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As the weather warms up, many of us head to lakes, rivers, or the ocean to fish, waterski, cruise, and relax onboard a boat, yacht or other personal watercraft. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association Canada (2018), an estimated 12.4 million Canadians enjoy our vast landscape of rivers, lakes and oceans each year and a boat is a perfect way to enjoy our great country. But, before you head out with friends and family, take note of a few important safety tips.
Make sure everyone wears a life jacket.
According to data in the Lifesaving Society’s 2019 Canadian Drowning Report, not wearing a personal flotation device or life jacket is the leading contributor to boating-related fatalities. Victims drowned in approximately 81% of fatal boating accidents. Canadian laws require that recreational boats have one properly fitting lifejacket for every person on the boat. Insist that your crew and guests all wear a life jacket that fits them well. This can help them stay afloat in rough waters, protect them against hypothermia, and in some cases, can keep their head above water.
Learn how to operate a boat safely by taking a boating safety course.
If you want to operate a boat with a motor in Canada, you need to show proof of competency. You should complete a boater safety course and pass the Transport Canada Exam. This will provide you with a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) which is good for all provinces. Visit tc.canada.ca for details.
Check the weather forecast and be prepared for it to change.
A calm day can quickly turn ugly on the water. Keep an eye out for changing weather conditions and stay on top of the forecast while boating.
Take action before a storm hits.
Storm and hurricane forecasts and warnings are issued by the Environment Canada and the Canadian Hurricane Centre. Boaters can get information from Environment Canada’s marine forecast website, VHF marine radios, commercial radios and television stations and newspapers. As a boater, you need to be aware of the types of advisories and take action before a storm hits. Warnings range from small craft advisories, with winds of 18 knots or less, up to hurricane warnings with winds of 120 kilometres per hour (64 knots) or greater.
Register for a free Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number and have a VHF radio equipped with Digital Selective Calling (DSC) installed and connected to your GPS.
When in coastal and inshore waters, these preparations can help take the search out of search and rescue. DSC allows the VHF radio to transfer information digitally, and to instantly send a digital distress alert, which includes your exact position, to the Canadian Coast Guard upon activation of the emergency button. Part of the alert is the MMSI number, which will identify your vessel automatically.
Source of stats: 2018 National Marine Manufacturers Association Canada Statistics, Transport Canada, Environment Canada, 2019 Lifesaving Society Canadian Drowning Report