WaterWays Ontario

Safe Boating

Boating Safety Overview - Safety Equipment

The safety equipment boaters are required to have on board varies with the size and type of boat. However, the mandatory equipment is only the minimum. You can carry more for an extra margin of safety. All equipment must be up to date - particularly fire extinguishers and flares - in good repair (no duct tape over rips in PFDs) and in good working order.  It must be readily available for quick access in an emergency. The boat operator must know exactly where all the equipment is and must also know how to use it, particularly flares and extinguishers.

Many boaters have a kit that includes all the equipment they need for their boat 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.  Also, keep fire extinguishers out of engine compartments (except automatic halogen, obviously) and below stove burner level, particularly alcohol and others stoves that have flames.  Note that for inflatable life jackets - with CO2 bottle and pull cord - must be worn to be one of the available PFD’s.  When they are in the kit with the other PFDs they do not count.

Paddleboats and “Water Cycles”

  1. One approved personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket of appropriate size for everyone on board. Each device must have the Department of Transport Canada or Canadian Coast Guard/Fisheries and Oceans label and be in good working order.
  2. A buoyant heaving line at least 15 metres (50 feet) long
  3. One reboarding device if the freeboard is greater than 0.5 meters or 20 inches.
  4. One bailer, manual bilge pump, or other bilge pumping arrangements (Please See Note 1)
  5. A watertight flashlight if boat is more than 6 meters (20 feet) in length (Please See Note 2)
  6. Six Canadian approved type A B or C flares if boat is more than 6 meters (20 feet) in length (Please See Note 2)
  7. A sound signalling device or appliance (whistle or air horn)
  8. Approved navigation lights if the craft is operated after sunset, before sunrise or in periods of restricted visibility
  9. One magnetic compass if operating where navigation marks are out of sight.
  10. One radar reflector (Please see Note 3)

NOTE: 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are not mandatory if all persons aboard are wearing approved lifejackets or PFDs

Canoes, Kayaks, Rowboats, Rowing Shells and other Human-Powered boats not more 6 metres (20 feet) in length

  1. One approved personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket of appropriate size for everyone on board. Each device must have the Department of Transport Canada or Canadian Coast Guard/Fisheries and Oceans label and be in good working order.
  2. A buoyant heaving line at least 15 metres (50 feet) long
  3. One reboarding device if the freeboard is greater than 0.5 meters or 20 inches.
  4. One bailer or manual water pump with enough hose to pump water from the bilge over the side of the vessel (Please See Note 2)
  5. A watertight flashlight if boat is more than 6 meters (20 feet) in length (Please See Note 2)
  6. Six Canadian approved type A B or C flares if boat is more than 6 meters (20 feet) in length (Please See Note 2)
  7. A sound signalling device or appliance (whistle or air horn)
  8. Approved navigation lights if the craft is operated after sunset, before sunrise or in periods of restricted visibility
  9. One magnetic compass if operating where navigation marks are out of sight.
  10. One radar reflector (Please see Note 3)

Sailboards and Kiteboards:

  1. One approved personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket of appropriate size for everyone on board. Each device must have the Department of Transport Canada or Canadian Coast Guard/Fisheries and Oceans label.  Inflatable life jackets with pull cords and CO2 bottles must not be fitted with automatic inflators.
  2. A buoyant heaving line at least 15 metres (50 feet) long
  3. One reboarding device.  (Note: the reboarding device is only required if the freeboard - the vertical distance from the water line to the gunwale - is more than 0.5 meters, or 20 inches)
  4. One paddle, oar, or other manual propelling device or one anchor and at least 15 meters (49′ 3″) of cable, rope or chain in any combination (See Note 1)
  5. One bailer or manual bilge pump, or bilge pumping arrangements (See Note 1)
  6. One sound signalling device or appliance.
  7. Approved navigation lights if the craft is operated after sunset, before sunrise or in periods of restricted visibility
  8. One magnetic compass if operating where navigation marks are out of sight.
  9. One radar reflector (Please see Note 3)

Personal Watercraft (PWC)

  1. One approved personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket of appropriate size for everyone on board. Each device must have the Department of Transport Canada or Canadian Coast Guard/Fisheries and Oceans label.
  2. A buoyant heaving line at least 15 metres (50 feet) long
  3. One reboarding device.  (Note: the reboarding device is only required if the freeboard - the vertical distance from the water line to the gunwale - is more than 0.5 meters, or 20 inches)
  4. One paddle, oar, or other manual propelling device or one anchor and at least 15 meters (49′ 3″) of cable, rope or chain in any combination (See Note 1)
  5. One bailer or manual bilge pump, or bilge pumping arrangements (See Note 1)
  6. One watertight flashlight or three flares of types A, B or C
  7. One sound signalling device or appliance.
  8. Approved navigation lights if the craft is operated after sunset, before sunrise or in periods of restricted visibility
  9. One magnetic compass if operating where navigation marks are out of sight.
  10. One radar reflector (Please see Note 3)
  11. One 5BC fire extinguisher

Sail and Power boats up to  6 metres (19 feet 8 inches) in length

  1. One approved personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket of appropriate size for everyone on board. Each device must have the Department of Transport Canada or Canadian Coast Guard/Fisheries and Oceans label and be in good working order.
  2. A buoyant heaving line at least 15 metres (50 feet) long
  3. One reboarding device.  (Note: the reboarding device is only required if the freeboard - the vertical distance from the water line to the gunwale - is more than 0.5 meters, or 20 inches)
  4. A paddle, oar, or other manual propelling device or an anchor with at least 15 metres (49 feet 3 inches) of cable, rope and/or chain in any combination
  5. One bailer or manual water pump with enough hose to pump water from the bilge over the side of the vessel
  6. If boat is equipped with a motor: One watertight flashlight or three flares of Type A, B or C
  7. A sound signalling device or appliance (whistle or air horn)
  8. Approved navigation lights if the craft is operated after sunset, before sunrise or in periods of restricted visibility
  9. One magnetic compass if operating where navigation marks are out of sight.
  10. One radar reflector (Please see Note 3)
  11. One 5BC fire extinguisher if boat is equipped with an inboard engine, a fixed fuel tank of any size or a fuel-burning cooking, heating or refrigerating appliance.

Sail and Power Boats over 6 meters and up to 9 meters (19′ 8″ = 29′ 6″) in length

  1. One approved personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket of appropriate size for everyone on board. Each device must have the Department of Transport Canada or Canadian Coast Guard/Fisheries and Oceans label and be in good working order.
  2. One buoyant heaving line at least 15 metres (50 feet) long
  3. One reboarding device.  (Note: the reboarding device is only required if the freeboard - the vertical distance from the water line to the gunwale - is more than 0.5 meters, or 20 inches)
  4. One paddle, oar, or other manual propelling device or an anchor with at least 15 metres (49 feet 3 inches) of cable, rope and/or chain
  5. One bailer or manual bilge pump
  6. One watertight flashlight
  7. Six Canadian approved type A B or C flares
  8. One Class 5BC fire extinguisher if the craft is equipped with an inboard engine, a fixed fuel tank, or any fuel burning cooking, heating or refrigeration device
  9. One sound signalling device or appliance (whistle or air horn)
  10. Approved navigation lights if the craft is operated after sunset, before sunrise or in periods of restricted visibility
  11. One magnetic compass if operating where navigation marks are out of sight.
  12. One radar reflector (Please see Note 3)
  13. One 5BC fire extinguisher if boat is equipped with a motor
  14. One 5 BC fire extinguisher if equipped with a fuel-burning cooking, heating or refrigerating appliance.

Sail and Power Boats over 9 meters and up to 12 meters (29′ 6″ - 39′ 4″) in length

  1. One approved personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket of appropriate size for everyone on board. Each device must have the Department of Transport Canada or Canadian Coast Guard/Fisheries and Oceans label and be in good working order.
  2. One buoyant heaving line at least 15 metres (50 feet) long
  3. One lifebuoy attached to a buoyant line at least 15 meters (49′ 3″) long
  4. One reboarding device.
  5. One anchor with at least 30 metres (98 feet 5 inches) of cable, rope and/or chain
  6. Bilge pumping arrangements
  7. One watertight flashlight
  8. Twelve Canadian approved type A B, C or D flares not more than 6 of which are Type D
  9. One Class 5BC fire extinguisher if the craft is equipped with an inboard engine, a fixed fuel tank, or any fuel burning cooking, heating or refrigeration device
  10. One sound signalling device or appliance (whistle or air horn)
  11. Approved navigation lights
  12. One magnetic compass
  13. One radar reflector (Please see Note 3)
  14. One 10 BC fire extinguisher if boat is equipped with a motor
  15. One 10 BC fire extinguisher if equipped with a fuel-burning cooking, heating or refrigerating appliance.

Sail and Power Boats over 12 meters and up to 24 meters (39′ 4″ 78′ 9″) in length

  1. One approved personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket of appropriate size for everyone on board. Each device must have the Department of Transport Canada or Canadian Coast Guard/Fisheries and Oceans label and be in good working order.
  2. One buoyant heaving line at least 15 metres (50 feet) long
  3. One lifebuoy equipped with a self-igniting light or attached to a buoyant line at least 15 meters (49′ 3″) long
  4. One reboarding device.
  5. One anchor with at least 50 metres (164 feet 1 inch) of cable, rope and/or chain
  6. Bilge pumping arrangements
  7. One watertight flashlight
  8. Twelve Canadian approved type A B, C or D flares not more than 6 of which are Type D
  9. One sound signalling device that meets the applicable standards set out in the Collision Regulations
  10. Approved navigation lights
  11. One magnetic compass that meets the applicable standards set out in the Collision Regulations
  12. One radar reflector (Please see Note 3)
  13. One 10 BC fire extinguisher at all of the following locations:  at each access to any space where a fuel-burning cooking, heating, or refrigerating appliance is fitted, at the entrance to any accommodation space, and at the entrance to the machinery space
  14. One axe
  15. Two buckets of at least 10 litres each

Sail and Power Boats Over 24 meters (78′ 9″)

  1. One approved personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket of appropriate size for everyone on board. Each device must have the Department of Transport Canada or Canadian Coast Guard/Fisheries and Oceans label and be in good working order.
  2. One buoyant heaving line at least 30 metres (98 feet 5 inches) long
  3. Two SOLAS lifebuoys of which one is attached to a buoyant line of at lest 30 meters (98′ 5″) and another is equipped with a self igniting light.
  4. Lifting harness with appropriate rigging
  5. One reboarding device.
  6. One anchor with at least 50 metres (164 feet 1 inch) of cable, rope and/or chain
  7. Bilge pumping arrangements
  8. One watertight flashlight
  9. Twelve Canadian approved type A B, C or D flares not more than 6 of which are Type D
  10. One sound signalling device that meets the applicable standards set out in the Collision Regulations
  11. Approved navigation lights
  12. One magnetic compass that meets the applicable standards set out in the Collision Regulations
  13. One radar reflector (Please see Note 3)
  14. One 10 BC fire extinguisher at all of the following locations:  at each access to any space where a fuel-burning cooking, heating, or refrigerating appliance is fitted, at the entrance to any accommodation space, and at the entrance to the machinery space
  15. One power-driven fire pump located outside the machinery space, with one fire hose and nozzle that cdan direct water into any part of the boat
  16. Two axes
  17. Four buckets of at least 10 litres each

Note 1:  Exception for Bailers and Manual Bilge Pumps

A bailer or manual bilge pump is not required for a boat that cannot hold enough water to make it capsize or a boat that has watertight compartments that are sealed and not readily accessible

Note 2: Exception for Flares

Flares are not required for a boat that is operating on a river, canal or lake in which it can never be more than one nautical mile from shore or has not sleeping quarters and is engaged in an official competition or in final preparation for an official competition.

Note 3: Radar Reflectors

Radar reflectors are required for boats under 20 meters (65′ 7″) and boats that are built of mostly non-metallic materials.  A radar reflector is not required if:

  • the boat operates in limited traffic conditions, daylight and favourable environment conditions, and whre having a radar reflector is not essential to the boat’s safety, or
  • the small size of the boat or its operation away from radar navigation makes having a radar reflector impracticable

Alternative Requirements for Boats in Competitions

If your boat is used for racing, you may be allowed to carry alternative safety equipment when engaged in

  • formal training, which means practice for an official competition under the supervision of a coach or official certified by a governing body
  • official competition, which means a competition or regatta organized by a governing body or by a club or an organization that is affiliated with a governing body
  • final preparation for official competition, which means activities to prepare for the competitions that take place at the competition venue and during times specified by the event organizer

Governing Body means a national water sport governing body that publishes rules and criteria respecting conduct and safety requirements for skill demonstrations, formal training or official competitions, and that

  • certifies coaches and coaching programs
  • certifies officials and programs for officials; or
  • recommends training and safety guidelines for certified coaches or officials

Safety Craft means a vessel, aircraft or other means of transport with a crew on board that is used for watch and rescue during formal training, final preparation or official competitions.

Alternative Requirements:

Racing canoes, racing kayaks and rowing shells do not have to carry the equipment listed above if they and their crews are engaged in formal training, in an official competition or in final preparation for an official competition; ande

  • are attended by a safety craft that, in addition to its own safety equipment, carries a suitable lifejacket for each crew member of the racing boat with the largest number of crew members OR
  • carry:
  1. a lifejacket that first for each crew member
  2. a sound signalling device, and
  3. a watertight flashlight if operated after sunset, before sunrise or in periods of poor visibility

Rowing shells - in addition to the alternatives above - do not have to carry the equipment listed above if they are competing in an official provincial, national or international regatta or competition, or are engaged in training at the event’s venue.

Racing boats - other than lose listed above - do not have to carry the equipment listed herein if they:

  • are engaged in formal training, in an official competition or in final preparation for an official competition
  • are operated under conditions of clear visibility
  • are attended by a safety craft; and
  • carry the safety equipment required by the rules of their sport’s governing body

Sailboards or Kiteboards do not have to carry the equipment listed in this guide if they carry a sound signalling device or appliance and are engaged in official competitions where an attending safety craft carries a lifejacket that fits the boarders and that can be put on in the water.  PFDs with automatic inflators are not allowed.

Equipment Details

Lifejackets & PFDs

NOTE: life-saving cushions are no longer officially authorized flotation equipment.  For a list of all Canadian-approved lifejackets and PFDs, read the Approved Products Catalogue Index in the Transport Canada Web site.

To be legal, all flotation equipment must have the approved label from the Department of Transport Canada or the Canadian Coast Guard/Fisheries and Oceans and be in good working order. They must be an appropriate size for the wearer, fit snugly, and allow normal movement. All passengers – particularly younger ones – should wear their floatation devices while on deck or in the open. Passengers should, at the very least, know where the devices are and be able to reach them quickly and easily if necessary.

Lifejackets

Standard “keyhole” lifejackets are reversible and are available in orange, red, or yellow. They come in different adult and children sizes, with weight/size designation on the label. They are easy to put on and, when properly worn, they are designed to turn the wearer face up in the water and hold the head above water. They are bulky and uncomfortable.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

These come in many styles: keyhole jackets, vests, coats and coveralls, and are available in many approved colours. They are not reversible and they will not always turn the wearer face up in the water. They are more comfortable and suitable for constant wear. The new inflatable PFDs are legal on the condition that they are worn in an open boat, on deck or in the cockpit.

Inflatable PFDs are not approved for use by;

  • people under the age of 16 years
  • anyone who weighs less than 36.3 kg (80 pounds)
  • on personal watercraft or
  • during white water paddling activities
  • those that inflate automatically when the wearer goes into the water cannot be used on sailboards.

NOTE: PFDs and Life Jackets are no longer legal if they have been altered, damaged or repaired.

Heaving Lines

These lines are designed to float on the water for two reasons; to minimize the likelihood of getting tangled in the propeller and to make it easy for the person in the water to grab hold. Because they tend to be light they can be difficult to throw upwind (the usual approach to a “man overboard”). A float or life ring makes throwing easier.  Better quality lines are more flexible.  Poor quality can tangle and be useless until straightened out.

Bailers

These come in many different styles and different pumping capacities. It is vital (and required by regulation) to have enough hose attached that is long enough to carry the water from the bilge overboard.

Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers that meet the requirements must be approved by Transport Canada, Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC), United States Coast Guard for Marine Use or the British Board of Trade for Marine Use. The label will designate A B C or D Classes. The powder in dry chemical extinguishers tends to pack down. This type should be turned upside down and shaken vigorously every few weeks and must be tested every three years. Carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguishers should be weighed annually and recharged when the capacity drops to 90 per cent. Halon extinguishers should also be inspected regularly.

Flares

These have a “best before” date and are usually good for three or four years after you purchase them. They must be replaced according to manufacturer’s instructions and the old ones safely disposed of.

Other Equipment

Boaters are not required by regulation to carry these items but they are worthwhile.

  • First Aid Kit. The longer the trip, the farther you stray from shore and help, the more sophisticated and comprehensive your kit should be. Knowledge of first aid is also valuable.
  • Emergency Kit. If you are caught out overnight, a spare flashlight, whistle and knife could come in handy. Drinking water, rations, dry clothing and other gear will make a difference to your comfort and safety.
  • Spare Parts. Shear pins, props, belts, hoses, clamps, spark plugs and other items such as engine oil may help you get home. The tools you’ll need to replace them, knowledge of your engine(s) and a complete manual with troubleshooting guide and repair procedures will help as well.
  • Plugs and Sealants. Underwater sealing compounds along with tapered wooden plugs and scrap pieces of rubber and wood could keep you afloat in the event of a leak or hole.

Please note that we try to keep everything up-to-date, we cannot guarantee that changes have not been made since this information was written.