Boats and personal watercrafts are great ways to cool off during warm weather months and can take you to places you‘ll never see on your daily commute. Boating safety is always a priority, of course. By taking a few simple steps, you can help assure that your boating adventures are both fun and safe.

Get Certified
You‘ll need a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) to operate your boat within Canada. This card must be carried with you when you operate your boat, much like a driver‘s license. Numerous companies provide courses that can help you get certified. Just check to be sure that the course is approved by the National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and read a few reviews to get a sense of the experience others have had with the course provider.

Check with Mother Nature
Weather conditions out on the water can be much more severe than on dry land. Depending on where you are boating, storms or high winds (or even hail!) can appear out of nowhere. Check the weather forecast from a trusted source even if the sun is shining. At the first sign of inclement weather when on the water, consider heading back to shore.

Use a pre-trip checklist
Be sure you have all the safety items you‘ll need before heading out. You might be surprised at how often items like rope, flashlights, flares, whistles or horns, or life jackets are left on shore or are removed from boats. Hopefully, you‘ll never need some of these items, but you want to be sure you have them if the need arises.

Have a “Float Plan”
Inform friends, relatives, or the marina of where you are headed and how long you expect to be gone. Provide your relevant information, which can include:
• name, address, and phone number of the trip leader
• emergency contact person for the trip leader
• name and phone number of all passengers
• boat type and registration information
• your trip itinerary
• the types of communication and signal equipment onboard your boat, such as an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)

Avoid Alcohol
It can be tempting to drink while out on the water. Much as with automobiles, alcohol can impair your judgment and slow your reflexes, leading to possible accidents or decreased coordination. When you‘re out on the open water and an emergency occurs, it‘s always best to be sober.

Get insured
Boaters have liability risks just like automobile drivers. Meet with your broker to discuss a policy that can cover your boat or personal watercraft as well as the risk to others. Once you‘re properly insured, you‘ll enjoy your outings with peace of mind.