When doing any activities whether it is with youth in Scouting or on your own, it important to ensure we not practice good safety, but teach our youth how to be safe.

Transport Canada has some very specific requirements regarding the equipment you must carry when aboard an unpowered pleasure craft such as canoes and small sailboats that are 6 metres (19’6”) in length or less. Always review the most up to date information by reading Transport Canada’s Safe Boating Guide. At the time of this writing, the regulations currently include:

  • One (1) Canadian-approved personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket of appropriate size for each person on board. Comment: It’s no longer approved if you alter it!
  • One (1) buoyant heaving line no less than 15 m (49’3”) in length. Comment: Rope made of polypropylene floats in water.
  • One (1) manual propelling device such as a paddle OR An anchor with no less than 15 m (49’3”) of cable, rope or chain in any combination. Comment: For small sailboats, swishing the rudder from side to side is an officially sanctioned alternative.
  • One (1) Class 5BC fire extinguisher, IF the pleasure craft is equipped with a fuel-burning cooking, heating or refrigerating appliance
  • One (1) bailer (must have a 10 square inch opening) OR One (1) manual water pump fitted with or accompanied by sufficient hose to enable a person using the pump to discharge water from the bilge of the vessel over the side of the vessel. A bailer or manual water pump is not required for any self-bailing sealed hull sailing vessel fitted with a recess-type cockpit that cannot contain a sufficient quantity of water to make the vessel capsize, or a multi-hull vessel that has subdivided multiple-sealed hull construction.
  • A sound-signalling device, like a pealess whistle or compressed gas horn, or a sound-signalling appliance such as an electric gas horn. Comment: If it didn’t come with one in the first place, tie the whistle to your PFD so that they are always together.
  • Navigation lights that meet the applicable standards set out in the Collision Regulations if the pleasure craft is operated after sunset and before sunrise or in periods of restricted visibility. Comments: Glow sticks might be a suitable solution for canoeing at night. Their soft glow will not affecting your night vision and you can hang some off the side, off the back of hats or other clothing if necessary. Be sure to carry some extras in case one drops into the water or goes out pre-maturely.

The following is a complete set of instructions on how to make an inexpensive throw rope bag. Not only will this project satisfy the requirement for the rope (the bag keeps the rope all nice and tidy), but due to the design, it can also serve as your bailer since it meets Transport Canada’s specifications. This is a great project that you can do with your scouts.

Shopping List

  • 1 x piece of closed cell foam (Swimming pool noodle from a dollar store). This will help keep your bag afloat when you throw it in the water.
  • 1 x 1.5L of bottled water or 2L bottle of pop (make sure it fits in the bag below!). This will help keep the shape of the bag as the rope unravels and double as a bailer.
  • 1 x Bottle Bag (Dollar store – Cost: $1.00 + tax). The one I purchased came with a built-in draw string to keep the rope from falling out.
  • 15 metres (50 feet) of good quality polypropylene buoyant rope, ½” thick (about long).
  • One (1) grommet with a ½” hole.

This is safety equipment. Always choose highly visible colours such as yellow, orange or red.

Tools and Knowledge Required

  • Xacto knife or scissors to cut the swimming pool noodle and the bottle.
  • Ruler
  • How to make a stopper knot such as the Figure Eight stopper or Figure Eight Follow Through loop (see the Animated Knots site if you need help)

Here are the steps to create your own throw rope bag:

  1. Using the Xacto knife and/or scissors, cut the bottle about 2 inches below the spout. The diameter of the whole must be at least 3.5” wide in order to be used as a bailer. Depending on your bottle, you may need be able to cut higher or need to cut lower.
  2. Cut another hole in the bottom of the bottle, just big enough to pass the rope through. A tight fit is good as we will be using the glue gun to seal it after we pass the rope through.
  3. Place in the bottom of the bag and measure how much room there is to the top of the bag. From that value, subtract 1.5” for a 1.5L bottle or 2.0” for a 2L bottle. The result will be the thickness of the foam you will need to cut in the next step.
  4. Cut a piece of closed cell foam the size calculated above.
  5. Dig out a whole all the way through in the centre of the foam, just large enough to pass the rope through it.
  6. Install the grommet at the bottom of the bag.
  7. Put the rope though the large opening of the bottle, then through the small opening at the bottom of the bottle, then through the foam, and finally in through the wide opening of the bag and out through the whole in the grommet.
  8. Tie a figure 8 stopper knot at the end of the rope. If your bag didn’t come with a loop attached to it, tie a knot with a loop in it.
  9. Push the foam along the rope into the bag. Repeat this step with the bottle.
  10. Stuff the rope into the bag. Although it looks nice if you coil the rope, I recommend stuffing. Not only is it quick and easy, but it will have less of a chance to get tangled when you throw the rope bag (be sure to hang on to the rope when you do this).

Optional: If your bag didn’t come with a draw string, you may need to add one. Some people also like to sew on straps with clip fasteners.

Maintenance Tip: Always be sure to dry out your rope after it gets wet to prevent mould and mildew.

Usage: Hold on to the long rope and throw the bag underhand. An emergency situation is not the time to discover you don’t know how to through it so be sure to practice (how about a small friendly competition?).

Fundraising: Have your scout troop make a bunch of these bags and sell them to other troops in your area.