Fourteen-year-old Mason Guimond recently passed his boating safety course.
That means he can now operate a pleasure craft with an adult on board until he’s 18, when he can take a boat out on his own.
“I had to study five categories,” he says. “One for signals with boats and boat traffic, and stuff like that, and then I had to do one about emergencies and other stuff about fires.
“It’s all online, you learn about it before you fill out the test, so it wasn’t too hard but I learned a lot of stuff.”
Demand on the rise
As boat sales continue to soar, the Canadian Safe Boating Council (CSBC) is urging those hitting the water to be cautious and prepared.
According to the CSBC, 16 million Canadians currently enjoy recreational boating, and that number is growing up to 40 per cent due to the pandemic.
You don’t have to look further than the Miramichi River to find boaters kicking off the weekend.
Cory Guimond, owner of Millennium Marine and Mason’s father, says he noticed a lot of boating trends in his nearly two decades of experience.
“When COVID hit, the demand of commercial fishing vessels plummeted. On the other hand, pleasure crafts sky-rocketed,” he tells Global News. “You couldn’t buy a boat anywhere last summer.
That shortage applies to parts as well, according to Cory.
“Getting parts for my work is becoming a big problem,” he says. “Even getting resins, getting some fiberglass material is getting difficult.”
The National Marine Manufacturers Association says boat sales reached a 13-year high in the U.S. last year, with numbers also trending up in Canada.
And powerboat sales are still rising this year.
“It’s nice to see people out having fun, being able to go do something fun,” Cory says. “When you can get away and go down to an island or go somewhere and gather in small groups, and have a little bit of time… I think people need that.”
Saturday marks the beginning of Safe Boating Awareness Week, which coincides with the May long weekend.
“Unfortunately, over 80 per cent of Canadians who drown while boating were not wearing their life jacket or were not wearing it properly,” says Helene DuPerron, a spokesperson for the Canadian Safe Boating Council.
Eighty-nine per cent of people who drown are male, she says.
She urges people to be cautious of five key safety pillars as the summer weather draws near.
- Wear a properly-fitted life jacket
- Boat sober
- Ensure you and your boat are prepared for your trip, and make sure you have proper safety equipment. More information can be found in the CSBC app.
- Take a boating course
- Be aware of cold-water risks
“You should really consider taking some advanced courses because anything can happen on the water,” DuPerron says. “Nobody means to fall overboard.”
DuPerron says having training on how to get back into your boat, how to stay afloat, and improving swimming skills are all beneficial.