Boaters Beware!  Having a healthy respect for the ocean can save a boater’s life. There are many risks and hazards inherent to boating on the ocean . Here are our top picks. Let us know if you have more to add to the list.

1. Malfunctioning, Inappropriate or Missing Equipment

Lifejackets are essential to survival on the ocean. Even if they don’t look cool while you are paddle boarding! Look for the Coast Guard Seal of approval on the inside panel of your life jacket to ensure it is up to industry standards.

Choosing the appropriate gear for your sport is important. For example, the impact of opening an inflatable life jacket can cause a kayaker to flip into the water and is not recommended. Kayaking PFD’s are also shorter in the waste to add comfort while moving laterally during the paddle stroke. Be sure to research your sport’s equipment before purchasing new gear.

Testing all of your gear prior to going out on the water will alert you to any problems that may crop up and help prevent a dangerous situation altogether.

2. Hypothermia

This is one of the biggest dangers while boating in Pacific Northwest waters. Ocean temperatures range between 7 and 12 degrees Celsius, which makes hypothermia a potential hazard for every boater. Brushing up on what it is and how to treat it and prevent it is a good idea. Having appropriate clothing for the sport you are doing will make your outing safe and comfortable.

3. Submerged Rocks

As the tides ebb and flow the oceanscape changes dramatically. Rocky shelves that are exposed at low tide may not be visible at higher tides. This can be dangerous as they may be just under the surface as you paddle or drive over them and you may get high centered or seriously damage your boat. Using a marine chart that shows submerged rocks and obstacles is a good idea. Learning to read the surface of the water is also very helpful. If you see unusual wave patterns on the surface it may indicate a submerged rock. Kelp forests can also give you a clue that you are in shallow water. There are markers to give boaters clues that the water is shallow.

4. Tidal and Rip Currents

If you are boating in unknown water it is a good idea to become familiar with the currents in the area. There are current tables that are accessible online or in print form for each area. Knowing the speed and location of strong currents will help you plan your route to avoid dangerous currents.

5. Traffic Hazards

During any outing it is possible that you will need to cross float plane runways, ferry Lanes and marina entrances. There are designated traffic patterns in harbours that every boater needs to familiarize themself with. Most are accessible on the internet. Buoys and markers help direct the traffic and should be followed for maximum safety for all. Jumping into your inflatable dinghy being oblivious to traffic is a huge hazard for everyone.

6. Inclement Weather 

Wind can be a huge risk for boaters. You can be pushed out to sea or into the rocks onshore. There are accurate web sites that will give you detailed weather reports before you go out. Having a VHS radio for access to marine weather reports is essential equipment for boaters on the ocean.

Fog can be a huge hazard for boaters. Visibility will be severely limited so keeping the shoreline in sight may be necessary. Having your course charted on your marine chart with compass readings will help you stay on course as will a GPS. Making sure you have appropriate lights for other boats to see you will be crucial. Kayaks won’t show up on a larger boats radar unless there is a group paddling close together. A 360 degree white light with flashers will increase your visibility.

7. Marine Wildlife

Paddling in the Pacific Northwest can be exciting when you encounter marine wildlife. Be very wary of proximity to Killer whales, Bull Elephant seals, and sea lion rookeries. The guideline for approaching marine wildlife is a 200 metre distance for your safety and to prevent disturbing wildlife. There are times they may approach you. Using good judgment and caution is advised.

We hope you always have safe , enjoyable boating experiences!

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