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 easily prevented by ensuring you have the correct items in your boat. Before you set sail, make sure you bring the following safety items along:
Life Jackets and Wearable Personal Flotation Devices (PFD)
A life jacket or PFD must be available for each person on board, in the appropriate size. If you’re towing a skier or a tube behind the boat, these people 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 you should do is ensure that all passengers onboard put their life jackets on immediately. A safer option is to recommend that all those onboard put them on right at the dock before departure. Think about your fur 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.
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 family and guests how to operate an extinguisher: pull the pin, squeeze the handle and aim at the base of the flames.
Here are some quick tips about boating in Canada
Legal requirements for boat operation
It is illegal to drive a boat without a proper boating license and boating without the proper information on board may result in a fine. To ensure you always have your license, consider keeping it in your boat, so you’re never without it while having fun on the water.
What to do if you’re in a boating accident
- Make sure 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.
What are some boat safety tips?
- Check the weather before you head out on the water
- Inspect your boat to ensure everything looks to be in working order
- Check your fuel level
- Make sure the weight in your boat is evenly distributed
Visual Signaling Devices
Visual distress signals come in a variety of types as there are different requirements based on the size of vessel and even by the province or jurisdiction of where 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)
PWCs 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.
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.
If you need insurance for a commercial boat, please visit our Marine Insurance page.
Boat Safety Requirements FAQs
Can local police board your boat?
The simple answer is 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 or harsher punishments if required. Check your provincial boating laws to ensure you are in compliance.
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 6 metres 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+ metres 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+ metres of reach
- Sound-signalling device such as an emergency air horn
- Navigation lights (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 if you need insurance coverage, contact a insurance broker.