Learning the ropes of boating safety

With more and more boats hitting the water around Victoria, Oak Bay’s marine search and rescue group is keeping busy

With the continued sunny skies and warm temperatures the call of the water is becoming increasingly hard to resist for Vancouver Islanders.

And with more and more boats hitting the water around Victoria, Oak Bay’s marine search and rescue group is keeping busy ensuring the safety of boaters.

When you are out on the water there are a few simple precautions you can take to make sure you have a safe trip and allow the search and rescue crews to focus on other more pressing concerns.

Don’t drink and boat. You need to think straight when you’re in a boat to protect yourself and your passengers. Sunshine and a boat’s rocking motion increase the effects of alcohol and can easily turn a pleasant trip into tragedy. Alcohol is involved in nearly 40 per cent of boating deaths. Don’t risk your life by drinking and boating.

Take a boating course. There is a wonderful freedom in being on the water. You don’t have to follow the white lines of the highway and it feels like you can go anywhere, anytime, at any speed. But in fact there are rules of the road that every mariner must know. Many boating courses are available in B.C. to help you understand your vessel, your environment, and your obligations on the water. The now-mandatory Pleasure Craft Operator’s Card is a first step. But check out the many enjoyable and useful boating courses offered by power and sail squadrons, local sailing schools and paddling courses.

Be prepared. If your car breaks down you can usually just pull over. If your boat breaks down you could be in big trouble. RCM-SAR responds to more than 800 calls a year, many from boaters who have run in to problems that were preventable. Have a proper check list for your boat and use it before each trip.

Beware of cold water risks. Have you dipped your toe into the ocean lately? Pretty cold, dangerously cold. Many people die during the first few minutes in cold water – not because they are hypothermic but because they drown due to the immediate, involuntary and often deadly effects of cold water. Know the risks and stay safe.