Waterways Ontario
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Safety Overview
Mandatory Equipment

The safety equipment boaters need to have on board is different from one boat to another – both the size and the kind of boat makes a difference… but no matter what kind of boat you have – motorboats, sailboats, personal watercraft, airboats, hovercraft, and even kiteboards, you need to have certain safety equipment on board.  This is the same whether you own the boat, borrow, or rent it.  One other important point - mandatory equipment is the minimum you need. You can carry more for an extra margin of safety.

The length of the boat is in the manufacturer’s information, or you can measure it yourself at its longest point from the front, outside the hull to the back, outside the transom… from bow to stern. 

All equipment must be up to date.  Fire extinguishers have to be refilled or replaced because the material in them can settle and compact, making them less effective as times goes on.  Flares have a defined useful life – it is on the label - and they must be replaced on schedule.  PFDs or life jackets must be in good repair and in good working order.  That means you can’t have duct tape covering holes, or sewn on patches, or repaired straps; the clips work and, of course, they need to float.

Note that for inflatable life jackets - with CO2 bottle and pull cord – they must be worn to be one of the available PFDs.  When they are in the kit with the other PFDs they do not count.  They are not part of the requisite flotation devices required for your boat unless they are being worn.

Infants on board must also be wearing lifejackets.  There are lifejackets made for the very youngest, but at the time they do no have the appropriate approvals or requisite labels.  The smallest devices that do have labels are not small enough for an infant.  Until the small flotation devices are approved, the Office of Boating Safety suggests you put the baby in the device that fits, whether or not it has an approval label, but also have the smallest available approved device on board. 

All safety equipment must be readily available for quick access in an emergency. The boat operator and passengers must know exactly where the equipment is and how to use it, particularly flares and extinguishers. 

Also, keep fire extinguishers out of engine compartments (except automatic halogen type, obviously) and below stove burner level, particularly stoves that have flames, such as alcohol.  

Many boaters have a kit that includes the equipment they require and store it under a seat, in the cuddy or head... someplace handy.  Remember to check the equipment regularly to make sure the batteries are charged and the bulb is working in the flashlight, for instance.  

Here are the prescribed lists for each size and style of watercraft.


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