MANITOULIN—The Manitoulin Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Marine Unit fleet is urging boaters to be safe and be prepared this summer.
“It is important that individuals wear their personal flotation devices (PFD),” said Manitoulin OPP Community Services Officer Constable Allan Boyd. “When an incident occurs there is often not enough time to put on your PFD.”
He noted that of the 23 boaters who died last summer in OPP investigated marine incidents, 20 of them were not wearing PFDs.
“This has been the trend for the past five years with eight out of 10 victims who died in boating incidents between 2009 and 2013 being found with no PDF (or wearing them incorrectly),” he added.
Another safety problem Constable Boyd noted was driving while impaired, but said this figure has improved greatly since 2009.
“OPP statistics are showing a five-year low in alcohol-related marine fatalities,” Constable Boyd said. “Four people died in impaired boating incidents in 2013, compared to seven in 2012 and 2001, 14 in 2010 and 13 in 2009. In spite of the decrease, even one life lost due to alcohol use on the water is one too many.”
Constable Boyd said that whenever one is getting ready to head out on the water, it is important to do a thorough check of your boat and safety equipment.
He told The Expositor that the five key factors to marine safety are to always wear a lifejacket, don’t drink and boat, check your boat, be prepared and plan ahead.
The Manitoulin Marine Unit consists of three boats, which Constable Boyd explained are already busy at work patrolling Manitoulin’s waters.
“Our fleet includes the 24-foot Boston Whaler (new last summer), a 32-foot Hike and a 14-foot outboard for smaller lakes and inland shores,” explained Constable Boyd. “The Hike is a steel frame and is used for night searches, search and rescue, diving and patrols and the Boston Whaler can reach speeds of upwards of 50 mph (compared to the Hike which can only reach 35 mph), which is crucial in emergency situations.”
Constable Boyd said the Manitoulin OPP Marine Unit works closely with the Ministry of Nature Resources, often going on joint patrols.
“The (Manitoulin) marine unit also works closely with the Blind River, Killarney and Tobermory detachments,” continued Constable Boyd. “The Canadian Coast Guard will also been patrolling the North Channel via its new vessel the Constable Carriere, along with Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay in Lake Superior and Midland in Lake Huron.”
The Constable Carriere includes RCMP and OPP officers aboard and will be dealing with issues of national security to anything that may come up on the water from routine checks for lifejackets and drinking and boating to searching for smugglers of illegal drugs or weapons.
To learn more about boat safety visit www.opp.ca.