Required Boat Equipment in Canada

This summary of federal regulations is provided as a convenience ONLY. Please use the Government Links to download the "Safe Boating Guide" for equipment requirements for all boat types.

Small Vessel Regulations requires equipment carried on board be in good working order, maintained according to the manufacturer's instructions, and available immediately, in case of emergency.

Equipment is required for most boats - even when rowing a small dinghy near shore. You can be charged up to $200 for each safety item you don't have on board! Please read notes at the bottom.

Paddleboat, Watercycle, Stand-Up Paddleboard, Sealed-Hull Sit-On-Top Kayak

Whistle
If everyone on board a paddleboat, a watercycle, a stand-up paddleboard or a sealed-hull, sit-on-top kayak is wearing a PFD or lifejacket, you only need to carry a sound-signalling device (whistle); and if using after sunset or in poor visibility, you also need a watertight flashlight. (May 2018)

Rowboat, canoe, kayak up to 6 metres in length (19'8")

Over 6 metres - add:

Personal Watercraft PWC

If everyone is wearing a lifejacket/PFD, you are only required to carry the first 5 items.
PWC sales increased 3.9% in 2014 in Canada to 6,865. (NMMA 2014 Canadian Recreational Boating Statisical Abstract)

Up to 6 metres in length (19'8")

6 - 9 metres in length (19'8"-29'6")

Boarding ladder

9 - 12 metres in length (29'6"-39'4")

Life buoy

12 - 24 metres in length (39'4"-78'9")

anchor

More than 24 m in length (more than 78'9")

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This summary of federal regulations is provided as a convenience ONLY. Please use the official Government Links to the Small Vessel Regulations and refer to the latest "Safe Boating Guide" for details.

Canadian Red Cross studies show that nearly 90% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket or PFD. Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death for Canadians under 44, and the leading cause of preventable death among toddlers. Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death among Ontario children under five (statistics).

Equipment Notes

Equipment Details are in the "Safe Boating Guide".

Life jackets and PFDs (personal floatation devices) must be Canadian government approved and properly sized for each person on board. View a Red Cross video about using life jackets for adults and kids.

Anchor "rode" can be cable, rope or chain.

Manual pumps require enough hose to pump water overboard, but are not required for a self-bailing sealed hull sailboat that cannot contain enough water to make the vessel capsize or a multi-hull vessel that has subdivided multiple-sealed hull construction.

Reboarding devices are usually a ladder and are not required if the boat's freeboard (distance from water to top edge of the hull) is less than 0.5 metres (1'8").

Navigation lights must comply with Collision Regulations, and are not required on some boat types if operated during daylight in good visibility.

Magnetic compass is not required on boats 8 m or less and within sight of navigation marks.

Head: In most provinces in Canada, if you have a head on board, it must be permanently installed in the boat and equipped for proper pump out (this includes porta-potties).

Horseshoe buoy and Rescue Stick(tm) do NOT fulfil Canadian safety requirements, but certainly can be useful in an emergency.

Flares must be Canadian approved and not beyond the expiry date. Flares are valid for 4 years from date of manufacture, which is printed on the label. You must Dispose of flares safely if they become outdated or you do not wish to keep them.

Type of Flares:
Type A: Parachute flares (burns for at least 40 seconds)
Type B: Multi-Star flares (burns 4 to 5 seconds).
Type C: Hand held flares.
Type D: Hand held or buoyant smoke flare (day use only).

All these regulations are for minimum equipment on board a vessel. There are specific equipment requirements for guided (paddling) excursions for first aid kits and navigation equipment. (Government Links: Canada Shipping Act)

You are encouraged to add equipment to your boat for additional safety. For example: a compass, spotlight, first aid kit, medical kit, tool kit, 7x50 binoculars, chain added to anchor line, extra anchors, 3A-40BC fire extinguishers, battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors, life-raft, jack lines, safety harness, hand holds, 'man overboard pole', VHF radio, depth sounder, knotmeter, GPS, etc. Even if you use electronic navigation, you should carry paper charts as backup. (Check out our list of navigation tools and techniques and E-charts.)

A radar reflector should be 4 m (13') or more above the water (if possible) when operating in ship channels or offshore. Ships just can't see a pleasure boat on their radar.

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