Seaside Magazine Bird

10 Tips for Staying Safe This Boating Season

by Bev Stevens, Saanich Marine Rescue Society – 

Boating season is underway and Sidney’s Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue station has 10 tips to help you stay safe on the water.

1. Wear a life jacket (PFD). Did you know the Kids Don’t Float Program provides free access to personal floatation devices (PFDs) for infants, children and youth? Local PFD Loaner Stations are located at Tulista Park dock, Sidney’s Glass Beach, Port Sidney Marina, Van Isle Marina, Canoe Cove Marina, and James Island dock. Parents or guardians who do not own lifejackets, or do not have appropriately sized PFDs for their children, can simply grab a loaner lifejacket and return it to the Loaner Station at the end of the day.

2. Check marine weather conditions and forecasts before heading out. Conditions on the water can deteriorate rapidly. Don’t assume that a sunny, calm day now means it will stay that way. When the weather deteriorates, our call-outs go up due to boaters failing to plan ahead and finding themselves in conditions that exceed their skills and/or vessel’s capabilities.

3. Know where you are at all times. Have current charts and tide tables for your local cruising area on board and refer to them regularly when underway. Too many boaters get into trouble because they think they are somewhere they aren’t or don’t check their charts or tide tables for hazards.;

4. Get educated. All vessel operators must have their pleasure craft operator’s certificate (PCOC) and should then keep learning. Many organizations provide boating courses (Canadian Power Squadrons, local yacht clubs, etc.). The better you know your vessel, how to operate it, marine navigation and safety rules and understand the marine environment, the safer you will be.

5. Keep your vessel/equipment well maintained. The marine environment is harsh and equipment can deteriorate much more quickly than on land. Do a complete review of your vessel and its equipment before heading out. On the water is not where you want to find out something isn’t working or has broken down. Broken-down vessels are another frequent reason for RCMSAR callouts every season.

6. Don’t Drink and Boat. This should go without saying! Too many lives have been lost due to this deadly combination. Beer on the pier and water on the water.

7. Put down your cellphone. Just like when driving, distraction is known to be a top cause of marine accidents. Put the phone down, learn how to use your marine electronics before you set out, stay alert for hazards, and enjoy your time on the water.

8. Know how to call for help. If your vessel has a marine radio, know how it works and how to call for help. The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) provides 24-hour monitoring on VHF Channel 16. In a life-threatening distress situation repeat MAYDAY three times. If the situation is urgent but not life-threatening use PAN-PAN. With either type of call provide the vessel name, your position, the nature of your distress, the number of persons on board and the assistance needed. If your vessel doesn’t have a radio, you can use a cellphone to reach the CCG in an emergency by dialing *16.

9. Use a sail plan app or let someone you know, know where you are headed and when you expect to return. Should something happen, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan for alerting CCG should you be unable to call for help yourself. Many marine searches could have been shortened or ended more positively if rescuers had known where to start looking.

10. Have fun! Our motto is “saving lives on the water;” you can help by doing everything you can to stay safe.

Have a great summer and if you see us out on the water give us a wave!

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