With the warm weather here, now is the perfect opportunity to spend quality time with your family and friends in the great outdoors. What better way to enjoy the warm weather than to spend it on a boat? Whether you are new to the world of watercraft or experienced, following the correct safety tips is crucial to staying safe. Like driving a car, brushing up on your boat safety tips is important regardless of your skill level. Luckily, isure is here to help! With these 10 boat safety tips, you can ensure you and your family enjoy the water without worrying about risk or injury.

1. Get your boating licence

Getting your boating licence and taking a safety course is crucial to ensuring you stay safe. Not only is it crucial to operate your watercraft safely, but it is against the law to not do so! Every boat operator in Ontario must have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) to operate a watercraft. A PCOC is required for all ages, boat lengths and engine sizes. This includes electric trolling motors. Even if you already have your licence, taking a boating safety course at the start of the season is always a great idea.

If you are caught operating a vehicle without a licence, you can face a $250 fine. You may receive your licence after taking the BOATsmart! course online. From there, you can print out your temporary pass and begin boating! Your permanent pass will arrive in the mail within four weeks.

2. Always wear a lifejacket

This one may seem obvious, but wearing an approved lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD) is crucial. Be sure to check the label to make sure it is certified safe and approved by Transport Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and/or the Canada Coast Guard. Even if you feel confident in your swimming skills, a lifejacket is still important. Especially this time of year, when cold-water immersion is high!

If you don’t have a lifejacket or PFD, most marinas offer the ability to rent or purchase one.

3. Do not drive a boat while intoxicated

Similar to driving a car, you should never under any circumstances operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Not only is it illegal, but it is extremely dangerous. Nearly half of all boating accidents that occur in Ontario involve alcohol. You should always select a designated sober driver before leaving the dock. If caught operating a boat while intoxicated, you will succumb to the same consequences as drinking while driving a car.

A good rule of thumb is to have “water on the water” and save the “beer for the pier!”

4. Inform others of your “float plan”

Whether you inform a family member who won’t be attending or the staff at your local marina, you should develop a float plan. This involves letting someone know where you will be going and how long you will be gone. A good float plan should include the following:

  • Name, address and phone number of trip leader and passengers
  • Boat type
  • Boat registration information
  • Your trip itinerary
  • Type of communication methods and signal equipment that will be on board, such as an emergency position
  • Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)

5. Follow a pre-departure checklist

You can’t follow our list of boat safety tips if you are unprepared. Making a checklist before you depart and checking it is crucial to ensuring you don’t miss out on any necessary items. The last thing you want to do is depart, only to have to turn back because you’ve forgotten something important! A good pre-departure checklist should include the following:

  • Lifejackets and PFD’s
  • First Aid Kid
  • Buoyant heaving line
  • Sound signalling devices, such as a whistle or airhorn
  • Bail bucket
  • Watertight flashlight
  • Paddle or anchor
  • Cellphone
  • Sunscreen
  • Water and snacks
  • Clean, dry clothing

6. Familiarize yourself with the rules of the water

Making sure you know the rules of the water and how to stay safe is just as important as knowing the rules of the road. Always use common sense and make sure you operate your boat at a safe speed at all times. This is especially important when you are in a crowded area. Make sure to maintain a proper lookout and stay clear of any vessels or other watercraft. If you’re too close, you may restrict your ability to stop or make a sharp turn. Not only will this help keep you safe, but it will ensure those around you do as well. For more information, check out USCG’s Navigation Rules information page.

7. Never jump from a moving boat

Any passenger, no matter the age, should participate in boat jumping. In order to stay safe, make sure you exit the boat once the captain has announced that the engine is off and that the boat is at a standstill. By exercising caution, you can make sure you have a safe and enjoyable boating experience. Remember, jumping from a boat is extremely dangerous and can result in severe injury or death.

8. Designate an “assistant skipper”

Make sure before you depart you have what is known as an “assistant skipper.” An assistant skipper is someone who is familiar with all aspects of the boat. This includes handling, operations and general boating safety. This is crucial in case your primary operator is incapacitated or for whatever reason, is unable to drive the boat back to shore.

9. Check the weather beforehand

Make sure you always check the weather in your local area, route and destination. On top of this, make sure the water conditions are safe! This is crucial to ensuring your trip is not only safe but also enjoyable. Though you can’t control the weather, this is a crucial boat safety tip.

10. Always have proper boating insurance

Just like being in a car, having proper insurance for your boat is crucial to making sure you are covered in case the unthinkable happens. This way, you can make sure you and your loved ones remain covered. If you have any questions regarding boat insurance, be sure to reach out and contact us at isure.

From all of us at isure, have a safe and happy Summer!

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