You’re out on the water, cruising gently over the waves, the wind in your hair. It’s clear and sunny and bright, and you’re enjoying a beautiful summer along with friends and family on your newly acquired boat. Or maybe, you’re cutting through the water without a care in the world, enjoying one of Ontario’s many magnificent lakes with a few of your buddies. Maybe you’re new to boating, or just getting back into it after a break.
Whatever the case, if you’re planning to go boating in Ontario with a power-driven boat, you’ll need a boating license, otherwise known as the Pleasure Craft Operator Card. This applies to any boat that has a motor, even sailboats that are fitted with auxiliary motors that are not active while under sail. The PCOC is proof of a basic knowledge of boat handling, as well as the rules and regulations covering recreational boating in Canada.
Everyone who operates a power-driven boat needs proof of competency — something that shows that you understand the basic rules of how to safely operate a boat. You can get your Pleasure Craft Operator Card online or in person. Either way, it involves taking a short course and passing a test at the end of it.
The course covers all of the basic information that a boater needs to have: safety requirements, the Canadian buoy system, a review of regulations and general information on how to share waterways and respond in an emergency situation. As of 2010, Transport Canada is the only federal institution issuing Pleasure Craft Licenses, which can be obtained through any one of a number of accredited course providers. A listing of accredited courses can be found here.
If you’ve already completed a training course, you can also apply separately for a Pleasure Craft License online.
Some boaters may already hold a certificate or equivalency that confirms that they are legally competent to operate a pleasure craft in Canada. If you hold such an equivalency, you just need to carry your certificate or a copy of it on board your pleasure craft, along with proof of identification. A list of acceptable equivalencies can be found here.
Non-residents visiting Canada
Non-residents of Canada whose pleasure craft is in Canada more than 45 consecutive days must have the Canadian Pleasure Craft Operator Card or equivalent issued by their state or country. Proof of residency is required on-board at all times. More information for foreign recreational boaters in Canadian waters can be found here.
Operator Age Restrictions
Operators under 12 years of age are allowed to operate a pleasure craft that has a motor with no greater than 10 hp (7.5 kW). Between the ages of 12 and 16, the limit is for motors with no greater than 40 hp (30 kW). Operators 16 years of age and older holding a valid Pleasure Craft License are allowed to operate a pleasure craft of any size motor. However, no one under the age of 16 is allowed to operate a Personal Water Craft (PWC), regardless of supervision.
For information about boating insurance, click here.