Power boating on a lake (Photo courtesy of Can Stock)Power boating on a lake (Photo courtesy of Can Stock)

Staying safe on the water: CSBC has advice

The May long weekend is considered by many to be the start of the boating season, and the Canada Safe Boating Council wants to ensure Canadians are taking to the waterways safely.

The Ontario Provincial Police also urge boaters to enjoy themselves with caution. It said 23 people lost their lives in boating mishaps last year. Of those, 21 drowned when they fell overboard or their vessel capsized, and 17 were not wearing a lifejacket.

The CSBC has five "cardinal" rules to remain safe and have fun while boating. You likely already know most safety precautions, like brushing up on your boating skills by taking a boating course before you head out, wearing your lifejacket at all times, and remaining sober.

"When people think about driving impaired, they think about a car on the road. Operating a boat while impaired is just as dangerous and illegal," said MADD Canada National President Tanya Hansen Pratt.

The General Manager of Nautisme Quebec, Josee Cote, reminds boaters it's a pleasure and a privilege.

"Make sure you are trained, have all required safety equipment on board, respect other users on the water, and protect the environment," she added.

The CSBC also urges boaters to ensure their vessel is water-ready, including ensuring they have flares onboard and a working radio.

You may be less familiar with being "cold water safe."

It ties in with checking your boat is seaworthy and wearing a lifejacket. Another good idea is to check the weather forecast before you leave and tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. If you don't have a diver's wet suit, the U.S. National Weather Service says the next best option is dressing in wool.

"Should your craft capsize, hypothermia in waters with temperatures in the upper 30s and 40s can occur in a matter of minutes," said the NWS. "Since water conducts body heat away up to 26 times faster than air of the same temperature, the cold water rapidly causes extremities to become numb, weakening the ability of muscles to work effectively."

While the days are getting warmer, it can be easy to overlook that water temperature rises much slower than air temperature.

More than 16 million Canadians say they enjoy boating, and the pandemic reignited this passion with a surge in new boaters. The CSBC estimates as many as 40 per cent of boaters are new to the recreational activity.

May 18 to May 24 is Safe Boating Awareness Week in Canada.

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