Wear a floatation device when doing anything on or around local waterways. This is the message that local RCMP would like to get out to the Cowichan Lake public. On Thurs. April 5, a local man, who was working on his boat at the Cowichan Lake Marina, Point Ideal, fell into the lake and was in the water for approximately 10 minutes before a member of the RCMP, who was performing pre-season checks on the detachment vessel, heard someone calling for help.
Sgt. Dave Voller says this kind of incident should be a wake up call for local residents. Lake temperatures are still low, and hypothermia can set in quickly. “Just because we get three or four sunny days does not mean that the lake is now suitable for swimming,” says Voller. Accidents can happen at any time and boaters as well as lake goers should always be wearing a floatation device when doing anything around the water. He says that people of Cowichan Lake are “very good when they’re on the water, (or) in their boats, but they think, ‘well look, if I’m just going to be working on my boat from shore . . . I don’t need to wear one’.”
Due to limited funding, Voller says it’s difficult for the RCMP to monitor all of Cowichan Lake’s waters, and that every year they respond to calls of people or vessels in distress. “We get a small amount of seasonal policing from district headquarters, and we use it to augment our policing services.” In other words, they bring in extra officers for long weekends, parades, and for summertime special events. It’s hard to stretch the funding that the Lake Cowichan detachment does receive between these events, policing tubers along the river, and putting additional boat patrols on the lake.
The department receives $13,000 a year for boat patrols on the lake. These funds are split with the Shawnigan Lake detachment. In the past, Lake Cowichan RCMP have done three to four patrols during the summer, but last year they conducted 16. “The Department of Transportation says if we’re doing enforcement on a vessel we now need two people on board. So if your going to put a patrol out on a members day off, instead of just paying one member overtime, you’re now paying two members overtime,” says Voller.
Voller warns that the RCMP will be out on the water again this year, “and we are going to be checking for compliance under the small vessel regulations patrol act and in some cases the criminal code (if people appear to be operating their vessels under the influence). And unfortunately accidents are just a part of (patrolling). We’d love to go through a whole season with no sudden deaths, be it motorcyclists or drownings in the river or drownings in the lake.”
So keep safe when you are out on the water, Cowichan Lake residents, not only in the summer, but now as well.