, Trent Severn Waterway locks remain open until the end of Thanksgiving day (Monday, October 9), but switch to Fall Hours after Labour Day (M to F – 10 am to 3:30 pm / S & S – 9 am to 4:30 pm). Adjust your riding times accordingly so as not to miss that all-important last lock-thru of the day.

Dress For Fall: Autumn riders will quickly learn that cooler mornings and less extreme temperature can make bare skin uncomfortable during parts of the day. So cover up with long pants and sleeves, foot booties, full-finger gloves, and neck dickeys or bandanas. If needed, I also carry a wind and waterproof outer shell, sized large enough to fit comfortably over my PFD.

Layering also adds to fall comfort on the water – more layers for warmth at the start of the ride and fewer for more comfort later in the day. The latest high tech materials are quick drying, moisture wicking and thermal retaining.

There’s one more good reason for fall Sea Doo riding – bragging rights. So before taking your personal watercraft to your dealer for winterizing, I recommend extending your season to get your full money’s worth from your PWC investment by trying autumn cruising.

Setting out on fall group ride. Photo Credit: Craig Nicholson


Suggested Autumn Rides: 1. Peterborough (Rogers Park boat ramp, Little Lake) to Hastings (Village Marina) – 126 km return ride with one lock-thru at Scott’s Mills. 2. Burleigh Falls (lock station boat ramp) to Fenelon Falls – 130 km return ride with three lock-thrus at Lovesick, Buckhorn and Bobcaygeon. 3. Hastings (Village Marina boat ramp) to Healey Falls – 45 km return ride with one lock-thru at Hastings. Note: It’s always smart for each PWC in your group to start with a full gas tank and carry extra in a fuel caddy.

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By Craig Nicholson

Top Photo Credit: Al Fletcher  Caption: Snack stop amid fall splendour.