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What to know before you get on a boat this summer


What to know before you get on a boat this summer

With the boating season underway and summer upon us, it’s time to take in the lessons learned from the last year.

Transport Canada’s Office of Boating Safety reported the 2020 boating season had the highest number of collisions involving pleasure craft in the last twenty years. Brush up on how to keep you and your family safe out on the water this season with these helpful tips:

Remember the “rules of the road”

Learn the rules that apply to all vessels to stay safe. As the operator of a boat, it’s your responsibility to keep a constant watch for other boats and hazards. Knowing what actions the “stand on” and “give way” vessel should take are key to avoiding collisions. Keep in mind that even if you have the right of way, you must always take quick action to avoid a collision.

Avoid shipping lanes and larger vessels such as ferries, cruise ships, and bulk carriers whenever possible. Larger vessels move faster than they appear and take longer to stop or alter their course. Remember that the captain of a larger ship may not be able to see you if you are too close, so always keep a respectful distance away.

Navigation lights

When operating at night, always turn on your navigation lights so others can see you. It may be tempting to turn off these lights to get a better look at the stars or fireworks, but doing so puts you and everyone on board at risk. Also, regularly check that your navigation lights work properly. Remove anything that prevents your lights from being seen clearly and make sure you don’t have other lights on that could confuse other boats in the area.

Always stay sober when boating.

Stepping off the highway and into the channel, it can feel like different rules apply—but they don’t. Boating under the influence of alcohol, cannabis, or other drugs, and even prescription narcotics, is illegal under the Criminal Code, irresponsible, and can be deadly. Keep the party on the dock and keep yourself and everyone around you safe in order to enjoy next season.

Maintain—and use—your safety equipment.

It’s tempting to keep equipment checks to a quick glance to verify the legally required equipment and lifejackets are there. But of the boating drowning deaths last year, 85 per cent weren’t wearing their lifejackets. Of that number almost a quarter had lifejackets on board but couldn’t get to them in time. Don’t be in that 85 per cent—wear your lifejacket or PFD whenever you leave dock. (NC)

Learn more about safe boating from the Transport Canada Office of Boating website at

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