Whether you’re about to buy your first boat or you want to sell one, there are many procedures to know about and follow as an owner. Be it about safety, the environment or the law, it’s important to get all the information you need beforehand.

You’ll find, in the section below, various tricks and tips answering all your questions.




Proof of competency

Since September 15th 2009, every boat driver must have a proof of competency onboard.

Your proof of competency can come in three ways:

  • A Pleasure Craft Operator Card
  • Proof that the captain passed a nautical safety class in Canada before April 1st 1999
  • A signed list to verify all the safety features (if the boat is rented)

Requirements for driving a motor boat

To drive a boat with a motor, you must have a valid pleasure craft licence as of the 15th of September 2009. According to the law on Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations, all motor boat operators that use them recreationally must have a proof of competency. The most common format is the Pleasure Craft Operator Card.

Pleasure Craft Operator exam

In order to acquire a Pleasure Craft Operator Card, you are not required to take a class to be able to take the exam. However, even if you may pass the exam without one, it is highly recommended to take the boat safety class. Take note that the minimum age for operating any pleasure craft that has a motor is 16 years old.

Driving a jet-ski

When it comes to jet-skis and waverunners, a proof of competency or a Pleasure Craft Operator Card is required. Also, children under 16 years of age are not allowed to drive jet skis in Canada.

Boating Safety Course

In order to take advantage of all the different nautical trainings, you’ll find on Transport Canada’s website an exhaustive list of all the accredited course providers for boating safety courses.

Laws and regulations

Speed limit

In the provinces of Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia (interior waters only in BC) the speed limit is 10 km/h at 30m (98 feet 5 inches) or less of the shore in all waters within their province except under these circumstances:

  • Water skiing, when the boat is moving perpendicular to the shore;
  • Waterways that are less than 100m (328 feet 1 inch) wide, canals, or indicated channels;
  • Waters in which a different speed limit is requested in annexe to the regulation.

Note as well that in Quebec, speed limits are usually displayed.

To get more information on the regulations in effect, consult the Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations.

Noise Pollution

Besides common courtesy towards others, a pleasure craft fitted with a motor must incorporate a device contributing to the reduction of the engine’s noise level. The device must be in use at all times when operating within five nautical miles (9.26 km) of the shore. This provision does not affect unmodified outboard engines.

Consuming alcohol onboard

In Quebec it isn’t prohibited to drink alcohol onboard pleasure crafts. The maximum tolerated is like on the road, 0.08%. However, it is important to remember that it is strongly recommended not to consume alcohol while navigating and that the sun, wind, heat and water are important factors that considerably enhance the effects of alcohol. For more information about this subject consult the website of Sûreté du Québec.

Equipment required onboard:

The minimum life saving equipment required onboard varies depending on the size and type of pleasure craft you have.  In every case, it is mandatory to wear a PFD (personal flotation device) or a life jacket approved in Canada that is the right size for each person onboard. This is for your own safety and the safety of everyone onboard. You can purchase a life jacket or PFD that is appropriate for the type of activity you’re practicing. To determine what’s appropriate to wear, visit the Transport Canada website.

Additional information

At all times you can stay up-to-date with the laws and regulations on the following websites for marine services offered by Transport Canada, Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.



Choosing your boat

Choosing your ideal boat can be challenging. To be sure that you’ve made the right choice, you need to be well prepared and know the different kinds of models that exist. You also need to be able to choose which one suits your needs best. The type, power, length and cost are only a few of the many elements to consider when buying.

To be well-informed, you have to be able to answer these questions first:

  • What activities to you want to do with your boat?
  • On what type of body of water do you plan to use it on?
  • How many people will be onboard with you?
  • How much are you willing to spend?
  • Do you plan to rent a space in a marina or do you need a trailer?

Comparing different models will help you start narrowing the list down. Discover Boating has a system for comparing boats that you can use to help you in your research. It’s a practical tool for buyers that can help get a good idea of what kind of boat suits your needs best.

New or second-hand?

It’s usually recommended to shop for new boats. This will aIlow you to determine the model of boat that suits your needs and will also allow you to get an idea of the cost this boat has on the market. Then you can compare that price to similar used models. This information will help you make your choice and find the best deals on your ideal boat! Check out the “New VS Pre-owned” article on Discover Boating to know everything about the subject. Also take the time to get the information you need about the cost of owning and operating a boat and about financing your boat.

Where and when to shop?

You’ll find excellent occasions to buy boats all year round. Boat shows are, amongst other places, a great way to shop around. The large variety of boats you’ll find there will allow you to compare different brands and prices offered by many different retailers. Some of them even offer special rates for visitors as well as special offers for financing.

Make sure you check out different suppliers before making your choice. Choose a retailer that is well established, somewhere that is on your way, or nearby, when you go get your boat. If possible, test the boat out before purchasing. 

Consult the list of retailors that are members of the QMA and discover many of them at the Montreal Boat and Water Sports Show and the In-Water Boat Show.




Even though in Canada you are not obligated to insure your boat, it is strongly recommended to get insurance. Here are a few tips for choosing the right insurance for you considering your boat and your needs.



Maintaining your boat

Many cases of stalled boats are reported every year. In order to avoid any bad surprises you should regularly inspect and maintain your boat. Transport Canada has a checklist that you can use to inspect your boat.

Also, it’s strongly recommended to maintain your boat more than just for one season. Discover Boating’s website will guide you through the checklist for the start of boating season in the spring, all the way to information on maintaining motors and tips for winter.



Navigation tips

Storing your boat

The availability of a site, its practicality and the budget you have are all important factors to consider when making this important choice. All of these factors also come into play when comparing different models of boats. However, two starting solutions are worth considering.

There’s no easier way than keeping your boat on a trailer which allows you to keep your boat in your driveway or your yard (make sure your neighborhood regulations allow it). Never the less, there are many things to factor in when choosing a trailer to buy. At the top of the list of things to consider: the towing power of your car, truck or SUV. You’ll find this information in the owner’s manual of your vehicle.

Another possibility for smaller boats is to jack it up and store it out of the water. In this case you’ll store your boat in a covered hangar in a storage space.

For boat owners, whether your boat is big or small, for those who wish to have easy access to their boats at all times, the easiest solution by far is a dock spot in a marina.


Whether it’s about regulations, speed limits, lockage permits and their payment, or even the procedures to follow when crossing through the locks, Parks Canada has a how-to to help prepare boaters. Parks Canada manages all the locks from national heritage sites.

When crossing locks on the Saint-Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, the Great Lakes Seaway Corporation created a pleasure craft guide for that purpose.

To know the lockage schedule for the Great Lakes Seaway, you can consult them at all times on the website of the Great Lakes Seaway Corporation.

Finally, to pay the lockage fees, it can all be done online or by cash. Consider however that when you pay online you get a small discount on the lockage fee.

How to cross the Canadian border by waterway

To enter Canada by waterway on a boat or small aircraft, a procedure has been established by the Canada Border Services Agency. Also, to make your travel between Canada and the United-States easier, the CANPASS system has been put together, which should accelerate getting through customs at the border.

Boating with young children

Planning a boating trip with young children requires preparations when it comes to safety onboard. It is essential to explain to children the safety rules to follow before raising the anchors. It’s also very important to make sure they are wearing a PFD (personal flotation device) or life jacket.

During an outing you should always have two qualified adults, one to drive the boat and one to watch the children. Also, in order to be prepared in the case of a possible overboard recovery, it’s important to know the procedures to follow in case of emergency.  One of the ways to practice is the following: use a doll wearing a lifejacket, throw it overboard and practice rescuing it until all the passengers onboard are comfortable with the procedure to follow. This way, by practicing, you’ll at least have a minimum of preparation to intervene in the case of an emergency.



Selling your boat

Transferring a pleasure craft licence

The transfer of a Pleasure Craft Licence is done through Service Canada. However, it’s always useful to ask for advice from a notary that’s specialized in the marine field. In the case of a boat registered with the ships of Canada, the title transfer during a sale is handled by the Vessel Registration Office.

Pleasure craft licence expiration

Due to recent changes to Section 106 of the Small Vessel Regulations, pleasure craft licences are now valid for 10 years. For more information about this subject visit the web site of Transport Canada under the question “How long is a pleasure craft licence valid for?

Pleasure craft licence registry

Currently there is no registry where all licences emitted are saved and compiled. However if you lose your licence you can request a replacement. For that purpose, use the “How do I replace a lost pleasure craft licence?” link on the Transport Canada website.