Boating safety tips: Staying Safe on the Water

Edited by Admin
Boating safety tips: Staying Safe on the Water

Boating Safety Tips


Boats, like motorcycles, ATVs, and other recreational vehicles, provides Canadians with hours of exciting and fun recreation. In fact, millions of us will have at least one boat ride this summer! Whether you like to take your boat out to a quiet spot to fish, or to pull water-skiers over the waves, you know that being out on the water is special. Sadly, however, more than 150 Canadians die and hundreds more are injured in boating accidents each year. Before you take to the water, know the risks!


Major Risks


There are two major risks for boaters, and both are easy to mitigate. They are:


  • PFDs and lifejackets. According to Transport Canada, 90% of all boating deaths involve people who are not wearing Personal Flotation Devices or lifejackets. Federal law requires that the operator of a boat ensures that there is a PFD/lifejacket present for each person in a boat. These devices should fit well and be fastened properly. Current law requires only that these devices be easily accessed by passengers, but the Office of Boating Safety has consistently advised that PFDs/lifejackets should be worn while the boat is in the water. Never operate a boat without wearing a PFD or lifejacket and insist that anyone who rides with you must wear one, too. You have a duty of care toward those who are on your boat -- and ensuring that they are protected by flotation devices is part of that duty. You can find more information about these devices on the Transport Canada website.


  • Alcohol use. At least 40% of all boating fatalities involve alcohol. Obviously, it’s important that anyone operating a boat be sober. In Ontario, operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a criminal offense, and the penalties are similar to those for drunk driving – including fines, the seizure of the boat, and possible prison terms. Never operate a boat while under the influence, and never get on a boat with an operator who has been drinking or using drugs. Their reaction time is impaired, their judgement is compromised, and they put everyone on board at risk.


Staying Safe on the Water


If you plan to operate a boat this summer, take a boat safety course and obtain your boating license (Motorized Pleasure Craft Operator Card.) You’ll learn much more about how to stay safe on the water, and you’ll better understand the regulations surrounding boating in Ontario.


There are a number of safety measures any boat operator should take account of, including:


  • Weather. Learn when to leave the boat at the dock! Pay attention to the forecasts and to what you see. Never take your boat out in heavy fog or high winds, or if a storm is predicted.


  • Trip plan. Always let someone know where you’re headed and what time to expect you back, so that they can raise the alarm if you fail to return. File a trip plan with a responsible person or with the local marina or Coast Guard. Your plan should include:
    • The name, type, license number, size, and colour of your boat
    • Type of engine
    • Info about radiophone and channel if applicable
    • List of safety equipment aboard
    • Your name, address, and phone number
    • Number of people onboard
    • Departure time
    • Expected return time
    • Proposed route


  • Shipping lanes. Every year, Transport Canada gets calls about pleasure craft owners who are causing problems by boating in shipping lanes or blocking ferry routes. Be very aware of others on the water and stay out of the way of larger vessels.


  • Waterskiing. If you plan to tow skiers, be sure you are familiar with the Transport Canada rules governing this activity. For example, there must be a spotter aboard keeping an eye out for those being towed, and there must be seats available on the boat for everyone, including those being towed. Towing is not allowed after sunset to before sunrise, or in conditions of poor visibility such as fog.


Remember that as the boat operator, you are responsible for ascertaining that the boat is carrying the required safety equipment. As outlined above, all boats are required to carry a lifejacket or PFD for each passenger. Also required on all boats are:

  • A reboarding device, which assists people to get into a boat from the water
  • A buoyant heaving line at least 15 metres in length


Most boats also require:

  • Watertight flashlights
  • Bailers
  • Flares
  • Fire extinguishers


You’ll also want to pack items such as:

  • A first aid kit
  • A sound signalling device such as a whistle
  • A paddle
  • An anchor
  • Extra sunscreen
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Clean, dry clothes


And finally, if you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident caused by operator negligence, you may be entitled to receive insurance benefits. Contact a personal injury lawyer today to learn more about receiving the compensation you deserve.