“Being on a boat that’s moving through the water, it’s so clear. Everything falls into place in terms of what’s important and what’s not”: American singer-songwriter and guitarist James Taylor.
As many people in this strange, new world of COVID-19 struggle with the day-to-day routine of our new normal, recreational boaters, for the most part, seem to be doing just fine.
For many, boating is an escape — a getaway from the routine and monotony of life. And while recreational boaters use their vessels to literally sail away from many of the worries and cares of life, at least temporarily, in these periods of solitude and reflection, it is important, now more than ever, to keep those in mind whose job it is to keep us all safe.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency responders are working at full capacity to ensure the safety and health of Canadians. To reduce pressure on emergency services, including Coast Guard and Search and Rescue services, Transport Canada (TC) has released a list of measures that are strongly recommended for pleasure craft operators and everyone on board.
The most obvious one is for everyone on board to wear a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD). Lifejackets/PFDs are required by law to be on board for each person on all types of pleasure craft. Wear them at all times when on deck or in the cockpit and make sure they are of the proper size and properly buckled up.
Most recreational boaters who die on the water each year in Canada are not wearing personal flotation devices or are not wearing them properly.
Another obvious point is to ensure your pleasure craft is in good working order and properly equipped before heading out on the water.
Boat operators should always verify all safety equipment before departure. Check that that your engine(s), bilge pumps and other systems are in good working order and that you have enough fuel for the voyage, with a safety reserve.
More than 50 per cent of calls for assistance from recreational boaters are because of mechanical failure, including running out of fuel.
TC also advises that boaters limit the length of your trips as much as possible, departing and returning to the same location and avoiding stops along the way.
Keep a safe distance to shore at all times, limit using your pleasure craft to daylight hours and avoid using your vessel during bad weather and extreme temperatures are also key points that may help in avoiding a call to the Coast Guard or worse.
As always, boaters are directed to operate at safe speeds and don’t cruise while drinking alcohol or using cannabis.
And of course, in the new world of COVID-19, pleasure craft operators and everyone on board are asked to avoid any unnecessary contact with others during their trip.
While these points may seem basic, they just might help you avoid unwanted incidents at sea and possibly save your life as well as the lives of those dedicated emergency responders who are looking out for your well-being 365 days of the year.