Planning to take your boat out for a spin in the beautiful waters of Ontario? Before you hoist the sails or weigh anchor, there are some important things you need to know about boat safety and insurance.
As a pleasure craft operator you should know the basics about your vessel, the rules of boating in Ontario, and what to do in an emergency. Even the most seasoned boat captain can run into issues on the water, like deadheads (partially sunken logs) and other objects just below the surface, current or weather changes, and leaks. We offer some tips below to help you prepare for a summer of fun on the water.
Legally, you’ll need to do a bit of paperwork to be able to get your boat out on the water.
- Get your boaters licence – Before you operate a motorized watercraft in Canada, you need to take a Transport Canada-approved boating safety course (available online), and get your Pleasure Craft Operators Certificate (PCOC). The cost ranges from $25-$60 and the licence is valid for life. If you lose the card, a replacement is typically around $20.
- License or register your boat – When you buy a boat with an engine over 10 horsepower, you can either register it or licence it.
- If you have a mortgage on the boat, want to register it with a unique name or want to travel abroad in the boat, you’ll need to register with the Canadian Register of Vessels. The cost is $250 and the registration is valid for as long as you own the vessel.
- If you don’t need to register, you still must apply for a licence with Transport Canada. For a used boat you will need to transfer the licence to your name. If you are buying from a dealer, they will likely do all this for you. As of June 2023, there is no cost. The licence is valid for 10 years and the licence number must be displayed on the side of the boat.
- Check for a compliance plate – Any boat made or for sale in Canada should have a compliance plate that displays the make and model of the vessel, the maximum occupant load, maximum horsepower and maximum load in kilograms.
Boat insurance is not mandatory in Ontario, but your lender and the place where you dock and store your vessel will likely require it. Besides, boating is not without risks and the price of many boats can exceed the cost of a car or truck.
- Get boat insurance – Protect your investment by getting boat insurance coverage. Here are a few of the most common claims that we see related to boats:
- Damage from hitting underwater objects – Logs and rocks usually
- Damage related to winter – Like a cracked engine block or buckling from freezing (if you don’t winterize your boat properly, this damage may not be covered)
- Theft – Interestingly, this happens more often when boats are out of the water
- Choose the right coverage – Consider the type of boat you have, how often you use it, and where you might take it. Decide if you want to insure your boat for its actual cash value (which goes down with depreciation) or agreed value, which means you’ll be able to buy a brand new boat if yours is damaged beyond repair.
- Understand your policy exclusions and limits – Read the fine print of your insurance policy to understand what is and isn’t covered.
- Damage due to wear and tear or improperly winterizing your boat is not usually covered.
- Your policy is only valid within your “navigational territories” (often Canada and the U.S.), meaning you will need extra coverage if you take your boat elsewhere
- Your policy will have a lay-up period (usually Nov. 1 to Apr. 1) when your boat is only covered if it is properly winterized and stored.
- Deductibles range from $500 to $5,000. In some cases the deductible is a percentage of the boat’s value.
- Consider additional coverage – Consider additional coverage options such as:
- Towing insurance – If your boat breaks down
- Wreck and pollution cleanup – If your boat is damaged beyond repair, you are responsible for cleaning up the wreckage and any fuel or other contaminants that may spill.
- Medical payments – Covers medical and rehabilitation costs if passengers are injured in a boating accident
- Review your policy – If you already have insurance for your boat, it’s a good idea to review your policy every few years to ensure it still meets your needs. Did you buy a new trailer or accessories for your boat? If so, make sure to add them to your policy.If you’re new to boating, we’ve run insurance quotes for you on some of the most affordable wake boats. The quotes are based on the following:
|Boat||Approximate purchase price3||Annual premium|
|Chaparral 21 Surf||$81,845||$886|
|Four Winns HD5 Surf||$146,164||$1,154|
|Malibu Wakesetter 21 VLX||$133,866||$1,212|
Get a boat insurance quote in minutes.
- Know which policy applies – Boats are unique in that various insurance policies can apply to the vessel and its accessories:
- Canoes, kayaks and some smaller fishing boats (valued under $3,000) can be covered under you home or cottage insurance policy.
- If your trailer is stolen, you claim it under your boat policy. If your trailer side-swipes a car and causes an accident, that’s a liability claim under your auto policy.
- Boat insurance usually includes coverage for personal property and equipment. This can be navigation, watersports or fishing equipment, or personal items you may be transporting. If your personal items were damaged or destroyed while in your car, you would have to claim them on your home insurance.
- Keep track of the seasons – Boat coverage varies by season in important ways:
- Like motorcycle insurance, most boat policies are rated seasonally, meaning you probably won’t save money by cancelling in the fall or winter.
- If you want to take your boat to warmer climes during the lay-up period (Nov. to Apr.), your regular policy won’t cover you. You’ll need to buy extra insurance.
- If you fail to properly winterize the boat, damage from freezing may not be covered.
Got to have and good to have
There is certain equipment that you are required to have on a boat, and some that may be a good idea depending on where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone.
- Safety gear – Ensure your boat is equipped with proper safety equipment, such as life jackets, fire extinguishers, and distress signals. While boating everyone on board should be wearing a life jacket that fits them.
- First aid – Marine first aid kits usually contain a variety of bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes, surgical tape, scissors, tweezers, after-bite and latex gloves. Have an emergency plan and know how to use your first aid kit in case of emergency.
- Fuel – Keep an eye on your fuel levels and be sure that you have enough for your planned trip. The rule is 1/3 to get there, 1/3 to get back and 1/3 in reserve.
- Navigation – Depending on how big a body of water you’re on, you may need something more than your eyes and ears to keep you from losing your way on the water. Marine GPS units start at a couple hundred dollars and are well worth it.
- Communication – In a small lake with good cellular coverage, you’re not legally required to have a radio, and a cellphone may be fine. For longer trips you should have a VHF radio, which is the standard means of communication between boaters. To use it, you’ll need to get a Restricted Operator’s Certificate – Maritime (ROC-M).
Before you set off
Here’s a few things you want to make sure about before you head out on the water.
- Check the weather – Monitor conditions before heading out and avoid boating in severe weather. Heed Environment Canada’s Marine Warning System.
- Check your boat – Regularly inspect your boat for maintenance issues and ensure it is in good working condition.
- Have a plan – Develop a plan for your boating trip, including routes, destinations, and potential hazards. Everyone on board should know the plan.
- Know your hand signals (tubing/waterskiing) – If you like tubing and other tow sports, the person being towed won’t be able to hear the people in the boat. Make sure everyone knows the standard hand signals.
- Follow the rules – Familiarize yourself with the boating regulations and safety guidelines in Ontario. In Canada, boating is regulated by the federal government. Check out Transport Canada’s Safe Boating Guide.
- Watch for hazards and keep your distance – Stay alert for other boats, hazards in and under the water, as well as changes in weather conditions. Always maintain a safe distance from other boats, buoys, and other obstacles to avoid collisions.
- Anchor safely – Knowing proper anchoring technique will prevent you from drifting and help avoid collisions with other boats.
- Never drink and boat – Boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal and can lead to serious accidents, injuries and even death. Even if you’re not the one driving, it is prohibited in most cases to have an open container of alcohol on a moving boat.
- Avoid distractions – Just like driving, boating requires your full attention, so try to avoid distractions like excessive noise, fatigue, or cellphone use.
Be safe and have fun!
Boating is a great way to create lasting memories with family and friends. As long as you cover your bases in terms of education, licensing, insurance and safety, you’re well on your way to a worry-free summer of fun on the water!
1 Younger boaters will usually pay about 10% more.
2 Boaters with a recent claim will pay about 15% more. Having more than one claim in the last three years may make it hard to find insurance.
3 MSRP is converted to CDN dollars and HST added. Luxury tax added where base price is over $100,000.