I spent a fair bit of time several years ago on a Seadoo going up and down the Fraser River and in English Bay, Indian Arm etc. Now that I've been doing marine SAR out of Richmond for about 7 years I've seen a lot of craziness. I'd like to pass along some boating safety knowledge from someone that was a newbie on a PWC in the area.

Get Educated:

Learn about boats and the area in general. We see a huge amount of problems from people that decide to get into boating (sail, power, PWC), know nothing or very little and go out to have fun. Well the fun doesn't last long when they ground in a shallow area (so many in this area), get lost etc. Also, the River get used by industry a lot. Big deep sea freighters, tugs with barges, and long log booms are all common. You get stuck in the path of a freighter and it's not going to stop or turn (cause it can't). It'll be like getting run over in slow mo.

Get your PCOC (Pleasure Craft Operators Card) and more. The PCOC is mandatory for all boaters and gives you a bit of info to go on. I highly recommend a Power Squadron course as well. This gets into the good stuff where you'll learn about charts, navigation, tides, currents, weather etc etc.

Be Prepared:

No one plans to get into trouble, so please be prepared. Being on the water isn't like being stuck on the side of the road with a broken car. You could be stuck on your machine for hours, be prepared.

Carry all your safety equipment and make sure it's in good working order. Bailer, fire extinguisher, flares (not required for PWC but highly recommended in case you get stuck out after dark with no lights), flashlight, anchor, floating line, marine chart, food, water.

Buy and get certified with a Marine VHF radio. Marine radios are great. Powerful, waterproof and some float as well. These are perfect for PWC. The caveat is that you need to be licensed to use one. The course is not hard and is cheap. You can also call *16 on your cell phone to get connected directly to the Coast Guard for help. It's like 911 for boaters (911 will route you there as well). Just beware with the cell phone. Most aren't waterproof. If you get thrown in and need to call for help, how are you? Marine radio would save you here, strap it to your lifejacket.

Check the weather, especially the winds. Launching in the Fraser and heading out sometimes seems very calm, but heading out the Main or North Arm of the River with the right wind will quickly get you in big trouble. The mouths of the river are notorious for being very nasty with big choppy waves due to the current, wind etc meeting the ocean.

Lifejacket. Yes I'm going there. Most PWC riders I see are smart enough to wear theirs. I still do see the odd one that doesn't and I shake my head. Most power boaters don't. Again, it goes back to you never plan to get into trouble but the 5 guys in a boat that hit a log boom a couple summers ago all wish they had their jackets on. A couple stayed in the boat but 3 were ejected and it was a mess.

Plan and Tell Someone:

Ya ya, I'm just going for a quick trip around, I don't need to tell anyone.

We do searches for people that are overdue. We usually have no idea where they planned to go so it's a needle in a haystack. If you're going out by yourself this is super important. It doesn't take a few minutes to plan where you're going and to tell someone about it. Then if you change what you're doing, update the person.

That's it for now. I'll add/revise as I think of stuff. Above all, be safe out there. We live is a very beautiful place and boating around is fun as long as you're prepared and know what you're doing.

If you want to know more about our volunteer organization have a look at our main website - rcmsar.com