Safe Boating

In light of our changing climate and the severity of extreme weather in Ontario, the Town of Oakville would like to remind boaters, people fishing, and all other users of Lake Ontario to stay safe this summer.


Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS)
Canadian Safe Boating Association
Boating Examination

Watch the weather

The key to weather is checking it before you head out and keep an eye on it while on the water. If you feel that there is any risk, don’t go. It’s every boater’s responsibility to keep a weather eye and to Boat Safe – Return Safe. Enjoy your time on the water and have many happy returns.

Boaters must

  • assess the weather
  • make a decision before heading out on the water
  • know how to interpret weather changes while on the water

Sudden changes in weather can occur without warning

Sudden changes in wind can be particularly dangerous since this can cause a rapid buildup of high waves. Many small pleasure crafts are not designed to handle any great amount of wind/waves and can be easily swamped or capsized. When the forecast is poor, plan to stay ashore. If you are already on the water and the weather appears to be changing and degrading head to shore as directly and as quickly as is safe.

Local forecast

There are a number of ways to get your local forecast:

  • Make personal observations of sky and wind
  • Check the local forecast in the newspaper, radio or television
  • Check Government of Canada Weather website of the Weather Network website
  • Tune into channels 21B, 25B and 83B on the Atlantic Coast and Great Lakes, channel 21B and Wx1, 2 and 3 on the West Coast or an Environment Canada Weather Radio service in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal on your marine VHF radio

While on the water

  • Keep a weather eye out
  • Frequently monitor cloud patterns and sky conditions
  • Listen for static on an AM radio band
  • Observe birds heading for shelter
  • If the weather appears to be changing/degrading head to shore as directly and as quickly as is safe

If the sky looks dark, the cloud conditions are changing rapidly or there is a shift in the wind you can expect a change in the weather. The best idea is to stay sensitive to the little changes to make sure that you react in time before big changes hit. Summer thunderstorms can strike quickly and quite unexpectedly. Winds and waves associated with thunderstorms can increase suddenly and drastically, creating severe local wind and wave conditions.

Take immediate action in bad weather

When changing and deteriorating whether occurs while out on the water, you should take immediate action and head for shore and safety. Having a marine chart on board will allow you to find in a bay, cove or other sheltered location to weather out a storm or wind and wave conditions beyond your boats capability. Should you find yourself caught in bad weather out on the water:

  • if you don’t have them on already ensure that everyone wears a PFD
  • slow down
  • proceed with caution
  • approach the waves bow-on at a 45 degree angle
  • keep your passengers and load low in the boat to avoid capsizing

Environment Canada weather terminology

Environment Canada uses some specific specialized terminology in marine weather forecasts to provide boaters with information on the expected conditions:

Light winds

Less than 15 knots (28 km/h) with wave heights up to 1.5 metres

Moderate winds

In the range of 15 to 19 knots (28 to 35 km/h) with waves of 1 to 3 metres

Strong winds or small craft warnings

Used to report winds of 20 to 33 knots (37 to 61 km/h) with wave heights of 3 to 6 metres

Gale warnings

Issued when sustained win speeds are 34 to 47 knots (63 to 87 km/h) and may have waves reaching 6 to 9 metres in height

Storm warnings

Continuous wind speeds of 48 to 63 knots (89 to 117 km/h) and wave heights exceeding 8 metres