Wayne Young was out on the water in a red canoe on another beautiful day in HRM Thursday
Then before he knew what had happened, his boat capsized and he was in the water.
Young, who was wearing a life jacket, said it was thanks to his personal flotation device (PFD) that he was able to assess the situation and grab on to his boat where he was able to wait for a pair of paddlers to come by in another canoe.
The trio then performed a canoe-over-canoe rescue where they were able to pull Young’s boat out of the water on top of the second canoe. Then they placed it right side up in the water before sending Young back on his way.
Luckily, this wasn’t a real rescue, as it happened inside at the Dartmouth Sportsplex swimming pool, but the message was clear.
Young is the director of swimming and water safety for the Canadian Red Cross in Atlantic Canada and he and his staff put on a demonstration Thursday to show the effectiveness of wearing a PFD in case of a boating emergency.
“PFDs do their job,” Young said after he hopped out of the water. “But they don’t work if you’re not wearing them.”
The Red Cross did another demonstration showing the difficulty of trying to get back in a boat after it has been capsized when not wearing a PFD.
“It is nearly impossible,” said Young. “In that situation without a PFD there is a possibility I don’t survive and that is the message we are trying to get across today.”
Young advised those who are planning water activities for the upcoming long weekend to have a proper float-plan, dress properly, if at all possible do not go on to the water alone and wear a life jacket.
“At the end of a day a boat is replaceable. I’d sooner see a boat lost knowing the individuals inside were saved thanks to proper planning,” he said.
There have been 34 water-related fatalities in Atlantic Canada this year to date. This includes 13 in Nova Scotia, 13 in Newfoundland and Labrador and eight in New Brunswick.
There have been none in Prince Edward Island.
Fourteen of those cases involved recreational or commercial boating and only two times were the victims wearing personal floating devices (PFDs).
In those two cases the victims were elderly males aged 79 and 86.
These numbers trouble Young.
“The drowning stats are up in Atlantic Canada and that concerns us,” he said. “These are preventable deaths if the public practices the proper safety.”
In many cases victims who are not wearing PFDs hit the water and do not return to the surface due to what is called “cold water shock,” said Young.
“Water sucks temperature away 25-times faster than the air. In 10-20 minutes before hypothermia sets in. With a PFD it can take up to an hour.” – Andrew Caley