Before boating and sailing

  • Ensure the boat is in good working order. 
  • Check the weather forecast and wind strength before leaving.
  • Give your passengers a safety briefing. 
  • Ask the people you are boating with about their ability to swim, special medical conditions and allergies. 
  • Think ahead about the management of acute medical conditions on board such as heart attacks. 
  • Assign someone to be the lookout for possible obstructions and environmental problems. 
  • You need to have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card with you to operate a boat with a motor, unless you are in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut or an Indigenous person participating in subsistence practices, daily living practices or renting a boat. There are age and horsepower restrictions to be aware of, too.
  • Have your First Aid/CPR qualifications up to date. 
  • Wear sunglasses, a hat and sun block for protection from the sun and to maintain optimum visibility. 
  • Wear layers of warm clothing and a wind proof jacket if conditions are cold and wet to help prevent heat loss and hypothermia. 
  • File a float plan that tells someone when you’re going, where you’re going, and when you’ll be back. Make sure that they know to contact help if you do not return on time.
  • Ensure you have all the equipment on Transport Canada’s required equipment list for the type of boat that you have and that it’s in good working order.
  • Bring extra fuel/gas with you.

On the trip

  • Wear a properly fitted Personal Floatation Device (PFD) or lifejacket at all times. Read more about lifejackets and PFDs in our drowning prevention section.
  • Do not consume alcohol while boating to maintain proper judgment, reaction time and proper body temperature. The legal limit for blood alcohol in boating is .08, which is the same as for driving a land vehicle. You can be charged with impaired driving and lose your boating and driver’s licence if you are above the limit.
  • Do not stand up in the boat, especially while it is moving at high speeds. 
  • Do not overload the boat with more people or equipment than what it was designed for. Information about weight limits can be found on the capacity plate of the boat.
  • Check regularly for changing weather conditions. 
  • Stay hydrated by drinking enough water before and after boating. Dehydration can cause disorientation and put a boater at a higher risk of injury. 
  • Keep a working Maritime radio and first aid kit on board the boat.