Getting out on the water and having some fun in the boat is a time-honoured summer tradition for many Canadian families. But just as much as we love our road trips, boating has its own unique set of rules and regulations to keep everyone safe and sound as they cruise down rivers, tackle water sports, or leisurely coast the waves.
To set the record straight on what we can do to stay in the clear, we sat down with Ted Rankine of the Canadian Safe Boating Council to help educate us on how to keep your boating license in good standing this summer.
Here are the top tips for boat safety
Get Your Pleasure Craft Operator Card
In Canada, anyone operating a powered recreational vessel is required to have a pleasure craft operator card (PCOC). In order to qualify for this, you need to take a course and exam either online or in class.
Wear Your Life Jacket
You buckle up to drive, so click your lifejacket on when on a boat
TR: We encourage people to wear their life jackets. They’re not the old orange smelly pillow-like things that we used to store under the cottage or in the bow of the boat. These days, there are modern inflatable style life jackets and also purpose-built life jackets for fishing, hunting, personal watercraft riding and just about any other on-water activity. Legally, you are required to have one properly fitted life jacket aboard for each person. Each must be serviceable and be within arms-length…not stored below deck. We encourage those especially in small, open boats to wear their life jacket. An unexpected fall overboard, especially into cold water, can be shocking and impair your ability to swim and rescue yourself. We suggest simply getting into the habit of wearing one just like a seatbelt. You buckle up to drive, so click your lifejacket on when on a boat.
Don’t Drink and Boat
40% of boating fatalities involve alcohol, 37% of boaters admit to consuming alcohol every time they boat, and 66% say they drink alcohol sometimes when boating — MADD Canada
TR: Statistics show that 40 per cent of boating fatalities involve alcohol. Whether it’s an influencing factor or simply a contributing factor, drinking and boating is a big issue. On the water, the combination of sun, wind, the rocking movements of a boat exacerbate the effects of alcohol. If you’re out on a boat rocking with the waves and you add in some hot sun and a bit of a wind, even without a drink you can get on the dock and feel a little bit woozy. Add alcohol and your ability to operate your vessel is going to be diminished. There are laws against drinking on a boat across the country. From an legal standpoint, if you are caught impaired and are convicted, you may lose your driver’s license – regardless of whether you are driving a car or a boat.
Be Prepared for Any Situation
TR: Anytime you go out on the water, you want to ensure your vessel is suitable for your intended voyage. For instance, you don’t want to take a 12-foot aluminum boat out into the middle of Lake Ontario to go salmon fishing—it’s just not a boat that is suited for that kind of environment. In addition to this, you want to make sure the boat is equipped with the legally required safety equipment. The legal requirements for small boats include signaling devices—sound signaling, a whistle or an air horn— and visual distress signals, which could be a waterproof flashlight, as well as signal flares. In addition to the previously mentioned lifejackets, you will also need a buoyant heaving line to use if someone falls overboard.