coming back alive
Beloved Dog Lost

A beloved Great Dane named Tiger was trapped on a boat as it sank at Pier 4 in Toronto, as his owner and fellow boaters looked on helplessly.

Pier 4 dock master for 17 years, Helmut Dressler, and Tiger, were sleeping in his 32-foot Chris Craft when it began taking on water early in the morning. "I woke up in water," said Dressler, 64, who managed to get off the boat while Tiger was caught in the cabin.

Other boaters, Toronto Fire Services and the police marine unit could not keep the craft from submerging."Never mind the boat, I lost my dog," Dressler said, still in shock over the tragedy."He was like family to everybody here."

Carla De Olivera, a security supervisor for Harbourfront Security, said the loss is difficult for everyone who knew Tiger. "He was like a monument. `He would walk around (the docks) and do his own thing," she said. "He was very loyal to Helmut. That was his family, his one and only family."

Neighbouring boater Lex, who did not want his last name used, said he was awoken at 4:15 a.m. to sounds of commotion and banging.
He said boaters and fire crews tried their best to pump water out of the boat, but it was coming in too fast.

Dressler said he took Tiger with him to Florida every winter, and had many fond memories of his 150-pound dog.

Before You Head Out

"One minute you can be out there on a beautiful day and all of a sudden rain rolls in, the winds pick up and the next thing you know you're out there in 2 metre waves," says Constable Richard Baker of the Toronto Police Marine Unit.

In an emergency, you will likely get back to shore safely if you have the right equipment on board including:

  • A pre-packaged flare kit which can also be used as a bailer if you take on water.

  • A maritime distress flag.

  • A reliable handheld radio. Channel 16 is the universal emergency channel for VHF radio. It is monitored by police, the coast guard and RCC Trenton, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Cell phones don't always work out on the water so be sure to have a VHF radio.

You should also have on board:

  • A personal locator beacon

  • A brightly coloured lifejacket or personal flotation device.

Make sure automatic bilge pumps and alarm systems are in top condition and operating correctly before you embark. Test your bilge pumps by switching from the automatic to manual position on the bilge pump switch and check to see whether the pumps are operating.

Maritime distress flag.
Person Overboard!

The first action to take when discovering a person overboard is to quickly alert the vessel operator by shouting 'Man Overboard!' and assign a crew member/passenger to keep a visual on the P.O.B. and to continuously point (with their hand) toward the P.O.B. so that the operator is aware of the P.O.B.'s location at all times.

Throw a life ring to the person to further assist in spotting and to help keep the person afloat.

As soon as the operator is aware that a person has entered the water, s/he should immediately reduce speed and come about (around) the person overboard.

Always come from downwind, or into/against the waves to avoid drifting into/over the P.O.B.

When coming alongside, apply a small amount of rudder in the direction of the P.O.B. The reason for doing this is to direct the vessels bow toward and propellers away from the person overboard and further avoid injury.

When alongside, stop the engine and assist the person aboard. To retrieve the person from the water, use buoyant heaving lines and life buoys. 

Prevent persons falling overboard by not allowing anyone on board to:

  • Sit on the gunwhale, bow, seat backs or any other area not designed for sitting.

  • Sit on pedestal seats when underway at greater than idle speed

  • Stand up in the boat

  • Move about the boat when underway

  • Lean out from small boats

Sailors and power boaters should become familiar with various techniques for recovering a person overboard - consider how effectively the manoeuvre can be performed, considering sea-state, additional crew duties and condition of the person overboard.
Capsizing and Swamping

Capsizing is when a vessel turns on its side or turns completely over. Swamping is when a vessel fills with water.To reduce the risk of capsizing or swamping, follow these rules:

  • Don't overload your vessel. Balance the load of all passengers and gear.

  • Turn your vessel at controlled speeds.

  • If anchoring, secure the anchor line to the bow of the vessel, never to the stern.

  • Don't boat in rough water or bad weather.

If you should capsize or swamp your vessel, or if you have fallen out and can't get back in, stay with the vessel. Your swamped vessel will signal that you are in trouble.

Use other devices available (visual distress signals, horn, mirror) to signal for help.

Take a head count. Reach, throw, row or go to anyone in distress.

If the vessel remains afloat, try to reboard.

If the vessel is overturned or swamped, hang onto it. It will support you, saving loss of energy from treading water.

If possible, climb onto the bottom of an overturned vessel. It is important to get as much of your body as possible out of cold water.

If the vessel sinks or floats away, don't panic.If you are wearing a PFD, make sure it is securely fastened, remain calm and wait for help.

If you aren't wearing a PFD, look for one floating in the water or other buoyant items (coolers, oars or paddles, decoys, etc.) to use as a flotation device.

Make sure others are wearing PFDs or have a buoyant item.

If there is no other means of support, then you may have to tread water or simply float. In cold water, float rather than tread to reduce hypothermia.

Running Aground

A vessel is grounded (runs aground) when it gets stuck on the bottom. Never assume that water is deep enough just because you are away from the shore. Also, don't presume that all shallow hazards will be marked by a danger buoy.

If you run aground while traveling at a high speed, the impact not only can cause damage to your vessel but injury to you and your passengers.

Knowing your environment is the best way to prevent running aground. Become familiar with the locations of shallow water and submerged objects before you go out.

Be aware that the location of shallow hazards will change as the water level rises and falls.

Learn to read a chart to determine your position and the water depth.

If you run aground, check for leaks. If the impact did not cause a leak, follow these steps to try to get loose:

Don't put the vessel in reverse. Instead, stop the engine and lift the outdrive. Check to make sure your vessel is not taking on water.

Shift the weight to the area farthest away from the point of impact.

Try to shove off from the rock, bottom or reef with a paddle or boathook.

If this fails, use your visual distress signals to flag down help from another vessel. Call for assistance using your VHF marine radio.

In Case of Fire
Many vessels have burned to the water line needlessly.

To help prevent a fire:

  • Don't mix the three ingredients required to ignite a fire: fuel, oxygen and heat.

  • Make sure ventilation systems have been installed and are properly used.

  • Maintain the fuel system to avoid leaks.

  • Follow safe fuelling procedures

If fire erupts while your vessel is underway, immediately stop the vessel and have everyone who is not wearing a PFD put one on.

Once everyone has been accounted for, follow these steps:

RESTRICT the fire:

  • Shut off air supply to the fire - close hatches, ports, etc.

  • De-energize electrical systems in affected space

  • Set fire boundaries to confine the fire

  • Shut off fuel supply and ventilation

  • Keep the fire downwind.
    • If the fire is at the back of the vessel, head the vessel into the wind. If the engine must be shut off, use a paddle to keep the bow into the wind.

    • If the fire is forward, put the stern into the wind.

  • If a motor catches fire, immediately shut off the fuel supply.

  • Aim the extinguisher at the base of the flames, and sweep back and forth.

  • Never use water on a gasoline, oil, grease or electrical fire. Water will spread a gas fire and will act as a conductor for electricity.

  • Summon help with your VHF radio.

If unable to control the fire, prepare to abandon ship.

Fire can engulf a boat in moments, leaving the occupants with very little time to collect themselves and abandon shi

A boat collision is when your boat collides with another boat or with a fixed or floating object such as a rock, log, bridge or dock.Collisions can cause very serious damage, injury or even death.

Collisions are becoming more common due to faster vessels and increased traffic on our waterways.

It is every boat operator's responsibility to avoid a collision. Operators should:

  • Keep a sharp watch and appoint one person to be the “lookout.”
  • Follow the rules of navigation

  • ay attention to navigational aids

  • Maintain a safe speed, especially in congested traffic and at night.

  • Look in all directions before making any turn.

  • Use caution if you are traveling directly into the suns glare on the water.

  • Never operate when fatigued, stressed or consuming alcohol.

  • Be aware that floating debris is more common after heavy rainfall.

Use Your Distress Signals
As per the Collision Regulations, with Canadian Modifications, a Distress Signal is:
  • A gun or other explosive signal fired at intervals of about one minute

  • A continuous sounding with any fog-signalling apparatus

  • Rockets or shells, throwing red stars fired one at a time at short intervals

  • A signal made up by any signalling method consisting of the group SOS in Morse Code

  • A signal sent by radiotelephony consisting of the spoken word MAYDAY

  • The International Code Signal of distress indicated by the flags N over C

  • A signal consisting of a square flag, shape or anything resembling a square shape having above or below it a ball or anything resembling a ball

  • Flames on the vessel

  • A rocket parachute flare or hand flare showing a red light

  • A smoke signal giving off orange coloured smoke

  • Slowly and repeatedly raising and lowering arms outstretched to each side

  • Signals transmitted by emergency indicating radio beacons (EPRIB)

  • A piece of orange canvas with either a black square and circle or the symbol appropriate for identification from the air

  • A dye marker

  • A high intensity white light at regular intervals of 50 to 70 times per minute

Dye marker indicatess your position to aerial searchers.
While a capsized boat is not generally a cause for major concern, it can still be a dangerous situation if the water is cold and those on board are far from rescue. Knowing how to right your capsized sailboat will minimize the risk of injury and damage to your boat.
In An Emergency...

Do you know what to do in an emergency in order to save yourself and your loved ones? Whether you're in a canoe or a houseboat, unexpected situations can arise putting everyone on board at risk.

Know what situations you may encounter on the water and how to handle them safely and calmly. Practice safety drills, so that in the case of emergency, you will be prepared!
Sail Plan

Small vessel operators are encouraged to file a sail plan with a responsible person on shore, such as a person from their corporate office or a local marina, before heading out.

If this is not possible, a sail plan can be filed with any Canadian Coast Guard Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre by telephone, radio, or in person. A sail plan is a voyage itinerary that includes travel route and basic details about your vessel.

For long voyages, it is recommended that you file a daily position report, especially if your planned route or schedule has changed. Be sure to deactivate the sail plan you have filed by reporting that you have returned or completed your trip to avoid an unwarranted search for your vessel.

The person holding your sail plan should be instructed to contact the Rescue Coordination Centre if you are overdue.
Rough Expedition Ends in Tragedy

The search for two men missing off the northwestern coast of Oregon after a charter fishing boat carrying 19 people capsized in high surf ended unsuccessfully and was called off a week after it had begun. Barry Sundberg of Cheney, Washington, and Tim Albus of Madras, Oregon, are presumed dead in the accident that claimed nine other people.

The 32-foot Taki Tooo capsized when a large wave swept over its side as it slipped into the Pacific Ocean by way of a narrow channel cut through the bar that separates Tillamook Bay from the larger body.

Eight people were taken to Tillamook County General Hospital, where seven were treated and released. One person was hospitalized overnight in stable condition.

A small craft advisory was in effect when the Taki Tooo set sail but the charter was allowed to sail anyway. Ten- to 15-foot swells broke over the narrow bar Saturday morning as the Taki Tooo left the bay, Juarez said.

Master Chief Lars Kent, the officer in charge of the Coast Guard at Tillamook Bay, said the vessel carried enough life jackets for everyone, but he noted that neither passengers nor crew are required to wear them while moving out from shore.

The boat's captain, Doug Davis of Garibaldi, Oregon, was among the fatalities.
"He's a good skipper and he just got caught. The bar's real unpredictable," said Steve Dana, a friend. "The ocean is non-forgiving. It can get any of us."

Willy Rogers, a commercial fisherman, arrived at the scene moments after the boat capsized. "Bodies laying on the beach, people dragging bodies on the beach," Rogers said. "There were two kids in life jackets -- they survived." 

Mick Buell, the boat's owner, told the AP the boat flipped so quickly the passengers probably didn't have time to jump clear.

The Taki Tooo fishing boat capsized in rough waters, killing 11 and injuring several others.
Breakdowns, Hull Leaks and Flooding

In the event of a breakdown while cruising, the boater should be aware of the following actions:

  • Alter the speed of the craft as appropriate to the circumstances

  • Anchor the craft if required

  • Investigate the problem

  • Correct the problem, if possible and

  • Use or exhibit signals to indicated distress and need of assistance if necessary.

Remember, the best prevention against breakdowns is to maintain the equipment on a regular basis so that it is functioning properly at all times.Boaters should be aware of the following actions to take place in the event of flooding or hull leaks:
  • boat leakLocate the source of the leak/flood
  • Try to stop the leakage/flooding, if possible, using an emergency repair kit

  • Remove accumulations of water in the bilge, hold or othercompartments by using either hand-held bailers, manual pumps or bilge pumping systems, and if all efforts fail, use or exhibit signals to indicate distress and need of assistance.

Boaters should carry on board at all times an anti-flooding kit appropriate for thetype of craft to temporarily stop leaks or flooding. A homemade kit could contain:
  • Rubber plugs or wooden plugs (depending on vessel)

  • Pieces of wood and plywood

  • A bathroom plunger

  • Duct tape

Severe Weather

The big waves and heavy winds brought on by severe weather often results in unprepared boats becoming unstable.

Of all accident types, founderings and capsizes caused by a loss of stability are the most likely to lead to a fatality on the water.

Many of these accidents could have been avoided if operators took the necessary precautions and observed the warning signs.

What to Do if Caught in Foul Weather:

Have everyone put on a life jacket or PFD. If a PFD is already on, make sure it is properly secured. Keep a sharp lookout for other vessels and floating debris.

If there is fog, sound your fog horn. If your vessel has more than one fuel tank, switch to a “full” fuel tank. Head for the nearest shore that is safe to approach. If already caught in a storm, it may be best to ride it out in open water rather than try to approach the shore in heavy wind and waves.

Reduce speed and head the bow into the waves at a 45-degree angle. PWC's should head directly into the waves.

Close all hatches, windows, etc. to reduce the chance of swamping.

Reduce speed, but keep enough power to maintain headway and steering.

Proceed with caution, watching for debris, shoals or stumps.

Seat passengers on the bottom of the vessel, close to the centerline.

Seek shelter in advance of a storm to minimize the danger of having your vessel struck by lightning. If caught on open water during a thunderstorm, stay low in the middle of the vessel.

If there is lightning, disconnect all electrical equipment. Stay as clear of metal objects as possible.

Secure loose items. Have emergency gear ready.

Keep bilges free of water. Be prepared to remove water by bailing.

If the engine stops, drop anchor from the bow. If you have no anchor, use a “sea anchor,” which is anything (a bucket on a line, a tackle box) that will create drag, hold the bow into the wind, and reduce drifting while you ride the storm out. Without power, most powerboats will turn stern to the wind and waves, and could be more easily swamped.
Getting caught in rough waters can quickly become a dangerous situation. Pay attention to weather forecasts and use your common sense when deciding if it's safe to go out.
Abandon Ship!

The decision to abandon ship is usually very difficult. In some instances, people have perished in their life raft while their abandoned vessel managed to stay afloat. Other cases indicate that people waited too long to successfully get clear of a floundering boat.

Once the decision is made:

  • Put on all available waterproof clothing, including gloves, headgear, and life jacket.

  • Collect survival kit.

  • Note present position.

  • Send out MAYDAY message.

  • Launch life raft attached to ship.

  • Launch dinghy attached to life raft. 

  • Try to enter life raft directly from the boat (if impossible, use minimal swimming effort to get on board).

  • Don't forget the EPIRB (emergency position indicator radio beacon).

  • Get a safe distance from the sinking vessel.

  • Collect all available flotsam. The most unlikely articles can be adapted for use under survival conditions.

  • Keep warm by huddling bodies together. Keep dry, especially your feet.

  • Stream a sea anchor.

  • Arrange lookout watches.

  • Use flares only on skipper's orders when there is a real chance of them being seen.

  • Arrange for collecting rainwater. Ration water to maximum one-half quart per person per day, issued in small increments. Do not drink seawa

Call for Help  


There are many ways to initiate a distress call. A distress call can be signalled by visual or audio means, by the spoken words MAYDAY by radiotelephone (Marine VHF), by Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB), or even by Cellular Telephone.

Distress calls should be made on Channel 16 (156.8 MHz) VHF. The basic calling procedure is:
  1. Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

  2. Vessel's name and position

  3. Description

  4. Number of people on board

  5. Details of your emergency

After transmitting MAYDAY, stand by on Channel 16 for a reply, and if no reply is given, repeat the message as required.

If you need assistance, but are in no immediate danger, (i.e.: you can't start your motor to get back to shore and the weather conditions are good), use Channel 16 and repeat 'PAN PAN' three times, then give the name of your vessel, your position, and the nature of your problem and what assistance is required.

Windsurfing is a fun and exciting summer sport, but it can be difficult and dangerous for beginners. Your best bet for avoiding injury is to take lessons from a professional and wear your safety gear

Windsurfing Wisely

Heed this advice on how to stay safe while slicing through the waves

Windsurfing is a popular sport that puts you at one with the wind and the water. All you have to do is make sure you don't also become at one with the emergency room.<

Here are some guidelines for safe windsurfing:

First, like any sailor, windsurfers should study local water conditions and wind patterns, and pick a locale that matches their ability.

Beginning windsurfers should stick to protected waters, and watch for unexpected winds that can pick up quickly on a small lake or river. Check wind direction. Listen to weather reports. When in doubt, don't go out.

Before you sail, practice unrigging and furling, or rolling up, the sail while on the water. This is so that if the winds become too strong when sailing, you can furl the sail, take down the mast and center it on the board while you paddle to safety.

Beware of other boat traffic. The Coast Guard considers a sailboard a vessel and its operator responsible for obeying the rules of the waterways, so windsurfers can be fined for violations.

Stay out of the way of other boats, especially big vessels that can't stop or turn quickly if you sail across their bows. Be cautious, too, around high-powered motorboats.

The two most common injuries sustained in windsurfing are head injuries from the falling rig of the sailboard, and ankle and foot injuries from getting your foot stuck in the foot straps on the board.

If you capsize, try to protect your head with your arms and make sure the foot strap is loose enough to release your foot

Continuous sounding of foghorn, bell or whistle indicates distress, as well as a gun or explosive sounded at 1 minute intervals.
S.O.S, (dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot) is the universal sign of distress
distress flag
This signal indicates a need for assistance.