Boating season is finally here — and that means getting ready to head out onto the water. Although you might want to go out the second the sun comes out, taking the time to get prepared will help make sure all your adventures go off without a hitch. With that move, you can keep everyone safe on the water and avoid disruptions that could derail your fun. Here’s a look at some boating safety tips to take to the lake this season.
Take a Boating Course to Get Your Operator Card
Well before you arrive at your cottage, campsite, or other waterside location, verify that you have the proper license to operate your power boat. Before getting behind the wheel, you must pass the boating safety test to earn your Pleasure Craft Operator Card.
Although you do not need to take the safety course first, it is always a good idea. While taking the course online or in-person, you will learn how to safely operate your boat while abiding by local laws, gaining the info you need to pass the test. If you would rather not take the course, you can buy a training manual and study on your own. Either way, once you pass the test, you are licensed to pilot a boat in Canada for life.
Check Your Boating Insurance Coverage
Although you are not legally required to carry boat insurance, signing up for a policy can provide immense peace of mind. If you hold basic liability coverage, you are protected if your boat causes damage to other watercraft, docks, or other types of property. Your insurance policy will cover the qualified damages, keeping your finances in good shape despite the circumstances. If you want even more coverage, then you can add bodily injury liability, replacement insurance, and even cover specialized equipment, like your navigational gear.
Store All the Right Gear in Your Boat
If you want to hit the water at a moment’s notice, you need to store all the right gear in your boat. Depending on your area, you might be legally required to carry:
- Life jackets
- Bail bucket
You will also need to have at least one 15 to 30 metre buoyant heaving line for rescuing people in distress.
Although not required by law, other items you might want to keep onboard include towels, sunscreen, and drinking water. Change all these items out often to keep everything fresh. Make sure to pack up snacks and a cellphone on the day of your boating trip to cover all your bases.
Create and Share a Float Plan
Just like with hiking, you should always share your adventure plans with someone outside your group before heading out. You will need to create a detailed float plan that describes where you will be boating and for how long. Then, share it with a friend, family member, or even someone at the marina. They can use that information to notify rescue officials and send help in case you get stuck out on the water without a way to contact anyone.
Always Wear the Proper Gear
No matter their ages or swimming abilities, everyone on your boat should wear a properly fitted life jacket. Grab the life jackets out of the boat before launching and check their fit onshore. Attach a whistle to each lifejacket that can be used to signal for help if needed. Also, as the pilot, put the auto shut-off cord around your wrist before starting the boat. This cord will turn off the engine when pulled, keeping your boat from taking off without you if you fall overboard.
Skip the Alcohol — Never Drink and Drive
Although it goes without saying, never drink alcohol before operating your watercraft or during your adventures. The drinks will have to wait until you safely return to shore. Otherwise, you could end up in a serious collision or with a DUI charge on your record.
Take It Slow and Watch for Obstructions
While you head out onto the water, watch far ahead for obstructions and take it slow. You do not want to go full speed out onto the water without understanding what lurks beneath the waterline. Only once you know the water well can you go faster, but make sure to abide by the speed limits for that waterway to avoid problems.
Teach Your Guests How to Pilot the Boat
In case you end up incapacitated or otherwise unable to drive the watercraft, teach one of your guests how to pilot your boat.
Show them how to:
- Start it up
- Maneuver it around
- Speed up and slow down
- Turn off the engine
- Signal for help
Ideally, they should hold a Pleasure Craft Operators Card as well, so encourage someone to take the course or test with you when the time comes.
By heeding all these safe boating tips, you can remain on the water all day, keeping the fun going for you and all your guests.
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