Prepare before boating

Even consummate swimmers have great difficulty putting a lifejacket on once they’ve fallen in the water


Waterways have been areas of heartbreak to the families of those who say they don’t need a lifejacket.

“It is astounding to note,” a 2010 Transport Canada report reads, “that in exposure to boating, where the most frequent injury incidents involve capsizing and falling overboard, non-swimmers and weak swimmers continue to boat without a floatation device, and drown as a result.”

Even consummate swimmers have great difficulty putting a lifejacket on once they’ve fallen in the water, especially when it is as cold as the water usually is in Canada.

Sudden exposure to cold water triggers an automatic gasp reflex that causes people to inhale a litre or more of icy water. Without a lifejacket, death is moments away.

Penalties to curb impaired boaters

A Red Cross study found that 37 per cent of boaters in Canada drink alcohol every time they boat. About 66 per cent of boaters admit to partaking sometimes. Most don’t realize that almost half of all boating fatalities are alcohol-related.

Both federal and provincial statutes exist to try to slow down alcohol related tragedies on the water.

The mind numbing effect that alcohol has on boaters can be almost doubled by sun, wind and waves. In an experiment called the Drinking and Boating Test, a mixed group of boaters manoeuvred through a obstacle course before and following consumption of alcohol. Even with minute blood levels of alcohol, participants knocked into dummy people in the water and they frequently failed to negotiate throughways.

Safe boating is no accident

Other factors affecting boater safety include proper preparation (charts and appropriate equipment on board), boater card for the operator, a safe number of occupants for the vessel and safe operation (taking into consideration weather and observation of boating rules).


To find out what you need to be in compliance with your particular craft, visit