A fatal boat crash in Ontario that took the lives of two people and involved a vessel that reality star and one-time Conservative leadership candidate Kevin O’Leary was aboard is drawing attention to boat safety.

This weekend, Canadians across the country will celebrate Labour Day out on the water. But staying safe means understanding the risks and rules of operating a boat.

According to federal estimates, 100 people die each year in boating accidents, and many more suffer serious injuries. The majority of these fatalities can be avoided.


Alcohol is a factor in about 40 per cent of all boating fatalities, according to the Canadian Safe Boating Council. But impaired boating -- either with alcohol or drugs -- is illegal, and can lead to fines, the seizure of a boat and possible prison terms.

However, each province or territory has its own rules on consuming or carrying open alcohol on a boat.


What safety equipment you’re required to carry on a boat depends on what sort of boat you’re on. All boats -- including kayaks, canoes and kiteboards -- are required to have a lifejacket or PFD for each passenger. This may be the most critical piece of equipment; about 90 per cent of people who drown in boating accidents aren’t wearing life jackets, according to Transport Canada.

A reboarding device and a buoyant heaving line at least 15 metres in length are also required on all boats.

Watertight flashlights, bailers and flares are also required on most boats longer than six metres. On larger pleasure crafts, such as sail boats and power boats, a fire extinguisher is required.


Transport Canada also advises boaters to be keenly aware of others on the water, and to steer clear of shipping lanes or popular ferry routes.

Boating in heavy fog or high winds is also not advised.


For those looking to enjoy some fun on the water, Transport Canada has clear rules for watersports.

A spotter must be on board who can keep an eye on people being towed, in order to communicate with the driver. There must also be enough seats on the boat for each passenger, including empty seats for those being towed. Watercraft must be big enough to fit three or more people.

Towing is not permitted in poor visibility conditions, such as fog, or from one hour after sunset to sunrise.


There are fewer requirements for kayakers on the water, aside from wearing a life jacket. Transport Canada advises that a lifejacket should be a bright colour, such as orange or yellow. Signaling devices should also be kept on board in the event of an emergency.

For sea kayakers, Transport Canada advises to take extra precautions with tides, currents and maritime traffic.