RCMP encourages safe boating practices
After a long cold winter nothing feels better than the sun on your face, the wind in your hair and the roar of your outboard motor as you skim a sun-glinting lake in your boat.
Lac La Biche RCMP will be out on the lake this summer as well, enforcing safe boating laws on the water.
“When we’re out checking boats,” said RCMP officer Chris Clark, “We’re going to be making sure that the operator has a small vessel or pleasure craft operator card. They must carry it with them, or they will be escorted off the lake and not allowed back on the water until they can show proof that they have it. And if they don’t have it on board with them, that’s a $250 fine.”
RCMP will be checking to make sure that all boats are registered with Transport Canada, have a hull ID number clearly displayed, with the registration on the boat at all times. They’ll be making sure boats aren’t overloaded with occupants, and that there are adequate life jackets and safety equipment on board. At night, they’ll be checking to make sure there are working lights. In general, according to Clark, RCMP will be out there making sure that boat operators are conducting themselves in a safe and courteous manner.
As to the big question, the one most boaters are interested in—whether or not you can enjoy a cold one out on the boat—the bottom line is the rules for drinking and boating are about the same as drinking and driving.
“As for drinking,” Clark said, “You’re not allowed to have liquor on the boat. If you have open liquor on the boat, provincial fines will apply from the Gaming and Liquor Act. And if you’re operating a vessel and you’re impaired, you can be charged with operating while impaired, and the same penalties [as drinking and driving penalties] will apply.”
The only exception to these rules is, basically, if you own a yacht. The only time drinking is allowed on a vessel is if that vessel is anchored, and has permanent, on-board washroom and cooking facilities.
“I say permanent because last year I escorted someone off the lake for having open liquor on the boat, and the next weekend he was back—and he’d bolted a port-a-potty and a BBQ to the boat,” Clark said with an amused smile. “… Nice try though.”
Clark said that last year RCMP did approximately 20 rescues—mostly due to boats hitting unseen sandbars and disabling their boat, or mechanical errors.
“Know your local hazards: sandbars, rock beds, shoreline,” Clark said. “Being out on the water, it’s important to have your safety equipment. If you get in trouble, it’s not like getting into an accident on the street where we can respond in minutes. Even if you’re close to town, response time can be 20 or 30 minutes and if you’re on a lake outside of town, it could be two hours before we can get to the location and deploy our boat.”
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