Pay your fine if you boat without an operator’s licence

It's only $50 for the course, but it's a $250 each time you're caught operating a boat with a motor and no operator's licence in Canada.

Cameron Taylor

With the first long weekend of summer coming up and a forecast for hot and sunny weather, local lakes will attract more than the usual number of boaters—many of them operating illegally.

In Canada, it’s illegal to operate a boat with a motor unless you have a federal Pleasure Craft Operator Card, no matter what size the boat or motor.

In order to get the card, you have to take a boating safety course, either online or in-person, at a cost of around $50. Not having the card could result in a $250 fine.

One of the couple of dozen course providers accredited by Transport Canada is BoatSmart, and president Cameron Taylor says of the estimated 10.5 million boaters in Canada, only 3.5 million have cards, even though they’ve been required for the past 14 years.

“Even if you only operate a boat once or twice a season, you need the card, and you should have one if you’re just a passenger too, in case you have to operate the boat.

“There’s lots of information in the course and you’re sure to learn something, even if you don’t always use all the information. And, you may lose some bad habits,” commented Taylor.

He points out that 86 per cent of drowning deaths wouldn’t have happened if a personal floatation device was in use. “What if you’re knocked unconscious when you go overboard?” he asks.

Even if you’re a very capable swimmer, without a pfd, you could drown.

Statistically, he says young males in small open boats are the most at risk of drowning. “No one’s invincible,” he adds.

Ensuring everyone in the boat is wearing their pfd is just one thing you’ll learn in the course.

Another key lesson is to leave the alcohol on shore and take water on the boat with you.

Be prepared for changing weather, with all required safety equipment, including fresh batteries for your flashlight, is another important lesson, he notes.

On busy lakes, it’s especially important that you be alert to the actions of other boaters, and of how your activity will impact others.

Courses can be taken online, and refresher courses are available as well.

For a list of accredited course providers, go to the Transport Canada website at: where you click on Marine, then personnel training, or go to the BoatSmart website at: if you’re ready to take the course.


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