BOATsmart! Awareness Week: Advocating boat safety nation-wide


The May long weekend unofficially represents the beginning of boating season in cottage country. As Canadians look forward to spending long, hot summer days on the water, BOATsmart! Canada gears up for their 2012 boat safety awareness campaign.

The organization aims to educate all Canadians—whether once-a-year boaters, casual cottage renters, or year-round lakeside residents—about how to stay safe on the water. As a nation filled with freshwater lakes, rivers, and ocean coastlines, being aware of boating safety is relevant nationwide.

“Boating is just a way of life in Canada,” says Cameron Taylor, President of BOATsmart! Canada. “It’s a big part of our summer activities. Chances are you will be on a boat at some point in your life. Even less-avid boaters need to be prepared in the event of a boating emergency.”

BOATsmart! Awareness Week takes place from May 14 to 18, 2012, one week before North American Safe Boating Awareness Week. During this week, BOATsmart! will be hosting media events across the country, spending a day at Toronto’s Harbourfront on May 15. This event will have the support of the Toronto Police Marine Unit and will offer public safety training, equipment displays, and the opportunity for people to complete the BOATsmart! exam to obtain their Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) at no charge. Similar events will take place in Calgary and Vancouver on May 16 and 17.

For any person operating a boat, Proof of Competency is required by law, which includes having a PCOC (the most common form of proof), a Recognized Boating Safety Course Certificate (issued prior to April 1, 1999), or a Rental Boat Safety Checklist.

As of April 15, 2011, the PCOC exam has been upgraded in difficulty and anyone taking the exam must complete a mandatory 3-hour boating study course first. The process of taking the course and obtaining your PCOC from BOATsmart! is straightforward and easy, and can be done either online at boatsmartexam.com or in person at one of BOATsmart!’s facilities or events, including BOATsmart! Awareness Week.

While a 3-hour course commitment may seem daunting, Taylor says the course online is flexible, “allowing users to log in and log out as they wish.”  The website course and exam are available 24/7, which is beneficial as people tend to be busy leading up to the May long weekend.

To help the population be more informed about boat safety, BOATsmart! Awareness Week will highlight general safety tips, such as wearing a lifejacket, not consuming alcohol before or during boating, and taking a boating course. While these tips seem obvious, the advice often goes unheeded. According to Taylor, 86 percent of drowning fatalities could have been prevented had the victim been wearing a lifejacket.

So why don’t people use their common sense? “It’s a generation thing,” says Taylor. Older generations with years of experience on the water did not grow up with the same amount of focus on these issues. Fortunately, because of educators and organizations like BOATsmart! emphasizing awareness and safety education, Taylor says younger generations now seem to understand more about the risks involved in recreational boating. Another reason, he says, is that boating in cottage country is generally about having a great time on the water. When the focus shifts from straightforward matters like transportation to pleasure and recreation, people tend to shrug off safety concerns.

Choose to be smart on the water this summer. Look for the BOATsmart! Canada Safe Boating Team at various events and at select Canadian Tire retail locations. Taylor encourages people to get involved on the organization’s facebook page, blog, and website to share tips, stories, and advice with fellow Canadians. Through these safety awareness events, Taylor and BOATsmart! Canada hope to encourage people to not only be knowledgeable and safe on the water, but also to “be advocates in boating situations for their friends and family.”