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Editorial: Stay safely afloat in and around the Harbour City

Safe Boating Week is May 21-27

Maybe we’ll finally start getting the kind of weather well-suited to getting out on the water. And while we might be enthusiastic to spend time at Nanaimo’s lakes or out on the ocean, it’s worth pausing long enough to review how to stay safe.

Safe Boating Week is May 21-27, and living in the Harbour City, the week’s message seems particularly pertinent. Boating means something different to almost everyone because there are so many ways to sail, cruise, paddle, row, float – you name it.

Even B.C. Ferries is keen to observe Safe Boating Week. According to a press release from the ferry company, captains have seen it all, with boaters surfing a ferry’s wake, cutting dangerously close in front of huge ferries, or fishing in a busy ferry lane.

“Ferries do not manoeuvre as easily as smaller boats,” said Darren Johnston, B.C. Ferries’ executive director of fleet operations. “It can take several ship lengths for a ferry to come to a complete stop in an emergency.”

Ferries asks recreational boaters to steer clear of ferry berths and give ferries lots of space, especially in narrow channels.

According to the most recent statistics from the Lifesaving Society, 66 per cent of drownings across Canada in 2020 happened between May and September. Contributing factors included failure to use personal flotation devices and inadequate supervision of children.

The City of Nanaimo issued a press release this month reminding residents it’s important to be safe in and around water.

“Nanaimo is fortunate to be surrounded by water with lakes, rivers and the ocean,” said Mayor Leonard Krog in the release. “You are encouraged to take all of the safety recommendations as outlined while near or in bodies of water to prevent drowning and to stay safe as the weather warms up.”

The city recommends being prepared for boating excursions by checking equipment and weather forecasts.

“Know the waters and your ability,” the city said.

People should buddy up when boating or participating in other activities on the water, or let others know about boating plans. Wearing personal flotation devices is always a good idea, both for boaters and for young children playing around water. Boating sober leads to better decision-making. Boating courses are available and worthwhile in a place like Nanaimo. And of course, everyone should learn how to swim if they can.

Let’s make it a great week in our Harbour City.

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