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Watercraft Safety
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Personal Watercraft Safety

Considered an “extreme” sport by those who are part of the jet ski sub-culture, the use of powered personal watercraft is becoming mainstream on the lakes and rivers of Canada’s waterways. You need to know how to maximize your own protection and that of your family members in the use of these craft as well as reduce your personal liability.


Tips, rules and required safety equipment for ALL types of watercrafts can be found on:

Following is some of the latest information on the laws, safety equipment and boating behaviour around PWC's we believe is relevant to you. Safe boating!


PROOF OF OPERATOR COMPETENCY is now a legal requirement in Canada for all persons born after April 1, 1983, to operate a recreational boat with a motor. This includes Personal Watercraft, such as jet skis, Sea-Doos, etc.

BY SEPTEMBER 15, 2002,all operators of PWCs (16 years old or more), must also have Proof of Competency.

Proof of Competency must be carried at all times during the operation of any power boat, including PWCs. It can be demonstrated in any one of 3 ways:

  1. By showing a Pleasure Craft Operator Card which can be obtained by passing a boating test approved by the Canadian Coast Guard. The test is comprised of 49 knowledge elements and a passing mark is 75%. Upon passing the test, the boater is issued a Pleasure Craft Operator Card which is good for life.
  2. An Operator Card or equivalent by their state or country.
  3. By showing a completed rental boat safety checklist, in the case of rented PWCs.

A Coast Guard accredited boating course is recommended prior to taking the test. For a list of accredited course providers in your area, visit the Coast Guard web site at or call 1-800-267-6687.


AGE RESTRICTION FOR OPERATION OF PWCs. Only persons 16 years of age or older are legally entitled to operate a PWC. These operators are subject to the Proof of Operator Competency law. A passenger under 16 must be supervised by an operator who meets the age and proof of competency laws.


MANDATORY SAFETY EQUIPMENT FOR PWCs. The following list indicates the minimal safety equipment required by law in the operation of a PWC on Canada’s waterways:

  • Vessel license (Make sure your PWC is properly licensed and marked!)
  • Canadian-approved personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket of appropriate fit for each person on board (Choose a bright one for best visibility.) Inflatable PFDs are not approved for personal watercraft activities.
  • Buoyant heaving line (15 m).
  • Watertight flashlight or 3 Canadian-approved flares of type A, B or C.
  • Sound-signaling device or sound-signaling appliance.
  • Manual propelling device or anchor with not less than 15 m of cable, rope or chain*.
  • Bailer or manual pump*.
  • Fire extinguisher (Class 5 BC)* .

*If all people on board are wearing Canadian-approved PFDs of appropriate fit, then the three last items are not mandatory.


WATER-SKIING OR TOWING rules call for:

  • A spotter to be on board the PWC.
  • A spare seat to be provided on the PWC for each person being towed.
  • A spare PFD to be provided onboard to each person being towed, if they are not being worn.

NOTE: Towing is not permitted from one hour after sunset through to sunrise.


SAFE OPERATION OF A PWC. The ability of a PWC to maneuver and take off quickly does not make the rules and behaviours of Canada’s waterways any less applicable to PWC operation. Some of the worst boating accidents have happened in recent years by PWC operators were “buzzing” or trying to spray other vessels or swimmers. A misjudgment in speed and distance can be tragic. Jumping the wakes of other boats, approaching too close or crossing in front of them is equally dangerous.

Regardless of your speed, you are also responsible for the wake created by your boat. You must not create a wake that will adversely affect other vessels, shorelines, docks and other users of the waterway (for example, swimmers and divers).

In particular, a PWC operator who is doing any of the following could be charged:

  • Traveling faster than posted or unposted limits. Unposted limit is 10 km/h within 30 m from shore in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. The Coast Guard strongly recommends to always reduce speed when close to shore
  • Operating a PWC in such a way that could affect the safety of people or property – given weather, boat traffic, hazards, etc.
  • Operating in a careless manner, without consideration for other people.

Collision Regulations is a publication that can be obtained from authorized booksellers and some marine supply stores. It’s worth studying.


FUELLING SAFETY includes the following rules:

  • Stop engine and unload passengers.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Avoid over-filling and wipe up spilled fuel.
  • Make sure to ventilate the engine compartment by lifting the seat before you start the engine.


RENTING A PWC requires you to complete a rental boat safety checklist, unless you have another accepted form of Proof of Competency. The operator must carry the rental boat safety checklist, co-signed by the rental agency and the operator, with them on board the PWC as Proof of Competency.


LENDING YOUR PWC requires some responsibility on both the owner’s part and the operator’s. You are responsible to ensure that the person borrowing your PWC understands Canadian boating rules and safety precautions as well as the safe handling of a PWC. These regulations are obtained by calling 1-800-267-6687 and requesting the “SAFE BOATING GUIDE”. It’s free!