Boat Safety Requirements

5 minute read Published on Apr 15, 2021 by BrokerLink Communications

Boat Safety Requirements

When you’re ready to launch your boat for the season, make sure you’re prepared and protected! One of the most important things to think about before you take your boat out is your safety and the safety of others. Many boat-related injuries and accidents can be prevented by having the correct safety items in your boat. Before you set sail, check the list below to ensure you have the important items you need.

Safety equipment

Life jackets and wearable personal flotation devices (PFD)

A life jacket or PFD in appropriate sizes must be available for each person on board. If you’re towing a skier or a tube behind the boat, they will need a PFD as well. In most provinces, kids 12 – 16 and under, are required to wear a PFD on a moving vessel. Likewise, anyone riding a personal watercraft (PWC) must have a PFD on board at all times.

In case of an emergency of any kind, the first thing to do is ensure that all passengers onboard put their life jackets on immediately. (A safer option is to recommend that all those onboard are wearing them before departure.) Don’t forget any furry friends on board and ensure they wear a lifejacket too!

Throwable flotation devices

In addition to the life jackets and PFDs worn, you’ll need at least one floating device (Type IV) on board, that you can throw to an individual in trouble in the water. This can be a cushion, a ring buoy or other device. Although only one device is required, it’s better to have several. Some of these items may come with a line attached so you can pull a person closer to the boat to get them out of the water.

Fire extinguishers

There are different kinds and ratings for fire extinguishers, so to keep it simple, remember that:

  • Boats under 26 feet need at least one B-1 type extinguisher.
  • Boats 26 to just under 40 feet need two B-1 types or one B-2 type extinguisher.

Teach your regular passengers how to operate an extinguisher: pull the pin, squeeze the handle and aim at the base of the flames.

Visual signaling devices

Visual distress signals come in a variety of types, as there are different requirements based on the size of vessel and by the province or jurisdiction in which you are boating.

  • Boats under 16 feet must have flares or nighttime signals.
  • Boats over 16 feet must carry visual signals for both day and night use.

Examples of pyrotechnic devices or flares that would qualify are:

  • Orange or white smoke
  • Aerial light flares

Some flares are self-launching, while others require a flare gun to send them into the sky. Other nighttime devices include:

  • Strobe light
  • Flags (daytime use only)

Note: Personal watercraft (PWC) cannot be operated between sunset and sunrise, so they do not require nighttime devices.

Sound signaling devices

Sounds can attract help both day and night and are especially effective in fog. Portable or fixed horns and whistles count as sound-generating devices for all boats. Larger vessels (over 39 feet) should also carry a bell to be sounded at regular intervals in times of limited visibility like fog.

Quick tips for boating in Canada

Legal requirements for boat operation

It’s illegal to drive a boat without a proper boating license. In addition, boating without the proper information on board may result in a fine. To ensure you always have your license, consider keeping it on your boat.

What to do if you’re in a boating accident

  • Confirm everyone involved is okay.
  • Ensure everyone is wearing their life jackets.
  • Call for help if needed.
  • If another boat is involved in the accident, get the other driver’s information and any information they can provide about the boat.
  • Once you’re safe on land, call your insurer to start your claim.

Important boat safety tips

  • Watch the weather: conditions can change rapidly and impact your trip. Check the forecast before you head out and be aware of the closest shelter in case of a sudden storm. Never hesitate to head back to shore if it looks like the weather might suddenly turn nasty.
  • Inspect your boat: make sure the engine and all equipment are in working order. Once your boat is 10-15 years old, and every five years after, your insurance provider will ask for proof of a professional survey. These inspections may discover mechanical or structural problems hidden from the boat owner or operator’s sight.
  • Check your fuel level: fuelling a boat requires more caution than when you pump gas for your car. Be sure your boat is moored securely and all engines or power supplies are off.
  • Boat weight: know your boat’s weight restrictions before allowing people or equipment on board. Make sure the weight is evenly distributed as- your boat can become unstable if there’s too much weight in one area.

Here’s a common-sense tip from one of our expert insurance advisors:

“All safety equipment must be maintained, in very good condition, and accessible at all times.”

Boat insurance

Some homeowners’ policies provide automatic coverage for smaller watercraft, such as canoes, rowboats or sailboats. For boats with higher value or higher horsepower-to-length ratio, you need separate insurance coverage.

Whatever kind of boat you own, contact BrokerLink to be sure you have the right coverage in place. We recommend that your boat is insured to its current market value, so you may recover its full worth in the event of a total loss. Most insurance companies recommend coverage of at least $2 million in case any physical damage or personal liability occurs. Your homeowner’s insurance may not cover all instances of marine liability. If you are not certain, it’s best to check with your BrokerLink branch.

Looking for boat insurance?

On and off the water, it's smooth sailing when you have boat insurance. Contact BrokerLink today to get a free boat insurance quote.

In addition to leisure boats, we also insure commercial vessels so if you need insurance for your commercial marine operation, call us today! For more information, please visit our Marine Insurance page.


Boat Safety Requirements FAQs

Can local police board your boat?

Yes, local police can board your boat to enforce the law. They can inspect your boat to ensure you are in compliance with boating laws and deliver fines if required. Check your provincial boating laws to ensure you are following the law.

What safety equipment is required on a boat?

Quite a few safety items are required on-board a boat. These items can help keep you safe and ensure an enjoyable time on the water. For motorized craft less than six meters in length, various safety equipment is required by law. For up-to-date requirements, please check with your local authorities. Safety equipment can include:

  • A Canadian-approved and appropriately sized personal flotation device or lifejacket for each occupant.
  • A buoyant heaving line 15+ meters in length.
  • A method of removing water from the craft, such as a bailer or hand pump.
  • Manual propelling device (such as a paddle) or an anchor with 15+ meters of reach.
  • Sound-signaling device such as an emergency air horn.
  • Navigation lights, for when the craft is used either at night or during periods of reduced visibility.
  • A class 5BC fire extinguisher, for any craft equipped with an inboard motor, fixed fuel tank, or additional electronics.
  • A waterproof flashlight or Canadian approved flares (types A, B or C).

What is the first thing you do in a boating accident?

The first thing you should do is ensure everyone involved is okay. Once you determine the severity of the accident, you can decide if you need to call for help. If you have boat insurance, gather all necessary information and contact your insurance broker when you are safely back on land.