By Claudel

June 3, 2016


3 Things You Need for Safe Boating

Article revised on 17 March 2021

Year after year, hundreds of people die or are seriously injured in recreational boating incidents in Canada. Most of these incidents can be prevented by applying the following basic safety measures.

1. Lifejackets and Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

Going for a boat ride? Use a Canadian approved lifejacket or PFD. More than 80% of drowning incidents are due to a lack of essential equipment.

What’s the difference between the two? A lifejacket is designed to turn an unconscious person from a face down to face up in the water, while a PFD is designed to keep its user’s head out of the water. Due to the fact that it is smaller, less bulky and more comfortable, a PDF is appropriate for recreational boating.

Whether you have a lifejacket or a PDF, it’s important to ensure it’s the right size. Clear instructions in that regard are included with each item of equipment, however, children’s PDFs must include extra safety features, such as:

  • A neck collar for proper head support
  • Waist ties with drawstrings or elastic in front and back
  • A safety strap between the legs
  • A reflective strap

2. Safety on the water

In addition to a sufficient number of lifejackets or PFDs for everyone on board a boat, safety equipment is also required. The requirements vary based on the type and length of the boat, as the same equipment is not required for a rowboat would not be the same for an 8-M outboard powered vessel.

This being said, there is basic equipment that is required for all types of boats:

  • A reboarding device, in case a passenger falls overboard
  • A buoyant heaving line
  • A flashlight
  • A bailer
  • A sound-signalling device
  • Flares
  • Spare oar(s)

Consult the Safe Boating Guide prepared by Transport Canada for all of the details of the equipment requirements for each type of boat.

3. Know the navigation rules

Just as you need to know the rules of the road when driving, you need to be familiar with the navigation rules when on the water. Many incidents occur every summer because of a lack of knowledge when it comes to the nautical rules of the road.

When two motor boats are crossing, which one has the right of way? What’s the right thing to do when they approach each other head on? If your sailboat is in a headwind and the sailboat you want to cross is in a sidewind, which one has the right of way? Do you know what port and starboard mean? To have this information, a practical boarding course is generally required.

In fact, all operators of powered watercraft used for recreational purposes within Canada must hold a boat licence or face a $250 fine. A number of authorized companies offer the safe boating course in a classroom or online.

Remember that drinking and boating carries the same penalties as drinking and driving.

It cannot be overstated: Careful operation of a sailing vessel and proper safety equipment contribute to unforgettable moments of pure enjoyment. Prevent dangerous incidents by keeping safety as a top priority in your mind.

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