water safety


Have Fun & Stay Safe!


Water-related activities -- including boating, skiing/tubing, fishing and swimming -- are leading causes of accidental death in Ontario and across Canada each year. Most accidents occur in lakes and rivers. Knowing how to swim is not enough to save lives, but drowning & accidents are preventable if you take precautions and learn to recognize the signs of trouble so you can act quickly in an emergency.


SAFE BOATING TIPS & REGULATIONS

All water craft:

  • Check weather conditions before you head out on the water
  • NEVER operate ANY craft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • All persons traveling on all forms of water craft - human or motor powered - should wear properly fitting personal floatation devices (PFD) at all times
  • Any vessel operating after dusk or before dawn MUST use navigation lights


To prevent introduction of harmful invasive species into our lakes, please CLEAN, DRAIN & DRY your boat if you are moving it from one body of water to another. 

All motorized craft:

  • Transport Canada requires any person operating a power-driven boat to present "proof of competency" to demonstrate that they understand the basic rules of safety and operation. The most common proof of competency is the Pleasure Craft Operator Card, which you can obtain by completing an accredited boating safety course and examination, in-person or online.
  • Follow Ontario's 10/30 rule: throughout provincial waterways there is a 
    speed limit of 10 km/h (6 mph) within 30 metres (100 feet) of shore
  • Obey NO WAKE signage for the protection of wildlife and shorelines
  • Be mindful of wildlife in the water (young loon chicks, for example, cannot dive to escape a boat)
  • Watch for swimmers and slower boats at all times, especially in narrows and bays

Water Skiing & Recreational Towing 

(including barefoot skiing, tubing, knee boarding and parasailing) 

  • You must have a spotter on board the boat who can keep watch on each person you are towing and communicate with you
  • There must be an empty seat on your boat for each person you are towing in case they need to come on board
  • The person being towed must wear an approved flotation device (a ‘ski belt’ is not considered to be an approved flotation device).
  • You may only tow persons with a personal watercraft made to carry three or more people: the driver, the spotter, and an empty seat for the person being towed
  • Check tow ropes regularly for wear and tear
  • Establish hand communication signals (eg, faster, slower, stop)
  • You may not tow anyone when visibility is poor or from one hour after sunset to sunrise
  • No towing boat may be remotely controlled




Human Powered Water Craft

(including canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, paddle boats, row boats and shells, kiteboards and sail boards)

  • Always wear a personal flotation device (PFD)
  • Make sure you can be seen on the water: choose bright colours for your vessel and PFD
  • Carry a buoyant tow rope (15 m long), flashlight, bailer and sound-signal device at all times
  • Wear the safety leash on paddle boards and surfers

Viewing Fireworks

  • When watching and departing from the fireworks make sure your navigation lights are on (this includes canoes and kayaks)
  • Travel away from the location at safe speed, please do not race back to your cottage
  • Watch for un-powered watercraft such as canoes and kayaks who may also be attending the fireworks display



Please visit Ontario Parks and Transport Canada for more information about safe boating practices, both human-powered and motorized.


Drowning: You Can Prevent Tragedy


1. Learn the skills 
Swimming is an essential life skill in Canada, particularly if you have a cottage; Enroll children in certified learn-to-swim programs, and teens and adults in lifesaving courses such as Swim to Survive or Lifeguarding.

2. Supervise actively
Stay *on guard* (not on your phone!) and *in arms reach* of children and non-swimmers; Swim and play with a buddy, and pay attention, in case one of you gets into trouble.

3. Use caution in open water
Distances can be deceiving, and extra challenges are posed by colder water, wave action, currents, wind and visibility;
Watch for motor crafts and ensure they can see you (eg, use a swim bouy/bag); Don't go out alone.

4. Play safely with recreational toys
Check weight limits of all toys; Remove glasses and jewelry before playing; Anchor or secure slides, platforms & trampolines; Monitor inflatables for air leaks, and check ropes/lines for secure knots or wear and tear; Never swim under large toys.

5. Care with swimming & training aids
Be aware that most training aids are not life saving devices: close supervision is still required for inexperienced swimmers!
Before using paddle/kick boards, fins etc., warm up to prevent injury; learn to secure goggles, masks and snorkels correctly.

6. Wear PFDs when boating & playing
Most drownings occur among those who never intended to end up in the water; even for strong swimmers, a boating accident can cause injury or disorientation that prevents keeping themselves afloat. PFDs save lives, period.

7. Practice safe boating!

Most at risk of drowning are:

  • Children under 5: mobile, curious, and unaware of the dangers of open water
  • Teens: testing their limits with riskier behaviours
  • Males 18-49: neglecting safety measures and going it alone
  • Adults over 65: reduced physical capacities and potential for medication inhibitions


Drowning is SILENT
know the signs:

  • Mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back
  • Hair in face
  • Body vertical
  • Ladder-climbing motion
  • NOT moving in a direction
  • NOT talking / calling for help, 
  • NOT waving or thrashing

If someone is struggling in the water:

  1. Call for help
  2. If possible, THROW the person a flotation device
  3. IF IT IS SAFE for you to do so, PADDLE OR SWIM to the person; approach them from BEHIND
  4. In the water: turn the victim on their back; grab from behind under their arms; 
    kick to pull to safety; do not let them grab you or they may pull you under
  5. Once ashore, administer first aid as needed

After any "close call" KEEP WATCH!  Seek medical help if the person:

  • acts erratically
  • is lethargic, suddenly sleepy
  • continues to cough, wheeze, or gasp for breath
  • is breathing rapidly
  • vomits

Learn more about swimming and water safety tips to prevent accidental drowning at the Lifesaving Society and the Red Cross

Thanks to KLA member Rob Horsburgh for his photograph of Wallace Island used as the background photo throughout this site

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