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Summer Boating Safety

VANCOUVER, BC. – July 25: VPD Marine Squad. Photos taken in Vancouver, BC on July 25th, 2014. Photo By Derek Cain.

Summer time is officially here but let’s not forget about boating safety when you’re having fun in the sun.

Here are a few safety tips from Constable Courtenay Mulhern of the VPD Marine Unit:

Tip #1: Please ensure your boat is equipped with navigation lights that are in good working order before you set sail. Many people go out on their boats from afternoon to dusk but don’t have the proper navigation lights installed, making it very difficult for them to be seen by other boats on the water. Navigation lights should be installed on every side of the vessel: a red port light, a green starboard light, an all-around white light or a masthead light, and lastly a stern light for the rear. Most importantly, it’s always good to pre-check your lights before leaving the dock for the day.

Tip #2: Not only do personal watercrafts require safety lights but all human-powered boats such as kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, canoes, and inflatable dinghies require these as well. The equipment varies for each boat type but if in doubt, please refer to the Marine Transportation Page on the Transport Canada website for more information:

Tip #3: Boating under the influence of alcohol and drugs (such as cannabis) is illegal–this applies for the operator of the boat all passengers on board. A person cannot operate a boat knowing that one of their passengers is consuming cannabis or alcohol. However, an exception to the rule is boat passengers may consume alcohol or cannabis on board as long as they are of legal age, the vessel is equipped with a sleeping quarters, cooking facility, and bathroom, and is anchored or docked.

For more information, Constable Courtenay Mulhern suggests downloading Boat Notes, an app created by the Canadian Safe Boating Council, for useful tips and general information in regards to all things boating.

Tip #4: Boat theft is on the rise. VPD Marine Unit estimates an average of 1-3 calls per week for theft of all types of marine equipment.

Here’s how you can deter boat/marine theft:

  • Invest in engine locks for any outboard engines (even for small ones)
  • Invest in good security locks for tenders
  • Lock all doors, windows and hatches
  • Regularly check on the boat during the off-season or while the boat is not being used
  • Record and store off-site all license numbers, hull serial numbers (HIN), and serial numbers for boats and engines to help with filing an accurate police report


Tip #5: As with driving on the road, all boat operators need situational awareness at all times. This is especially important in and around Vancouver’s busy working port and inner harbour.

Situational awareness is particularly relevant this year as there has been a pod of killer whales migrating through Vancouver Harbour and up Indian Arm on a regular basis.  As tempting as it is to snap a photo of these majestic beauties, boaters are reminded to keep their distance and leave at least 400m distance between the whales.

The Marine Unit and their boats observed a vessel drive straight into the pod of whales and narrowly missed them. When the boaters were stopped and questioned by the VPD, they claimed they had not seen the whales. This incident is a good reminder to be aware of your surroundings at all times and to ensure safety for not only yourself, but for all wildlife in the water.

Tip #6: Last but not least, always remember to wear a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) when operating a personal watercraft. This also includes all human-powered crafts (i.e. sailboat, kayak, stand-up paddle board, etc.).  A lifejacket is your best defence against cold-water shock and gives you thermal protection as well as keeping you buoyant since a sudden fall into cold water can seriously affect breathing, nerves, and muscle strength.

For more information on how to choose the best lifejacket or PFD, visit the Transport Canada website here:

We hope you enjoyed these summer boating safety tips. Just a friendly reminder from the Vancouver Police Foundation to be safe and don’t forget to have fun out in the water this summer!

The Vancouver Police Foundation supports programs and initiatives that fall under one of four pillars: Youth Programs, Mental Health & Addictions, Community Outreach & Engagement, and Technology & Special Equipment. You can help build a safer Vancouver by donating to the Vancouver Police Foundation.

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