Boater Exam Online

As of September 15, 2009 all Canadian boaters require "proof of competency" in order to operate a boat fitted with a motor, or they risk expensive fines. One method of obtaining "proof of competency" is to pass a Transport Canada approved Boater Exam® online and gets you your Boat Operator Card.

The Pleasure Craft Operator card (PCOC) fulfills the requirement for "proof of competency" indicating you have obtained the minimum knowledge required to operate a boat safely. Although there are other methods to demonstrate "proof of competency", successfully passing your Boater Exam® is the only way to obtain a pleasure craft operator card (PCOC).

About the Boater Exam® itself

The exam itself is relatively straight forward:

  • 36 multiple choice questions
  • 75% needed to pass (27 right answers)
  • Free retries if you fail
  • Only one exam attempt allowed per 24 hours
  • Questions are randomized, so you will never get the same exam twice.

If you fail the exam while taking it online, you can simply retake it gain the next day (however, you will not get the same exam as on your first attempt).

In either case, there are no additional charges.

The Boater Exam® covers a variety of boating safety topics including navigation, marker buoys, right-of-way rules and emergency preparedness. Online study guides are available to assist less experienced boaters.

The Regulations

Although the regulations are very clear that all boaters who operate a boat with a motor require having their card, there are still many incorrect rumors floating about. There are rumours that if you have certain types of boats, or certain sizes of engines, or that if you are over a certain age, that these regulations do not apply and that you are exempt from the Boater Exam®. This is incorrect. If you operate any boat fitted with an engine, even a canoe with an electric trolling motor or a sailboats with an auxiliary engine (even if it's not engaged), then you need to take your Boater Exam®!

Regulations for non-residents of Canada

If you are a non-resident of Canada, you may need to take your Boater Exam® if either of the following applies:

  • You operate your powered boat in Canadian waters for more than 44 consecutive days or,
  • You operate a powered boat that is licensed or registered in Canada

If your boat is not registered in Canada, and you operate your boat in Canadian waters for less than 45 consecutive days, then these regulations do not apply to you and you do not need to take the Canadian Boater Exam®. If you feel you will need your Canadian boater card during your visit to Canada, your best option is to complete the Boater Exam® online prior to your arrival.

For a complete list of regulations, proof of competency requirements, and who needs to take the Canadian Boater Exam® please consult the Transport Canada Boating Safety website.

The Boater Exam® can be taken online; the online exam is intended for more experienced boaters, so novice boaters are encouraged to take an approved boating safety course prior to attempting the online Boater Exam®. Although taking a boating course is not required, it is strongly encouraged to do so.

Boaters should note that a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) can only be issued after the successful completion of a Transport Canada approved Boater Exam®. Once obtained the Boater’s Operator Card is good for life. Those caught without the card face a $250 fine regardless of size of boat, engine horsepower or age.

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