OPP marine training underway on Lake Muskoka

Officers from several police detachments are participating in water safety training in Muskoka ahead of the busy boating season.

"It basically takes a road officer or a police officer and allows them the ability to operate vessels across Ontario, so it's kind of like teaching police officers how to operate boats," said Const. James Lyman, OPP Marine instructor.

Once training is complete, the officers are certified and ready to patrol the waters.

"They're good to go in terms of operating smaller vessels. We call those skiffs in the OPP, so 21, 24-foot vessels and below," Lyman noted.

The marine training program traditionally happened on the grounds of the Ontario Fire College in Gravenhurst until it closed its doors last year.

A new partnership between the Town of Gravenhurst and the Residence Inn by Marriott allowed training to take place on Lake Muskoka in Gravenhurst.

Officers go through a variety of exercises to get comfortable approaching boats safely.

"Through this, I have definitely built confidence in my own ability, ability in my team, and there's knowledge that I'll be taking back to Peel," said marine training student Const. Brian Mortotsi.

OPP Sgt. Dave Moffatt said boating safety is critical.

"Over the past 11 years, we've lost 260 people in boating fatalities on OPP-patrolled water."

Early in the season, the water is dangerously cold and falling in could be deadly.

"There's a chance you might ingest water. If you ingest that water, you have a very low chance of survival," said Moffatt.

Forty-eight officers will be trained through the marine program, which runs throughout May.