Tips for Better Boat Safety

life saving vest at sea

It’s been said that peace is not found in a calmer storm, it’s found in a better boat.  So too is peace of mind found in better boat safety. According to Transport Canada, more than 100 people are killed and many more seriously injured in boating accidents every year. And the sad reality is that most serious boating accidents can be avoided.

Licensing and Registration

If you operate or keep your boat primarily in Canadian waters, and it is propelled by a 10 hp motor or more, then you must obtain a pleasure craft licence. Such a licence is valid for 10 years and provides search and rescue personnel with critical information in the event of an emergency.  To obtain a pleasure craft licence, you must apply online to Transport Canada.

Safety Requirements

Approximately 90% of pleasure craft drowning deaths are due to failure to wear a lifejacket or personal floatation device. Put simply, wearing a lifejacket is the best protection when boating.

The minimum safety requirements mandated by Transport Canada differ for types of pleasure craft, but in general, you are required to have the following safety equipment (in good working order) onboard:

  • Personal lifesaving devices (lifejackets, personal floatation devices, buoyant heaving lines);
  • Visual signals (watertight flashlight, flares);
  • Bailers, bilge pumps, manual propelling devices, anchors;
  • Navigation equipment (sound-signalling devices, navigation lights, magnetic compasses, radar reflectors); and
  • Fire-fighting equipment (fire extinguishers, power-driven fire pumps, fire hose, buckets).

Safety Recommendations

Before embarking on any boating journey, we recommend the following:

  • Inspect your boat;
  • Explain safe boating rules to all who will be onboard;
  • Inform all guests where the safety equipment is kept;
  • Monitor the weather;
  • Make and file a sail plan;
  • Consult official nautical charts and publications;
  • Plan to avoid local hazards (overhead obstacles, bridges, underwater cables, swimming areas, rapids, currents, areas of rapid high-wave build-up); and
  • Load your boat properly (do not overload with equipment or people).

While on the water, it is critical that you:

  • Operate at a safe speed – you may need to turn suddenly to avoid a collision;
  • Follow the “rules of the road” for waterways – these rules set out what you must do to avoid a collision and are the law;
  • Avoid close quarter situations – give plenty of space to other vessels
  • Do not consume alcohol while operating a boat – your hand-eye coordination and judgment will be impaired (operating a boat while impaired is an offence under the Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, as amended); and
  • Be aware of your surroundings – there may be divers or swimmers in the water.

If you’re away at the cottage, you may also want to read our related blog content on “Cottage Season is Here: Be Aware of Your Responsibility as Host” and “Cottage Safety: Tips for Summer Sports and Activities.” We hope you are enjoying your summer, while staying safe.

For more information, please feel free to contact David J. Levy at 416-361-0117 or

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