CANADIAN Boating Regulations

What is a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC)?

A Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC), more commonly known by Ontario’s boating community as a ‘boating license’, is a federal competency card. You must obtain and carry your PCOC in order to legally operate any powerboat or motorized boat in Canada. 

Unlike your driver’s licence, your PCOC can not be suspended or revoked, and once obtained, it’s good for life! Make sure you’re carrying it on board while boating! It doesn’t count if you’ve obtained your boating license… but it’s sitting on the kitchen counter while you’re out boating!

Who needs a Boating License?

All motorized boat operators in Ontario require a Pleasure Craft Operator Card. Also known as a boating license, a Pleasure Craft Operator Card is required for all ages, boat lengths or engine sizes (including electric trolling motors).

There is no minimum age to take the online boating course and get your boating license. Boaters of all ages, including those less than 16 years of age, are legally required to have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card when operating a boat in Canada. All ages need their PCOC and there are also horsepower restrictions for younger boaters.

Note that a PCOC is not required in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories. However, it is a smart idea to get certified and know that you have the boating skill and confidence you should have when operating a boat, especially if you’re operating in areas with cold water temperatures.

What’s the difference between a Pleasure Craft Operator Card and a Pleasure Craft License?

A Pleasure Craft License is a document and a set of I.D. numbers. The document must be on board your boat at all times and the numbers must be displayed on the bow of your boat at all times.

All motorized boats and PWCs in Ontario powered by 10 horsepower or more are required to have a Pleasure Craft License. The number must be displayed on both sides of the bow, above the waterline, as far forward as possible, in block letters at least 7.5cm high that contrast with the colour of the boat.

You can obtain a 10 year license for free from Service Canada. You must renew the license after the 10 year period has expired.

Where can I get my Pleasure Craft Operator Card?

Right here! Simply take Canada’s Online Boating Course and Test now. Once you pass the open-book Test you can print your Temporary Card right away and go boating. Your Official BOATsmart! Card will arrive in the mail just a few weeks later. Take the Course online, with any device, from anywhere – even with your smartphone from that Muskoka chair on the dock.

How long does it take to get my Pleasure Craft Operator Card?

The Online Course & Test take approximately 3 hours to complete. You can print your Temporary Card immediately once you pass the Transport Canada Test, and your Permanent Card will arrive in the mail within 4 weeks! This is the fastest way to get your boating license, Ontario!

Do I need a boating license to rent a boat in Ontario?

When renting a boat, you can use your completed boat rental safety checklist as your proof of operator competency. However, it’s a super smart idea to get your official BOATsmart! Card as your proof of operator competency. A checklist won’t teach you how to respond if your pontoon boat runs aground or if a passenger falls overboard when you’re out wake surfing!

Can I get free boating lessons after taking the PCOC course?

Yes! We know that boating laws can change over time and that it can be tough to perform boating skills like docking your boat in the wind or anchoring your boat for an overnight stay on the water. There’s also lots to know about the safety equipment you need on your boat and the different types of buoys on the water in Ontario. That’s why we’ve created our free BOATsmart! Knowledge Base. You can find anything you need to know in there! If you would like to have a handbook to have with you on the boat, you can also order a BOATsmart! Study Guide. We’ve got you covered, Ontario! 

What are Canada’s age and horsepower restrictions?

Boaters 12 years of age & under can operate a boat without supervision so long as the engine is not more than 10 horsepower and they have proof of competency. They are not allowed to operate a PWC under any conditions.

Boaters 12-16 years of age can operate a boat without supervision as long as the engine is not more than 40 horsepower and they have proof of competency. They are not allowed to operate a PWC under any conditions.

Boaters 16+ years of age can operate a boat or PWC without supervision or horsepower restrictions so long as they have proof of competency.

Do I need boat insurance?

No, boat owners are not required to have boat insurance in Ontario. However, it is a smart idea to protect your boat and your boating experience with great coverage features. You can save up to 25% off your annual boat insurance policy with BOATsmart! Assure.

What are the Canadian Federal laws for boating & alcohol?

The fines and penalties for driving a boat while under the influence of alcohol in Canada are the same as those for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence.

A drunk boater may have their driver’s license suspended for a minimum of 1 year.

A boat operator’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level cannot exceed 80 mg. This is the legal alcohol limit in Canada.

There is NO difference between drunk driving & drunk boating.

Boat passengers may consume alcohol on board a boat in Canada so long as the boat is licensed for alcohol consumption, or the boat has a permanent toilet, cooking facilities, sleeping facilities and it is anchored or docked.

Who enforces boating laws and regulations?

Each province and territory is patroled by the RCMP except for Ontario which is patroled by the Ontario Provincial Police and Quebec which are patroled by the Surete du Quebec.

For emergencies on the water, like a boating accident or drowning, always dial 911.

What are the laws and fines for boating in Canada?


Failure to carry a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (Proof of Competency)$250
Operating a PWC under 16 years of age$250
Violation of age and horsepower restrictions$250
Operating a vessel in an unsafe manner$500
Insufficient number of Transport Canada approved lifejackets or PFDs$200 (for each missing or improper lifejacket or PFD
Travelling over 10 km/h within 30 metres of shore$125-$500 (or up to 6 months in prison)
Open liquor onboard$200
Operating a boat in a careless manner$350
Improper fuelling procedure$125
No registration number on hull$125
No sound signalling device$125
No watertight flashlight or distress flares$125
No fire extinguisher$245
No bailer or manual pump$175
No paddle or no anchor with chain/rope$125
No buoyant heaving line$125
Not having a spotter to watch a person in tow$250
Not having a(n) extra seat(s) for person(s) in tow$250 per person

Campfire Collective truck icon.



Go boldly, tell your story. Campfire is building a collective of ambassadors who share a passion for the wild. If you’re an influencer, publisher or sport expert drop us a line. Let’s hook up and inspire others.

Campfire Collective high five icon.



Stay in the loop. Sign up for our newsletter
to get the latest stories from around the fire.