Launch of the ‘Excuses don’t float’ campaign in British Columbia to keep boaters safe on the water.

The plan is to never go out on the water for the day and drown.

But it happens more often than most casual boaters would like to acknowledge.

And most deaths on the water are preventable.

More than 80% of drowning victims in Canada were not wearing a flotation device, according to the 2019 Lifesaving Society report on drownings in Canada.

In more than 40% of boating deaths, alcohol was a factor.

Nearly 80% of drowning victims were men.

94% of 15 to 19 year olds who drown were not wearing a life jacket.

More boaters on the water

During the pandemic, boating as a hobby has exploded, according to Bruce Hayne, executive director of British Columbia Boating Association.

Transport Canada reports that between 2020 and 2021, there was a 70% increase in the number of people who applied and obtained their Pleasure Craft Operator Cards (PCOC)), Hayne said.

“Not all of those people are going to translate into buying a boat, but a lot will. And so we’re seeing a lot more people on the water now than we’ve ever seen. And the demand for purchase of boats has just increased tremendously,” Hayne said. Chief Squamish.

Boating BC is launching a campaign to educate new boaters and remind experienced boaters to never forget to practice boating safety.

It all depends on the preparation when people go out on the boat, Hayne said.

“With just how a boat works, how to moor it properly, how to launch it properly – just the mechanics of how a ship works – some may not be as aware or as tuned in to just be prepared to be out on the water and be prepared for the worst case scenario,” he said. “First and foremost, it’s about life jackets. And not just to have life jackets, but to wear them.”

Hayne acknowledged that the message of wearing a life jacket is not new. In fact, it’s probably become white noise for many.

Some think they are strong enough swimmers that they don’t need to be worn.

Others find flotation devices bulky and uncomfortable.

Others just don’t feel “cool”.

That’s why Boating BC’s campaign is called “Excuses Don’t Float”.

“Everyone has an excuse to do or not do things that can lead to disaster,” Hayne said, noting that life jackets are much more comfortable and lightweight these days than they were yesterday. years ago.

“Statistics show that a very high percentage of drowning deaths occur in men my age who hang out with their buddies in a 12 or 14 foot aluminum. [boat] fish and drink a few beers. Someone gets up to relieve themselves from the transom, and they fall in, and they drown. And cold water, of course, is another serious concern. And ocean water like in Howe Sound or anywhere particularly at this time of year – that water isn’t warm, and you can be a really, really good swimmer, but it can just suck your energy [quick].”

There are plenty of other hazards on Howe Sound too, including gusty winds that may surprise some, and there are “little little rocky islands where you wouldn’t expect them,” Hayne added.

sober boat

People should also navigate soberly, Hayne stressed.

“A few beers or a few puffs and you suddenly know that your senses and everything just aren’t where they belong.”

Sometimes boaters get in trouble, but waiting to call for help out of ego or fear when calling sooner could save time and lives.

“There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help,” Hayne said. “It’s maritime law that if you see someone in distress while you’re in a boat, you must stop and help them…Royal Canadian Navy Search and Rescue have stations all over the province, particularly on the coast, i.e. [run by] volunteers.”

The Coast Guard and RCMP are also within phone range, he said.

“There is a lot of help out there and people just need to realize that help is out there and they should ask for it.”

Having proper safety gear on board is an obvious but sometimes overlooked part of boating, he said.

“Not just the minimum safety equipment [required] by law, but so that you know what safety equipment you really need on a boat, whether it’s a VHF radio and stuff like that, so you can call if you have problems.”

He recommends that in addition to the required boating safety course, residents take other training.

“Power Squadron and others offer courses and navigation and other types of courses,” he noted.

As a boater himself growing up on Ontario lakes, when he arrived in British Columbia 30 years ago, he realized that boating in the ocean was another thing. It is therefore important to understand the risks and dangers where you are heading.

“There are tides, there are ferries, there are tugboats and barges – it’s a whole different game, and you should take a more advanced navigation course, especially if you’re going into ocean waters. “

Hayne also noted that with everyone getting on the water or wanting to, Boating BC is working with municipalities to advocate for increased public access to the water with boat ramps. public.

“A lot of municipalities are maybe selling the waterfront or rezoning the waterfront for condo development and that kind of thing because there’s good tax revenue there. But public access to our shared waterways is really important. And that’s really important as well, for economic development in the community economy.

National Safe Boating Week in Canada runs from May 21-27.

Learn more by going to Canoeing in British Columbia.