OTTAWA -- Many boaters are planning to launch their summer of fun-in-the-sun boating this weekend, after being landlocked by the winter months.

But before you depart the dock, officials say it's best to make sure you remember to have your paperwork, and all the safety equipment required because police plan to check.

The Victoria Day long weekend will likely see a flood of boats travelling along waterways and the police will be out to ensure everyone is keeping safe and that their vessel is prepared for the summer ahead.

"Now the boats getting back on the water they have to make sure that everything is back in the boat ready to go and in operating order," says Const. T.J. Jellinek, with the Ottawa police marine, dive and trails unit.

"The idea is that you should know what you need to have. You also need your PCO (pleasure craft operators card) and your vessel registration when we conduct vessel stops, these are all the pieces of equipment that we will be looking at and the reality is the fines on the water are expensive."

In Ontario, the minimum infraction is a $240 fine. The costs can add up quickly, each piece of equipment missing is its own individual fine.

The type of equipment varies depending on the type and size of boat, but in many cases, a typical pleasure craft will require the following;

  • An appropriately sized, Canadian-approved personal floatation device or lifejacket, for each person on board
  • A buoyant heaving line (15 metres in length)
  • An anchor with at least 15 metres of rope, cable or chain
  • Oar
  • Whistle or sounding device
  • A waterproof flashlight or three Canadian approved flares
  • Buoyant throw line 
  • Bailing bucket or hand pump
  • Fire extinguisher for fuel-powered boats 

In Ontario, alcohol is forbidden on board vessels. There are exceptions, the vessel must have a washroom and sink and it can only be consumed when the boat is moored for the night. Passengers are not allowed to consumer alcohol as well.

Ottawa police say alcohol remains a major factor in nearly half of all boating fatalities.

In Canada, 16 million people enjoy recreational boating and the number has been increasing steadily throughout the pandemic. But with many new operators, there has also been a sharp increase in boat-related deaths.

Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Dave Moffatt says more than 47, 000 vessels were checked on provincial waterways in 2020.

"We still had a record number of fatalities," says Sgt. Moffatt. "Over 90 per cent were not wearing life jackets and over half were good swimmers."

May 22-28 is Safe Boating Awareness Week and Ottawa police are reminding everyone who plans to spend time in the water, whether swimming, boating, paddle boarding or kayaking , to stay safe and that open waters can have currents and undertows that even those who consider themselves strong swimmers can be easily overwhelmed by.