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With fireworks nights looming, officials advise: Be a better boater

With the number of near-misses on the rise, police and port officials are bracing for some busy nights on the water as the annual Honda Celebration of Light looms.
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With the number of near-misses on the rise, police and port officials are bracing for some busy nights on the water as the annual Honda Celebration of Light looms.

After 11 years on the water, Vancouver Police Department marine unit Const. Jamie Gibson said he expects to see more than 500 pleasure craft on English Bay and it’s always the same problems he encounters.

 The annual Honda Celebration of Light is expected to bring out hundreds of people, and their boats, to busy bodies of water in order to catch a glimpse of the fireworks. file photo Cindy Goodman, North Shore NewsThe annual Honda Celebration of Light is expected to bring out hundreds of people, and their boats, to busy bodies of water in order to catch a glimpse of the fireworks. file photo Cindy Goodman, North Shore News

“It’s the same excuse whether it’s safety gear or liquor or a bad manoeuvre – ‘I didn’t know,’” Gibson said. “If you’re out on the water, it’s your responsibility to know.”

Most mishaps happen at the end of the fireworks show when there’s a “shotgun start” for boaters to get home in the dark.

“Take your time. Sit out there for a little bit. Let the traffic thin out so that it’s a safer journey for you to get home,” he said. “If you are not an avid or a seasoned boater, it’s not the best night of the year to go out and try to learn to navigate at night with all those other vessels around.”

Liquor on the water is another common infraction, Gibson said. The same rules apply on the water as they do on dry land. Anyone caught with open liquor could find themselves pouring one out for their fishy friends, he said.

“Operators of the vessels have to stay sober. They can’t be at any higher level than you can when you’re on the road,” Gibson said.

 Vancouver Police Department marine unit Const. Jamie Gibson is asking boaters to show some common sense on the water - photo Brent Richter, North Shore NewsVancouver Police Department marine unit Const. Jamie Gibson is asking boaters to show some common sense on the water – photo Brent Richter, North Shore News

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority meanwhile is asking recreational boaters to stay under 15 knots while transiting first and second narrows. Both are busy shipping lanes for deep sea traffic and both attract recreational users.

“If you combine that with high-speed craft going in and out, creating waves, creating confusion and quite frankly going far too fast to react to the unexpected in front of them, we felt that this was something we needed to address,” said harbour master Stephen Brown. “You don’t drive down Georgia Street at 100 kilometres per hour in heavy traffic, neither should you be coming through the first narrows at 30 knots, which was quite common. You need to slow down. You need to look around you.”

So far, boaters are complying with the voluntary limit, Brown said. “We hope the voluntary (limit) does the job. If it needs something stronger in the future, that’s something we are definitely prepared to look at.”

Fireworks are scheduled for July 28, Aug. 1 and Aug. 4.

Read more from the North Shore News