If you’re properly equipped and you follow simple safety rules, there’s minimal risk when spending time on the water in a boat. Yet every year, Canadians needlessly die or get injured in boating accidents—and often highly preventable ones.
With that in mind, and in recognition of North American Safe Boating Awareness Week (May 18 to 24), here’s a refresher on safe boating practices for anglers and hunters.
#1 TAKE A COURSE
Anyone who operates a motorboat in Canada must carry proof of competency, and for most of us who are not licensed captains and the like, that means a Pleasure Craft Operator Card. But simply passing the course to get your card isn’t enough. Operator inattention and inexperience are still major factors in boating accidents, so it’s important to actually understand the navigation and safety rules, and to follow them out on the water.
#2 WEAR A PFD
Most boaters who die on the water each year in Canada are not wearing personal flotation devices, or not wearing them properly. Even if you’re experienced, a strong swimmer and close to shore, it’s no guarantee of survival if you unexpectedly go overboard. The danger is especially severe in cold water, as the sudden shock causes people to drown very quickly—60 per cent of the country’s boater drownings occur in water that’s 10°C or colder. Whatever the case, a PFD will keep you afloat and give you a fighting chance of survival.
#3 DON’T DRINK AND BOAT
Boating under the influence of alcohol is directly responsible for approximately 40 per cent of boating mishaps, according to the Canadian Safe Boating Council. The simple solution? Save the potent potables for dry land.
#4 BE PREPARED
Ensure your boat is equipped with the safety equipment listed by Transport Canada (see link below). Requirements vary by boat size, but even canoes must have a sound-signalling device, buoyant heaving line and bailer. Also be sure to check the weather before you head out to ensure your watercraft can handle the conditions.
#5 PROTECT YOURSELF
With the sun beaming down and reflecting off the water, anglers are vulnerable to harmful UV rays, which can cause sunburn, sunstroke and skin cancer. That makes it important to always wear sunscreen and cover exposed skin. Anglers of all ages and experience levels should also always wear sunglasses to protect their eyes from errant hooks.