With drownings on the rise, authorities are reminding Quebecers to be safe on the water

With the official start of summer just around the corner, the Lifesaving Society is urging Quebecers to be careful around water.

There were four drownings in the province this week alone including one Friday when an 81-year-old man fell out of a boat and perished.

So far, the number of drownings is up from this time last year, and with COVID-19 restrictions and spread increasing the popularity of outdoor activities including watersports, the coast guard auxiliary on Lac Saint Louis says it's busier than ever.

"This unit is now celebrating its 10th anniversary of founding," said coast guard commander Stephen Gruber. "Unfortunately the number of missions we are called out to do is increasing every year."

Gruber said many people aren't prepared when they take to the water, lacking knowledge of the environment and proper safety training.

"You never buy a car without taking lessons and a test I would hope," he said. "It's exactly the same for a boat, whatever kind of watercraft you are on, you need training to take that out safely."

One of the drowning victims in Quebec this week was a 10-year-old boy, who was swimming in a lake near Quebec City on a field trip. A two-year-old also drowned in a pond in the Eastern Townships behind her home.

The total number of drownings in Quebec is now 26, which is more than this time last year.

"One drowning is too much particularly when we have children or toddlers its always too much all the time," said Lifesaving Society director general Raynald Hawkins.

Another concern for the Lifesaving Society has been the lack of access to swimming lessons with pools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We didn't have swimming lessons and pools for children," said Hawkins.

At the Baie-D'Urfe Yacht Club sailors were rigging their boats hoping to take advantage of the wind on Saturday and reminding those new to the water how to be prepared.

"I think the biggest thing I'm trying to tell, especially new members, is be careful; the water is still cold," said boater Bill Strath.

"Abide by all the rules, and one that I stick to 100 per cent is you don't leave the dock unless you are wearing a pfd (personal flotation device)," said boater Tony Pattinson.

When it comes to interacting with the water, both the Lifesaving Society and the Coast Guard Auxiliary agree on two safety tips: Wear a life jacket, and never be alone.