Watercraft & Boating Safety Tips

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Whether you have a speedboat, sailboat or personal watercraft (PWC), your time on the water is special, exciting and exhilarating.  You need to play it safe, though.  Transport Canada reminds us that many people are injured in boating accidents each year.

Before each boating season, check your homeowner’s or watercraft insurance policy to make sure your information is up to date and your coverage is adequate in case of an accident or emergency.  Here are some more tips Transport Canada offers for staying safe on the water.

Boat and Watercraft Safety

Tips for Boaters:

Inspect your craft.  Check your systems and safety equipment to make sure the boat is in good working order.

Monitor the weather.  Check the latest marine forecast before you head out, and watch the sky for changing conditions.  If you sense an impending storm, start heading for shore.

File a sail plan.  This plan should include a description of your boat, your intended travel route, and your estimated time of return.  Leave this plan with someone you know you can rely on to contact a Rescue Coordination Centre if you’re late.

Be familiar with the waters.  Avoiding local hazards – bridges, swimming areas, rapids, underwater cables and such – is much easier when you know the waters.  Keep a nautical scale chart and other local information close at hand.

Provide Canadian-approved lifejackets for your crew.  Familiarize everyone on board with the boat’s safety and communication equipment.

Fuel safely.  Make sure you have enough fuel for your trip, estimating one-third to go, one-third to return and one-third in reserve.  Your user manual will detail precautionary measures for avoiding spills and fires.

Keep a carbon monoxide detector on board.  Headache, fatigue and/or nausea can be signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.  A detector will alert you if your engine is producing too much of the deadly gas.

Don’t overload your boat.  Follow Transport Canada’s compliance standards, and make sure weight is evenly distributed. 

Tips for Personal Watercraft Operators:

Make sure your PWC is in good working order before you head out.  Be sure you have plenty of fuel.

Always wear a Canadian-approved lifejacket or personal flotation device when you’re on the water.  Brightly coloured jackets make you more visible to others in case of capsize.

Keep these items on board.  Make sure you have your valid pleasure craft license number, a floating tow line at least 15 metres long, a sound signal device and a watertight flashlight or three Canadian-approved type A, B or C flares.

Practice careful fuelling.  Turn the engine off, moor the craft securely, don’t overfill the tank and wipe up any spilled fuel. Lift the seat to air out the engine for at least four minutes before starting it.  Don’t start the craft at all if you see or smell gasoline in the engine box.  Ask a trained technician to give it a look.

Watch the weather.  Check the forecast before you go out on the water, and watch for signs of storms.  Don’t operate your PWC when visibility is low – from sunset to sunrise, for example, and when it’s foggy.

Don’t encourage underage riding.  Children under the age of six are not equipped to ride safely, and PWC operators must be at least 16.

Operate your craft safely.  Respect boating restrictions, be courteous to other watercraft operators and don’t take dangerous risks.  If you use your PWC for towing or water skiing, have a lifejacket – and a seat – for everyone, and make sure there’s a spotter on board.  You may only tow if you have a three-seat PWC. 

Don’t cruise with booze!  Safe watercraft operation depends on keeping a level head.  Always remember that alcoholic beverages and boating simply don’t mix.