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Boating Safety Tips

Boating Safety Tips


Posted July 31, 2018

Before setting out in your boat with family and friends take a minute to review these basic boating safety tips, as they may prevent a serious accident or injury.

Get your Pleasure Craft Operator Card

The Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) is required for anyone operating a pleasure craft with a motor. Once you have your PCOC it’s yours for life.  The operator must have their original PCOC card “on board”. There are a number of ways you can get your PCOC card. You will find a list of Transport Canada approved course providers on the Transport Canada website.

Take a Boating Course

Everyone, from beginners to experienced skippers, needs be familiar with the rules for boating safety. In addition to the mandatory Pleasure Craft Operator Card, it is advisable to take additional courses so that you can boat with confidence.  The Canadian Power and Sail Squadron (CPS) offers boating courses beyond the basic PCOC course.

Learn to Swim

Proper boating safety means knowing how to swim because you’re going to be in and around the water. Local institutions such as the Canadian Red Cross and YMCA offer lessons for all ages and swimming abilities. If you are planning to take up boating use the winter months to learn to swim or to upgrade your swimming and lifesaving skills.

Check the Weather Forecast

Accessing up to date weather information has never been easier with weather apps for your phone or iPad. Always check local weather conditions before leaving the dock. You also need to be on the lookout for potential changes in the weather such as dark clouds, changing winds, or dropping temperature. If in doubt, the safe thing to do is head for shore.

Have a Pre-Departure Checklist

Prepare and follow a pre-departure checklist that includes everything from personal flotation devices for each person, a spare paddle, to fire safety regulations and proper fuel requirements. A checklist is the best way to make sure you haven’t overlooked any boating safety rules or precautions.

Have a Float Plan

Always be sure that someone who is not going with you knows your float plan. This should include your route, destination(s) and how long you expect to be gone. A float plan should include the following information: name, address and phone number of trip leader and of all the passengers; boat type and registration information; and types of communication and signal equipment on board. Send your plan to a friend or family member before setting out.

Designate an Assistant Skipper

It is important to have more than only one person who is familiar with your boat, its operations, and all boating rules. If the Skipper is unable to operate the boat for any reason, it’s important to make sure that there is a backup who will be able to get everyone back to shore safely. Anyone who operates the boat must have their PCOC.

Make Proper Use of Personal Flotation Devices

Unfortunately, the majority of drowning victims from boating accidents were not wearing a personal flotation device (life jacket). Make sure that your passengers are safe by giving a life jacket to each person and making sure that it fits and is adjusted properly. Do not make any exceptions. If someone won’t wear a life jacket, do not let them come aboard.

Don’t Mix Alcohol and Boating

The caution “don’t drink and drive” applies to boats as much as to cars and operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol is an offense under the Criminal Code. The effects of alcohol are intensified by exposure to sun and wind and the likelihood of being in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved. You must be anchored and have permanent sleeping, kitchen and toilet facilities on board to be able to consume alcohol legally. Save the alcohol until you are done boating for the day.

Use Common Sense

Apart from knowing the rules and regulations, using common sense is the best way to enjoy boating safely. Common sense means keeping a safe speed at all times, especially in the presence of other boats or swimmers. Stay clear of other boats and watercraft that may be limited in their ability to stop or turn. Be guided by buoys and other navigational aids. These are meant to ensure boating safety.


Taking time to review these basic boating safety tips will make boating more enjoyable and may prevent a serious accident or injury.

This blog post was written by Edward (Ted) Masters, a member of the Disability Insurance Claims and Personal Injury teams.  He can be reached at 613-566-2064 or at

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