10 Tips for Safe Boating

Mother and son practicing safe boating on a lake
Mother and son practicing safe boating on a lake

Besides smiles, sunshine and sunscreen, the key to having a great season on the lake this summer is boating safety. Getting out on the water with friends and family is the perfect way to soak up the sun and take advantage of Canada’s amazing cottage country and lake access. That being said, boating accidents can happen if you’re not being cautious and following key boating safety tips.

We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 tips for safe boating to help protect you and your family. Follow these water safety and boat maintenance tips to stay safe on the water.

1. Obtain Your Boating License

This may seem like an obvious tip to kick off our list, but there is a surprising number of reported incidents in Ontario in which boaters are inexperienced and fail to show proof of their boating license. According to the Red Cross, there are approximately 166 deaths per year from boating related accidents. Getting your boaters license is quite easy and a very necessary step to operating a boat safely. 

In Ontario, all operators of motorized boats are legally required to have a boating license, or what is officially called a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC). These cards are required for all ages, boat lengths and engine sizes and those operating a motorized boat without one automatically face a $250 fine. 

Besides the large fee, however, the main risk of boating without a proper license is putting those in your own boat and others in danger. 

We also advise you have private lessons or training from an experienced boater or company before you head out on the water. There is nothing more important than hands-on experience! Book your in-person or online course now to obtain your boating license before getting out on the water!

2. Life jackets are literal life savers

When boarding a boat, there is nothing more important than for all passengers to wear or have easy access to life jackets. All children and any adult who is not an experienced boater or confident swimmer should be wearing a life jacket. According to the Red Cross, more than 24% of boating fatalities occur when a life jacket is present on board but not worn. Wearing a life jacket could eliminate up to 90% of all boating fatalities. Always make sure to have extra life jackets on board. 

3. Be Prepared with a Boat Safety Kit

Father and daughter smiling on boat wearing life jackets

Performing a pre-excursion safety inspection isn’t the only thing you can do to make sure your boat is in the best shape it can possibly be. Once you have examined your boat and given it the A-OK, your job is to make sure you have everything you need on board in the case of an emergency. We’ve prepared an introductory list of items that should be included in your safety kit.

First Aid Kit: You never know what might happen on the water and you want to be prepared for everything. Whether it’s for a small scrape or a more severe medical emergency, having a properly equipped first aid kit is crucial.

Life Jackets: As well as making sure your passengers are all wearing government-approved life jackets, you should make sure to have extra life jackets on board in the case of an emergency.

Whistle: A whistle acts as a universal signal for help, especially when you are boating.

Duct Tape: Ideal for bandaging a hole in your boat should you spring a leak and this highly useful item can really come in handy!

Cell Phone: When you’re boating on large bodies of water, there may be times when you are too far from land or from other boats to signal for help. Keep a cell phone with you to make sure you’re able to call for help or navigate your boat, if necessary.

Bucket: In the case of water coming on board your boat, a bucket will come in handy to bail it out.

Extra Ropes: These may be useful for securing items to the boat, tying your boat to a raft or to another vessel, or even pulling someone in who has fallen overboard or needs assistance.

4. Educate Your Passengers About Boating Safety Procedures

Young woman educating group of children on safe boating procedures

While it’s important for you, as the driver, to understand the rules of the water, it’s crucial that your passengers are equally as aware. Make sure to brief those coming on board about the necessary safety procedures and ensure they are educated and comfortable with the information. This includes making sure all passengers on board are bringing and wearing a government-approved lifejacket.

5. Stay Alert for Weather Changes

As you likely know if you’re familiar with Ontario, weather in the summer months can often turn on a dime. One minute, you’re enjoying the bright blue skies and warm sunshine, and the next you’re watching an unexpected storm roll in. Make sure to check the forecast beforehand and stay alert for weather changes so that you can be as prepared as possible to act accordingly.

6. Be Attentive While Undocking and Docking

Secured rope of docket boat on pier

Docking and undocking a motorized boat is often the task drivers find most challenging while boating. We recommend practicing these skills regularly with guidance to become as comfortable as possible with the process. 

While docking, be sure to prepare your bumpers, reduce your speed and make sure your mooring lines are secured. Passengers should remain seated while docking or undocking to avoid obstructing your view or rocking the boat. You should only disembark from the boat once the engine is turned off. 

Before leaving your boat, make sure your lines are tightly secured and not at risk of coming undone.

7. Never Operate a Boat Under the Influence

In Ontario, many people don’t realize that the penalties for a person who is drinking while operating a boat are the same as those for a person who is drinking while driving a car. Besides a fine and license suspension, the major risk of operating a boat while under the influence is that it puts both the driver and passengers, as well as everyone else on the water, in severe danger. 

To avoid these high risks practice boating safety. The boat operator on board should not consume any alcohol before or during operation of the boat.

8. Use Common Sense

While boat operation may seem like an entirely different responsibility, driving a boat on the water shares a lot of similarities to driving a car on the road—including the using common sense. It’s important to use sound, practical judgment when navigating the waters, making sure to always stay alert, follow the speed limit, be aware of other vessels around you, and stay attentive to the safety of your passengers.

9. Take A Boat Safety Course

If you’re someone who grew up operating boats and feels comfortable behind the water wheel, you may feel as though you don’t need to take a boat safety course. However, we recommend brushing up on boat safety rules and responsibilities, no matter your skill level. Accidents can happen to anyone and it’s important to keep the rules of the water fresh in your mind. Before boarding, make sure to go over the safety rules and consider taking a course to review what you learned during your boat licensing program.

10. Complete A Full Inspection of Your Boat

Before boarding your boat, be sure to check the boat engine for leaks or damage, check all electrical features, make sure your lights, radio and other appliances are working properly, and check your oil levels and battery power. Doing these thorough safety examinations before heading out on the water will ensure your boat is in proper shape to be escorting passengers. 

Just like you prioritize safety inspections for your car, it’s crucial to perform regular examinations of your boat on top of the inspection you do before taking it out. Doing regular checkups will make sure your boat is properly maintained, and that you catch any issues early to avoid putting anyone at risk.

Don’t feel comfortable performing the inspection yourself? 

In Ontario, you can request a free safety check of your boat through the Pleasure Craft Courtesy Check Program. At your request, a trained volunteer will visit your boat and make sure you have everything you need for a safe day out on the water.

Man performing a full boat inspection in Ontario Canada

While we hope these top 10 tips help to keep you safe this summer, accidents on the water can happen to anyone, regardless of the safety measures they take. 

If you or someone you know has been injured in a boating accident in Ontario that was not their fault, contact Cariati Law today at 647-496-2907 to get a free legal consultation. Our team of experienced boating accident lawyers are here to help you get the justice and the compensation you deserve. Let us be your champions!