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Long weekend B.C. boaters urged to meet all safety protocols, both on-water and COVID-19

Annual national awareness campaign is encouraging social-distanced boating and reiterates the use of lifejackets, which could end in a $230 fine if none are provided.
Taking the boat out on the lake. | File photo

The long weekend has arrived in B.C., which means local boat owners will have shucked off the barnacles and will hit the lake amid the summer-like weather expected.

Coincidentally, today (May 22) is also the beginning of Safe Boating Awareness Week and RCMP are sharing information and tips by the Canadian Safe Boating Council (CSBC) to ensure everyone can enjoy their time off while avoiding potentially dangerous situations.

Mounties say the fine is $230 for all water-based transportation without lifejackets, which includes boats, paddleboards and kayaks.

According to the CSBC, roughly 16 million people recreate Canadian waters each year, but the last two have looked different with the COVID-19 pandemic resting ashore.

The council is asking owners and passengers to follow public health and safety protocols, including social distancing and only boating with those in your immediate family.

Additionally, Health Canada has recommended wearing a face-covering or non-medical mask on boats if you can't keep a safe distance between others.

"Boating is a favourite pastime for many Canadians," the CSBC says. 

"It can reduce the stress of social isolation and it’s a great family activity. By its very nature, boating provides the ideal way to get out and enjoy the outdoors while still maintaining social distancing practices."

The council's five key messages for the 2021 boating season are as follows:

  • Wear Your Lifejacket
    • Over 80% of Canadians who drown while boating were not wearing their lifejacket or not wearing it properly. There are so many choices for lifejackets / personal floatation devices on the market now, it is easy to pick one that suits your ‘boating style’ and is one that you are comfortable wearing all the time you are on the water.
  • Boat Sober 
    • Whether it’s prescription drugs, alcohol or cannabis, the use of intoxicants is both irresponsible and illegal. In some provinces, being convicted of impaired operation will also affect your automobile license.
  • Be Prepared, You and Your Boat
    • Make sure you and your boat are up to your planned on-water activities. That means you are knowledgeable about your upcoming trip, your boat is properly equipped with the required and good to have safety equipment, the weather is suitable for the voyage, you have sufficient fuel and you have filed a trip plan. Plus, this is not all about you…it is important to keep in mind that by staying out of trouble you will not be putting pressure on rescue resources.
  • Take a Boating Course
    • If you are operating a powered recreational vessel, you should have your Pleasure Craft Operator Card or some other proof of competency. But that is just as start, so consider taking some advanced courses. If your boating preference tends towards paddle, this is the perfect time to enroll in some on water training. Or if you are just starting out, log onto and start your boating in a paddle craft responsibly. The site is not a substitute for on water training, but it does provide a great first step in education about paddle craft.
  • Be Aware of Cold-Water Risks
    • Cold water can severely impact your ability to swim or even just stay afloat. Even the best swimmers will feel the effects of a sudden cold-water immersion. No matter your swimming ability, best chance of surviving an accidental cold-water immersion is to wear your lifejacket!

Safe Boating Awareness Week runs until May 28 and has been an annual campaign in Canada since 1995.

For more information, you can visit the Canadian Safe Boating Council's website.

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