For many people, summer includes going to the beach, soaking up the sun, and taking a boat out on the water; although fun, it comes with its risks.
There are some things you need to consider for a day out on the water, even before you arrive. RCMP Staff Sgt. Kevin Smith suggests people develop a safety plan before hitting the water. He added that the most essential thing to remember is that alcohol and boating do not mix.
“The most important thing is not to consume alcohol… you can be charged with impaired boating, just like in a vehicle. There’s a statistic that says one beer on land is equal to three beers on the water, so it can affect your ability to operate a boat far quicker,” Smith said.
Due to fatigue, sun, wind, and being outside, the boat’s rocking movement intensifies the effects of alcohol, which reduces reaction time and your ability to navigate your pleasure craft. Impaired operation of a watercraft is illegal under the criminal code of Canada, and anyone found drinking while operating could be stripped of their boating license and have their boat seized.
“The next is to let someone know where you’re going and when you’re going to be back and find a way how you’re going to communicate with them if you’re going to a remote location,” said Smith.
You must have the mandatory safety equipment in the boat, such as a flotation device for each person aboard, a buoyant heaving line, and a way to power the ship in an emergency, such as a paddle or secondary engine. A signaling device such as a whistle or an air horn is also essential to have aboard to notify for help if an urgent situation occurs.
Smith says if the boat is 13 feet or larger, it must have a navigation light that notifies other boats. Likewise any vessel equipped with a motor needs fire extinguishers.
“If you’re going to be operating a boat, and it has a motor, you need a pleasure craft operating license, and you need to carry that with you like a driving license,” said Smith.
According to the Small Vessels Regulations Act, any vessel equipped with a motor, including pleasure craft up to 24 meters, must meet the construction requirements in Canada. The boat must have been inspected and have a pulse call, a serial number, and be registered through the Canadian Vessel Registration. You can obtain a boating license, the BC Boating License, officially known as a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC), through the Transport Canada-approved BOATsmart course online. Anyone who is 16 years or older can register for the course.
Smith says the more people who adhere to the rules of the water and stay mindful of other boaters’ space the more we can reduce the chances of harm to our environment and each other.