Deadline approaching for boaters to have certification

Boating regulations are improving but there’s still ample room for improvement, boaters at this popular lake town said on the weekend.

SYLVAN LAKE – Boating regulations are improving but there’s still ample room for improvement, boaters at this popular lake town said on the weekend.

As of Sept. 15, all boaters will need proof of competency to operate any boat with a motor.

Joy and John Law have dipped a boat in Sylvan Lake for more than 25 years now since they started journeying here from Calgary.

Both were enjoying the delights of a tasty ice cream cone from the Big Moo on Lakeshore Drive Sunday after removing their 5.5-metre SeaRay from the water for the year on Saturday.

The couple agreed the Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) regulation by Sept. 15 is a step in the right direction but there remains a need for increased enforcement.

“The younger boaters don’t have the same respect” as older, more experienced boaters, Joy said.

She said many of the younger boaters in the 20-30 age bracket believe “they are above the law and have an attitude.”

Although she powers their boat only occasionally she has a PCOC for possible emergencies.

She said “blatant, open drinking” in pleasure craft remains a problem.

She said recently RCMP stopped one boat and in addition to making the driver dump out the booze requested a breathalyzer test on the spot.

“Many people don’t think you can get an impaired (driving charge) when in a boat,” she said.

John said part of the problem is enforcement but then that boils down to resources and finances on the part of authorities.

Chris Porth of Calgary was taking the family boat from the water Sunday at the Sylvan Lake Marina following an hour on the lake.

“It was getting too wet so we came in,” he said.

Porth obtained his card about seven months ago after taking an online test.

“I don’t think it will make much of a difference, especially on the Prairies,” he said.

Many questions in the 36-question test have little to do with inland water ways, he said.

Joy Law said there should be a provision in the test for actual physical testing.

The test is multiple choice and boaters need to get at least 75 per cent correct to pass.

Questions pertain to regulations, marine emergencies, terminology and boat operation.

John Law said he sees many boaters who still don’t know the 30 and 10 rule which requires boaters to slow to 10 km/h when they are 30 feet from shore.

The new regulation requires boaters to carry their card obtained from either an accredited course provider or an online testing provider.

Transport Canada said in 2007 only two million Canadians had cards after the boating changes were announced in 1999.

The agency said between 100 and 150 Canadians die yearly while boating in Canada.

The Canadian Coast Guard reports that of the 6,000 marine crashes and collisions that occur yearly in federal waters about two-thirds of those incidents involve recreational boaters.

Pamela Ziwani, from Chestermere Lake, said she worked at trade shows in Calgary and Edmonton involving boats and became interested.

“Our community has an actual course for several days and that’s much better for a person to get to learn the rules and then put the theory to practice on the water,” Ziwani said waiting for a turn to load up her and her husband’s boat.

Jerry Higgins of Edmonton was waiting in line for his turn to launch his craft when he said that the test is “good to a point.”

“There should be more actual testing on the water by an instructor or something. Just getting it online is too easy.

“I’ve heard you can re-test several times if you don’t pass at first.”

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