RCMP will have an increased presence on the water this long weekend to remind boaters to be responsible for the safety of everyone on the lakes.
“Our hope is to have our presence on the water Friday, Saturday and Sunday on both Okanagan and Skaha Lake to enforce the small vessel regulations. It’s all about education, we want people to enjoy the weather and their vessels in a safe matter,” said Cpl. Martin Trudeau.
“If something is flagrant, we will enforce the violation aspect of it, but it is more about the education.”
Trudeau said he would like to have members on the lake from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. One of the main focuses this boating season for both the RCMP and the boating safety officer for the Okanagan is drinking and boating.
“We really want to remind boaters that it is a Criminal Code offence to be drinking and operating a motorized vessel. The same rules apply while you are driving a car,” said Chris Marrie, Okanagan boating and safety officer with Transport Canada.
“We want to let people know that when you are drinking on the water that the sun, the movement of the boat with the waves and the elements out of the lake actually heighten the effects of alcohol. We don’t recommend that anyone driving a boat consume alcohol when they are out on the lake.”
Everyone operating a vessel is required to have a valid operator’s licence and remain sober. Every powerboat operator must now carry proof of competency such as the Pleasure Craft Operator Card along with photo ID, or face a $250 fine.
When police officers check boaters, Marrie said they will be looking for the required safety equipment and ensuring the operator is sober and properly licensed to ensure a safe environment for all the users of the lakes and waterways.
Last weekend officials checked Osoyoos Lake, Okanagan Lake in Kelowna, Kal Lake, Wood Lake and Shuswap Lake for Operation Drywater. This is a U.S.-based initiative held the weekend before the July 4 weekend to educate people on impaired boating. Officials only found a handful of boats that had alcohol on board, but a majority of vessels checked had some kind of deficiencies. On Osoyoos Lake officials checked 13 boats and issued 13 violations or warnings.
Canadian law requires boat operators to carry an approved life-jacket of the proper size for each person on board. All pleasure craft must carry safety equipment that may include life-jackets, a buoyant heaving line, flares or flashlight, a manual bilge pump or bailer, navigation lights, paddles, an anchor, a fire extinguisher and a whistle or horn.
Marrie said the first thing operators should do when getting in a boat is go through the safety checklist and make sure their passengers also know where all the safety equipment is.
“It is law that the operator takes all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the boat and the people on it, and that starts with doing a pre-departure checklist. The compliance rates for everyone having everything they need on board is quite low for the Interior,” said Marrie.
“It is really important that the safety equipment required on board is readily accessible. Emergencies happen very quickly on the water and people can’t afford to be looking under seats to find a life-jacket or a fire extinguisher.”
According to Penticton RCMP Sgt. Rick Dellebuur, police boat patrols and biking patrols will have more of presence in Penticton as the city heads into tourist season.
“We are looking for more of the enhanced summer policing patrols to begin at the end of June and we will be calling out our bike patrols, foot patrols and boat patrols,” said Dellebuur.
For more information on boating safety visit www.boatingsafety.gc.ca.