Buoy Buddies owner Michelle Bilboe holds up two of her products in front of Agnew's General Store in Wilberforce. Buoy Buddies are oversized rubber ducks that mark obstacles under the water. They replace unsightly bleach bottles on the lake. The company was recently started by Michelle Bilboe of Cope Lake. /Photo Submitted

A cheery alternative to the bleach bottle

By Jenn Watt

Rubber duckies make bath time lots of fun but they can also bring a little extra joy to the lake.

Wilberforce- and Toronto-based company Buoy Buddies is capitalizing on the cheery appearance of rubber ducks by giving them a new purpose on local lakes: to mark underwater hazards.

“[It marks] rocks that are really close to the water line so boats don’t hit them with their propellers or if you want to mark where your water line is so the kids don’t swim into it that kind of thing” says Buoy Buddies owner and Wilberforce area cottager Michelle Bilboe.

Buoy Buddies are oversized rubber ducks with sunglasses measuring about eight inches by eight inches and float about six to eight inches above the water.

They are designed to be highly visible and much more appealing than the bleach bottle typically used to mark rocks and other obstacles. While the ducks have to come in before the ice hits the lake Buoy Buddies also sells an attachment that floats so that year after year you can easily find the line without diving down to attach the duck to it.

The idea for the product came while Bilboe and her husband were sitting on their dock looking at the water a few years ago. She noticed bleach bottles bobbing in the water.

“I looked out and said to my husband ‘that is so ugly’” she recalls. Her husband went away and came back with a rubber duck. They immediately recognized it as an opportunity.

Two years later after back and forth with prototypes and manufacturing Bilboe received her first shipment of ducks – 1000 of them in March of 2015.

“My whole garage” she laughs. “That’s 84 boxes.”

Bilboe ended up partnering with California-based company Celebriducks which makes small ducks for promotions to create her buoys.

As standard practice Celebriducks makes their ducks out of phthalate- and BHP-free vinyl meaning they won’t be leaching chemicals into the water.

“Part of the deal is not to put the bleach bottles in the water. We wanted to make sure we weren’t polluting the lake with my product as well” Bilboe says.

It was too late for Buoy Buddies to make the Cottage Life Show but she was able to get to the Haliburton Home and Cottage Show and a few others. They’ve also been stocked at Agnew’s General Store in Wilberforce.

The experience of selling a product in cottage country has had some pleasant side effects the businesswoman says.

“This has really made me get out and see the area. I got to see more and be involved in the community more up there which is really neat” she says.

This winter Bilboe intends on connecting with more Highlands businesses to stock her Buddies and will be renting a booth at the Cottage Life Show.

Customers can also purchase the ducks online at any time by going to BuoyBuddies.ca. They sell for $34.95 plus shipping. The floating attachments are $4.95.