Safety Underway: Operating your Boat Safely

Enjoying Canada’s waterways is one of our greatest summer pastimes. While we all want to have fun and enjoy a day on the water, sharing the waterways with others means operating in a safe and courteous manner.

Safety Underway

Safety underway means:

  • Understanding and taking into account the effects of being on the water
  • Choosing a safe and appropriate speed
  • Knowing the proper techniques for reducing risk while operating at high speeds
  • Knowing how to operate safely amongst other boat traffic during the day or night and sharing the waterways with others

Effects of Being on the Water

You should remember that certain effects of being on the water can impair your judgment and ability to operate your craft safely. These effects include:

  • The motion of your pleasure craft
  • Sunlight
  • Wind
  • Waves
  • Sound

Staying Hydrated while Boating

These effects (individually or in combination with each other) may impair your balance, sense of coordination, reflexes, response time, eyesight, hearing and judgment. If you find that any of your senses are impaired you should immediately seek a safe harbour and shade yourself from direct sunlight.

Be aware of the effects of being on the water–both on yourself and on your passengers. Take steps to reduce these effects by ensuring that you wear appropriate protection from the elements including sunglasses, sunscreen and a visor or hat.

Be well rested when planning to operate your craft for extended periods and ensure that you consume ample liquids (such as water or juice) to keep hydrated. You should never consume alcohol or controlled substances when operating a pleasure craft.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion (or heat stroke) results from an abnormally elevated body temperature with accompanying physical and neurological symptoms. Heat exhaustion is a true medical emergency that can be fatal if not properly and promptly treated. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, headache, muscle cramps and dizziness.

Boater with Heat Ehxaustion

Victims of heat exhaustion must receive immediate treatment to avoid permanent organ damage. First and foremost, cool the victim. Remove clothing, apply cool water to the skin and fan the victim to promote sweating and evaporation. Apply ice packs under armpits and groin and monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until body temperature cools to 38.3 – 38.8 oC.