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Safe Boating: Only You Can Make A Difference

teaching on the water

Every year we look forward to getting back on the water soon after the ice melts. We brush off the dust from our watercraft that’s been safely stored away. We inspect it and make certain all is well; no bumps, scratches, or holes. We shake out the charts and maps of our favorite lakes and ocean routes and we start planning our trips for the season. We hop online and ask the Facebook masses on some kind of group what they think are the best places to visit, best ways to get there, and maybe if you can join up and put in together.

teaching on the water
Take a course!

Everyone gets ready for the season in different ways, but some things that stay the same are the Transport Canada required safety items that you must have with you when paddling. To avoid any confusion everything you need to know about what you must bring with you is located in the Safe Boating Guide: Safety Tips and requirements for Pleasure Crafts.  Every paddler should own a copy of this and have read it fully. It is this law and if you are noncompliant you can be fined.

The Canadian Safe Boating Council (CSBC) was organized in 1991 to improve communications regarding safe boating issues between government departments and agencies servicing recreational boaters’ interests and private companies and organizations in the recreational boating field. Paddle Canada is a member of this council along with those representing the coast guard, law enforcement, Canadian Red Cross, lifesaving society, and others that wish to keep people safe on the water. Through many campaigns, events, and resources they have brought attention to how we can do better to easily prepare ourselves when participating in recreational boating. We strongly encourage you to visit their website and social media pages and tap into all the information they provide. 

Paddle Canada would like to make it easy for paddlers to know the basic safety equipment required by Transport Canada for human powered crafts. We realize that sometimes equipment can be based on water conditions (moving or lake water) so we’d like to compile this information based on beginner conditions only.

Canoes, Kayaks and SUP* (under 6 metres)

  • One (1) lifejacket or PFD for each person on board
  • One (1) buoyant heaving line at least 15 m (49’3”) long
  • One (1) bailer OR One manual bilge pump (Canoe and Kayak only)
  • One (1) sound-signaling device or appliance
  • Navigation lights.**

*Please note, that while an ankle leash is not required by law, Paddle Canada strongly recommends that you use one when standup paddleboarding

**Navigation lights are only required if you operate the boat after sunset, before sunrise or in periods of restricted visibility (fog, falling snow, etc.)

If everyone on board a SUP is wearing a lifejacket or a PFD of appropriate size, you are only required to carry a sound-signalling device. 

(Reference: Safe Boating Guide)

getting ready
Learning some technique on land

Having these items onboard your craft will ensure that you are compliant with Transport Canada regulations when operating a human-powered craft. These minimum requirements allow all levels of paddlers to be safe and have fun on the water. 

Looking at that list it is likely that you may have some questions. You can find more information through an initiative called Adventuresmart. The Paddlesmart program is based on the 3 T’s: Trip Planning, Training, and Taking the Essentials. Out of those 3 T’s, Paddle Canada, for over 50 years, has focused on developing and delivering paddle training that promotes establishing skills and encourages skill progression, instills sound safety practices for all excursions, and creates a base of instructors that can pass this information on to a generation of new paddlers.

Safe boating is in everyone’s interest so we encourage you to inform and prepare yourselves so that you can make the best choices for family and friends when heading out for a day on the water. Only you can make that difference. We wish everyone a very safe, healthy, and fun paddling season.  

Adam Zita
Paddle Canada Sea Kayak Instructor