“First Mate” Responsibilities

I often get asked by the partners of boat operators what kinds of things they should know so that they can take over in the event of an emergency or just be a knowledgeable helping hand. Here is a review of the primary things that a “First Mate” should know, ranging from boat handling, reading charts, anchoring, calling for assistance, routines for docking, person overboard and other emergency procedures.

Situation: The Skipper is incapacitated. Your vessel is at anchor, you are away from home and the engine is not running.

Would you know how to:

• Attend to the skipper

• Prepare to get under way, check the equipment, run the blower

• Start the engine, inboard or outboard

• Raise the anchor

• Get under way, power or sail

• What to do if you can’t get under way

Situation: The Skipper is incapacitated and you are under way on a river, lake or channel.

Would you be able to:

• Conduct a person overboard procedure

• Get a person back on board from the water

• Find the safety equipment

• Put out a fire

• Anchor the vessel

• Call for help using the VHF marine radio

Situation: The Skipper is incapacitated and you are underway in open water.

Would you be able to:

• Render first aid

• Read a compass

• Read paper or electronic charts

• Take down sails

• Assist with a medical evacuation

In any situation where you are required to assume the operation of the vessel, do you:

• Know the rules of the road – who has right of way

• Know what the various navigation aids mean

• Know how to dock the vessel or leave a dock and various wind conditions

There is a great deal to know. The simplest answer would be to take a boating safety course and then practise handling the vessel in various situations. If you are going to operate a powered vessel of any type you will need proof of competency, the most common form of which is a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC). This will require that you take a course or home study and pass a multiple choice test.

To operate any type of marine band radio you will need to be familiar with the radio and have a Restricted Operator Certificate (Maritime), ROC(M). This will also require a course, a multiple choice test and a three question oral test.

Boating is a great family recreational activity and being prepared is the cornerstone of safe boating. The more you know, the more confident you will be and the more confident you are, the more fun you will have. Register for a course at: www.boatingcourses.ca

So, take the time now to prepare yourself and the rest of the family. Learn what to do and practise how to do it. Don’t let a potentially bad situation get worse. The lessons are simple, they should not be intimidating and they can actually be fun.

John Gullick, CPS Manager of Government & Special Projects

To view John’s FAQs visit Just Ask John














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