North Okanagan boat patrols ready to reduce death toll

North Okanagan boat patrols will focus on education and safety this year.

North Okanagan boat patrols will focus on education and safety this year.

The patrols, conducted by RCMP members and reservists, Transport Canada officials and conservation officers, have set a goal of having no deaths or serious injuries on the lakes and rivers in the area this summer.

“It’s about boating safety for everyone and having fun on the water,” said Gord Molendyk, RCMP spokesperson for the Vernon-North Okanagan detachment. “You can encounter our officers patrolling the lakes of the North Okanagan and Shuswap.”

The patrols will be on Kalamalka, Okanagan, Mabel, Sugar, Shuswap and Wood lakes, as well as the Shuswap River, this summer. The focus will be on safety equipment, boat licenses and vessel licenses (the number on the bow).

Boat operators must produce their boating license and picture ID and the paper work for the vessel they are operating. If not, a fine of $287 can be levied for failing to produce this paperwork

Officers will be looking on board for safety equipment including life jackets, a whistle or horn, waterproof flash light, a heaving line (throwing a line that can offer assistance to another boat or someone in trouble in the water), a paddle and a boat with an inboard motor must have a fire extinguisher.

Patrol officers want to remind everyone that you must be 16 years of age to operate a boat or a personal water craft, you need to produce your license,  and  the numbers are required on the bow of the personal watercraft.

People using a stand-up paddle board are required to have a life jacket on or on board while stand-up paddling in open water.

Officers in 2011 put in more than 500 hours on the water in our area.

“There were over 2,600 boats checked,  they issued 1,500 warnings and laid 150 charges,” said Molendyk. “They took 15 boats off the water that were deemed unsafe, and seven operators were investigated for impaired operation of a motor vessel.”

The main charges that were laid were no spotter while towing a water skier (which can be a criminal charge), operating without a boat license and no life jackets.

In 2011, officers working the waters of the Okanagan/Shuswap checked more boats then were checked in the rest of the province.

“They said, by far, the majority of the boating public were very happy to see them on the water and were happy to be reminded of some of the minor rules they might have forgotten about,” said Molendyk.

For more info on boating regulations, go to www.tc.gc.ca and look under boating safety.