If you are a boater, you may know that the rules governing boating have been changing over recent years.  A number of federal regulations including the Small Vessel Regulations, the Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations and the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations govern small vessel licensing and operation under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.  As a life-long boater, I find that not many people are fully aware of what these regulations provide.  Remember, ignorance of the law is no excuse and can be harmful to your pocketbook.  In order to keep you safer and wealthier, here are some common infractions and what they may cost you:


Operator’s Card.  An official operator’s card is now required for operators of power-driven pleasure craft (or proof of completing a safe boating course in Canada prior to April 1, 1999, or a completed rental boat safety checklist).  If you cannot produce one of these you may find your wallet $250 lighter.


Pleasure Craft License.  Not to be confused with your Operator’s Card, your vessel’s license is its set of identification numbers, to be displayed near the bow along the side of your boat.  Unless your boat is “registered” (most small pleasure craft are not) a license is required if your motor is 10 hp or larger.  You must also carry a copy of this license on board so make sure it is current and in your name.  Failure to provide it may also relieve you of the burden of carrying $250.  Licenses can be obtained from Service Canada.


Underage operation.  Children under 12 may operate boats with up to 10 hp motors without direct supervision.  Children aged 12 to 16 may operate up to 40 hp.  Children under 16 may not operate personal watercraft.  Of course proof of competency is still required in each case.  If you allow an underage person to operate your vessel you (as owner) may face a $250 fine while the underage person may be subject to a $100 fine.


Alcohol.  Drinking and driving in a boat is prohibited, just as it is in your car, and is punishable under the Criminal Code.  First offence convictions result in fines of no less than $600, with potentially more serious consequences such as jail time.


Life Jackets.  You must have, for each person on board, a Canadian-approved, appropriately sized flotation device.  Though you are not required to be wearing them (unless they are the inflatable type) you may be fined $200 for each violation if you do not have enough on board.


Speeding.  In Manitoba and Ontario (as in some other provinces) there is a general “un-posted” speed limit of 10 km/h (6 mph) within 30 metres (approx. 100 ft) of shore except in rivers or channels less than 100 metres (329 ft) wide or when starting or dropping a water-skier and heading directly into or away from shore.  There are also officially-posted speed-restricted zones in certain areas.  Speeding may cost you $100 to $200 or more (see below).


Towing someone without a spotter.  Just a bad idea.  This will cost you $250.  If using a personal watercraft, it must be large enough to accommodate the driver, the spotter and the person being towed.


Operating a vessel in a careless manner.  There are many creative ways you could find yourself subject to this fine of $250 including if you operate at a speed higher than is necessary to maintain steerage way when near swimmers or non-powered vessels.


Failure to operate engine blower.  If you have an inboard or inboard/outboard gasoline engine you probably know that you should be operating your blower for 4 minutes prior to starting.  Failure to do so may cost you $250, or may cause your boat to explode.  Or both.  Either way it may ruin your day.


Inadequate Safety Equipment.  This may cost you $200.  In addition to lifejackets or approved flotation devices for each person on board, you probably know that you need:

  • a bailing device (a pail works well) or manual bilge pump;
  • a manual propelling device (most commonly… a paddle) or an anchor with not less than 15m (50 ft) of rope or chain;

but did you know that, even if your boat is less than 6 metres (19’8″ ft) you also need:

  • a sound signalling device (a whistle works well);
  • a buoyant heaving line not less than 15m (49’3″ ft) in length;
  • a waterproof flashlight (or 3 pyrotechnic flares);

and you may further need:

  • a re-boarding device (e.g. a swim ladder) unless the vertical height that must be climbed over in order to re-board (i.e. the freeboard of your boat) is less than 0.5m (1’8″);
  • navigation lights (if you operate after sunset, before sunrise, or in periods of restricted visibility); and
  • a 5B:C portable fire extinguisher if your boat has an inboard engine, a fixed fuel tank or a fuel-burning heating, cooking or refrigerating device.


For boats longer than 6 metres the equipment requirements become more and more comprehensive commensurate with the size of the vessel.


There are a variety of other creative ways you may find yourself relieved of gas money, such as failing to take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of your craft and persons on board ($300).  Keep your wallet and your passengers safe this summer and ensure you are complying with the law.  For further reading you can visit Transport Canada’s Marine Safety Website, which has a great deal of very useful information.


This article was prepared by:


Bradley Madison



[email protected]