Boating Safety

Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC)

One of the first steps to ensure safety on the waterways is to obtain the Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC). The Operator Card is obtained by achieving a mark of at least 75% on a Transport Canada approved boating license exam.  Once the card is obtained, it is good for life. If you ever get stopped by law enforcement, you may be asked to show "proof of competency". The Operator Card is known as the most familiar proof of competency.  Proof of competency has three forms:

        Proof of having taken a boating safety course before April 1, 1999.        

        A PCOC obtained by a Transport Canada approved boating license exam.        

        A completed rental-boat safety checklist.        

A $250 dollar fine will be given to those who cannot provide proof of competency. Keep in mind you have to have original piece such as your Operator Card, a photo copy will not be accepted.

The Operator Card proves you understand enough basic knowledge to operate a pleasure craft safety. Being familiar with the content that pertains to the boating license will help educate those who are new to boating, and an important reminder to those who are experienced.

The more knowledge a boater has about Canadian boating rules and regulations, the safer the waterways will be once you obtain your Operator Card.



As a responsible boater, you should always plan ahead. Planning before a trip is most important because it keeps you prepared in case of boating emergency. The boating safety study guide has a chapter dedicated to planning, giving you tips to help make the trip safe and enjoyable for everyone. A smart planning technique is to make a trip plan. The trip plan should include information such as your planneding departure and arrival times, the planned route, how many people are on board the vessel, and the approximate length of the trip. The planning form is filled out before leaving shore and left with a responsible person on shore. If at any point there is boat emergency during the trip, the person with the trip plan will then have the key information to help in rescue if necessary.

In addition to creating a trip plan, another planning tip is to make a pre-departure check list to make sure one has everything needed in case of an emergency.  Even if the trip is only a small tour inside a land locked lake, an emergency can happen at any time. Planning ahead is the best way to be prepared for any situation. Also the law requires all boaters to carry a certain amount of emergency gear within their boat depending on the size of vessel. So by following these tips and planning ahead, you are not only being safe, but are abiding by the law.


Safe Operation

Being a Canadian pleasure craft operator, you are expected to know and understand the rules and regulations that are set for Canada’s waterways. As the operator, you are responsible for equipping your boat and yourself with the proper safety equipment for safe operation. You are required by law for safe operation in your craft at all times.  This means you should always choose a speed for safe operation and use your common sense.

For safe operation of your craft, you should consider the following;

        Your craft’s distance from the shoe        

        The speed conditions of the water and wind        

        Amount of boat traffic in the area        

        Your skill level and experience        

Wind speed, choppy waters, and heavy boat traffic are other issues that can affect safe operation of a vessel. Knowing safe operation in these types of conditions is essential to safe boating. Before leaving for your boat ride, the weather should be checked to ensure safe operation while out on the water. During the ride, you must always keep a look out for other pleasure crafts that come close to your boat or in the area. Depending on the time of day, other boaters may not always be easy to spot.  Things like fog, sunlight, and water reflection can greatly affect your range of vision. It is important to choose an appropriate safe operation speed in relation to your surroundings. Excessive speeding often plays a factor in boat related accidents, most of which could have been prevented with safe operation.

Before operating a boat, it is important to understand safe operation of your craft to know what to do in an emergency situation. As a boat operator you are responsible for the safety of your passengers. You should instruct your passengers about their roles for safe operation. Having a solid grasp of boat safety, and being familiar with the Pleasure Craft Operator Card study guide, will provide any boater with safe operation knowledge and confidence to deal with a boat-related emergency.



 The Canadian boating collision regulations state that boaters must comprehend, and have full awareness of any navigation situations they may encounter in order to determine the risk of a collision. This means that one must know and understand Canada’s navigation rules

Knowing the right-of-way terminology is most important when it comes to safe navigation. Boats with the right-of-way are known as the stand on craft, meaning they maintain their speed and course. Boats that do not have the right-of-way are known as the give-way craft, meaning they alter their speed and course when approaching another boat. There are many factors that show which boater has the right-of-way, such as follows:

        The type of craft you’re operating.        

        The type of craft you’re approaching.        

        The direction and position from the other boat approaching.        

        They type of waterway your on.        

Right-of-way and navigation rules are the same whether operating at night or at day. The difference is visibility is restricted, so you must determine the speed, position, and size of the boats around you by what navigation lights they have. The navigation lights you are required to have on your boat depend on the following:

        The size of your boat.        

        Whether it is power-driven or sail-driven.        

        Whether it is at anchor or moving.        

Another form of navigation is through the charts and maps of the waterways. In order to safely navigate, a boater must be able to use a compass along with the marine charts, how to locate navigation aids on the chart and how to plot a course as well. Safe navigation isn’t just about knowledge of one’s craft; it’s also knowing local waterways or knowing how to use the charts and maps properly.


Marker Buoys

Marker buoys are aids to navigation that are external to your boat allowing everyone on the water safe operation. Buoys act like guides on the water just as signs on the roads do. Two main systems of navigation are used on Canadian waterways, which are the Lateral System and the Cardinal System.

The Lateral System used to mark the recommended and safest routes. This system uses red and green marker buoys, which shows the course of deepest water and the side boaters should safely pass. There are two main types of marker buoys that are most boaters are familiar within the lateral system. This system is standard for international waterways.

One common thing most boaters come across is questioning navigating upstream. The Lateral System has a unique marker buoy system called “Red Right Returning”.  Red Right Returning is keeping the red starboard-hand marker buoys on the right side of your boat when you’re heading upstream. When traveling upstream always keep the red starboard marker buoy on the right and the green port marker buoy on the left side of your boat. When travelling downstream it’s the exact opposite, red on left and green on right.

The Cardinal System uses yellow and black marker buoys to help you find the location of the safest water. The position of the yellow and black color  bands act as the compass pointing either North, South, East, or West. Keep in mind the safest water is in the direction shown on the marker buoy, and the water in the opposite direction is considered unsafe.

 For example, a swimming buoy is a white cylinder and a diving buoy is the same but with a red flag on the top. Boaters see marker buoys all over the water, near swimming areas, dams, and mostly near rocks or shallow water. The boat license exam tests your knowledge on marker buoys to allow safe operation.