Summer Boating Safety

Edited by Admin
Summer Boating Safety

Summer Boating Safety


Where better to spend balmy summer days than by the water? Ontario has many beautiful lakes and beaches — perfect places to relax and unwind, and to reconnect with nature. But any time people gather near a lake, water safety should be a priority. On average, more than 300 Canadians drown each year in natural bodies of water, and almost all of these deaths are preventable. People often get into a boat without understanding the dangers of being out on the lake or knowing what safety precautions to take before leaving shore. In addition, far too many times vacation time includes alcohol use, something that can cause errors in judgement. If you plan to get into a boat this summer, learn what is legally required, and what you can do to make your time on the water as safe as possible!


Safety Equipment


Make sure that your boat is legally registered and insured, and that you have a valid Pleasure Craft Operator certificate (or equivalent.) You can earn this certificate by taking an accredited course that will help you to understand basic boating information about safety equipment, Canadian buoys, sharing the waterways, and, importantly, how to respond in an emergency.

Know your boat; how many people can be accommodated onboard safely: what is the maximum weight allowed? Next, check the requirements for safety equipment for your craft. Every craft must have:

  • Personal lifesaving devices: A correctly-sized personal flotation device (PFD) for each passenger, as well as a reboarding device, and a buoyant heaving line. You may also need to carry lifebuoys with self-igniting lights and a lifting harness.
  • Visual signals: Depending on the size and type of craft, you will also need to carry visual signals such as a watertight flashlight and specified types of flares.
  • Safety equipment: May include a manual propelling device, a bailer or bilge pump, and an anchor and chain/rope.
  • Navigational devices: Including sound signals, navigational lights, a compass, and a radar reflector.
  • Firefighting equipment: Including fire extinguishers in various locations. You may also need to carry an axe and buckets.


Personal Lifesaving Devices


Personal lifesaving devices are crucial. Approximately 90% of people who drown in recreational boating incidents are not wearing a lifejacket or PFD. Having one on board is not sufficient; if you unexpectedly fall into the water without one on, it’s unlikely you will be able to access one and put it on. There are three classes of lifejacket:

  • Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) lifejackets, which are designed to turn the wearer onto their back in mere seconds, in order to keep their face out of water. They are available in two sizes, in a keyhole design.
  • Standard lifejackets, which also turn the wearer onto their back, but with a slower performance than SOLAS lifejackets. They are also available in two sizes, in a keyhole design.
  • Small Vessel lifejackets, which have the slowest performance. These are available in three sizes, and in two styles: keyhole and vest.

In Canada, there are a number of officially-approved PFDs in various types, sizes, and colours. PFDs do not roll the wearer onto their back in the same way that lifejackets do, but many people prefer them since they are designed for constant wear and are considered to be more comfortable than lifejackets. You can choose a PFD based on what you will be using it for. Some offer thermal protection for cold waters, others are designed with specific activities in mind. Choose a colour that will make you visible in the water.

It’s especially important that children aboard a boat wear a lifejacket or PFD at all times. Buy a Canadian-approved model that features a large collar for head support, waist ties or elastic gathers in front and back, a safety strap that goes between the child’s legs, buckles on the safety straps, and reflective tape. It should fit snugly and not ride up over the chin or ears.

Take good care of your lifesaving devices. Wash with mild soap and running water, dry in the open air, out of direct sunlight. Story in a dry, well-ventilated place. Make sure that all of your personal lifesaving devices are in good repair and not too old to perform as intended. You can check its buoyancy in a pool or by wading out and bending your knees. Check straps, zippers, and buckles for signs of ear. Ensure that everyone onboard your boat is wearing an appropriately-sized lifejacket or PFD while you’re on the water!

Alcohol use is the other major factor in drownings and boat accidents. Boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal and can create dangerous situations. Never drink or use recreational drugs while boating.

Stay safe, and create good memories of summer days on the water!