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12 Essential Boating Safety Tips
Par Annie Auclair

Going out on a boat is one of the favorite activity of many Quebecers. There is nothing like being on the water, feeling the sun and enjoying life. But before you go boating, alone or with others, make sure you know how to navigate safely to avoid any accidents or problems once on the water.

1. Learn the rules of driving a boat

What may seem like the most obvious advice is not always what boat owners do from the start. Indeed, you must first of all learn the ins and outs of navigation and piloting a boat. Most provinces require boat captains to complete boat navigation training, which helps new boat pilots adopt best practices from the first time they operate. Since there is more to recreational boating than knowing how to steer the boat, change speed, slow down or dock the craft, a required boating course exists to offer you excellent advice and teach you safety techniques and waterway laws. And of course, before you go offshore, you’ll want to make sure you know how to operate your boat.

2. Do multiple checks

Before starting the boat, make sure the boat’s mechanics are in working order. If you hear strange sounds or louder than normal noises, find the cause before leaving the dock. Check that all safety devices are on the boat and easily accessible, such as life jackets, fire extinguishers and emergency supplies.

3. Check the weather

Weather conditions can have a big impact on your boat trip, as water conditions depend on it; so be sure to check the weather before leaving the dock. If the forecast calls for strong winds, rain or storms, it is best not to go on a boat trip. All of these factors can make navigation dangerous.

4. Bring and wear life jackets

Wearing a life jacket can save your life. In Canada, the law requires that every person on a boat, including human-powered craft, have a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD). The Government of Canada strongly recommends wearing life-saving equipment at all times. Activities like wakeboarding or tubing are also activities where wearing a life jacket is vital. Indeed, these activities are carried out at high speed and can cause injuries. Even if you are planning a leisurely boat ride, it is mandatory to have a life jacket for each person on board. Weather and water conditions can change quickly.

5. Don’t drink while driving a boat

Drinking while driving a boat is not only illegal, it is also extremely dangerous. It is so dangerous that operating a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol constitutes a criminal offense. Drugs and alcohol significantly affect motor skills, judgment and reaction time – none of which should be impaired when operating a boat. Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol can result in fatal accidents, costly fines, and even jail time.

6. Be aware of your surroundings

Enjoying the view of the water and surroundings makes boating a great experience. But, while this experience is great, it is essential to stay aware of your surroundings and what is in the water. You should always keep an eye out for debris in the water, other boats coming too close, people on water skis and other motorized craft such as jet skis.

7. Do not leave any passengers behind

Boating can be a source of many distractions, such as conversations with friends and family, music and noise from other boats. Always check that all passengers are on board before leaving the platform. When engaging in water sports like tubing, swimming, and wakeboarding, make sure all passengers are on the boat before leaving.

8. Understand the rules of water

Just like on land, there are rules for maneuvering in the water with other boats. Before you drive away from the dock, make sure you know which direction you should leave from the dock. It is important to know which boat has the right of way, where you can and cannot stop, the speed in the wake zone etc. Understanding the rules that apply when piloting the boat will help you ensure your safety and that of others.

9. Put together a safety kit and tool kit

Be prepared for any eventuality before setting sail. There must be a safety kit on board, as well as a tool kit. Make sure it contains items like a flashlight, bucket, and duct tape. Know who to call in an emergency.

10. Know where you are

Make sure you know where you are and how to get back to your original destination at all times. Getting lost can become dangerous; but even if you get lost, you need to be able to tell others where to find you.

11. Turn off the engine before swimming in water

Be sure to turn off the engine before entering, exiting, or swimming near the boat. Once the engine is turned off, the engine and propellers stop working and will no longer be able to harm anyone who accidentally approaches these parts.

12. Follow the rules

The driver or owner of the boat must always set safety instructions for his passengers. Rules are made to be followed – so it’s important to enforce them when you’re offshore. Any passenger who does not follow safety rules must be asked to leave the boat.


You will remember the memories you create while sailing with family and friends for a lifetime. As you prepare your boat to set sail, consult your insurance broker.

By finding the right protection for your boat, you will have peace of mind, knowing that your large investment is carefully insured.

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