May 22-28 was Safe Boating Awareness Week but boaters should be aware of their and others’ safety all season. This is especially true this summer as the waterways are busier than usual. The Ottawa Police continue to remind residents of the importance of boating safety and provide tips to ensure safety on the waterways.
If you are swimming, boating, paddle boarding or kayaking in open waters, please Be Safe. Most people are not familiar with currents and undertows that exist in open water; and even those who consider themselves to be strong swimmers can easily be overwhelmed.
Alcohol remains a factor in half of all boating fatalities. We’ve all heard “if you drink, don’t drive” but it’s the same on the water. Boating while impaired is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada and a boat is a vehicle in the same way a car is under the Highway Traffic Act in all provinces and territories. If you are convicted of driving any motorized vehicle under the influence, you will lose your licence. Furthermore, the Ontario Liquor Licence Act prohibits the consumption of alcohol on boats while underway and only allows it in specific circumstances while moored. These regulations apply to all out-of-province boaters navigating in Ontario waterways.
Safety Equipment on board
Be sure to have all equipment required for your type of vessel and that this equipment is in good condition and readily available. Safety equipment is required even on human-powered vessels such as paddle boards. If you are unsure of what exactly is needed, you can refer to Transport Canada Safe Boating Guide. One of the most important mandatory piece of equipment remains the life jacket/Personal flotation Device (PFD). Boats are required by law to have enough life jackets/PFDs on board for each person on the boat. Ensure they are properly-sized for the passengers on board – children should only wear properly-fitted, child-size lifejackets. And to decrease the risk of drowning, everyone on the boat needs to be wearing their life jacket/PFD at all times.
The vessel licence and a Pleasure Craft Operator’s Card (PCOC) are mandatory documents on all waterways in Canada. We go an extra step by recommending that you take a boating skills course. Always check the weather conditions before heading out, make sure that your boat is mechanically sound and that you have enough gas for your trip. A first aid kit, as well as the proper safety equipment and emergency contact information, should also be on board.
Watch your Wake!
Some portions of the waterways in our City are extremely narrow; therefore, being aware of the wake your vessel is creating is paramount. Excessive wake created by your boat is not only harmful to the environment (erosion) and ecosystem (wildlife) but can also cause property damage. Remember, you are responsible for your wake at all times and the damage it could cause.
Please visit the Ottawa Police website for further boating safety tips.