Boating Navigation & Communication
While fishing can be a fun activity for the whole family it also puts you in a position that can become dangerous if you are not prepared. No matter how much time you have spend on or around the water it should never be underestimated. To ensure you can be prepared for all your fishing (or camping) adventures and be safe on the water we have decided to do a blog series on some items often overlooked or misunderstood by anglers / boaters that can leave you unprepared in an emergency or put you in dangerous situations.
One of the easiest ways to put yourself in a dangerous situation on the water is poor navigation & communication. There are a lot of safe routes but also a lot of hazards out there and if you are not able to stay in the safe zones it is just a matter of time before you run into trouble. On a side note, if you do run into trouble and are not able to contact anyone for help or tell them where you are the situation gets a whole lot worse. Not everywhere you go has boat traffic and even if there is you may struggle to flag someone down for help if you need it. In order to prepare yourself for a day on the water here are our tips and practices we use constantly:
Study the water you plan to go, know where the hazards are, where the drivable water is, where you should be careful and where you can relax. Make special note of where you will be launching and where you will be staying as well as any marinas. Always know how to get back to these places or where you can go should trouble arise or simply to fuel up if you have drove too far. There are a number of free tools online to help with this including webapp.navionics.com which shows lake depth data for a ton of water bodies all over the world as well as any satellite imaging tool like google earth or bing maps. Each of these will help you determine what hazards you need to watch out for.
Learn to read the buoys & know what it means. All buoys have a number on them. This is specifically for identifying location. On maps for the water body as well as webapp.navionics.com you can see exactly where each buoy is located. Should you need help and are contacting someone stating the closest buoy number is the easies way for them to identify where you are or where to send help.
Know where buoys switch! This is particularly important on big waters such as Georgian Bay. The buoy systems are there to direct you away from hazards however they are based on routes into certain ports. Once you hit "open water" the buoys can switch as the route is now heading back into a new port. It is important to note where these locations are as it is not obvious while on the water and going on the wrong side of a buoy is a sure fire way to end up in a bad situation with a damaged boat or personal injuries. When on a route boaters should keep the red buoys on their right hand side when returning to port and red on the left hand side when heading out of port. The tricky part, knowing white route you are on and which way is returning or going out to port. If you are ever in doubt slow down and stick very close to the buoy.
Let people know where you are going and when you should be back. This way if something happens they will know where to look and when to start looking.
Have a plan of how long it will take you to reach a destination and when you need to be back. On big waters you can drive for hours and not need to turn around. It can be easy to keep exploring and run out of daylight. Boating in the dark is extremely difficult and should be avoided at all costs. Lights don't shine nearly far enough to work well for orientation and any light from inside the boat makes it even harder to see. If you do need to drive at night have your boat lights on for safety compared to other vessels and go slow.
Consider Wind: In big waters wind makes big waves. Pick routes that allow you to be protected from the winds if they pick up or keep them as backups. This obviously depends on the size of boat you are using and your skill level but getting caught in big waves is not a fun experience.
If you are planning on going to areas where there is no cell service, know where you could go in event of an emergency and what resources are around you should you need them even temporarily. It never hurts to keep a walkie talkie or radio with you for emergency contact or a set of flares as well.
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