Safety Tips Every Boater Should Know

Safety Tips Every Boater Should Know

Boating season is here in cottage country! Before you head out on the lake for the first time, it’s important to brush up on boating safety.

Whether you’re driving a human-powered boat, like a paddleboard, kayak, or canoe, or a motor-powered vehicle, safety should always come first. One of the most important ways to practice safe boating is by preparing for unpredictable situations on the water.

Did You Know...

that in Canada, you legally must bring certain emergency items each time you go out onto the water? Not only is it important to have these items for safety, but in Ontario, you can be fined if you’re missing any on board.


Today, I’ll share what is required to be on your boat in Ontario. If you’re not in Ontario, make sure to search your own regional regulations to be certain you have everything you need.

What is required to be on your boat in Ontario?

Before heading out on the water, check your human or motor-powered boat for these items first. You should have easy access to these items at all times in case of emergency. I suggest keeping them at arms’ reach!

At minimum, all boats (including human-powered) in Ontario require you to carry the following:

  1. An approved life jacket or Personal Flotation Device ( PFD) in the appropriate size for each person on board

Life Jacket Tips

Don’t forget your life jacket! When selecting your life jacket or PFD, opt for bright colours like yellow, red, or orange to be the most visible on the water. Remember, children under 10 must wear a life jacket or PFD at all times while on board.

Before going out on the water, I recommend checking each life jacket for wear and tear. Is the zipper broken? Are any parts loose or worn? No life jacket or personal flotation device with loose or missing parts should be worn out on the water!

Most importantly, make sure each child’s life jacket fits correctly.

  1. buoyant heaving line (floating rope) that’s at least 15 m long
  2. A paddle to manually propel the boat OR an anchor with at least 15 m of cable, rope, or chain
  3. waterproof flashlight  and the appropriate batteries
  4. hand pump or bailer  to get water out of the boat
  5. whistle, airhorn, or other sound-signalling device  to use in an emergency

If you’re driving a boat or vehicle with a motor under 9 metres in length, there are additional items you’ll need to have on your boat. In addition to the six items listed above, you’ll also need to carry:

  1. Navigation lights for travel after dusk or conditions with reduced visibility
  2. Fire extinguisher to put out any motor or fuel-induced fires
  3. Reboarding device (ex. a ladder) if the boat is higher than 0.5 m out of the water

If you’re driving a boat or vessel between 9 and 12 metres in length, you’ll also need additional equipment:

  1. One life preserver attached to a buoyant heaving line at least 15 m long
  2. A waterproof flashlight, the appropriate batteries, and 12 flares to signal in an emergency
  3. An anchor with at least 30 m of rope, cable or chain to help your boat stay put should your motor stop or visibility is reduced

Regardless of boat size, you’ll need to carry your Pleasure Craft Operator Card or similar certificate if driving any boat with a motor while on the water. Your Operator Card never expires, but you must carry it on your person while operating a boat.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed looking at the list, I have good news for you. Many of these items come in a boat safety kit. You can purchase boat safety kits from local retailers like Home Hardware. When purchasing, take note of what you need in the kit for the size of your boat. Make sure you purchase anything separately that you need that isn’t included.

 TIP:  If you use a boat safety kit, check the contents each time you get on the boat. It’s important to regularly check your kit to make sure all items are there and still work. If not, you might open it in an emergency and realize your flashlight batteries don’t work or you forgot to put certain items back in the kit.

Aside from having the basic safety items required to boat in Ontario, it might be helpful to pack some additional personal items for comfort in case of emergency.

Think about items like:

  1. Spare clothes in a sealed, waterproof bag
  2. Water and snacks to eat and drink
  3. A first aid kit. Make sure to check your kit for all the essentials before heading out on the water.

With these tips, you’re sure to enjoy your time out on the water!



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