Boating Safety Tips
Always wear a lifejacket. Today’s lifejackets are lighter, more comfortable, and – yes – more stylish than the bulky, awkward ones of a few years ago. Wear one, even if you are a strong swimmer. You can’t stay afloat if you’re knocked out by a fall or incapacitated by B.C.’s cold water. Every year lifejackets save lives.
“It happened so quickly. One minute you’re having the most fun of your life, the next minute you’re struggling for your life.”
That was Dave Kimpinski’s comment after nearly drowning in a boating accident. Dave and his young son, Curtis, were pulling Dave’s niece Amanda on an inflatable tube with their small outboard powered boat.
They hit a large wake from another boat and Dave leaned across to prevent his son Curtis from falling in but instead went overboard himself.
Dave wasn’t a swimmer, and he wasn’t wearing a lifejacket. The boat started to make lazy circles while Curtis cried out for his dad.
Amanda saw her uncle struggling to stay afloat and left the tube and began to swim after him.
Fortunately, Amanda was prepared for the water and was wearing a lifejacket. She reached her uncle and Dave grabbed on to her.
Curtis, meanwhile, pulled the safety lanyard on the motor just like he’d seen his dad do and the boat stopped moving.
Amanda’s lifejacket kept both of them afloat and they were able to get back to their boat and climb aboard.
Dave was lucky! He was lucky that his little boy managed to stop their boat, but he was even luckier that Amanda was wearing a lifejacket and was able to help him.
Don’t drink and boat. You need to think straight when you’re in a boat to protect yourself and your passengers. Sunshine and a boat’s rocking motion increase the effects of alcohol and can easily turn a pleasant trip into tragedy. Alcohol is involved in nearly 40 per cent of boating deaths. Don’t risk your life (or your license) by drinking and boating.
Take a boating course. There is a wonderful freedom in being on the water. You don’t have to follow the white lines of the highway and it feels like you can go anywhere, anytime, at any speed. But in fact there are rules of the road that every mariner must know. Many boating courses are available in B.C. to help you understand your vessel, your environment, and your obligations on the water. The now-mandatory Pleasure Craft Operator’s Card is a first step. But check out the many enjoyable and useful boating courses offered by power and sail squadrons, local sailing schools and paddling courses.
Be Prepared. If your car breaks down you can usually just pull over. If your boat breaks down you could be in big trouble. RCM-SAR responds to more than 800 calls a year, many from boaters who have run in to problems that were preventable. Have a proper check list for your boat and use it before each trip. Check out the RCM-SAR Safe Boating App for a useful checklist and other safe boating resources.
Beware of Cold Water Risks. Have you dipped your toe in B.C.’s ocean water lately? Pretty cold. Dangerously cold. Many people die during the first few minutes in cold water – not because they are hypothermic but because they drown due to the immediate, involuntary and often deadly effects of cold water. If you survive the first few minutes, you may eventually succumb to hypothermia – the final stage your body reaches in cold water. Know the risks and stay safe.