Doing this will help the “Eye in the Sky” find you
As BAYSAR Search and Rescue President Stan French piloted his 1966 Cessna 172 along the banks of Four Mile Bay, banking around the peninsula in Trout Lake back toward Camp Island, he locked on to his target like an ace in a dogfight.
“There, you see?” he asked through our headsets. At an altitude of 500 feet, French had guided the aircraft to a vantage point where we could see directly down into a passing speedboat. From above, we could easily count the number of passengers on the boat, how many PFDs (Personal Flotation Device) were on hand, and most importantly, how many passengers were actually wearing them.
Although current laws do not make wearing your PFD mandatory while enjoying the area’s gorgeous lakes and rivers, common sense dictates that you should.
Besides the obvious benefit of buoyancy for those who cannot swim, those who have been injured, and those who have been knocked unconscious, a PFD also makes a capsized boater separated from their watercraft more visible from the air, aiding in any search and rescue.
“Finding someone in the water who needs help is not an easy task,” said French. “While BAYSAR prides itself in being able to get a crew in the air within an hour after being asked to assist in a search, it could be several hours before someone in danger is found. Strong swimmers may be able to survive in the water for several hours without the help of a PFD. But what people don’t realize is that a PFD is also highly visible from the air. Your chances of being found without one are very slim. Our message is simple. Wear your PFD!”
“Let’s see you wear your PFD!” is a survey BAYSAR has conducted for the past four years. During the Civic Holiday weekend, BAYSAR will raise public awareness of the dangers of boating without a lifejacket to boaters in the North Bay area. BAYSAR will also be flying over the water to count how many boaters are wearing their PFDs. A report of the results will follow. BAYSAR’s goal is to make wearing your PFD as common a practice as putting on your seatbelt in a car.
As a prize to the first boater he saw wearing a PFD during a contest last summer, OPP Marine Unit Const. Marvin Miller awarded Carolyn DeLoyde a promotional flight in the BAYSAR floatplane.
Said DeLoyde “I am an active canoer and kayaker on our beautiful waterways here in North Bay. The important lesson that I’ve learned from being in the floatplane is that you can definitely see the lifejacket” from above.
From a separate situation in which she capsized her canoe in 60 feet of cold Trout Lake water, DeLoyde relayed that “The other thing I have learned is that there really is no time in an emergency situation to put on a lifejacket. Even though the requirement is that the lifejacket simply is on board the watercraft, I believe it is important that the lifejackets be worn all of the time.”
“From my personal experience, I am an advocate for wearing lifejackets. If you have ever been dumped in Trout Lake, even in the middle of July, the water is cold. Any further on in the season, tragedy” could ensue said DeLoyde.
As a mother, DeLoyde encourages other parents to lead by example and to make it a family rule that all members wear their PFDs. “In my situation, if I hadn’t been wearing my lifejacket, I would have had to put them on my children, as well as myself, there’s not enough time in an emergency.”
Const. Miller, to his dismay, says there is often talk of making the actual wearing of PFDs mandatory, but little action.
The PFDs are not cost-prohibitive, according to Miller. They range from $150 to $300. “It’s not like they are not affordable. If you’ll go out and spend $30,000 on your boat, but you’ll cheap out on your lifejackets, it makes no sense at all.”
“The auto-inflators can be manually inflated, or we (OPP) have the ones where if you go down three feet (in the water) they automatically inflate. They’ll bring your head up every time. They are phenomenal.”
This holiday weekend, like all others, the Marine Unit will be on patrol on area waterways. “Zero tolerance on lifejackets. If you are stopped and you are missing a lifejacket or one of the appropriate size, you will be charged,” said Miller.
“When we stop the vessel, we are also looking for all safety aspects, minimum requirements for that vessel. We are also checking for alcohol-related offences, we’re still finding enough of those. Drink on your dock, or stay home,” added Miller.
On the benefits of having the local search and rescue organization coordinating with police presence, Miller said “BAYSAR will minimize the time and effort to find somebody. On a big lake like Nipissing, it’s nice to have someone in the air, the “Eye in the Sky,” we call it to pick out that little boat on the water, that I can’t see from my boat and direct me towards it.”
Look up from your watercraft this Civic Holiday weekend, and give the pilots of BAYSAR a friendly wave as they fly over. If you run into an emergency on the water and are not wearing your PFD, it could be the last time you see them