FAQ - Rules and Regulations

Writing the Safe Boater Exam? We Have the Answers!

Our complete study guide can provide you with all the background information you need to answer and pass the Safe Boater Exam and receive your Pleasure Craft Operator Card. Below are answers to common questions regarding the Safe Boater Exam, boating laws and regulations, and additional information regarding the Pleasure Craft Operator Card.

Q. Why do boaters now need to have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card?

A. The Pleasure Craft Operator Card regulations are an attempt to reduce the number of boating related accidents and fatalities. The goal of the program is to encourage boaters to evaluate their capabilities and limits, to prepare themselves adequately before heading out, and to be responsible on the water.

Q. Who needs the Pleasure Craft Operator Card and when?

A. As of September 15, 2009, all boaters are required to have the Pleasure Craft Operator Card in order to operate a powered watercraft. There is no grandfather clause or age exemption – this law applies to all boaters. Powered watercraft includes watercraft fitted with any size motor — even an electric trolling motor.

Q. What is the difference between a Pleasure Craft Operator Card and a Pleasure Craft Licence?

A. The Pleasure Craft Operator Card applies to the driver of the boat, while a Pleasure Craft License applies to the boat itself. A Pleasure Craft Licence is the number placed on the side of each recreational vessel as required under the Small Vessel Regulations of the Canada Shipping Act. You can apply for a Pleasure Craft License at any Service Canada Centre across the country. For the location nearest you, visit www.servicecanada.gc.ca or call 1.800.O-CANADA.

Q. Do I need a driver's licence to operate a watercraft?

A. No, a driver's licence is not required to operate a watercraft. You do require your Pleasure Craft Operator Card on board while operating a powered watercraft.

Q. What is the fine for operating without your card?

A. Not having the required Pleasure Craft Operator Card or proof of competency on board results in a $250 fine (not including administrative charges).

Q. What are some of the common boating offences and associated fines? (not including administrative charges)

A. Transport Canada reports the following:

Not having enough approved life jackets on board will result in a $200 fine;

  • Careless operation will result in a $200 fine;
  • Speeding will result in a $100 fine;
  • Allowing someone under age to operate a boat will result in a $250 fine;
  • Operating a boat if you are under age will result in a $100 fine;
  • Operating a boat without a working muffle in good condition will result in a $100 fine;
  • Towing someone without a spotter will result in a $100 fine.

Q. Is there an age exemption clause?

A. No, there is no age exemption – this law applies to all operators, regardless of age.

Q. Is there a grandfather clause?

A. Yes, if you have previously taken a boating safety course prior to 1999, you may be exempt from writing the boater exam.

Q. I have a sailboat. Do I need an Operator Card?

A. If you have an auxiliary engine fitted to your sailboat, then you need the Card. This applies even while you are under sail.

Q. Do Aboriginals need to have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card?

A. Yes, the regulations do apply to Aboriginals, however the regulations do not apply in situations where the craft is used for daily living or subsistence activities (such as hunting and fishing for the purpose of subsistence).

Q. I operate a boat for work purposes. Do I need the Card?

A. No. A Pleasure Craft Operator Card is only required by operators of watercraft being used for recreational purposes. It is common however for many commercial establishments (such as marinas, and fishing and hunting lodges) to ask their staff to obtain their Pleasure Craft Operator Cards.

Q. What if I don’t live in Canada, but boat there?

A. Non-residents only need to obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card if they are operating their powered boats in Canadian waters for more than 45 consecutive days or if the boat they are operating is registered or licensed in Canada (this includes rented boats). Boater Education Cards or equivalent certifications are recognized in Canada. Proper identification should be kept on board at all times to provide proof of residency.

Q. What about horsepower restriction for children?

A. Horsepower restrictions apply as follows:

Age Power Restrictions
Under 12 years of age, and not directly supervised; Can operate vessels with under 10 hp;
Between 12 years and under 16 years of age, and not directly supervised; Can operate vessels with under 40 hp;
Under 16 years of age; Not allowed to operate a PWC;
16 years of age and over. No power restrictions.

Q. What if I rent a powerboat or PWC?

A. Currently, a Pleasure Craft Operator Card is not required in order to operate a rented watercraft. Instead, it is sufficient for a renter to complete a rental safety checklist. Take note however that some companies have made it their corporate policy to require renters to have their Pleasure Craft Operator Card.

While the dictionary defines "Vessel" as a craft, Transport Canada wants us to clarify what is meant by this word. We mean small vessel, water craft used for pleasure, personal watercraft, ark, powered gondola or powered kayak, sailboat with power, argosy, motorboat, skiff - or we could just say - boat.