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But no trip to the cottage would be complete without a relaxing (or exhilarating) spin on the boat.

While boating may be one of Canada’s favourite on-the-water pastimes, it’s not one without its own safety rules and regulations. Being a good boater means practicing boating safety – and that means having the right safety equipment to keep you and your loved ones out of harm’s way.

If your motorized craft is up to six metres (19 feet eight inches) in length, make sure you equip your vessel with the following items, every time you set sail:

1. A lifejacket

The importance of lifejackets cannot be overstated. According to the Canadian Red Cross, hundreds of Canadians drown while boating, every year – 87.5 per cent of which were not wearing a lifejacket.

Designed to keep an unconscious person face up in the water, a lifejacket is one of the most important pieces of safety equipment required for each boating trip. But it’s not enough to just pile the lifejackets in your vessel – you need to actually wear your life jacket or personal floatation device. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that every time you get in your boat, you make sure everyone on board is wearing a properly-fitting lifejacket – it may very well save your life!

2. Flashlight or flares

The next item you should keep in your boat at all times is a waterproof flashlight, or three Canadian approved flares (type A, B or C flares.) Flashlights or flares could prove vital in an emergency, when distress signals need to be made, or your boat loses power in the dark.

3. Manual propelling device

Even the most powerful of motors can break down – that’s why a manual propelling device, like a paddle, an oar, or another alternative means of propulsion, is such an important item to keep on your vessel in case your engine fails

4. Buoyant heaving line

A buoyant heaving line is a floating rope that is equipped with a soft buoyant on one end. These can prove vital in crisis situations, and can be used to rescue someone who has fallen overboard. The floating buoyant is a perfect target for a struggling swimmer to grab and hold onto, until they can be pulled up to safety.

Make sure that your line is in good condition and that the buoyant floats properly. It’s also a good idea to practice proper throwing technique from time to time – while standing on the loose end of the rope to keep it from falling overboard, toss the rope into the water, being sure to throw over the head of any struggling swimmer, then draw the rope back in slowly, allowing the swimmer to grab hold.

5. Bailer or hand pump

Even the most veteran of boaters can be left with a leak in their beloved vessel. When the water starts to seep into your boat, you’ll want to make sure that you have a means of removing it – such as a bailer or a hand pump – in order to stay safe until you make it back to shore. You should then locate the source of the leak, and either repair it yourself or get it fixed by a professional.

If you choose to go the DIY-route, you can use Epoxy Putty Sticks or Marine Adhesive Sealant to fix those stubborn cracks or holes.

6. Sound-signalling device

From a simple whistle, to an electric horn, to a compressed gas horn, there are multiple options when it comes to picking the sound-signalling device for you and your boat.

If you’re looking for something that’s powerful and easy to use, a foghorn or compressed air horn is your best bet, producing a very loud signal that can be heard up to 1.6 kilometers away, at a push of a button.

7. Navigation lights

If you’re boating in the dark, or in poor visibility, make sure that you have proper navigation lights on board in order to illuminate the dark waters ahead and around you. Don’t get stuck boating in the dark!

8. A class 5BC fire extinguisher

If your boat is equipped with a fuel tank, an inboard engine, a fridge, heater, or fuel-burning stove, then you must carry a class 5BC fire extinguisher on board at all times to protect yourself and your passengers against the threat of a fire.

9. A vessel license

Last, but certainly not least, the all-important vessel license is your last piece of important safety equipment. Keep your Pleasure Craft Operator Card on you at all times when you’re on the boat. Once you get your license, it is good for life, and carries no annual fees.

To apply for your Pleasure Craft Licence, follow this link to the Government of Canada’s Transportation site and follow the instructions.

Examine your boating safety equipment before each on-the-water outing, making sure that you have each necessary item on board, and that each item is in good working condition.

Remember: never mix alcohol or drugs and boating. Just as you wouldn’t drink and drive, don’t drink and go boating either. Boat smart – boat sober!

Happy (and safe) boating!

Boat Safety Equipment Guide

boat out on the water

Summertime in Canada means long, sunny days filled with backyard barbecues, fun trips to the beach, and weekend getaways to cottage country.

These tips are provided for information and prevention purposes only. They are general in nature, and Desjardins Insurance cannot be held liable for them. We recommend using caution and consulting an expert for comprehensive, tailored advice.

In Quebec, Desjardins Insurance refers to Desjardins General Insurance Inc. In Ontario and Alberta, Desjardins Insurance refers to Certas Direct Insurance Company, underwriter of automobile and property insurance.

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