Vancouver beach goers ‘held prisoner’ by music-blasting boaters
Vancouver beach goers ‘held prisoner’ by music-blasting boaters

Ines Zagoudakis out for a paddle in Burrard Inlet where boaters face noise restrictions until well beyond residential areas.


This month’s hot weather had Metro Vancouver residents flocking to local beaches or hopping onto paddle boards, kayaks and boats to catch the cool breeze.

But all that population volume in overlapping recreation space can sometimes lead to a problem of a different sort of volume: that of music. As some Vancouver residents and visitors have recently found, sound carries so well over water that boaters who play music can disturb others who are just wanting to unwind.

One evening early last week, a small yacht with a handful of passengers moored off English Bay for a private dance party. As electronic dance music shot across the water and onto the shore, many of those walking along the seawall cast dirty looks at the boat or shook their heads. But the several hundred metres of water between them proved an impediment to people who might want to convey their distaste.

If only they had a paddle board. Well, Ines Zagoudakis does, and the local paddler recently had the opportunity to do something about offshore noise pollution herself.

Last Thursday, Zagoudakis was out on her board when she heard loud music start up. She had also heard it for several nights prior and figured it was coming from a party boat. But after a long paddle down the shore to investigate, she met a kayaker who also happened to be sniffing around for the source, and together they found it. The music was blasting from a tanker moored out in the inlet.

After paddling out to the ship, and between thumping top-40 hits, Zagoudakis and the kayaker were able to raise the attention of a deckhand who turned down the music.

Zagoudakis said she was in part concerned about sound from the ship reverberating into the water and disturbing marine life. Noise from boats is believed to be one of several factors that have damaged the health of the southern resident killer whale population, she noted.

As some Vancouver residents and visitors have recently found, sound carries so well over water that boaters who play music can disturb others who are just wanting to unwind.

Francis Georgian /


But loud music also affects beach goers, she said.

“What we come down to the beach for is the sounds of the water and people enjoying themselves and the quietude and getting away from the sounds of the city,” Zagoudakis said. That relaxing setting is broken when people are “being held prisoner” by someone else’s choice to play music, she said.

Compounding matters is that offshore music, by the time it hits land, has often degraded into noise, as she put it.

“People should consider how the way they enjoy their leisure time impacts other peoples’ leisure time,” she said.

This is an issue the City of Vancouver has considered. It has a map that delineates where boaters can and cannot play music freely. There is, for example, a zero-decibel music tolerance in False Creek and along Sunset Beach and English Bay. That extends several hundred metres offshore during Bard on the Beach and Theatre Under the Stars performances.

Low music, but no outdoor speakers, is permitted along the shore westward from Hadden Park. Far offshore is a “safe area” where music is allowed, but speakers are to be directed away from residences, according to the city.

Vancouver refers noise complaints regarding music on boats to the VPD’s non-emergency line, according to staff.

The city recommends boaters limit the number of speakers on their vessels and comply with the noise levels set for the Vancouver area.

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