A man stands up in his boat, looks around to be sure that he is alone, and urinates over the side of the boat. It’s a common occurrence and hard to believe that it’s a life-threatening act. But every year, approximately 225 Canadian men drown when they fall overboard.

The Lifesaving Society gathers statistics so it can target its public education efforts and lifesaving courses to those who are most at risk. We urge you and your family to take a course today—you’ll learn prevention strategies, self-rescue, rescue of others and basic first aid. (See the Lifesaving Programs section or contact your Branch for more information.) In the meantime, follow these tips to avoid becoming a statistic:

  1. Choose it and use it! Always wear a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD)!
    Don’t just have it in the boat, pick one and wear it. The vast majority of Canadian boating victims were not wearing a lifejacket or PFD when they drowned. You can compare trying to don a lifejacket or PFD in an emergency to trying to put on your seatbelt in the middle of a car accident.Lifejackets and PFDs have come a long way. Inflatable types and a wider range of colours and styles make it easier for you to find and wear the one that’s right for you.
  2. Think about it. Boat sober!
    According to the National Drowning Trends Report, 1991-2000 alcohol consumption was involved in 38 percent of all boating deaths, 44 percent of recreational powerboating deaths, and 43 percent of canoeing deaths. Alcohol intensifies the effects of fatigue, sun, wind and boat motion to negatively affect balance, judgment and reaction time. Be Water Smart®:—don’t drink and drive your boat!
  3. Get carded!
    The rules have changed. You must have proof of competency. Proof of competency can take one of three forms:

    • proof of having successfully completed a boating safety course in Canada prior to April 1, 1999;
    • a Pleasure Craft Operator Card issued following the successful completion of an accredited test; and
    • a completed rental-boat safety checklist (for power-driven rental boats, valid for the rental period).

    So get trained in boating safety. Take a course or study at home, and then take the PCO test. Contact your local Branch office of the Lifesaving Society to obtain further information on the Boat Operator Accredited Training (BOAT)™ course. It will help you to know the boating “rules of the road,” how to respond in a boating emergency, and how to operate pleasure craft safely.

  4. Know before you go! Check the forecast and create a simple safety checklist.
    Avoid potential danger by taking a few minutes to make a simple checklist—What’s the weather forecast? Any local hazards? What’s the condition of the waterways? Where is it shallow? Are there any rapids? Have your maps or charts? Have your lifejackets or PFDs? First aid kit, tools and spare parts? Enough fule? Safety equipment all working? Told someone where you’re going and when to expect you back?
  5. Wear the right gear!
    Wear your lifejacket or PFD, of course, as well as good sunglasses, sunscreen and appropriate clothing. Paddles, whistles and flares are the right gear, too.
  6. Drive your powerboat or PWC responsibly!
    Look before you act, stay low, drive at moderate speeds, be aware of changing weather conditions, and drive with extreme caution and proper lights after dark.Children under 16 years of age are not permitted to operate a PWC. Children under 12 years must be accompanied by an adult to operate a boat with a motor of more than 7.5 KW (10 HP). Children 12 to 15 years must be accompanied by an adult to operate a boat with a motor of more than 30 KW (40 HP).
  7. Never stand up in your small powerboat, canoe or other similar watercraft.
    Numerous drownings occur when fishermen stand up to urinate over the side of a boat.
  8. Get trained—take some Lifesaving courses.
    Be prepared in the event of an accident—whether your boat capsizes or you need to rescue someone else. Become aware of the dangers of cold water.
  9. Don’t overload.
    Avoid capsizing by following the load restrictions of your craft. This includes not only the number of passengers, but also the weight of your gear.
  10. Follow the rules of the road.
    Be courteous of others using the waterways and obey all boating rules. Be watchful of swimmers and other boaters, and always have a spotter for water-skiers and tube riders.