May 16 to 22 marks North American Safe Boating Awareness Week, and the past Victoria Day weekend marks the unofficial start of boating season in Canada. This year, keeping Canadians safe during the COVID-19 pandemic is the Government’s top priority.
Boaters are being called on to stay at home and the Honourable Marc Garneau, the Minister of Transport reminds them to follow the guidance of their local health authorities to limit the risk of COVID -19 transmission.
After weeks of social distancing many Canadians are anxious to get back onto the water. The Canadian Safe Boating Council (CSBC) warns that the water is still cold and for many their boating skills may be rusty.
“With recreational boating having such a slow start due to COVID-19 this year, if you need help, it might not be as readily available from rescue services or other boaters as it was in previous years,”Joe Gatfield, chair of CSBC said, “So, this year, it is even more critical to be prepared and not put additional pressure on emergency resources.”
“Boating is a favourite pastime for many Canadians. By its very nature, boating provides the ideal way to get out and enjoy the outdoors while still maintaining social distancing,” the CSBC said.
Keep in mind the CSBC’s five key messages to stay safe on the water for now and for later in the season:
“Wear Your Lifejacket – Over 80 per cent of Canadians who drown while boating are not wearing a lifejacket or not wearing it properly.
Boat Sober – Whether it’s prescription drugs, alcohol or cannabis, the use of intoxicants is both irresponsible and illegal.
Be Prepared, You and Your Boat – Make sure you and your boat are up to your planned on-water activities.
Take a Boating Course – Operating a powered vessel, you should have your Pleasure Craft Operator Card, so consider taking some advanced courses. If your boating preference tends towards paddle, enroll in some training.
Be Aware of Cold Water Risks – Cold water can severely impact your ability to swim or even just stay afloat. Your best chance of surviving an accidental cold water immersion is to wear your lifejacket.”
“Boating is a favourite pastime for many Canadians. It can reduce the stress of physical isolation and it’s a great family activity. By its very nature, boating provides the ideal way to get out and enjoy the outdoors while still maintaining physical distancing practices,” said CBSC.
The Government of Canada is also reminding Canadian recreational boaters about the travel restriction between Canada and the United States for non-essential travel, for tourism, recreation or entertainment, that remain in place until at least May 21, 2020.
“Prepare for the unexpected. Do a pre-departure checklist to make sure the boat has fuel, runs well and that all safety equipment is on board, in good condition and easy to reach.”
Transport Canada defines a pleasure craft as a boat, a ship, a vessel, or any other water craft that is used exclusively for pleasure and does not carry passengers or goods for payment. Canoes, kayaks, sailboats and motorboats are also included in this definition.
“The Government of Canada remains committed to keeping Canadians safe, particularly during these unprecedented and challenging times. Each year, the launch of the North American Safe Boating Awareness Week is an opportunity to remind all Canadians to put their safety and the safety of their families first, and I know that I can count on recreational boaters to do their part to adhere to safety measures and put into practice the recommendations of local public health authorities to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Garneau said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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