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Before You Get Out on the Water

Before You Get Out on the Water

Boat Licensing and Insurance

You’ve finally decided to make the leap. You’re buying a boat. Already you can picture yourself standing on deck, the wind in your hair, a refreshing beverage in hand as your stare out across the broad horizon. Ontario is a fabulous place to go boating. But before you hit the water, what are a few things that you need to know?

Well, before you head out, you need to know any applicable laws, regulations and local rules. For example, what are the collision regulations, small vessel regulations or local rules concerning safe speeds? In order to safely navigate your boat, you should have an understanding of the Canadian buoyage system, the use of marine charts and compasses, and navigation lights and signals. You’ll need to know how to plot a course and understand positioning methods and navigational references. Much of this you’ll learn as you progress. But, first things first…


Currently, you’re not absolutely required to have insurance on your boat. But the question is, do you really want to risk it? There are some who don’t have home insurance, and we’ve all heard the horror stories that can result in those instances. Basically, you really should insure your boat. In the big picture, it’s not particularly expensive, at least when you consider how much it might cost you to haul a damaged boat after a freak windstorm, or you collide with someone on a personal watercraft and find yourself the subject of a million dollar lawsuit. What if your boat leaks, and suddenly you’re handed a bill for the environmental clean-up?

All in all, insuring your boat is a way of protecting not only your investment (i.e. the boat itself) but also the lifestyle that you’ll enjoy along with it. Keep in mind that home policies are generally not written to protect against marine risks, and therefore are usually not adequate for boaters. So, instead of just adding your boat to your home policy, consider getting a separate one.

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In general, you should ensure that you're easily identified. All boats powered by a motor 7.5kW (10HP) or more must be licensed and the licence number clearly marked on both sides of the bow. Out-of-province licences are acceptable. Pleasure boats 5m (16' 5") long or under, powered by an outboard motor 7.5kW (10HP) or more, must carry a plate stating the maximum load and kilowatts recommended for it. Vessel Licenses are available from any Service Canada office.

To find the office closest to you, please check the Service Canada website

In Ontario, the boating license is otherwise known as the Pleasure Craft Operator card. For more information on getting your card, click here.

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