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CPS-ECP National


Our boating courses help you with

what you have to know:
  • Boating 1: PCOC (2 nights)
  • VHF Maritime Radio (2 nights)

what you should know:
  • Boating 2: Beyond the PCOC (5 weeks)
  • Boating 3: Intro to Navigation (6 weeks)
what you want to know:
  • Boat & Engine maintenance (11 weeks)
  • Weather for Boaters (7 weeks)
what you might like to know:
  • Boating 4: Seamanship (12 weeks)
  • Boating 5: Advanced Piloting (12 weeks)

Safe Boating - Background Data

Source: "Drownings in Canada" – Canadian Red Cross

Fewer Drownings for Some Activities and Types of Boats, But The Same Risk Factors

Overall, there were 19% fewer boating drownings during 1996-2000 (806) than during 1991-1995 (997). Decreases were seen for common activities including fishing, powerboating, and canoeing, but drowning during hunting and sailing increased. Recreational boating accounted for 76% of boating drownings, occupational for 11%, and daily activities such as subsistence hunting, fishing, and travel by aboriginal peoples for 10%.

Typical Victim Profile

An adult male is fishing from a small motorboat on a lake and wearing no flotation device or hypothermia protection garment (Figures 9, 10, 11, 12). Strong winds, large waves, cold water, and approaching darkness are often present (Figure 14). Capsized, falling overboard, or swamped, the victim finds himself struggling in the water. He is unable to retrieve his personal flotation device from the boat. Even if he does find it in the chaos and panic of a capsize, hypothermia and other adverse circumstances make it too difficult to put on and fasten up. As the muscles of the victim’s hands weaken from the effects of hypothermia, he loses his grip on the submerged boat and sinks beneath the surface.

Most Boaters Are Still Not Wearing a Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

In spite of repeated public campaigns promoting the use of PFDs, a majority of boaters still ignore this basic precaution. During 1991-1995 only 12% of recreational boating drowning victims were properly wearing a PFD, and in 1996-2000, the figure was 11%. Surprisingly, the figure was no better for drowning victims who were non-swimmers or weak swimmers.

Although current regulations do not require wearing of a PFD by boaters, they do require that a PFD be present in the boat. In at least 28% of boating drownings, a PFD was not even present, let alone worn. And even when a PFD is present, it is impossible, or at the least very difficult, to find a PFD in the water and put it on properly after capsizing or falling into water, which are two of the most frequent incidents leading to boating drownings.

Small Motorboats and Canoes Most Frequently Involved

Small open boats, including motorboats and canoes, were predominant in recreational boating drowning incidents. There was a decrease in drownings involving small open motorboats and canoes between 1991-1995 and 1996-2000. Most drownings of boaters occurred in lakes, 55%, followed by rivers, 21%.For recreational boaters, 62% of drownings occurred in lakes, 24% in rivers.

Typical Victim Profile: Powerboating

A few adult males in their 50’s decide to go fishing in May in their small open motorboat. Ice is still present at the edge of the lake. Wind and waves come up rapidly in the afternoon as they are trying to return. It is already dusk when they take on water, swamp, and capsize. The victim is a good swimmer. However, since he is not wearing a flotation device, he is soon unable to hold onto the boat and sinks below the surface.

A Typical Scenario

A 40-year-old male fisherman is travelling alone on a lake in his small open motorboat. He stands up and falls overboard. The boat continues on without him. His flotation device is in the boat on the seat. As he is a non-swimmer, he panics and drowns.

Typical Victim Profile: Canoeing

Two 18-year-old males go out in a canoe at a cottage on a lake after consuming alcohol. The canoe capsizes in the dark; the water is very cold. One makes it to shore and the other doesn’t. The victim is a weak swimmer and is not wearing a personal flotation device.

Water And Alcohol: A Risky Mixture

Of all recreational boating drowning victims, 25% had an alcohol level above the legal limit of 80mg%, for 10% alcohol was present below the limit, and for another 6% alcohol was suspected. These are conservative statistics, since in 29% of cases the presence or absence of alcohol was not reported. There was little improvement in the proportion of boating drownings involving alcohol between 1991-1995 and 1996-2000.

Beware Of Wind, Overloading, Standing Up In Boats, And Cold Water!

Strong wind, large waves, overloading, and standing up in the boat can be lethal, especially in small boats. Although cold water may not contribute to the initial injury incident, cold greatly increases the risk of an immersion. Cold or extremely cold water were reported in 36% of recreational boating drownings; however, these data underestimate the importance of cold, since water temperature is often unreported. Cold is a special risk during fishing and hunting by boat in spring and fall. In large lakes, water temperature may still be below 10°C as late as June.

Hypothermia & Cold-Water Drownings

Boating was the main activity in and around the water to be frequently complicated by hypothermia. Hypothermia tends to be under-reported by coroners because the diagnosis is difficult to make when the victim is already dead. Nevertheless, hypothermia was mentioned as a contributing factor in 19% of boating drownings during 1991-2000, and was the principal cause of death in 34% of non-drowning boating deaths.

Although water temperature was unknown for 63% of recreational boating drownings during 1991-2000, for 283 boating drownings, 21% of the total, water temperature was described as extremely cold (less than 10°C). In 3% of boating drownings, ice was reportedly present.

Only 13% of boaters were reported to be wearing a flotation device when they died, and in these incidents cold water was usually implicated. Almost no drowned boaters were wearing a hypothermia protective garment.

Measuring water temperature and wearing of flotation devices, and when appropriate other hypothermia protective garments, should be a reflex for boaters who venture out in spring and fall. It is difficult to put on a PFD in warm water and can be impossible in cold water, so wear your PFD!

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