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Lifejacket living in the Northwest Territories

When we think of the Northwest Territories, a lot of folks might picture snow, ice and the Aurora Borealis – but in the warmer weather it’s covered in beautiful lakes and rivers that are perfect for an adventure. Earlier in July, my friend Laura and I set out to Yellowknife, to visit our friend Meghan - and enjoy some spectacular nature. One day we decided to take a little canoe trip, so we packed a few snacks, sunscreen and, of course, rented three super stylish lifejackets along with our canoe.

There are a lot of excuses the three of us could have used to not wear our lifejackets that afternoon. After all, we are all confident swimmers;  the water was calm; we weren’t going very far out; we could just throw three lifejackets in the canoe; and we all felt pretty comfortable with our canoe abilities (although I should probably admit that I was sitting comfortably in the middle with somewhat limited paddling responsibilities). The thing is, all of these reasons only make sense in a world where nothing goes wrong, and especially nothing goes wrong as quickly as a canoe tipping over.

The reasons we kept our lifejackets on?

We are all confident swimmers: But that doesn’t factor in what can go wrong if we had to swim. The water was very cold; we might have been injured if we fell in the water; we might have struggled to stay calm when if we fell in the water; we might not have been conscious if we fell in the water; our sweaters and warm clothes might have made it hard to stay afloat; we might have to assist one of our other friends who fell in the water. There are a lot of reasons. It is very important to have a good knowledge of swimming to stay safe around water, but that wasn’t going to be enough for us.

The water was calm: The important word here is “was”. Conditions on the water change just like the weather – this is Canada after all – just because the water and weather appear calm when you set out does not mean it will stay that way.

We weren’t going that far out: The thing with open water is it can be deceiving. There is a lot to consider like currents, temperature, waves, drop offs, limited visibility and more – even when you don’t feel you’re particularly far away from land.

We could just throw three lifejackets in the canoe: While we all would love to be perfectly calm and collected in any emergency, it's super unrealistic to assume that we could get to lifejackets in time, or even have them in arm's reach during an emergency.

We feel pretty comfortable with our canoe abilities: Accidents and emergencies can happen to anyone. Part of what made us feel safe and confident with our canoe know-how when we took off on our little trek was our lifejackets.

Once back on dry-ish land (some shoes were soaked getting the canoe back to the rental spot), we took off our lifejackets and left with exactly what we came for – happy memories with friends. Emergencies can happen to anyone, and they happen quick. By wearing lifejackets we were able to stay safe while we had fun.

Want to brush up on your water safety knowledge? Check out these resources

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