On a hot summer day, the blue waters of Pitt or Alouette lakes look inviting.
But danger lurks below, and if you forget for a moment you’re in the Coastal Mountains, it could cost you your life.
So Richard Robinson wants you to have fun on the water, not become another tragedy.
“We have insanely treacherous waters, especially when you start comparing with the prairies or Ontario.”
Robinson is with the Alouette Power and Sail Squadron, a Maple Ridge-based group, now celebrating its 60th year of boat safety instruction.
If you have an accident out on the water, it’s not like a fender-bender on land, he points out.
“You’re going to get tossed into a glacier-fed lake.”
For much of the year, the water is so cold, you won’t know what hit you.
A gulp of the freezing water can put you into cold-water shock, knocking someone unconscious in the water.
For instance, in 2015, a motor boat took on water near North Beach on Alouette Lake, then was swamped by a wave and sank.
Four people tried swimming the 50 metres to shore, but only three survived.
None were wearing lifejackets.
People think it’s hypothermia that kills over a period of time, but the cold-water shock is quicker and more lethal.
Robinson pointed out that Pitt Lake is tidal water with strong currents, and sandbars that can strand boaters.
The mountain lakes are oriented in a north-south direction, and wind speeds can accelerate suddenly as the air moves through the funnel-like topography.
The Alouette Power and Sail Squadron tries to prevent that by teaching boating safety courses.
One course, called Boating Basics, allows people to become certified according to Transport Canada regulations, required by anyone who wants to put a motorized vessel of any kind on to the water.
The course will allow operators to get their pleasure craft operators card.
“As long as the boat is fitted with a motor, you must take your course,” said Robinson.
The squadron has several events planned for this spring to celebrate its anniversary and to attract new members to an aging roster.
On April 22, the squadron hosts its Icebreaker Cruise on Pitt Lake. You’ll need your own boat to join the event, halfway up Pitt Lake at the Raven Creek campsite, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There’s a pot luck lunch and free Transportation Canada-approved boat inspections.
Boating 1 is the boating basics course from April 25 to May 9 that will allow people to earn the pleasure craft operators card, the basic licence for operating any motor boat.
Next month, the squadron is hosting a maritime VHF radio course from May 23 to June 6.
Just like driving a boat requires a licence, so does operating a marine radio.
The club though needs new bodies and new memberships, which can result in discounts on boat and home insurance, and discounts at boating stores.
• Reserve your spot in the Icebreaker Cruise ahead of time by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.