Be prepared for boating trip
Education key to safety, say RCMP

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

KIVALLIQ (Aug 11/99) - When it comes to boat safety across Kivalliq, common sense, preparedness and education are the keys to preventing disaster, says Const. Dave Doerkson of the Rankin Inlet detachment of the RCMP.

Doerkson says no matter where one is boating, the No. 1 priority is always wearing a life-jacket. He says it doesn't take long in Kivalliq's frigid waters for hypothermia to set in and take a person's life.

"Whether it's a floater suit or some other form of flotation device, it's mandatory to have that in the boat," says Doerkson.

"That's your top priority before you even untie the ropes at the dock."

The fog can roll in across Kivalliq at a moment's notice and the region's weather can turn on a dime. Doerkson says being properly prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions can be the difference between tragedy and a safe return.

"Boaters should be prepared for all weather conditions, and that includes having the proper equipment onboard, making sure their boat is up to snuff, the motor's checked and not going to fail and having enough gas to get where you're going and back."

Doerkson says local RCMP detachments have plenty of information on safe boating, which anyone can pick up free of charge by stopping by the station.

"We have a pamphlet on cold water survival which explains hypothermia and how it kills. It also explains how to survive in cold water and how far you can swim. There's plenty of pointers in it a lot of people probably don't know.

"For example, some people think if they fall overboard, maybe they should try to stay warm by swimming, but, in a lot of cases, that's probably the worst thing you could do. It exposes your body to more cold water."

Doerkson says interested people can also pick up a copy of the Safe Boating Guide at the station, which is put out by the Canadian Coast Guard. The handbook describes what equipment each boat is required to have, dictated by the size of the vessel. The larger the boat, the more equipment is required by law.

The handbook also identifies the proper life-jackets and fire extinguishers for various crafts and the numerous types of signalling devices, such as flares, smoke or lights, that one might have on board.

The pamphlet also touches on navigational instruction, such as what different buoys mean and which side of them you should be on.

Doerkson says the RCMP maintain a high visibility in the summer, conducting a proactive approach to safe boating.

"We stop and talk to people when we're out in the boat and it's generally an educational process in the sense people are sometimes not aware of what's required by law. We advise them on that

and keep a mental note on who we've stopped. If we check with them some time later and they haven't complied with our warning, then, perhaps, it's time to take other measures.

"But, we prefer to educate. Education is almost always the key to preventing tragedy before it happens."