Boating and swimming are a lot of fun (especially in the hot sun!), but like anything else, boating and swimming can be dangerous if the proper care isn’t taken. Below are a few things you need to keep in mind while boating or swimming:
Safety Tips To Keep In Mind Before Boating
Get Your Pleasure Craft License
The first thing you need to know about boating is that you need to get your Transport Canada-certified Pleasure Craft Operator Card. Transport Canada says that if you operate or keep your boat mostly in Canada, and it is powered by one or more motors adding up to 7.5 kW (10 hp) or more, you must get it licensed unless you register it. You must also license dinghies or tenders you carry aboard or tow behind a larger boat. A pleasure craft licence is a document giving your boat a unique licence number that is valid for 10 years.
Never Cruise with Booze!
Mixing alcohol and boating is far more dangerous than you may think. Under normal conditions, sun, wind, the motion of the boat and even just being tired can dull your senses. Alcohol makes things even worse, slowing your hand-eye coordination and clouding your judgment.
Never cruise with booze! You might harm yourself or others. You are responsible for the safety of your guests and for not putting other waterway users in danger. Always be prepared and alert. Wait until you are safely on shore before having a drink.
Inspect Your Boat
Take a few minutes to make sure you are ready to boat safely before you leave. This will reduce risk when you are out on the water. More than half of all calls for help are from boaters in trouble because of motor problems, including running out of fuel! Operating a boat that you know is not seaworthy is against the law.
You must keep your boat, its engine and all equipment in good working order. Whether you own, rent or borrow a boat, use the Pre-Departure Checklist to make sure you are ready before leaving. Explain safe boating rules to everyone on board before heading out. Tell your guests where you keep the safety equipment and how to use it. Make sure that at least one other person on board knows how to operate the boat in case something happens to you.
Monitor the Weather
Weather and water conditions play a big role in your safety on the water. Before heading out, make sure you get the latest forecast for your area and that you understand what it means. You should also be aware of local factors (like topography) that may cause weather conditions to differ from the forecast. The best source for this information is people who know the area well. Summer thunderstorms can strike quickly and without warning, so keep your eye on the sky when you are out on the water. If it starts to look dark and cloudy, and conditions are changing quickly, head for shore. Remember to check your up-to-date nautical charts in advance so that you will know where to find shelter. Environment Canada issues marine forecasts several times a day in many ways.
Make and File a Sail Plan
A sail plan (also known as a trip or float plan) includes the route you plan to travel and describes your boat. No matter what you call them, you should file one before heading out — even if it is just for an hour or two (see REFERENCE CARDS section of Transport Canada’s Safe Boating Guide).
Carry the Official Nautical Charts and Publications
An open body of water may seem inviting, but remember that there are no clearly marked traffic lanes on the water, which can make navigation difficult.
Plan to Avoid Local Hazards
Being prepared means more than having your boat and equipment in good working order. You should also:
- Check nautical charts for overhead obstacles, bridges and underwater cables in your boating area.
- Read nautical charts with publications like Sailing Directions. Looking at tide tables and current atlases will also help you learn about water levels, times of low, slack and high tides, and the direction of water flow.
- Stay away from swimming areas – even canoes and kayaks can injure swimmers.
- Avoid boating too close to shore.
- Talk to local residents who know the waters if you are in an area that is not covered by marine charts. They may be able to point out low-head dams, rapids and white water, as well as describe local wind conditions, currents and areas of rapid high-wave build-up.
The Canadian government also requires that each person undergo mandatory training of how to operate a water craft safely, and the dangers of water crafts. There are many organisations in Canada that offer a licensed boating course, and all are different. However Transport Canada sets out these guidelines for the minimum training a course should offer for operating a water craft. They state that this training and familiarization must, at a minimum, include:
- Familiarization with the vessel arrangements;
- Briefing on the known hazards of the waters to be travelled;
- General safety rules of the vessel;
- A warning that conditions may not be suitable for children or persons with pre-existing health conditions (g. pregnancy, heart condition, etc.);
- Instructions on how to wear lifejackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs) and when they must be worn;
- Location of the through-hull fittings on the boat and demonstration of their operation, if applicable
- Location and operation of safety equipment carried on board (e.g. lifesaving, firefighting, etc.);
- Information on emergency procedures, including medical treatment of personal injuries, recovery of person overboard, firefighting and launching of lifesaving equipment.
Not a boater? Are you someone who likes to be in the water? Please be aware that there are safety risks when in the water. Here are some safety tips to know before going swimming in any body of water.
- Keep young children and inexperienced swimmers in view and within arm’s reach at all times when they are in water. This will reduce the risk of serious injury.
- Carefully supervising your children while they are swimming or playing in or near water is necessary at all times. Children should be closely monitored even when they use swimming aids such as armbands, floating seats, water wings and neck rings. These devices are not intended to save lives. Swimming aids can give a false sense of security, which could result in a lack of proper supervision. Careful supervision is essential to keep children safe.
- Help your children learn about water safety by signing them up for a swimming and water safety program, sign yourself up for first aid training to learn basic lifesaving skills.
- Make sure young children and inexperienced swimmers always wear an approved lifejacket or personal flotation device when playing around water. Learn how to find the right lifejacket or personal flotation device for your children.
- Choose a safe place to swim, such as a supervised beach or public swimming pool. Check with your municipality for health and safety notices before wading into the water. This can include warnings about water pollution levels or a strong undertow.
Safety on the water is just as important as safety on the land and even more so in some circumstances. It’s always good to be aware of your surroundings as a boat operator or swimmer in the water. If you need any more clarification on any of this information consult Transport Canada’s website at www.tc.gc.ca.