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OPP looking for missing equipment, lifejackets, impaired boating this week

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May 18-24 is Canada Safe Boating Week this year. The initiative is designed to increase public compliance with safe boating measures and ultimately, to save lives.

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) will be looking for impaired driving, carriage requirements for lifejackets and personal floatation devices (PFDs), Liquor Licence Act offences and Canada Shipping Act 2001 offences.

An undated photo of an Ontario Provincial Police Marine Program vessel on the water. (Supplied/Ontario Provincial Police)

During Safe Boating Awareness Week, boaters and paddlers are encouraged by police and safety officials to raise their awareness around every aspect of safe traveling on waterways. Beyond just wearing the right lifejacket or PFD and boating both drug-free and sober, boaters should ensure they and their vessel are safe and prepared for the season by being alert, cold water safe and possibly taking a boating course.

“Please remember that a properly fitted lifejacket, is not only designed to keep boaters and paddlers afloat, but also helps turn them onto their backs, enabling them to breathe if they are rendered unconscious," said acting OPP Sgt. Phil Young.

"For 21 of the 23 people who lost their lives in boating/paddling incidents in 2023, their vessel either capsized or they fell overboard. 17 of those who died were not wearing a lifejacket. Surviving these types of incidents usually comes down to whether or not you choose to wear a lifejacket which, when properly worn, stays on task of keeping you afloat the entire time you are in the water."

Police officials are reminding the public that any vessel moving on the water that has any type of motor, requires the operator to possess a valid Pleasure Craft Operators Card or proof of competency equivalence and all vessels on the water – including paddleboats and canoes, require all the necessary safety equipment on board.

The standard equipment includes:

  • 15m floating heaving line,
  • watertight flashlight,
  • a pealess whistle or some type of sound signaling device (such as a portable air horn,)
  • bailing bucket,
  • a paddle or an oar,
  • lifejackets or PFDs for every person on board
  • and depending on the size of the vessel and motor being used, it may require proper flares and a fire extinguisher

The OPP also notes that when using self-inflating PFDs, they must be worn at all times.

There are also several age and horsepower restrictions for watercraft, individuals under 12 years of age may only operate boats with up to a 10hp motor, individuals between the ages of 12-16 may operate boats with up to a 40hp motor and there are no horsepower restrictions for those over 16 years of age. Further, regardless of supervision, persons under 16 years of age cannot operate a personal watercraft such as Sea-doos, Jet-Skis or Waverunners themselves.

The OPP Marine Program has a fleet of 152 vessels and 365 skilled marine officers committed to enforcing boating laws and the safety of Ontario boaters on 95 per cent of Ontario's lakes and rivers covering more than 110,000 square kilometres of water.

The Ontario Provincial Police Marine Program has a fleet of 152 vessels and 365 skilled marine officers committed to enforcing boating laws and the safety of Ontario boaters. (File photo/Supplied/Ontario Provincial Police)

Speaking with CTV News on Friday, OPP said officers will be looking for liquor offences and impaired operation on all roads and waterways this weekend.

“Should you observe a suspected impaired driver (even on the water,) please dial 911 or contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122,” said police in a news release Friday.

The annual national Safe Boating Awareness Week campaign is led by the Canadian Safe Boating Council. 

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