At 12:45 AM, April 15, 1912, the first of eight rockets shot into the sky over the Atlantic Ocean. These distress flares were from the HMS Titanic and were her last attempt to summon help for the stricken ship. Aboard the Leyland Liner, the Californian, lying not too far from the stricken Titanic, crew members witnessed the flares and stars but failed to recognize them for what they were. The use of flares was fairly new in 1912 and that is the primary reason for the lack of immediate response. Thankfully, times have changed and emergency signaling devices are commonplace aboard commercial and recreational vessels.
But if you were out on the water would you recognize the signs from a vessel in distress? And more importantly, do you have all of the required safety equipment on board and do you and your crew know how to use it?
While you may not know it, all pleasure craft operating on Canadian waterways must carry the specified safety equipment for there size and type of vessel, as set out in Small Vessel Regulations. It’s the law. Regardless of the boating activity you enjoy, from power boating and riding personal watercraft, to canoeing, kayaking, sailing or sailboarding you must have the minimum required safety equipment on board. The right safety equipment may be the only thing between you and a tragedy, should things go wrong on the water.
The Small Vessel Regulations set out the specific requirements for sailboards; paddleboats and watercycles; canoes, kayaks, rowboats and rowing shells; unpowered and powered pleasure craft under 6 meters; PWCs; and all pleasure craft over 6 metres in length. As your recreational vessel’s size increases, so do the requirements for additional equipment.
So let’s look at the requirements for a typical 7 metre pleasure craft.
The first thing up is Personal Protection Equipment. The law requires that you have one Canadian-approved personal flotation (PFD) device or lifejacket of an appropriate size for every person on board. Pay special attention to your children’s PFDs. These should be selected by size and weight, and have collars to keep their heads up in the water, a handle on the collar to lift them and a safety strap so the PFD does not slide up over their head. You might also wish to look into the new lines of inflatable PFDs. These recently approved devices, are lightweight, comfortable and cool in the summer’s heat but must be worn while underway to qualify as an approved PFD.
The next key piece of your Personal Protection Equipment is a buoyant heaving line or an approved lifebuoy or ring. Both of these devices must have a line attached of at least 15 metres in length, providing for a good throwing distance to rescue someone who has found themselves in the water and in trouble. These pieces of equipment should be kept where it can be retrieved for instant use. To rescue some one from the water, every vessel with a freeboard (the distance from the water to the gunnel or edge of the boat) that is greater the 0.5 metres must also have a re-boarding device or ladder.
Boat Safety Equipment is next on the list of mandatory safety equipment. For our sample 7 metre craft you must carry a manual propelling device or an anchor with not less than 15 metres of rope, chain or cable. Should you find yourself with a mechanical failure or out of wind, you must be able to paddle or row yourself to safety, or anchor to avoid drifting into danger.
To keep your boat safe, you must also carry a bailing device. A bailer made from a bleach bottle or a manual pump meet the requirements for this size of boat. One key thing to remember is that the outlet hose on the manual pump must be long enough to reach from the bilge and over the side of the boat.
For all pleasure craft that are power driven, the law requires one class 5BC fire extinguisher. If your boat is equipped with a fuel burning-cooking, heating or refrigerating device, a second 5BC fire extinguisher is required. Remember to have your fire extinguishers inspected regularly.
To summon aid in case of emergency, specific Distress Equipment is required. Your boat must have a watertight flashlight for signaling and a minimum of 6 Canadian approved Type A, B or C flares. Keep the flares in a waterproof container to protect them from the damp.
The last requirement is to equip your boat with the specified Navigation Equipment for your size and type. You must have a sound signaling device, consisting of a whistle or air horn and navigation lights that meet the applicable standards set out in the Collision Regulations.
Remember this is a list of the minimum safety equipment required by law. It is a great idea to outfit your boat with extra safety that meets you type of boating ad takes into consideration where you boat. Store all of your equipment in an easily accessible location and make sure all of your passengers know where the equipment is and how to use it.
Training in the use of safety equipment is important, especially when it comes to flares. The Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons in co-operation with Orion and Transport Canada have developed a hands on course in the proper use of signaling flares. They can be contacted at 1-888-277-2628 or www.cps-ecp.ca and click on ‘courses’.
To learn more about safety equipment and determine the required equipment for your type and size of vessel, you can also visit www.boatingsafety.gc.ca or call the Boating Safety Infoline at 1-800-267-6687 and remember, Boat Safe – Return Safe. Enjoy your time on the water and “have many happy returns.”
Canadian Safe Boating Council
The Canadian Safe Boating Council is an alliance of members committed to preventing boating injuries and drownings, and is dedicated to promoting safe and responsible boating throughout Canada. More ar www.csbc.ca.