Informed Boaters are Safer Boaters: Canadian Safe Boating Council

Boating is a great activity, whether you take to the water to paddle, sail, fish or cruise. Whatever your passion may be, the Canadian Safe Boating Council advises that learning how to boat safely will increase your enjoyment of boating.

As a boater, you are legally responsible for equipping yourself and your boat, operating your vessel safely and ensuring the safety of your passengers. You are responsible for knowing the laws and regulations that govern the safe operation of vessels on Canadian waterways. One of the best ways to learn the basics of safe boating is to take a course and write an accredited test.

In 1997, the Office of Boating Safety consulted with Canadians to determine the most effective ways of making our waterways safer. One of the key recommendations was to have the operators of power driven pleasure craft pass an accredited test. As a result, the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations was passed requiring recreational power boaters to earn a proof of competency.

The first phase, which came in effect in 1999, requires all operators of pleasure craft fitted with a motor born after April 1, 1983 to have proof of competency. The second phase, which came into effect in 2002, has required all operators of recreational power boats under 4 metres in length to have proof of competency, The final requirement, being phased in on September 15, 2009, will require all operators of power boats to have proof of competency.

There are a couple of ways to get your Operator Competency Card. Challenge the test if you already have the knowledge, attend a one-day course, purchase a personal study guide, or study on-line. So what will you learn when you study for your test? Depending on the guide, course or provider, you may just learn the basics to qualify for a Pleasure Craft Operator Card, or get a more in depth look at safe boating practices. Regardless of the choice you make, you�ll learn the rules of the road, the navigation system, safe boating practices, safety equipment requirements, seamanship and basic boat handling.

The rules of the road will familiarize you with the Collision Regulations, Small Vessel Regulations, Boating Restriction Regulations and Criminal Code of Canada. These acts outline the rules for navigation, speed, right-of-way, avoiding a collision, boat licensing, age and horsepower restrictions, safety, the laws governing drinking, and more.

Your training will cover the Canadian Navigation System, providing you with an understanding of the buoys and other navigation aids you will encounter on the water. You�ll learn the importance of charts, how to read them and how to identify and avoid the hazards marked by navigation aids.

All aspects of being a safe boater and your responsibilities on the water will be covered. A typical course will teach you about your boat and its equipment and general boating terminology. Personal safety equipment, including personal flotation devices and lifejacket requirement will be reviewed. The all important safety equipment required by law for each vessel size and its use will be reviewed to ensure you are properly equipped for an emergency and the water. Preparing for a trip will be covered, teaching you how to use weather information, the importance of filing a trip plan and the need to familiarize yourself with the local area where you will be boating.

The more complete courses and study guides will provide you with a basic grounding in seamanship and basic boat handling skills. The topics covered may include anchoring, docking your boat, basic line handling and knots. The basic skills to operate your boat, steering, throttling and trimming your vessel will be covered, along with learning how to handle emergency situations when you are on the water.

Canadian Safe Boating Council

The Canadian Safe Boating Council is an alliance of members committed to preventing boating injuries and drownings, and is dedicated to promoting safe and responsible boating throughout Canada. More at