With the warm weather and summer in full swing, boating can be a great source of fun and leisure. Boaters are reminded to be aware of water safety and boating etiquette to ensure safety for yourself and others while enjoying our waterways. As a disclaimer, these are general tips and may not cover each and every vessel.
A pleasure craft operator’s card is required to operate a boat, depending on vessel type. The Boating Ontario website is a great resource for both new and experienced boaters.
Many marinas have speed signage posted and operating your vessel with no wake is always appreciated. A wake is the waves caused from your propeller behind your boat, this may cause shoreline erosion, cause damage to boats docked in a marina, cause kayakers to flip over, or cause an accident for someone boarding a boat.
Use a chart plotter or paper charts to familiarize yourself with the area prior to boating in an unknown area, this could help prevent damage from running aground.
Take an on-water boating course. There are various instructors available and will help you become more comfortable on your own boat. Topics can include; navigation, boat operation, VHF training, boat safety, docking etc. Boating courses are not mandatory, but can help provide a safer boating season for you and your family.
Be friendly and courteous to fellow boaters and water users, everyone has a right to enjoy our waterways.
Many insurance companies provide towing coverage, check your policy for coverage in the event it is needed. Check where the nearest boat towing company is located and save their contact information, you never know when you may need it.
Launch ramp tips:
Follow posted signage for the ramps and obey speed limit signs. Most launch areas are a no wake zone or 10km/hr zone, this helps to ensure various user groups can safely board/exit their water craft and helps prevent shoreline erosion.
Prepare your boat prior to backing into the ramp (i.e. ensure your drain plug is in, check engine turns over, have dock lines attached and fenders ready).
Be patient – not all boaters can reverse their trailer as well as others.
Boats should be fuelled prior to arrival at the launch ramps. Boaters fuelling on the water or on land will be subject to fines.
Watch how others launch their boats, you may pick up some tricks to help your launch easier.
Most marinas monitor VHF (very high frequency radio) channel #68. When entering a marina or requiring assistance docking, the boater should communicate with marina staff over the radio. A radio license is required to operate the VHF. Channel #16 is for emergency use only, (i.e. to contact Police Marine Unit or Coast Guard). If a VHF radio is not available on the boat, use #16 (POUND 16) on your cell phone to reach the Coast Guard. A VHF radio could be heard by other boaters who could in turn provide assistance in your emergency until help arrives, it is a crucial piece of safety equipment for your boat.
Monitor water levels. We have experienced high water levels in recent years, this year Lake Ontario is below average levels. Areas that may have been deep enough to allow access for your boat previously may have changed now, take the necessary precautions.
Children and pets should have life jackets on in the event they slip and fall into the water. As a safety precaution, boat engines should always be turned off and the boat securely tied to a dock when loading/unloading guests.
Here are some helpful tips to make sure your launch goes smoothly to prevent any major mishaps:
Drain plug: ensure that your drain-plug has been installed. This is often overlooked, but is one of the most important inspections you could make.
Documentation: make sure that your boat registration and insurance are onboard.
Life-jackets: check that your PFDs are in good condition (no rips, mildew, oil stains, missing parts, etc.) and that there are enough on board.
Flares: make sure you have the right type and number of flares for your vessel and check that they haven’t expired.
Fire extinguisher: check that they are charged and mounted in the proper place.
Battery: make sure that your battery is fully charged, that the terminal posts are clean and the connections are snug.
Running lights: make sure they work properly.
Horn: make sure that it is in working condition.
Anchor: make sure that both the anchor and anchor line are in good shape.
Steering: turn the wheel all the way to Port, then to the Starboard side to ensure your drive/rudder respond to your movements.
Hoses/lines: check your water and fuel lines for cracks and leaks.
Bilge pump: check that this is operational.
Props: check that your propellers are in good shape and that the blades aren’t bent or chipped.
Fluids: check your power steering fluid, trim oil, and battery water level.
Dock lines: check that you have sufficient lines on board to secure your vessel and that the lines are in good condition.
These simple checks and safety reminders will help to make your launch much easier and keep everyone safe. Enjoy your boating season and remember to be safe on the water.