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Boating safety

This Victoria Day long weekend marks the unofficial start to boating season.Hamilton Police Marine Unit and the Hamilton Port Authority launched Operation Safe and Sober today.A reminder to boaters to be safe when out on the water.Chris has fallen in the water. He’s trying to get himself back up. He thought ahead of time and put a re-boarding device, in this case a loop of rope to get his foot into and give him some additional leverage.A safety tool – one of many – Hamilton Police Marine Unit want you to be aware of now that boating season has arrived.“We’ll be out patrolling Hamilton Harbour and portions of Western Lake Ontario, stopping boats, checking to make sure they have all their safety equipment, competency and licences for boats.”For the third season, Hamilton Police along with the Port Authority have launched Operation Safe and Sober.“Fines on the water start at about $240. They go up to $500. If you’re talking about issues of impairment that means you’re talking about criminal charges plus thousands of dollars in potential fines.”according to police, alcohol is a factor in about 40 percent of boating incidents.Be prepared for ride checks at boat launches or on the water.Weather plays a role as well. Police say they’ve seen an increase in the number of rescue calls related to bad weather.“You can be in a small boat that’s low to the water and the wind picks up, the wave action can knock you out of the boat or capsize the boat.”All the more reason to always wear your life jacket.30 fatalities on Ontario waters last year, both MADD and the Canadian Safe Boating Council say having the right gear can save your life.Ian Gilson from the Canadian Safe Boating Council says, “The vast majority of them, well over 95 percent of the boating related fatalities are preventable.”Constable Ben Rushton agrees, “About 100 people across Canada die every year in recreational boating activities and roughly 90 percent of those are attributed to not wearing a life jacket or PFD or not wearing it properly.”The busiest port on the Canadian Great Lakes and every year, there are a few close calls. This is why the Hamilton Port Authority is asking boaters to be careful around commercial vessels.“When you’re transiting around them, it takes them about a mile-and-a-half to slow down and actually come to a full stop so we just want to remind those pleasure craft vessels out there to give the vessels a wide birth.”Always have your lights on, a charged cell phone and make sure you’re travelling at a safe speed.

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