Spring time is now starting to show here on the south coast of BC. With summertime just around the corner, this means it is time to start thinking about getting that boat ready for the season. The BIG question is: How did you put the boat away? Was it dried out and thoroughly cleaned or was it parked, tarped and left for another day? Most importantly, is my safety gear in good condition and meeting the safety regulations by Transport Canada? Now that you have asked yourself these questions, it may be time to go find some answers.
Having your boat safety gear in good, clean working condition is an important part of being a responsible boater and will help you in the event you actually need to use it. Keeping your PFDs, lines, flares and your first aid kit dry and mold free is an important part of maintaining its longevity. Getting in the habit of keeping your gear nice and dry will ensure it is in good working order and will greatly reduce unwanted odours and musty smells coming from your storage compartments. During the summer months, make sure if your gear gets wet from a day of watersports with the family or if you get caught in the rain, take the time to hang up your gear to dry.
At the end of the season, it is good practice to wash and wipe off your gear with soapy water then hang it to dry in a covered area or garage. Wiping off your gear, and hanging it to dry will greatly reduce the chances of mold forming on your gear. When you put your gear away neat and dry at the end of the season it makes it that much easier in the spring time when you are getting your boat ready for another summer of fun.
PFDs – Do you have enough onboard?
Having a proper D.O.T. or Transport Canada recognized flotation device for every person onboard your boat is mandatory. A good rule of thumb is having an adult universal PFD onboard for the capacity of your boat. If you have infants or children onboard, they should have a proper fitting PFD on at all times when on the dock or in the boat. It’s always a good idea to have a few spare PFDs onboard just in case.
Fenders & Dock Lines
Inspect your fenders. Are there any signs of cracking or deterioration? Are they still firm or do you need to top them up with air? Make sure your fender lines and dock lines are still in good condition and there is no damage to them. At the end of each season, it’s a great idea to wipe off your fenders with soapy water and hang up your lines to dry. Do this before you stow them away for the off season. During the season, keeping your gear dry will not only keep your gear in a usable condition but will also help combat the musty boat smells commonly found in boats from unvented areas or from wet boating gear not put away properly.
Sound Signalling Devices
Make sure you have a sound signalling device onboard your vessel. This can be in the form of a whistle or an air horn. If you have an air horn, ensure it is in working condition. For refillable air horns, ensure they are fully charged with air or you have the hand pump on board to top them up.
Navigation lights are to be used when the watercraft is being used between sunset and sunrise or during periods of reduced visibility such as mist, rain or fog. Always test your lights to ensure they are in working order. Incandescent bulbs in navigation lights can break over time so having spare bulbs on board can be useful. Although it is not recommended for smaller pleasure craft to be out on the water after sunset, having functioning navigation lights will ensure you are seen by other vessels underway on the water.
Flares & Flashlights
Depending on the size of your vessel, you will be required to have a signalling device or devices onboard your vessel. Flares are recognized by the Canadian Coast Guard 4 years from the date of manufacturing. Expired flares should be removed from the vessel and replaced with recognized replacements that meet the Canadian Coast Guard requirement.
Make sure you inspect your watertight flashlight and ensure the batteries are fully charged. A flashlight with weak batteries is not going to help you in an emergency. Upon having your local police, conservation officer or coast guard perform a safety check onboard your vessel, you can bet your buoys that they will test your flashlight for you. It’s a good idea to always have a spare set of batteries onboard.
Here is the a copy of the Safe Boating Guide – Safety Tips and Requirements for Pleasure Crafts
A 15m heaving line is also part of the safety requirement. The heaving line should be a floating line and in some cases, a small float will be found attached to it. This line is to be used to throw towards someone who has fallen overboard and is in need of help getting back to the vessel.
Bailer or Manual Bilge Pump
In smaller vessels a bailer works well for scooping water to bail over the side of a tin boat, canoe, kayak or small runabout. In larger boats where there is a bit more room for storage, a hand pump may be the preferred bailing device. Having both bailing devices on hand at the same time could prove to be useful in the event of needing to remove water from your vessel in a hurry.
Pro Tip: Scotty Plastics makes a bailer can/heaving line/whistle/watertight flashlight combo that stows away nicely and is easy to use. https://scotty.com/product/779-small-vessel-safety-equipment-kit/
Paddles & Anchor
Inspect your anchor rode and ensure there are no snags or damage that could be a weak point on your ground tackle. Are your shackle pins nice and tight?
Pro Tip: take some stainless steel wire and sew some through the eye of the shackle pin and around the body of the shackle to prevent the pin from unscrewing. Up and down motion of the anchor chain and line pulling up and down can slowly loosen the pin. The last thing you want is to lose your anchor on the bottom from a lack of simple maintenance. Experienced boaters always inspect their gear.
Class 5 BC Fire Extinguisher
A class 5BC fire extinguisher is required onboard any craft that is equipped with an inboard engine, fixed fuel tank, and/or any fuel burning cooking, heating or refrigeration unit. Having the extinguisher mounted in an easily accessible location is recommended.
Fire extinguishers need to be charged and serviced after a few years. Your fire extinguisher must read in the “full” if used aboard your vessel as part of your required safety equipment. If your boat is boarded by local authorities to perform a safety check, they will never miss a fire extinguisher that reads “empty”. Make sure your safety gear is always up to date and in good working order.
Pro Tip: At the beginning and at the end of the season, take a rubber mallet hammer and give the bottom of the canister a few good taps. This will loosen up the dry chemical inside the unit and keep the gauge reading “full” for a longer period of time. This will also enable all of the contents to flow out of the canister if discharged to extinguish a fire.
Keeping your safety equipment in good condition will extend the lifespan of your gear and keep it in usable condition for years to come. You never know when you might need to use this equipment for its intended use. Take the time to take care of your vessel and its equipment. This is an investment in the safety of you, your family and other boaters on the water.
Below are some other links to information on the Transport Canada website you may find useful: