Stay safe on the water this boating season

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Transport Canada

This Victoria Day weekend, thousands of people were out on the water to enjoy the first signs of summer. While no one ever plans to have a deadly accident, in past years more than 100 people have died annually in Canadian waters. Statistics show that fatalities happen in all vessels—from canoes to small power boats to kayaks to large motor yachts. Any recreational boating on small warm lakes, busy rivers and the open ocean require the same attention to safety. 

This past weekend marked the start of North American Safe Boating Awareness Week 2011 — a time to think about the simple things you can do to keep your family and friends safe on the water.

Always wear your lifejacket. It could save your life.

Much of Canada’s water is cold year-round, so always wear a lifejacket while boating. Cold water shock can quickly paralyze your arms and legs. If you are not wearing a lifejacket and fall into cold water, it will be very difficult to put one on, and you could drown just inches away from your boat.

Canadian law requires boat operators to carry an approved lifejacket of the proper size, for each person on board. This means adult sizes for adults and appropriate vests for children. Wear them! Today’s lifejackets are comfortable, slim-fitting — and even stylish!

Be prepared.

Anything can happen on the water and there may not be anyone around to help. That is why before you leave shore you should be sure to:

• inspect all of your equipment;

• make sure you have the gear required for your vessel size;

• check the weather forecast;

• leave a trip plan with a responsible person;

• bring along your marine charts.

Being prepared includes knowing and following the ‘rules of the road’ at all times. Always maintain a proper lookout, operate at a safe speed and keep your distance from large vessels. Don’t forget, you are responsible for the safe operation of your vessel at all times and the safety of all guests on board!

All pleasure craft must carry safety equipment that may include:

• lifejackets;

• a buoyant heaving line;

• flares and/or a flashlight;

• a manual bilge pump or bailer;

• navigation lights;

• paddles;

• an anchor;

• a fire extinguisher, and

• a whistle or horn.

Consult the Safe Boating Guide for a detailed list, or arrange for a Recreational Vessel Courtesy Check with your local Canadian Power and Sail Squadron.

Get your Pleasure Craft Operator Card.

Every powerboat operator must now carry proof of competency such as the Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC), along with photo ID—or face a $250 fine.

The best way to get your proof of competency is to take a safe boating course. To learn more about boating safety courses and how to prepare for a safe outdoor adventure, visit

Geographic location: Canada

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