Each May, Atlantic Boating’s sister magazine, The Navigator, dedicates an entire issue to the critical topic of marine safety.
It may sound a tad redundant to repeat the same message every 12 months, but subjects such as wearing personal flotation devices (PFDs) and proper vessel stability literally could mean the difference between life and death for fish harvesters and can never be overstated.
Now, with COVID-19 public health restrictions finally being lifted across Atlantic Canada, recreational boaters are once again hitting the water, probably in record numbers and there is no time like the present to hammer home the most basic and practical of life saving practices we all can do — wear a lifejacket.
In case your head is still foggy from months of watching cat videos and Netflix, you are required by law to have a lifejacket or PFD on board for each person on a watercraft. This also includes human-powered craft.
Most recreational boaters who died on the water each year in Canada were not wearing flotation devices or are not wearing them properly.
Most of them never intended to be in the water, they were just enjoying their boating activity. According to the Canadian Red Cross Drowning Report, only 12.5 per cent of people who died were wearing a properly fastened and fitted lifejacket or PFD.
Once again, without stating the obvious, here are some tips on lifejacket and PFD usage:
- Look for a lifejacket or PFD with a label that says the device has been approved by any of these organizations: Transport Canada, Canadian Coast Guard and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
- Treat your flotation device as an investment and take good care of it. Devices that are ripped or in poor condition are not considered approved.
- Lifesaving equipment should never be kneeled on, sat on, or used as a fender for your boat.
- Check its buoyancy regularly by wading out to waist-deep water and bending your knees to see how well you float.
- Ensure that straps, buckles and zippers are clean and in good working order.
- Tug on straps to ensure they are well attached with no sign of wear.
- Dry your device in open air and avoid direct heat sources.
- Store it in a dry, well-ventilated, easily accessible place.
- Do not dry clean. Use mild soap and running water to clean.
And probably the most important tip is your lifejacket or PFD won’t work if you don’t wear it — lifesaving equipment must be worn at all times — period.
Due to COVID-19, we have all collectively endured a lot over the last 15 months. Now with a light finally on the horizon, you don’t want this marred by a tragedy that could have been prevented by something as simple as donning a PFD when you step on a boat.