Advertorial by BoatSMART

Boats are an integral part of outdoor living—but for 18 people in Ontario last year, boating turned fatal.

Most accidents are preventable with a little preparation—so here’s how to keep you and your family safe this summer.

1. Get your boat license through BoatSMART!

If you operate any kind of motorized recreational watercraft—that includes powerboats, Sea-Doos, Jet Skis and sailboats with motors—you’re required by law to get a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC). It’s a $250 fine if you don’t have your PCOC on board. You can learn the rules of the water, test your knowledge of boat safety, complete training modules and take the official Transport Canada exam online at www.BoatSmartExam.com.

2. Wear a lifejacket

Eighty percent of people who drown in boating accidents aren’t wearing a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD). Lifejackets are designed to turn you onto your back in the water, even if you’re unconscious—but they don’t work if you don’t wear them. Make sure everyone on board is properly protected before you leave the dock.

3. Don’t drink and boat

Simply put, it’s illegal. And it’s stupid. The effects of alcohol are up to four times greater on the water because of the motion of your craft, the wind, waves and hot summer sun. Get caught drinking and boating and your driver’s license can be suspended, even if you aren’t over the legal limit. And it’s not just your license at risk—alcohol was a factor in 40 percent of the boating fatalities last year.

4. Be prepared

Have an equipment list that you check before every trip out. Tell people on land where you’re going, and when you expect to be back. Check the weather reports, and keep an eye on the sky once you’re on the water. Proper preparation saves you time and hassle—and could save your life. For extra confidence, make sure you’ve got dedicated boat insurance—your homeowner’s plan won’t cover most kinds of damage. You can get recreational boat insurance at www.BoatSmartAssure.com.

5. Stay current with your boating knowledge

From what to do in an emergency to right-of-way rules, it helps to review your boating education regularly so you can make important decisions confidently and safely. Don’t worry about having to sit through a lecture in a classroom, though—quick refresher courses are available through the BoatSMART! CONNECT app